I was not going to post these notes but I received too many requests – so OK, here you go!.
As you all know, I am a huge fan of Four Gates Winery, and yes Benyamin Cantz is a dear friend. So, as is my custom, as many ask me what wines I like of the new releases, here are my notes on the new wines.
I have written many times about Four Gates Winery and its winemaker/Vigneron Benyamin Cantz. Read the post and all the subsequent posts about Four Gates wine releases, especially this post of Four Gates – that truly describes the lore of Four Gates Winery.
Other than maybe Yarden and Yatir (which are off my buying lists – other than their whites and bubblies), very few if any release wines later than Four Gates. The slowest releaser may well be Domaine Roses Camille.
Four Gates grapes versus bought grapes
It has been stated that great wine starts in the vineyard, and when it comes to Four gates wine, it is so true. I have enjoyed the 1996 and 1997 versions of Benyamin’s wines and it is because of his care and control that he has for his vineyard. That said, the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes he receives from the Monte Bello Ridge show the same care and love in the wines we have enjoyed since 2009.
I have immense faith in Benyo’s wines that are sourced from his vineyard and the Monte Bello Ridge vineyard. The other wines, that he creates from other sources, are sometimes wonderful, like the 2010 Four Gates Syrah that I tasted recently, and I would have sworn it was a Rhone wine, crazy minerality, acid, and backbone, with fruit NOT taking center stage, though ever so evident, the way is meant to be! Others, while lovely on release may well not be the everlasting kind of Four Gates wines.
No new wines
This year there are no new wines, there is a red blend, but that is a blend of existing red fruit that Benyo owns. The Petit Verdot is from Santa Clara Valley AVA, and another Malbec from the same vineyard as in 2017, in Santa Cruz, but not from the Four Gates vineyards. The Chardonnay is under the Ayala label, and I did not get good notes on it to post them.
The rest of the wines are the normal suspects, but this year’s crop is less ripe than last year. First, you have the 2018 Four Gates Cabernet Franc, N.V. Four Gates Red Blend, which is a blend of his fruits, 2016 Four Gates Merlot, M.S.C., last year we had the non-M.S.C., the 2017 Four Gates Cabernet Sauvignon, and the 2016 Four Gates Fraire Robaire, which was a no-show last year.
Prices and Quantities
I have heard it over and over again. That I and others caused Benyo to raise his prices. First of all that is a flat-out lie. I never asked for higher prices, but when asked about the value of his wines, the real answer I could give was more than 26 dollars.
Let us be clear, all of us that got used to 18/26 dollar prices and stocked up on his wines in those days should be happy. The fact that he raised prices, is a matter of basic price dynamics, and classic supply and demand. Four Gates has been seeing more demand for the wines while the quantity of what is being made is slowing down.
The law of Supply and Demand tells you that the prices will go up, even if I beg for lower prices.
Four Gates Winery is one of the few cult wineries in the kosher wine world that releases wines every year. Sure there have been crazy cult wines, like the 2005 and 2006 DRC wines, or some other such rarities. His wines are in a class of their own, especially when it is his grapes, and there is less of it out there.
Lastly, the fact that he sold out his year’s stock of wine in 9 minutes or so, tells you that his wines are in demand and that the prices will reflect that. This year’s sale lasted 2 minutes longer but there were more wines to sell. Benyo and I did have conversations on how to get the tech better, there are clear issues, hopefully, next year it will be better, but no promises there, and I am not involved!!
So, I am done with the discussion, and I hope you all got some of the wines. Sadly, all the wines we tasted were shiners, so there are no pictures.
The notes speak for themselves. Again, this year, I “liked” all the options for sale, though I did not buy Malbec or Petit Verdot, in case anyone is asking. I did not get to taste the Chardonnay in the best manner, so there are no notes for it. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:
2019 Four Gates Malbec, Santa Cruz, CA – Score: 90 (QPR: POOR)
This vintage is a bit more balanced than in the past with nice blue and black fruit, nice herb, root beer, good smoke, and a nice overall approach. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is nice, with good fruit, saline, smoke, good acidity, blueberry, blackberry, boysenberry, with hints of raspberry, earth, and smoke. The finish is long, acidic, with mouth-draping tannin, good fruit focus, and nice earth. Drink by 2026. (tasted January 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 14.20%)
As stated in my previous post, I was in Paris in November, and while it took forever to post these notes, I am happy to finally be getting to them at this point. The total number of boxes in our hotel room, much like in June, still makes me laugh!
As I stated, in my previous post, I kept to my hotel room for much of the trip. I was joined by Avi Davidowitz from Kosher Wine Unfiltered. Even vaccinated, I was worried, as such we kept to ourselves, where possible. Almost all the wines below were tasted with Avi, in our hotel room, a few were tasted after he returned home to Israel.
I truly enjoyed the Château de Marmorières Les Amandiers, La Clape, Languedoc we had in June. So, I made sure Avi tasted that along with other wines from the winery, which was only released after I left Paris in June. The rose and white were nice while the Cab and Merlot were less interesting.
White wines from all over France
For the most part, the list was weak as it had too many boring Chablis. There were one or two nice wines, so look for those WINNERS. The best of that group has the worst name I have ever seen – LaCheteau Sauvignon Blanc – like seriously??? Anyway, horrible name – great wine!
Charles Pere & Fils Burgundy Wines
I was hoping to enjoy some 2020 Burgundy wines, but sadly, none of them stood out in a good way. They felt rushed, not complete, and overall, lackluster. I hope subsequent vintages will be better.
We had wines from Famille Daubree and Les Vins De Vienne and neither of them stood out. Again, they were very ripe, and we gave them days to come around, they never did. These are not what I am looking for. They are well made but too ripe for me. If you like well-made ripe French wine, try them out.
Various Bordeaux Wines
This group was a total loser, just like in June, except this time – there were no new wines to save me! Thankfully, for Avi, there were many of the wines I enjoyed in June, but for me, there was not a SINGLE red wine I would drink. That is how bad the options were!
German Weingut Gehring Wines
These wines were the most enjoyable and reasonably priced wines we tasted in our own tasting. The wines were made for an Israeli entrepreneur, who was going to sell them to hotels and restaurants, but sadly, he died, and the wines just sat in Germany! Some of them made their way to Israel anyway and that is where Avi and a few others saw them and worked crazy hard to buy them. Avi brought one wine with him, but I wanted to taste them all, there are three of them.
Weingut Gehring made three kosher wines with this gentleman who passed away, a Riesling, Grauer Burgunder (Pinot Gris), and an off-dry muscat. So, while I was in France I called the winery and paid them to ship the wines to my hotel, which worked perfectly! That was how I was able to taste all three of them. The wines that were sent to me all have Hebrew back labels as they were meant for the Israeli market and while the Hechsher is good it is not one many would know.
Thoughts on this tasting
Overall, these wines were unimpressive, but wow did we find some real sleepers! The 2020 LaCheteau Sauvignon Blanc, Les Cimes, Haut-Poitou, Loire Valley is a no-brainer for those in France/Europe. Same for the two german wines. Other than that it was a total mess and I hope the next trip will have better options!
Though none of these wines will ever make it to the USA shores, some are in Israel and I feel bad for you. The LeChateau is in Israel, but I have no idea if there were transport issues, like with many other French wines imported into Israel, in the past. The two German wines were in Israel but I have no idea about their distribution. Either way, thankfully, these wines can stay in France/Europe, there is nothing I want here, other than maybe the German wines, but I think they are all spoken for.
2020 Chevalier De Marmorieres Rose, Vin de France – Score: 90.5 (QPR: GREAT)
Clean smelling rose with good lines, bright fruit, floral notes of violet, honeysuckle, raspberry, honeyed fruit, and tart lemon. Nice job, the mouth on this medium-bodied rose is tart, right on the money, well priced, with lovely strawberry, sweet pomelo, mango, with searing acidity, tart lemon, lemon pith, sweet peach, and nice refreshing acidity to bring it all together – nice! The finish is long, ripe, and well-balanced, with slate, acid, and good fruit. Nice! Drink now! (tasted November 2021)
2020 Chevalier De Marmorieres Blanc, Vin de France – Score: 90 (QPR: GOOD)
The nose on this wine is very fruity, smells a lot like Viognier, with white peach, apricot, funk, guava, and sweet fruit. The mouth on this opens slowly, with nice acidity, that is slow to fully show, nice acidity, with guava, ripe peach, Pomelo, sweet honeysuckle, honeyed tropical fruit, and ripe melon. The finish is long, tart, ripe, and well balanced, with more funk, saline, mineral, and slate. Nice! (tasted November 2021) (in Paris, France) (ABV = 12.50%)
As stated in my previous post, I was in Paris in November, with Avi Davidowitz, from the Kosher Wine Unfiltered blog, and while it took forever to post these notes, I am happy to finally be getting to them at this point. I must start by thanking Yoni Taieb and the rest of Taieb wines for sending the wines to us to taste. In the past, I have made my way to Taieb’s office, once by myself and once with Avi Davidowitz from Kosher Wine Unfiltered.
As stated, in my previous post, we kept to my hotel room for much of the trip. Even vaccinated, I was worried, and am still worried, as such we kept to ourselves, where possible. Still, we were ready to take the train down to the offices, but things could not line up and so Mr. Taieb was very kind, to once again, send the wines to our hotel. We then stayed in the hotel room and tasted through them.
As always, you can get these wines and much more from Taieb’s online website. They ship within Europe and to London. Sadly, they are all sold out of the incredible 2019 Burgundies that I enjoyed tasting at Andrew Breskin’s house. Andrew has some of them still for sale, like the lovely 2017 Domaine Chantal Lescure and the 2019 Jean-Philippe Marchand wines – lovely!! Get them while they last!
Tasting in the hotel room
The most hilarious part of our trip was life in the hotel. Everything in Paris is masked and distanced. We had cases, upon cases of wines coming to us at the hotel, differently than last time, as this time, they all came to the hotel. Still, we thankfully had loads of room as we had the top floor suite and the space was ridiculous.
In the end, it was a wonderful outcome, short of not seeing the Taiebs, again. We had time to taste the wines at our pace, room for all the wines to sit and breathe. As stated, we missed hanging out with Mr. Taieb, and I hope he and his lovely family are doing well!
NOTE: A few of the wines seemed to be a bit off, the 2019 Pavillon du Vieux Chantre, 2019 Domaine de Grava, and 2019 Château De L’Anglais. I will not post my notes here as I need to taste them again when I go back to France or if I can get them here in the USA. There were a few Champagne as well, but none of them stood out enough for me to post them here. Finally, we have very few photos of these, apologies.
QPR WINNING Wine Distributor
Since the first time I was lucky to sit down and taste through the Taieb Wine portfolio, I kept commenting to Yoni, how there were so many good QPR wines, for those that live within Europe and London, and even a few for the USA as well! Now, how does this happen? Well, let us talk about Taieb’s wine portfolio. They have an exclusive relationship with Laurent Perrier for producing kosher Champagne, and that is great. While they do not make wines like Chateau Smith Haut Lafite, Chateau Malartic, or Chateau Leoville Poyferre, they do produce and distribute wines, within Europe that are of very high quality at reasonable prices, AKA, QPR WINNERS.
Let us continue with the fact that Taieb makes some of the very best Burgundy wines on the market and has been doing so for more than 10 years now! However, those wines, while wonderful, are not as much QPR as they quality/score stars! In Bordeaux, Taieb has gone a different route by consistently producing wines, within Bordeaux, that punch well above their weight and many that shock you for the price they are selling at. They may not top out at 95 in scores, like Domaine Chantal Lescure, Domaine D’Ardhuy (almost), or J.P. Marchand, but they do choose the wineries they work with inside of Bordeaux, incredibly well, to create QPR WINNERS at a very impressive rate!
In the end, that is what differentiates Taieb from the other Kosher wine producers. Sure, Royal Wines does a great job with QPR while also having the quality superstars that are hard to fit in the QPR bucket. In my last tasting with Bokobsa, they showed high quality and good prices, in France, for a fair number of wines. Still, when I think of QPR options, within Europe, I think of Taieb’s portfolio! I am consistently shocked at why the folks in London do not buy Taieb wines by the cases – given the wonderful prices, the easy shipping, and the favorable exchange rate. The real Achilles Heel of Taieb Wines, IMHO, is the lack of great distribution and equally solid pricing in the USA.
Until then, you can follow what I wrote up in this post, and try to piece together some of these wines in the USA, if you can! Thankfully, we have Andrew, at Liquid Kosher, helping to drive Burgundy excellence in the USA, and most recently bringing in some of the better Bordeaux wines, as well. Further, three of these wines, posted below, are QPR WINNER, even in the USA. We need more of this!!!
Again, the theme of very solid Taieb wines being very hard to find in the USA is a consistent issue to me. Thankfully, some of these wines are being brought in by Andrew, at Liquid Kosher, so I hope to taste at least some of these again in the USA soon.
My many thanks to Yoni Taieb and all at Moise Taieb Wines & Spirits for taking the time to send me the wines to my hotel. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:
2020 Baron David, Bordeaux (M) – Score: 91 (QPR: WINNER (France))
The nose on this wine shows very much like previous vintages, with good clean lines, green notes, red fruit, herb, forest floor, foliage, and loam. The mouth of this medium-plus wine is tannic, balanced, acidic, and green, with herbal notes, foliage, bell pepper, raspberry, dark cherry, roasted mint, basil, and tarragon, with a backbone that is based in fruit and acid and nice minerality. The finish is long, green, tannic, with scraping minerality, graphite, clay, and nice loam. Nice!! Drink until 2024. (tasted November 2021) (in Paris, France) (ABV = 14%)
The first organized wine tastings that Avi Davidowitz, from the Kosher Wine Unfiltered blog, and I went to, during our last trip to Paris, in November 2021 was with IDS. IDS is officially called Les Vins IDS and IDS, stands for International Distribution Service. On a lovely Monday morning, Avi and I jumped in an Uber and made our way to go see Ben Uzan at IDS’s offices.
As stated, Avi and I made our way to the offices, and there laid out on the table were nine Domaine Aegerter wines from the 2020 vintage, along with one bottle of 2020 Chateau du Bosquay, Bordeaux Superieur, a perennial QPR WINNER for France. Sadly, with the economics of French kosher wine, it would not be worth importing it to the USA, but that is a discussion for another post.
In 2018 there were no Premier Cru from Domaine Aegerter, in 2019 there was one Premier Cru and a Grand Cru! In 2020, they made 4 Premier Cru, but no Grand Cru, as there was simply not enough fruit to go around. The 2020 vintage report for Burgundy was not as sad as previous vintages, or 20201, which was a disaster. There were few stories of frost destroying vine buds, except for in Chablis, but even that was not horrible. Overall, 2020 was a hot and dry season in Burgundy. There were some losses from the high heat but overall, it looked to be another successful vintage.
Nine wines from Burgundy is quite an impressive lineup, add in that they are from the same vintage, and wow, that is a lot of labels for one year. There is one Meursault and 8 red Burgundies, really impressive.
