Most who know me would say I am not like the classic common man, I move to the beat of my drum, and it was drumbeat that said I needed to be in France as soon as it opens. It cost me loads of aggravation, more on that below, and it was not at the perfect time either, but it was 100% worth it!
The insanity started when Gabriel Geller showed me the webpage, in May, that said that France was going to open to American tourism without quarantine, in June, as long as they had been vaccinated. Since I was vaccinated that interested me and I called United. There were flights and they did not look booked up as this was too early for most Americans to jump on the train. I asked for the week of June 14th and it looked good. I booked it but I kept it low-key as it would not be until June 1st that France would say more about it. For the next month, the French site which would define the very protocols for entry into the country would NOT change until 1 day before entry was legal! Still, they had a small link that would go on to describe the stoplight approach and the protocol for each of the three colors, green, orange, red. Now, I do not know about you, but France and the United States do not have orange-colored stoplights! Either way, the protocol stated that if you were vaccinated from a Green country (which the United States was not part of AT THAT time, more on the below) you could show the vaccine card and enter. Even at that time, I wondered why the United States was not a green country given our rates of infection, our vaccination rates, and so on, still countries like Israel, and others were on it. Then there were the Orange countries, among which the United States was one, which stated, that if you were vaccinated you could enter as long as you had a negative test result from a PCR test taken 72 hours in advance of your flight to France.
So, once France woke up and updated their entry protocols, and made it official, I had only one week to book my tastings, orders, and so on to taste through all the wines I had not yet had the chance to taste. It was a dizzying week of effort, worked around my actual job, which is being a consulting Software Architect for my clients. Thankfully, it was all planned out, though those very plans would change again, nothing new for such a last-minute approach to France.
Truly, none of this could have happened if it were not for Ari Cohen and his buddies in France that helped me in my planning, logistics, and all the winemakers and distributors who helped me set up the wine tastings.
So, as the time approached, I used United’s partner TrustAssure to book my appointment for my PCR test – WARNING NEVER EVER use these IDIOTS! Sorry for spoiling the story! I booked a convenient time and I drove over to it. It was crazy because the address showed one street while the actual location was on another one. Once I finally found it, I was in and out within a matter of minutes. Now, the way TrustAssure works is that they interact and help you find an appointment with a reputable lab or testing center. They show you possible appointment times and locations for these labs in one convenient app. Then they pass along the time for your appointment to the location and charge you the fee. All of this sounds good enough. It is up to the lab to send you the results, not TrustAssure, as TrustAssure is just a middleman to help you find a said appointment.
Well, let me explain that my flight was Sunday morning and I took my test Thursday night. All good and legal, as that is 72 hours before my flight. Sadly, by Friday afternoon late, I had not yet received my results. By Saturday night, after Shabbat, which is late this time of year, we still had no results! NONE! This now caused me massive aggravation, and sadly my wife as well, as I was freaking out. After a couple of hours of sheer insanity and running around looking for testing that was open at 11 PM, I was ready to give in and call it a massive failure. This is the current issue with COVID-19, testing should available all the time, whether for a job need, athletes, teachers, travelers, etc. If we have drive-in burger joints open all night there should be testing facilities as well. Yes, the comparison to a burger joint is cute at best, but truly the aggravation was massive. I tried calling TrustAssure and I tried calling and going to the test facility, they were all closed, with no way to get hold of anyone my test entered the COVID-19 lab blackhole. To be fair, all of the test facilities are the same, except for a very sparing few, they administer the test, and then they send them out to a much larger testing facility. The results for PCR tests are normally 24 hours or less, nowadays, sadly mine fell into the COVID-19 test black hole of death!
Finally, my friend told me there was a test facility, 10 minutes away from SFO (San Francisco airport) that could test me last minute and get me results in less than an hour. The facility opened at 6 AM and my flight check-in time was 7:40 AM. So, I barely slept that night, I packed, got everything ready, and headed over to the testing site (CovidClinic) which is a trailer parked in the middle of nowhere, I mean that literally. It is three orange trailers parked in the middle of three acres of an empty and deserted parking lot that used to be part of a park-and-fly lot for those that parked their cars before a flight at SFO. Those companies were affected by the COVID-19 impact on the aviation/airline companies.
So, I arrived at the CovidClinic, while still trying to call TrustAssure and the test site I took my test at on Thursday and there was finally someone at TrustAssure – they said there was nothing they could do, so I said I want my money back and if this last-ditch effort of a last-minute tests fails, I will sue them for failing to abide by their promises. Thankfully, that would never be needed, I took the test, and then I took another Uber to SFO and I stood by the check-in counter waiting for my results. Within 40 minutes, the negative results arrived and I went to the counter. If I ever need a test again, I would use CovidClinic without hesitation!
Let me start by now explaining that outside of my lab result blackhole issue, the rest of the international COVID-19 protocols are still not well ironed out. Yes, I understand that it was day 4 of these new protocols, what I mean overall, is that testing and COVID-19 protocols are not new to the airline industry, they have been active for a good year already! The main issue here is that every country does it differently, and so even though Hawaii, which has its stand and protocols on their own, require the same needs to enter their island as many other locals, the protocols for checking this at the counter in SFO was mayhem. Still, after lots of calls, and lots of checks, they allowed me through. Understand that this has been dumped on the shoulders of the airlines, much like all the other validating they do for passports, visas, entry cards, and so on. Who does all this? The airlines and are not compensated. So, when ticket prices go up, remember that the more idiocy and the more one-off rules they drop on entry protocols, the more airlines have to spend money to validate. Now, my flight was not direct, as France is not open directly to California unless you are talking Air France, which I have sworn to never fly again, a different set of stories for a different time. So, my connecting flight was through Newark, United also has Chicago, but at a far less convenient time. Anyway, if United had accepted me and then the Newark-based gate would have denied me who is at fault??? What if United at the Newark would have accepted my papers and then France would have denied me who is at fault? In all the above cases, the answer is United, and the fines are steep! It is for this reason that prices to places like this are higher and they will stay high as long as there are complicated and absurd one-off rules to enter these countries or locales.
So, after all of that madness, I get on the plane to Newark. At Newark, I go directly to the gate and the line is already 2/3 of the way down the concourse! Why? You guessed it, more protocol checks, people crying, screaming, complaining, and of course, people cutting lines, getting aggravated, and almost no one following the rules of wearing a mask! Classic mayhem all over again. Still, this is understandable on day 4 of these protocols. The behavior of the passengers, while horrible, I guess is also to be expected, but still depressing to see. