2016 Hans Wirsching Iphöfer Silvaner Troken, Gefen Hashalom

Whether you call it Silvaner or Sylvaner it is the same thing, but most probably the wine in question comes from different regions. The wine I was given from the distributors of Gefen Hashalom wines is a Silvaner, while the wines named Sylvaner most often come from the Alsace region of France, but also now from a growing number of regions from around the world.

According to Wikipedia:

Sylvaner is an ancient variety that has long been grown in Central Europe, in TransylvaniaDNA fingerprinting has revealed it to be a cross between Traminer and the “hunnic” variety Österreichisch-Weiß (meaning “Austrian White”).[1] As a result, it is now thought to have originated in Austrian Empire (Transylvania).

It is thought that the grape came to Germany after the Thirty Years War as there is a record of Sylvaner from Austria being planted at County of Castell in Franconia on 5 April 1659.[2] So Germany celebrated the 350th anniversary of Silvaner in 2009. Its name has been taken to be associated with either Latin silva (meaning woods) or saevum (meaning wild), and before modern ampelography it was sometimes assumed that this variety had a close relationship with wild vines.[3] Before DNA typing, some assumed an origin in Transylvania based on its name.

The most interesting part about this grape is that it was planted like wild fire throughout Germany after the second world war. It was the most grown grape throughout Germany and it reminds me of many of the top grapes of California, Israel, and other regions around the world that were not noble in nature – they over run the region and outlive their welcome. The next thing that happens is that they are either eradicated totally, much akin to the Carignan in Israel, or Petite Sirah, Zinfandel and Carignan in California. Or the fruit is managed in a way that makes them less fruitful, more expressive, and more enjoyable overall to be made into wine.

Silvaner is another example of this story, a grape that was over planted after the war and has dwindled down from the 30% of vines in Germany to just under 6% today. It shines best in the region where our wine hails from, Franconia (Frankenland), where the chalky Muschelkalk terroir helps to produce some of the highest rated Silvaner in the country.

The second fascinating part of this story is the bottle the wine comes in, the Bocksbeutel. Which is a type of wine bottle with the form of a flattened ellipsoid.

But like all stories that tug at the heart and imagination, there are cons. The main con to this story is that this grape is well plain and neutral. It has great acid, that is not the issue, but what it truly lacks is a sense of life and expression. The best way to make this grape special is to grow it in the region whose terroir is chalk and rock/stone. Those underpinnings come through in the wine, but it still lacks the huge pull that we all love.

It is that love hates aspect of this wine that will make it a very interesting wine to taste blind. Sure, the shape of the bottle would give it away, so maybe pour it into another normal bottle and pour that blind and see what reactions you get. The wine is super earthy, mineral bound and does in many ways mimic Sauvignon Blanc. It was the closest varietal that we could compare the wine to in terms of its notes, but what it lacked was the rich complexity we all love from wines today.

In the end, I think this is another wine from the guys at Gefen Hashalom that may well be interesting in a few months. Give it time. Also, this wine really felt like it was in a funk, almost in a dumb period that finally came out of its shell – three days after opening, which of course is not an option for most people. For now, I would say, that it may have been shopping shock or basic bottle shock and that it has hopefully settled down now and should be more accessible when it becomes available soon.

Now you will ask me, where can I buy this wine to try it? Good question. I got mine early, and it will hopefully be selling in and around you soon.

My many thanks to Kevin and hopefully you will taste this wine soon and tell me your opinion on it:

2016 Hans Wirsching Silvaner, Gefen Hashalom – Score: B+ to A-
The nose is solid, really toasty but controlled, with great citrus, with really lovely floral notes, showing lovely green notes, and lovely slate. The mouth starts off a bit slow, it needs time to open up, give it time. The mouth on this wine starts off really sharp, with lovely acid, mineral, saline, and dry fig, with intense dried and focused grapefruit, that gives way to slate and lovely mineral. Sadly, the finish does open up with time, but it is a bit hollow.