Throughout the tasting, I could not help but sense that the red wines felt overly acidic, like VA. VA (Volatile Acidity) is a common aspect of wines. It is defined as a flaw but many find it adds to the wine’s acidic profile. As stated in the Wine Spectator:
In small measures—most wines have less than 400 mg/L of acetic acid; the human threshold for detecting it is about 600 to 900 mg/L—volatile acidity imparts a racy, balsamic edge to a wine. It’s also likely to be present anytime you see “high-toned” fruit flavors in a tasting note. It can offer a tangy edge that works well with dishes that could use a little oomph, say pasta with red sauces. It stretches the flavors, and some vintners encourage a touch of VA to do just that. (WS, 2017)
Overall, the wines showed differently than in previous vintages, which is of course common. They were richly floral, again common for Burgundy. The clear winner of the tasting was the incredible Meursault, which showed very differently than the 2019 Jean-Philippe Marchand Meursault. The 2019 Jean-Philippe Marchand Meursault is riper and shows more of the oak influence while the 2020 Domaine Aegerter Meursault is more refined, at this time, and shows more mineral and control, overall. Just lovely!
We also tasted the 2018 Chateau Trianon, a wine I tasted with Ari Cohen in June, also at the IDS office, and the lovely 2020 Chateau Sainte Marguerite Cuvee Symphonie Blanc, Cotes de Provence. My notes for them are identical to what I wrote in June. IDS will be distributing the kosher Chateau Trianon wines in Europe. Until now, the kosher wines were only available from the winery. Now, they should have a better distribution within Europe, I hope, as they are lovely wines indeed.
My many thanks to Ben Uzan for setting up the meeting, sharing his wines with us, and for taking time out of his busy schedule to meet with us. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:
2020 Domaine Aegerter Meursault, Meursault – Score: 94 (QPR: GOOD)
The nose on this wine is pure funk, almonds, walnuts, peach, nectarines, orange blossom, honeysuckle, rich floral notes, straw, mineral, spice, and rich oolong tea. The mouth on this full-bodied wine is bombastic, wow, unique, special, just wow! The screaming acid, hay, straw, jasmine, white flower, with yellow plum, green apple, Asian pear, with rich saline, mineral, smoke, straw, and rich flint, WOW! The mouth is dense, oily, structured, and just lovely! The finish is long, green, hay, earth, smoke, lemongrass, with a plushness, oily, sweet oak, intense cloves, and rich green notes, wow! Drink from 2025 until 2032. (tasted November 2021)
I return to my tastings on my trip to Paris in November and this post focuses on wines we enjoyed from Domaine Roses Camille. I have posted often about wines from DRC, including my most recent post on DRC wines. My post here, tells of the story of DRC and this one tells of a lovely gathering I was invited to with DRC wines.
The day before the Royal wine tasting, in November, Avi Davidowitz, from the Kosher Wine Unfiltered blog, and I jumped in a cab and made our way to the center of Paris to meet with Christophe Bardeau, the winemaker of Domaine Roses Camille. To be 100% transparent, I had already tasted these wines, and as I will post in my notes, this will be the 3rd tasting of some of these, but I was waiting until I tasted them in Paris to post. I have been seeing a fair amount of travel issues with some wines from outside of the USA, recently, as such, I wanted to be sure of my notes before I posted them. In this case, there was no change in score or notes, which made me very happy indeed.
We arrived at a nondescript address in Paris on a cold but clear blue sky day and made our way through a few doors to meet with Christophe. We were meant to meet with Ben Sitruk as well, but he was not feeling well that day. Since Mr. Sitruk was unavailable, his location was also not an option, and as such, Christophe, who lives in Pomerol, was kind enough to find us a host, who turns out to be the owner of Chateau Marquisat de Binet. It was his home that we entered into on that lovely Parisian day. The home was just about being finished, in regards to some renovations, and the first thing I noticed was the paint smell. There was no way I could stay indoors and smell those wonderful DRC wines. Thankfully, both Christophe and Avi were down with an outdoor tasting, and the clear sky was truly inviting, with the sunlight starting to warm the cool November morning.
We started with the La Folie D’Elie, a wine I had earlier with Yossie and Andrew, in my driveway, in October, and I like this wine. No, this is not a wine for the ages, it has a short window, but it is fun, simple, and a wine I hope will be available at a reasonable price, soon enough, in the USA. The name La Folie D’Elie – is an ode to the child of the owners of Chateau Marquisat de Binet, who shall we say, is slightly rambunctious!
Then we enjoyed the 2015 Chateau Marquisat de Binet, Cuvee Abel, a wine I have now had 3 or so times, and it continues to impress each time. The 2014 vintage is in the drink-now stage – so please do not hold on to those any longer than you have to. Abel is another child of the owners of Chateau Marquisat de Binet, who I can surmise, is slightly less unruly! Though I must say I love the colors and the peacock on the La Folie D’Elie label, just a fun, and joyous expression.
The weather cooperated with us and as the morning sun grew closer we got to tasting the 2015 Echo. This is a wine I have tasted three times and one that still feels closed at the start. It is not as absurd a baby like the 2014 Domaine Roses Camille but it needs time to shine. The conversation with Christophe was mostly in English and it revolved around the winery, the kosher restaurant that Christophe wants to open during the summer months, and the vision of growing the winery, within reason, as they are still constrained by the number of vines that they have in their vineyards.