With time most of the flaws fall off. Now when I say with time, I am talking three days! After the three days, all of those flaws were gone. The acid was back all the way through the mouth and through to the finish. The nose turned into a Viognier styled wine – with luscious peach, apricot, and lovely floral notes, jasmine, and nice slate. The mouth is round for sure, that did not change, but the acid coming through was impressive, with good notes of tea, grapefruit, lovely mineral, rock/wet slate, and spice.

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Top kosher White and Sparkling wines that I have tasted in 2017

Over the past three months, I have been trying as many rose, white, and sparkling wines as I could find and it is time to post what I think of them. In the grand scheme of things, 2016 is not much better of a year than 2015 was. The white and rose wines from the 2015 vintage in Israel were a complete disaster. I have stated that many times and that is why I did not post this list last year at all. I was almost not going to post this list this year, but what the heck – it will not be very good information – as many of the wines were boring to painful with a few good exceptions.

To recap, red wines overall from Israel are a total letdown and nothing has changed in that department. However, the 2015 and 2016 vintages for whites and roses have overall been a huge disappointment, in regards to either lack of focus in the wines or lack of acid.

I have covered Rose – many times now, but the latest and last was here and a few French roses that were not worth much as well. The whites and sparkling wines were what I needed to post – so I guess it is time to post them already.

The State of Israeli wines from the 2016 vintage

Israel really got me excited about the rose and white wine potential, but the last two years have totally squashed those aspirations. I really hope 2017 brings it back. Sure, we can always count on Domaine Netofa and Tzora Winery for great wines. Netofa has released some brand new wines and I look forward to being able to taste those wines very soon. The new 2016 Tzora white wines are now in the USA and they are lovely wines that have a good few years in their tanks. The new 2016 Psagot are also quite nice.

Of course, Yarden winery continues to be the best kosher Sparkling winery in the world. Sure, there are great sparkling wines from France and even some nice one from Spain and the USA, but for the price, quality, and enjoyment – you cannot beat the Yarden Sparkling wines. Their white wines are very professional, they may not blow you away, but they are always clean, well balanced, and fun to drink, which is what matters. Their lower level labels (Gilgal here in the USA), have had some issues in the white wines, and Galil Mountain Winery has also been slipping a bit, which is sad.

In regards to Israeli red wines, nothing new here. A great red Israeli wine has gone the way of the dodo bird. Other than Tzora, Netofa, Mia Luce, and some others here and there,  I cannot safely recommend reds from Israel to my friends.

Two years ago when I last compiled a cross varietal white wine list, I was praising Israel for its wonderful whites and rose – sadly that was the wonderful 2014 vintage! It was and is still crazy good for some wines like Matar and Tzora. Then we had 2015 and 2016! While the 2016 vintage is better than the 2015 vintage, well anything would have been better than 2015, it is still severely lacking.

My cellar has gone primarily to the USA, then France, then Spain, and then stuff here and there. The USA, mostly because I love all things Four Gates Winery, and a bunch of others as you will see below. That is a sad state of affairs, but it is one that has been created by the Israeli wineries themselves. They always have the chance to change back, till then I will enjoy the wines made in California, Spain, France, and wait for bell curve to shift like it has in France and California. I hope Israel is only slightly behind them, but from what I had over the past couple of years now, things are still going the wrong way in the world of kosher Israeli wines. Read the rest of this entry

Three more French roses

I was in NYC for a few days and I walked into as many wine stores as I could and in one of them, I found three more French roses that made me hopeful. Sadly, they were all disappointments, essentially.

This continues to prove the point – there are not many good roses from 2016, at least so far – no matter how many I taste. Well, this is the 5th attempt to taste roses in a group, and these were some of the worst.

The previous tasting – had my roundup of best kosher roses and nothing has changed after this tasting – sadly.

I tasted three wines from Provence, two from the Cotes du Provence and one from Bandol. Shockingly, the mevushal Almae rose was the best of the tasting. I tried to look up the Almae Rose, and all I find was the Alma rose from Dalton, which we had at the first rose tasting.

I have no idea who this Almae rose is – it is made by Rashbi wines, but not sure of more than that. The other two are famous – and neither has been very good for me, on previous tastings, and this one was no different for me either. The 2016 Bandol Rose and 2016 100 Tropez Rose. The funny part is that when I put some of the Almae rose into the Bandol it was very nice, it became a really nice Provence. When I did it the other way around (Bandol into the Almae) it was not very interesting at all. Adding anything to the Tropez netted us nothing.

The notes follow below:

2016 Almae Rose, Cotes de Provence – Score: B+ to A-
This wine is a blend of 60% Grenache, 20% Cinsault, and 20% Syrah. The nose on this wine is nice with peach, rose hips, floral notes, slate, and good apricot. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is nice, with good weight, showing nice acid, good structure, with nice fruit pith, strawberry and creme, nice light tannin, and nectarines. The wine is slightly sweet but very nice and round.

2016 100 Tropez Rose, Cotes de Provence – Score: B to B+
The nose on this wine is lovely with good citrus, grapefruit, lemon, raspberry, and peach. The mouth on this medium weight wine is flat, lacking the middle, showing fun saline, and green olives, with strawberry, Sad.

2016 Domaine Bunan, Bandol, Provence – Score: B+
A really nice nose of strawberry and creme, vanilla, rose hips, with juicy raspberry, and good spice. The mouth on the medium bodied wine is ok, but lacking the acid I crave, it has an ok balance, with more fruit pith than acid, that does help it a lot, not bitter, with good sweet red fruit, showing a bit of sweetness, but balanced with slate. A nice enough wine, wish it had more acid and more interesting notes.

Kosher Rose wines of 2017 – final take

After all the tastings I have had for rose wines this year – I can say for now, that I am as far along as I can go without being in Israel, or asking people to schlep wines for me from Israel. I am still missing the new 2016 Elvi Wines Rose, the 2016 Terra de Seta Rose, the 2016 Matar Rose, and the 2016 Gvaot Rose. I guess that will have to be. When I get to Israel soon enough I will post again, but just on those wines.

In the end, my overall take on Israeli roses this year has been a huge and utter letdown. To me, there are few roses that I would waste my time drinking. In the end, the Netofa, Vitkin, Psagot, and Castel Roses are the only roses that I would buy this year, other than the untasted wines listed above (Matar and Gvaot), which may well be good.

The real saviors for us have indeed been Spain and USA. France has thrown in the La Vie Roubine, but it is not as good as the Ramon Cardova rose.

So, in closing, I will repeat what I listed the last posting. These wines are the best for each category, nothing I tasted in the last tasting has changed much around them, other than the sweet rose entry, which I would never buy, but is useful for those that like rose that way.

So, here are my recommendations based upon the wines I have tasted:

  1. 2016 Ramon Cardova Rose, is the best rose so far, but it is not a Provence style wine, it is more of a tweener.
  2. The 2016 Chateau Dubois is the best French rose I have tasted so far, but it is a clear non-Provence style rose.
  3. 2016 Chateau Roubine la Vie, is the best French classic Provence style rose.
  4. 2016 Ramon Cardova Rose is the best Spanish rose (that I have had the chance to taste so far, sadly I have yet to taste the new 2016 Elvi Rose)
  5. The 2016 Shirah Rose is the best USA rose. It is not a Provence style wine, it is a massive wine but a really fun one.
  6. The 2016 Netofa Rose is the best rose from Israel, it is as close to a Provence style wine I have found so far in Israel. Vitkin is right behind, along with Castel (but it is really expensive for the wine), and Psagot in the bigger/fuller rose category for Israel.
  7. The 2016 Psagot Rose (when it is on) is the best full bodied rose wine from Israel.
  8. The best sweet rose that is drinkable is the 2016 Contessa Annalisa Rose. Hopefully, a gateway rose to the drier and better options above.