We then got to taste the 2015 vintage of Domaine Roses Camille Grand Vin de Bordeaux, Pomerol, which I tasted in May alongside its older brother, the 2014 vintage. The 2014 vintage is so closed, so young, it does not even have clothing on yet, a true baby that would be horrible to open at this time. The 2015 vintage is also very closed, a fact I stated in my notes when tasting it again in Paris. Still, it is a drop less closed than 2014 and a riper wine overall, which makes sense given the vintage. I like the 2014 vintage more than 2015, by a drop, but time will tell, if 2015 loses its baby fat and becomes more elegant, like the 2011 and 2012 vintages.Read the rest of this entry
On a late October evening, I sat down with Andrew Breskin from Liquid Kosher and Yossie Horowitz from Yossie’s Corkboard. We enjoyed dinner in my driveway, on a brisk California evening. We had a few wines between us, ones that I have posted here before, so no need to repost them, however, we did try a few Yaakov Oryah wines and we tried a couple of Domaine Roses Camille wines – that I will post in a more extensive post, next, including some not yet released vintages as well.
It was great hanging out with Andrew and Yossie and I hope we get the chance to see each other more in the coming year. Life has been thrown into flux by the virus but, if you are careful, one should try to enjoy life still, safely, and within reason.
I have a few longer posts to get to, so I will keep this one short. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:
2020 Yaacov Oryah Queen of Hearts, Israel – Score: 91 (QPR: EVEN)
This is a very strange blend of 45% Chardonnay, 28% Semillon, 17% Chenin Blanc, & 10% Gewürztraminer. This is a classic Oryah wine, all Chutzpah and loads of style. This wine is very slow to open – so do NOT pop and drink, open this wine and let it breathe for 1 hour and then enjoy!
The nose on this wine, once it opens properly, it starts with plain apple juice notes, but with time it evolves and becomes far more elegant with peach, apricot, mango, pineapple, lychee, and hints of lovely mineral, straw, and smoke. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is rich, layered, with a lovely mouthfeel that is bracing and almost oily, with rich mineral, straw, wet grass, all the fruit from the nose with sweet quince, dried tarragon, sweet spices, and some nice citrus. The finish is long, tart, sweet, and balanced. Bravo! Another lovely wine from Oryah, especially for such a horrible vintage. Drink until 2023. (tasted October 2021)
2019 Yaacov Oryah The Human Touch, Israel – Score: 90 (QPR: EVEN)
This wine is a blend of 24% Merlot, 24% Grenache, 18% Syrah, 17% Mourvedre, & 17% Cinsault. The nose on this wine is a bit ripe to start, but it calms after a few hours, with notes of blueberry, raspberry, strawberry, currant, pomegranate, rhubarb, sweet spices, and smoke galore. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine has the correct balance with good acidity, but the ripeness throws me off, with ripe strawberry, blackberry, juicy raspberry, dark plum, smoke, green notes, and good saline. The finish is long, ripe, a bit too ripe, with more smoke, cloves, cinnamon, sweet tarragon, and root beer. Drink by 2024. (tasted October 2021)
2020 Yaccov Oryah Late Harvest Viognier, Israel – Score: 92 (QPR: WINNER)
This wine is a sweet Orange wine and it is really fun. It is also another wine that is very slow to open, so be slow with this one as well. The nose on this wine is classic Viognier with a side of skin macerated notes, with sweet and ripe peach, apricot, orange marmalade, sugar-covered almonds, walnuts, with ripe mango, rich honeysuckle, honeyed and sugar-coated Asian Pear, and brown sugar. The mouth on this full-bodied is rich, layered, dense, and yet perfectly balanced, with bracing acidity, sweet and candied fruit mango, with incredible citrus, sweet orange, nectarines, Meyer lemon, sweet and ripe peach, apricot, sugar covered almonds, and walnuts, rich honeysuckle, honeyed and sugar-coated Asian Pear, and brown sugar. The mouth is shocking as it is perfectly balanced, with an oily texture, rich tannin, but also dense and sweet, perfectly balanced, really impressive! The finish is super long, mouth-draping, and layered, with more mineral, slate, sweet notes, and an overall oily bracing texture that is really fun. Bravo!! Drink from 2023 until 2030. (tasted October 2021)
So, a quick recap of my life over the past 45 days. I was in Paris in November along with Avi Davidowitz of Kosher Wine Unfiltered. Avi and I tasted lots of wines and more posts about those wines are forthcoming. Avi left a few days after he arrived to return to his family in Israel for Shabbat and I stayed Shabbat in France. On Sunday I flew to Spain to taste wines with Moises and Anne, which I will be posting here. Then I flew back to Paris, hung out with family, and then flew home.
Two weeks later, I was back on a plane to Tanzania to climb Kilimanjaro. During the 2 weeks I was home I was training or working the entire time, so I barely got the Royal Wine tasting post up! Thankfully I climbed it safely and returned home. The 7 days on that mountain was the longest stretch of my adult life away from a computer, totally surreal for me! Anyway, I am now home and I will be working on my posts, God willing!