Rose winemaking approaches

If you read the previous article, you would have read that there are classically three ways to make Rose; Maceration, Saignée, and blend.

The interesting thing we are seeing is a slight variation to the rose making – that is after they make the rose, using any of the aforementioned approaches, they are adding in some white wine! This is straight up genius! Why? Because as explained in the previous post, red grape juice has very few phenolics in it! The real phenolic powerhouse – for red wines, are the skins! White wine does not need skins to give it their phenolics, they have it innately from the juice alone. So, when you take red grapes and essentially crush them and bottle them, with minimal grape contact, what you get is a fun wine, that has very few phenolics in it. So, you have a few options, either let the liquid sit longer on the grape skins, thereby improving the phenolics, but that takes away from the classic rose look, as skin contact turns the juice darker. So, if you want more phenolics and less grape skin contact to keep the classic rose color, you can add in white wine!

The Ramon Cardova is a perfect example of this. As is the Elvi Rose (a wine I have not tasted), and the Jezreel Rose (see below). These three wines all added in different white wines, and it is a clear bump in the correct direction, but to the purists, it is not cool! I cannot speak to the purist’s issues, and yes, I can see that the Cardova is not a classic Provence wine, but it is a very enjoyable summer wine, and in the end, that is what rose to me, is all about!

Read the rest of this entry

The sad removal of Terrenal wines from Trader Joe’s

trader-joes-front

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At present, we carry these kosher wines:

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

Best regards,
XXXXXXX

Customer Relations
Trader Joe’s

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

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

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

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

 

Kosher Rose wines of 2017 – take 2

2016 Covenant Red C Rose, Twin Suns, Psagot Rose, Bat Shlomo, Chateau L'oasis, Tabor Adama, Chateau Dubois, Ramon Cardova Rose, Kos Yeshuos, Chateau Laurier Rothschild, Vitkin, Borgo Rea

This post is an update to my previous article on the kosher rose wines of 2017. Sadly, not much has changed, yes a few more options have been released, but shockingly some are still not here, even as the official summer season has begun! Come on, guys! The good news is that we have a new winner for 2017, though it falls apart very quickly, so open it and drink it all up ASAP! As I have stated below, I have yet to find a single rose from the 2016 vintage, that I could think would last through the summer months.

Also, there are still another seven Rose wines I would love to taste, but some are not here and some are actually here, but not yet being released. Those are the 2016 Jezreel Rose (Finally in the SA, but not yet available at kosherwine.com, the online store I buy almost all my wines now because of free shipping). Along with the Galil Rose (It is here in the USA – but need to get my hands on it – but it is available at kosherwine.com), The 2016 Elvi Wines Rose, the Terra de Seta Rose, the 2016 Matar Rose, the 2016 Gvaot Rose, and the 2016 Kadesh Barnea Rose.

I thought about repeating the text from my previous post on Rose wine, but I decided against it. So, please read that before continuing on here. I will be reposting all of the wine notes, here along with the five new wines roses that I tasted as well.

However, what I did want to talk about here, beyond the five new Rose wines, is rose wine styles, and examples of each from the wine notes below.

Rose Wine Styles

When I think Rose or Sauvignon Blanc, I think classic Provence and New Zealand. I think lithe, ethereal, but packed with acid, mineral, fruit, and lovely terroir. That is what I like in Rose, but there is another style, it is the fuller bodied rose, NO not those disastrous red wines that want to be a rose, those are just horrible – Beaujolais want-to-be.

No, this is more like the 2016 Psagot Rose, that wine is a full bodied acid core wine, but it is not the classic Provence style rose. That is is no way an affront to this wonderful wine, when the bottle is good, no it is more a description of what the wine is like.

If you are looking for a wine that you can enjoy with a steak or a burger than you would be a wine like the Psagot, though to me the best rose out right now of that style is the newly released 2016 Shirah Rose. It reminds me so much of the 2013 Rose, which was a true joy.

So, here are my recommendations based upon the wines I have tasted:

  1. 2016 Ramon Cardova Rose, is the best rose so far, but it is not a Provence style wine, it is more of a tweener.
  2. The 2016 Chateau Dubois is the best French rose I have tasted so far, but it is a clear non-Provence style rose.
  3. 2016 Chateau Roubine la Vie, is the best French classic Provence style rose.
  4. 2016 Ramon Cardova Rose is the best Spanish rose (that I have had the chance to taste so far, sadly I have yet to taste the new 2016 Elvi Rose)
  5. The 2016 Shirah Rose is the best USA rose. It is not a Provence style wine, it is a massive wine but a really fun one.
  6. The 2016 Netofa Rose is the best rose from Israel, it is as close to a Provence style wine I have found so far in Israel.
  7. The 2016 Psagot Rose (when it is on) is the best full bodied rose wine from Israel.

Rose winemaking approaches

If you read the previous article, you would have read that there are classically three ways to make Rose; Maceration, Saignée, and blend.

The interesting thing we are seeing is a slight variation to the rose making – that is after they make the rose, using any of the aforementioned approaches, they are adding in some white wine! This is straight up genius! Why? Because as explained in the previous post, red grape juice has very few phenolics in it! The real phenolic powerhouse – for red wines, are the skins! White wine does not need skins to give it their phenolics, they have it innately from the juice alone. So, when you take red grapes and essentially crush them and bottle them, with minimal grape contact, what you get is a fun wine, that has very few phenolics in it. So, you have a few options, either let the liquid sit longer on the grape skins, thereby improving the phenolics, but that takes away from the classic rose look, as skin contact turns the juice darker. So, if you want more phenolics and less grape skin contact to keep the classic rose color, you can add in white wine! Read the rest of this entry

Age is beautiful – Four Gates

I must say that as annoyed as I am from how few people age their wines, and how early they drink young wines, I have been seeing a new desire for well-aged wines. In my article on Bordeaux, I wrote about how to build a successful cellar, and recently, I have been enjoying some wonderfully aged Four Gates wines.

As I stated in that article, Four Gates has been blessed with land and climate that gives Benyamin Cantz grapes that are dripping with acid and terroir. The grapes he sources from his vineyard, that he personally tends to, are; Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot.

I have posted about two large tastings with friends at Four Gates where we enjoyed some well-aged wines, here in 2014 and then again in 2015. In those cases, just like recently, the wines all showed beautifully, though one showed more new-world in style than other vintages. The first and oldest that I enjoyed was the 1996 vintage Merlot, long before Benyamin used monikers like La Rochelle, M.S.C., or Cuvee D 🙂

Yes, you are now thinking, wait the first vintage of Four Gates was 1997, no? Yes, you are correct, however, Benyamin also made an entire vintage in 1996, however, because of liquor licensing reasons, he was not allowed to sell, but we sure enjoyed MANY of them for years!

Of the recently tasted Four Gates Merlot wines, the 2001 vintage shows a very old world style. The 2006 vintage, in comparison, is a more new world style, with the 2005 vintage straddling between them both, with a slight leaning to an Old world styling. Finally, the 2009 vintage is also a more new world Merlot in style and is still a baby, but I posted it here as I seem to not have posted notes about it before.

The Pinot Noir is very old world in style and one that is a true joy to taste, though it is not a Burgundy in any way. Burgundy Pinot Noir is far more earth and dirt focused, while this is more fruit focused, but it is still a wonderful old world style new world Pinot Noir – Bravo my friend!!!

It was a lovely Pinot but did not come close to maybe one of the best Pinot Noir I have ever tasted, the 1997 Four Gates Pinot Noir – that wine was insane!

My many thanks to Benyo for sharing his wines and allowing me to truly enjoy what age can do for a wine that has the potential to improve from long cellaring.