So, now back to wine, this post is about Elvi Wines, I have written many times about Elvi Wines, the first post I wrote about Moises and ElviWines is this. Truthfully, nothing has changed about that post, in regards to Elvi Wines, other than the labels and a few wines being dropped to streamline the marketing of the wines. My next main post on Elvi Wines was when I visited the winery with my wife. Before, in between, and after, I have been consistently posting their wines in my QPR posts, wines of the year, and so on. Why? Because they make exceptional wines at reasonable prices and they make a great selection of them under many labels. The labels have evolved, some wines dropped, but overall, since I met Moises one day in San Francisco, tasting through the wines, I heard the story, the dream, and we have all been blessed to watch the trajectory of the winery. It continues to evolve, creating wonderful wines for a reasonable price while proving that Cabernet Sauvignon is not the only red wine that you can sell to the kosher wine buyer.
It is still harder to sell wines as diverse and different as Elvi does. There is no Cabernet, there is no Merlot, sure they find their ways into the EL26 blend, but overall, Elvi is an expression of Spain – not an expression of the kosher wine palate. Elvi typifies Spain to the kosher buyer more than any other option and it has continued to excel in doing it. Sadly, we have seen Capcanes, which is a 5-minute drive from Clos Mesorah, take a large step backward. They too showed the potential of Spain, as a new-world wine in old-world clothing. Sadly, they have drunk from the same fountain of fruit, that so many Israeli wineries have, and they have lost their way. Thankfully, Elvi Wines, Clos Mesorah, and Vina Encina continue to not only execute with great wines they also are improving and growing with new vineyards and winery plans.
I arrived a few hours late because the train systems in Spain are massively antiquated and stopped running for a few hours. Once I arrived, we had the opportunity to start tasting through many a wine. The plan was simple, taste through the wines of Elvi, in a few verticals. A Vertical tasting, in this example, is when you taste the same wine across many vintages. After some tasting, we would have dinner and then go to sleep. The next day we would taste more, go out and see some lovely architecture, then swing by the new vineyards in Priorat, and then finish the tasting, get dinner, and then sleep early as the flight back to Paris is early.
As stated, eventually I got to the winery and the first vertical we did was all the Clos Mesorah wines from 2009 through 2019, except for the 2011 and 2012 vintages that do not exist. That was followed by a partial vertical of Herenza White (AKA InVita) wines. I appreciate tart and acidic wines like the Invita and they showed well, including some with age on them.
The tastings were really fun because tasting through Clos Mesorah is an opportunity to taste through the years of Priorat. Some vintages were very unique, while others were much akin to each other. Each one spoke of the vintage in their own ways, really inspiring. The one constant is acidity, deeply rooted, much akin to Four Gates and Chateau Malartic. Of course, Clos Mesorah is not as old-world as Chateau Malartic, but it has the acidity from its old-world terroir to balance some of its new-world fruit structure. Four Gates Merlot has the same staying power because of the acid that is so deeply core to its very being.
Tasting with Moises Cohen and Anne was a real joy. I have tasted with them before but this time the lineup was far more extensive and that gave me a chance to see what they look for in wine as they described what they thought they liked about the wines and what stood out in each of them, from their perspective. My notes are always what I taste, but my blog will attempt, at times, to emote some of what I hear from the winemaker or the host. In this case, Anne is very clearly passionate about the wine, it shows from the conversations and the notes she describes. Moises is equally passionate, but you can see him defer to Anne when it comes to the wine. Moises cut his teeth in the wine world on the vines and the terroir but eventually, that comes to the wine. The saying goes; wine is made in the vineyard. Together they make a dynamic duo that comes out in many ways. The artistry of the wine, the labels, the overall style they want – that is a duality between Anne and Moises, but Anne seems to take the lead there. In regards to the vineyards, the plushness of the wine, the weight, the overall mouthfeel, there Moises tends to lead, though Anne is side by side as well. The dance is fascinating to watch, explore, and just stand to the side and let happen. Overall, this tasting left me super happy for many reasons. First of all, Clos Mesorah is one of the most consistently great wines out there, even if the track record is a bit short. However, what stood out is the dance between Moises and Anne and the mutual respect they have for each other. Fun times indeed.Read the rest of this entry
My trip to Paris in November and in June showed me terroir is not enough to make good wine. There are endless shelves of useless wines, at equally high prices, just like here in the USA. Thankfully, there were a few good ones and those will be outlined over the next weeks.
However, I wanted to catch up on a few wines that people have been asking about. The new Yarden wines are all the rave. People are crowing about them, and while they are not classic Israeli Date juice, they are not very interesting at all. I opened a lovely 2018 Baron Herzog Zinfandel, and that was far more interesting, refreshing, and enjoyable, than the 2018 Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon.
There were also two lovely wines from California. First was the return of a kosher B.R. Cohn wine, this time it is not the Trestle Glen wine but a nice Cabernet Sauvignon, nonetheless. It was balanced, well made, and far more enjoyable than the Yarden, any day. Finally, I enjoyed the N.V. Hurliman Pinot Noir. It is a lovely wine made in honor of Joe Hurliman, head winemaker at Herzog Wine Cellars.
Finally, I need to once again highlight how much I like the 2020 Sheldrake Riesling, Dry, Finger Lakes, NY. It is a lovely wine, that may well be the most refreshing and enjoyable wine out there, at this moment. NO, I did not say the best wine out there. I said, refreshing and enjoyable. Some wines are elegant, unique, layered, and expressive, like the epic 2019 Chateau Pontet can’t or the almost equally impressive 2019 Chateau LaGrange. But, not every wine experience is about Pontet Canet. There are times where I want an enjoyable white wine to have during Shabbat lunch. In that case, I will either reach for sparkling wine or an acid-driven but equally refreshing white wine. Ari Lockspeiser’s 2020 Sheldrake Riesling is lovely and meets all of those requirements, nicely done buddy!