My notes follow below:

 

2001 Four Gates Merlot, La Rochelle, 2005 Four Gates Merlot, M.S.C, and 2006 Four Gates Merlot, La Rochelle

1996 Four Gates Merlot – Score: A- to A
Lovely dirt and incredible barnyard, with lovely green notes, foliage galore with ripe raspberry and currants. Wow, what a mouth, medium body with mouth draping tannin, crazy acid with still beautiful red and black fruit, plum, red cherry, and ripe fruit with lovely sweet dill, smoke, and beautiful sweet oak. The finish is long and green and tannic, with acid that jacks the whole thing up, with more barnyard and loam lingering long. Drink by 2019.

1999 Four Gates Pinot Noir – Score: A-
Wow, what a joy, the wine opens eventually, with a rich mushroom that takes a bit of time to show, with lots of lovely fruit, cherry cola galore, lovely smoke, and earth. The mouth on this full bodied Pinot Noir is filthy, with layers of rich mouth draping tannin, lovely mushroom, earth, rich and evocative acid, with lovely raspberry and cherry taking front stage. The finish is long and cherry filled, with good concentration, acid, coffee grinds, toast, smoke, and more mushroom on the long red berry finish. Drink by 2019.

2001 Four Gates Merlot, La Rochelle – Score: A-
The wine is clearly showing its age, in all the right ways! The nose is rich and filled with lovely barnyard, rich soil, loam, followed by lovely green notes, rich eucalyptus, menthol, and dark fruit abounds. The mouth is full bodied but softer than the other Merlot we tasted this evening, showing lovely cassis, black plums, and raspberry, that give way to still beautiful acid, with gripping tannin that give way to green foliage and lovely mineral. The finish is long and green, with rich dill, vanilla, leather, followed by black fruit, butterscotch, and lovely tobacco, all still wrapped in a cocoon of still lively acid and mushroom heaven. Bravo! Drink by 2021.

2005 Four Gates Merlot, M.S.C. – Score: A- to A
This wine is a perfect example of what California can create. It is a pure joy that shows hedonism in all the regal manner you can imagine it. Bravo my friend!
The nose on this wine is packed with blackberry, cherry, plum, eucalyptus, mad mineral, graphite, rich mushroom, and good hints of green notes, and dirt. The mouth on this full bodied wine is richly layered and extracted with waves of concentrated fruit, intense ripe raspberry, plum, cassis, and mouth coating still gripping tannins that all come together with bracing acidity, sweet oak, and lovely sweet dill, and mushroom. The finish is long and spicy with leather, spice, still searing tannin, sweet notes, espresso, chocolate, and hints of tobacco and cloves – BRAVO!!! This is a wine that is still going nowhere anytime soon with more acid and tannin to keep this alive for another 6 years. Drink by 2024

2006 Four Gates Merlot, La Rochelle – Score: A-
Tasting this beside the 2001 vintage La Rochelle, and 2005, I can say that this is nice but not as good as those two. The nose on this wine is hopping with rich plum, raspberry, eucalyptus, blackberry, sweet oak, spice, chocolate, along with lovely mushroom. The wine does not feel old, it still young and not showing the same secondary notes that the 2001 vintage feels like. The mouth on this full bodied wine is integrating nicely and the tannins create a caressing mouthfeel that is mouth coating, but it is fruitier than the 2001 or 2005, with dark plum, blackberry, and raspberry, with lovely mineral, graphite, and loam. The finish is long and lingering with black fruit, raspberry, oak, chocolate, and minerals. Drink by 2024.

2009 Four Gates Merlot – Score: A-
What can I say – way to go Benyo! This is a classic Benyo Merlot nose, a brilliant purple colored wine, showing a lovely rich and redolent nose with great blue and black fruit, blueberry, blackberry, oriental spice, crazy rich roasted herb, sweet oak, and pomegranate. This is a lovely rich and dark and full bodied wine with ripping acid, lovely saline, mineral, butterscotch, black fruit, green notes, all wrapped in rich layers of tannin, concentrated fruit and spice. The finish is long and spicy with chocolate and spice and cloves, nutmeg and vanilla. With time, the mouth opens more to show rich mushroom and mounds of loam. BRAVO!!! Drink by 2027.