2020 Sheldrake Point Riesling, Dry, Finger Lakes, NY – Score: 91.5 (QPR: WINNER)
This is the first year that Ari Wines has made this wine and it is a true joy! First, I love the fact that he makes clear what dryness the wine has. The wine label shows an RS (Residual Sugar of 0.7 which is a bit more than I would have liked but still not within the average person’s opinion of what is “dry”. Officially, 0.5% is off-dry, but that is crazy precise, to most people below .10% you are dry, but everyone has their opinions. Finally, IMHO, this wine is not the best Riesling I have this year, nor is it the most complex wine of this year. However, and this is of great importance, this wine may well be the most refreshing wine I have tasted this year! That could well be because of either the lovely acidity, the low ABV (Alcohol By Volume), or because I love Riesling!
From open until empty this wine is always ready, enjoyable, and fun! The nose on this wine is lovely, showing notes I crave with intense honeysuckle, peach, tart citrus, honeyed notes of apple and pear, more floral notes, spices, and great minerality! The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is where this wine goes into solid WINNER status, it starts with a wave of acid, followed by a wave of balanced mouthfeel, with a weight that is lovely, not oily, but lovely, with ripe peach, tart tangerine, crab-apple like nectarine, and intense acidity. The finish is long, ripe, yet layered and expressive, with an acidic backbone, mineral, flint, rock, and intensity of mineral that makes this wine a true joy! Bravo! Drink until 2024. (tasted Novemeber 2021) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 11.10%)
So, in June I made my way to Paris and I posted the Royal wines I tasted, they were mostly white, rose, and a few red wines as well. For the past many years I have been tasting the new releases from Royal wines with Menahem Israelievitch. Sadly, last year, because of COVID I tasted the 2018 vintage in my house. Thankfully, Paris was open in November, and I returned to taste more wines.
The 2014 vintage to me, was crazy fun because it is less ripe than the 2015 or 2016 vintages. They were also FAR cheaper. Then you had the 2015 wines which were more expensive and far riper than the 2014 vintage. This 2016 vintage is the best of both worlds, but it comes at a crazy high price. I warned you at that time, during the epic post of my visit to Bordeaux with Mr. Israelievitch, that you better start saving your money, sadly nothing has changed about that. The REAL shocker price-wise of the 2016 vintage was Chateau Malartic, which rose to almost 150 or more a bottle! That was close to double the 2014 vintage.
In a previous post about the most recent French wines (at that time in 2017) that were arriving on the market – I already spoke about pricing and supply, so there is no need to talk that over again in this post.
While the 2015 and 2016 vintages were ripe, the 2017 vintage was not ripe at all, with the 2018 vintage making the 2015 ripeness look tame! Well, I am happy to say that the 2019 vintage is far more in control, less heat is obvious, though it showed up in a few wines below. Now that is a very broad-stroke statement that cannot be used uniformly, for the most part, go with it! Thankfully, the 2019 vintage will be priced slightly lower than 2018, overall, more on that below.
The Mevushal push, from Royal wines, is continuing for the USA labels. More wines are being made Mevushal and while I wonder if this is good overall for myself, it makes sense for Royal wines, which in the end, I guess is what matters to them. Will this be an issue? In the past, I have found that the mevushal work of Mr. Israelievitch is top-notch, and just ages the wine rather than ruining it.
The Mevushal wines from France for the 2018/2019/2020 vintages will be the
- 2020 Les Marrionniers Chablis, Chablis
- 2020 Chateau Les Riganes, Bordeaux
- 2020 Chateau Genlaire, Bordeaux Superieur
- 2018 Des Barons Edmond & Benjamin de Rothschild Les Lauriers, Montagne Saint-Emilion
- 2019 Des Barons Edmond & Benjamin de Rothschild Les Lauriers, Montagne Saint-Emilion
- 2018 Barons Edmond & Benjamin de Rothschild, Haut-Medoc
- 2019 Chateau Greysac, Medoc
- 2019 Chevalier de Lascombes, Margaux – YES this is new for 2019 – OH! How exciting (note by sarcasm!!!)
- 2019 Chateau Le Crock, Saint-Estephe, Bordeaux
- 2018/2019 Chateau de Parsac
- 2019 Chateau Gazin Rocquencourt, Blanc, Grand Vin – YES this is new for 2019 – OH! How exciting (note by sarcasm!!!)
- 2019 Chateau Gazin Rocquencourt, Red, Grand Vin – YES this is new for 2019 – OH! How exciting (note by sarcasm!!!)
- 2018/2020 Chateau Les Riganes, Blanc
- 2017/2019 Chateau Mayne Guyon
Now does mevushal impede the long-term viability of aging in regards to the wine? Well, that too is not something that we have scientific proof on. I have tasted a mevushal 1999 Herzog Special Edition and it was aging beautifully! Same with the Chateau Le Crock, over the past few years. So, would I buy the mevushal versions of the wines I tasted below! The answer is yes! Would I age them? Yes, I would hold them for slightly fewer years. To me personally, it is very clear, if Royal had their way they would make the Pontet Canet Mevushal! Nothing to Royal is sacred and this will not stop with the list above, it will grow, proof is Chevalier and Gazin!