The kosher roses – so far – of 2017

It is almost Shavuoth, which means it is almost Summer, so that means it is Rose time! Rose wine in the non-kosher market is exploding – especially Rose wine from Provence; a wine region of France. Sadly, in the kosher wine market – that is not quite the case. I did not stress my previous statement with a suffix of AT ALL, even though I am not allowed to open a bottle of rose on my Shabbos table with guests – why? Well, that is simple – no one will drink it!!

Even worse, is that wine manufacturers may well have jumped the shark! There will be some 50 dry-ish kosher roses available in the USA this year! That may not sound like a lot, but when all you had was Herzog White Zinfandel 10 years ago – it is insane. The first high-end rose was Castel’s 2009 rose and that was only 7 years ago. Back then, there were few to no real Rose wine options, other than a handful of Israeli wines and almost no French Rose made it here. Now we will have tons of Rose, and I really think the real question here is will people drink it?

Wine Color

What is a rose wine? Well, simply said, a rose is a wine that can best be defined as the wine world’s chameleon. Where white wine is a pretty simple concept – take white grapes squeeze them and out comes clear to green colored juice. Yes, white grape juice is clear – well so is red grape juice, but more on that in a bit.

White wine is not about color – almost all color in a white wine comes from some oak influence of some sort. So, an unoaked Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Gris can sometimes look almost clear, depending on the region and how the wine was handled. Now oaked Chardonnay, of course, is what most people use as an example of a dark white wine. As the Wine Folly linked above states, different wine regions oak their Chardonnay differently and as such, they are sold with different hues from the start. With age, the wine changes color and the light gold moves to darker gold shades.

The only real exception to the stated rule above – that white grape juice without the influence of oak is somewhere in the clear to green color spectrum, is – orange wines. We have spoken about orange wines – mostly thanks to Yaacov Oryah. Outside of Yaacov’s work there really is no orange wine in the kosher world to speak about. Orange wine is made exactly like red wine, which means that the clear grape juice is left to sit on the yellowish to dark yellow grape skins (depending upon what varietal is used to make the orange wine).

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Tasting of kosher wines from Italy and Italian varietals

This past week the gang gathered at Josh Rynderman house, many thanks to MR for hosting us! I brought a few bottles of Italian wine, and so did others, while some brought non-Italian wines, and in the end, we made it into the wine event I have been waiting to have – as it was time to get down and write up my Italian wines.

It is no new revelation, that my palate has moved more old-world in style. Yes, I still enjoy Four Gates wines (which have moved new-world in style over the past few years), along with Herzog wines, Hajdu wines, mostly white Hagafen wines, and yes, Shirah wines as well (even if they think I do not love their wines). However, I was never a huge fan of Italian wines, even if in the non-kosher world, they make TONS of old-world style wines. Sadly, the issue is that there were few to none that impressed me other than the Falesco wines from 2005 and 2006 and the 2010 Moncheiro. However, recently, things are changing. First is the release of wines from Terra di Seta that I really like, (the original all-kosher winery in Tuscany). Next, is the fact that Hajdu is releasing lovely wines made from Italian varietals. Finally, there is a new all-kosher winery from Tuscany, Cantina Giuliano, who released three new wines, along with the 2014 Chianti he had last year. The 2015 Chianti from Cantina Giuliano is for sale in Europe, but it is not yet available in the USA.

Let me start with answering questions people will have before I start with this article. This may offend some, but hey, what can I do. No, there was no Bartenura wines, why? Simple, I am not a fan. What about Borgo Reale wines and Cantina Gabriela? Well, I like the two top line Borgo wines, the Brunello and Barolo, but the Borgo Reale Barolo pales in comparison to the Paulo Manzone Tenuta Moncheiro Barolo 2010, even though it sells for the same amount of money. The 2010 vintage in Barolo was one of the best in a long time, I would love to try the Paulo Manzone Tenuta Moncheiro Barolo 2010 again in a few years, like 5 or so. We did not taste these three wines at the tasting, but I have added the notes of the Paulo Manzone Tenuta Moncheiro Barolo 2010 below. Sadly, I cannot find my notes for the two Borgo wines I liked.

A bit of background on Italy’s four wine classifications: 

(1) Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) – This classification denotes the highest quality recognition for Italian wines. There are only 20 or so wines meriting this classification. (2) Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) – This is the same classification as the French wine classification, Appellation d’Origine Controlee (AOC). Wines that fall under the DOC classification must be made in specified, governmentally defined zones, in accordance with particular regulations intended to preserve the wine’s character.  There are some 300 or so wines in this classification. (3) Indicazione di Geografica Tipica (IGT) – These table wines are often ubiquitous wines, grown in specific geographical growing regions. (4) Vino Da Tavola (VdT) – This designates wines that reside firmly on the “low end” of the totem pole. Comprised of Italian table wines, these products must meet the sole criteria of being produced somewhere in Italy.  Read the rest of this entry

Wines I enjoyed over Passover 2017

Well, I have been off for too long, that is for sure. First Passover, then travels to Japan and more work. Finally home for a bit, Passover was great as it was enjoyed with family and that is what makes the holidays so great!

I will keep this short and sweet – the wines were mostly good to great, except for one wine that I was really looking forward to tasting – sadly it was clearly not stored well. Other than the single disappointment – the rest of the wines were solid wines.

I also had the opportunity to enjoy some wines with friends at EZ’s house, with BC and CG. It was a lovely evening and we enjoyed 6 wines – the best of which was the 2012 Domain Netofa Latour Red, followed by 2010 Hajdu Grenache, 2011 Netofa Red, the 2004 Chateau Montviel (which is in drink up mode at this point), and the 2011 Hajdu Grenache. Many thanks to EZ and his wife for hosting us so graciously.

The wines are listed below – and I hope you had a great Passover as well:

2012 Herzog Petite Sirah, Clarksburg, Prince Vineyard – Score: A-
I found this wine to be showing better than the Hajdu PS, at least for now. Lovely blueberry jam and crazy black plum, with mounds of fresh vanilla, sweet cedar, with lovely floral notes, and sweet spices. Lovely full body wine with still searing tannin and lovely acid showing rich extraction and crazy spices with boysenberry and blackberry with rich sweet spices and elegance at the same time, along with ribbons of charcoal, and mineral. The finish is long and jammy, with rich leather, and mounds of mineral and black tea, with sweet tobacco, and sweet fruit lingering long. Drink by 2020.

2012 Hajdu Petite Sirah, Brobdingnagian – Score: A-
This wine was really a wine I was looking forward to tasting again, and it is either in a real funk, or it has taken a step back from its earlier stature. The wine opened quickly, it was not as closed as in the past, showing ripe blackberry, blueberry, and lovely dirt, and earth, with root beer galore and spice. The mouth on this full bodied wine is rich, but lacking the impressive extraction of old, with rich layers of blue and dark fruit, sweet oak, and tannin that does not let up. The finish is long with layers of dark fruit, leather, spice, Swiss mocha, boysenberry, and nice tart, and sweet fruit. This wine is on target, but lacking the complexity of old. Drink by  2021.

2007 Yarden Blanc de Blanc – Score: A- to A
Same as last time, deep, mineral, and attack that is almost hedonistic.

NV Gamla/Gilgal Hashmura Brut – Score: A- (crazy QPR)
This is the new vintage (which is now out of stock in most places). The way to know it is the most recent vintage is to check if the wine says extra dry – otherwise, it is a previous vintage and not as fun, the wine is mostly 2011 grapes. The nose on this bubbly is sick with lovely quince, apple cider, with straw and tart citrus. The mouth is full and an attack force of small mousse bubbles, followed by yeast and rich undertones, followed by layers of pear and madly refreshing with crazy acid and pith, and more bubbles that do not give up. The finish is long with dried fruit, nice dry mouthfeel, that flows into nice dried herb, and rich white tea. BRAVO!!!!

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