Other than the mevushal aspect, there are no differences between the European version of the wines and the USA version of the wines. While that sounds obvious, I am just stating it here. The wines will be shipped now and the temperature issues that affected Israel’s wines of old, have not been a factor here.
The 2019 Pricing and access
When the 2019 wines were released “En primeur” the date was late May 2020. The world, at that time, knew nothing about COVID other than it was killing thousands and questions were all we had. Still, wineries in Bordeaux decided to plow on and the first of the virtual tastings took place on May 28th, 2020 – from Chateau Pontet Canet! This was the non-kosher tasting but at that moment when wines were shipped the world over, wineries decided to lower prices! Remember, we had been raising prices year over year, 2014 to 2015, to 2016, to 2018, it was time to reset. The pandemic allowed for that. Thankfully, and sadly, the world has slowly come back from the brink of death, and now, the 2020 vintage, which has the “En primeur“, in Bordeaux, June 2021, raised prices – so yeah, the 2020 Chateau Pontet Canet is more expensive than the 2019 vintage.
On top of that, the 2019 Chateau Pontet Canet is going to be impossible to buy. I have asked why certain wines in the past were not made more often or the such? Like why do we have Leoville every 2 or more years? Why can it not be more like Giscours? The answer I have received, from many at Royal is that folks still fear what happened during the last recession of 2007/2008. They had made too much of Leoville and Pontet Canet, in a short period, and well, sadly it sat. I get it, who wants to stare at walls of wine they cannot sell?
My issue with that is – well that was more than 15 years ago guys! Maybe a better way to say it is to channel Dorthy – Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.
Do we believe that another 100 cases would not sell?? The Malartic white is almost sold out! Malartic white! A wine no one thought they could sell 10 years ago. The world of the kosher wine consumer has moved in leaps and bounds – to continue to think like it is still 2008 is to belittle us and deny many what they want – more Pontet Canet! I will get off my soapbox, but it is truly time to stop with the kneejerk mindset. Like no 2019 Chateau Leoville Poyferre, why? Look at the famous 2014 Chateau Montviel story! It sold out in a week. Why? Because there was so little made. Again, the kosher consumer has moved past the days of old – I think it is time for Royal to do the same.
I understand that when Pontet Canet started up, again, with a new run of kosher wine, they created a separate sub-winery for the production. Further, they replicated the process, the varietal blend, and overall physical impact. The physical impact does define the total potential output, but it is time to start to grow the market. The market can and should support large output, especially in the trophy wine space, you can always control the output by skipping a vintage, in the end, Giscours and Leoville have proven it is doable, and I hope that Royal will continue to feel comfortable and grow Pontet and Leoville as we progress down the road.
Still, as always, we are indebted to the work of Menahem Israelievitch and Royal Wines for producing so many wonderful wines, even if they are in low supply. The 2019 Chateau Pontet Canet is a very different wine than the 2003 or the 2004 Chateau Pontet Canet. First of all, the system used to make those wines, back then, have changed drastically in the past 10 years, at the Chateau. Everything is now over the top, in regards to everything there. All production is done by hand and that adds to the cost. To me, the wine is also very different, stylistically, gone is the powerhouse, what we have now is a refined masterpiece. It may shock some people, and that is good, but to me, it is a classically styled and built wine for the future, and the best wines I have tasted this year, so far anyway.
Tasting in Paris
I landed in Paris, the day before this tasting and I met up with Avi Davidowitz from the Kosher Wine Unfiltered blog. It was a true joy to hang out with Mr. Davidowitz for a few days. It was so nice of him to fly from Israel to join me in the tastings. We also tasted over 70 wines – outside of the planned tastings. We thankfully had a great hotel room and it gave us loads of space to hang out and taste through those wines.
We had the chance to taste both the Mevushal and the non-Mevushal versions of two wines, side-by-side. Those were the 2019 Chevalier de Lascombes and the 2019 Chateau Le Crock. I missed the Chevalier de Lascombes but I got the Chateau La Crock. In my defense, both of the Chevalier de Lascombes are ripe, and differentiating the ripe from the riper was not obvious, but hey, I missed it!
My many thanks to Menahem Israelievitch for going out of his way to help me to taste all the current French wines from Royal Wines before they were publicly released. The labels on the pictures may not all have a kosher symbol, but that was because they rushed some of the bottles to Mr. Israelievitch before they were properly labeled with supervision symbols attached. My many thanks to Mr. Israelievitch, Royal Europe, and Royal Wines for making this tasting possible in the first place, and secondly, for taking the time to taste the wines with me.
2019 Domaine Ternynck Bourgogne, Les Truffieres, Burgundy (M) – Score: 87 (QPR: BAD)
The nose on this wine is ripe apple, pear, melon, a bit of citrus, and spice. The mouth on this wine is nice but lacks the acidity to make it come together well, with melon, pear, mineral, and spice. The finish is a bit short with hints of nectarine, orange, mango, and sweet mint. Drink now. (tasted November 2021) (in Paris, France) (ABV = 13%)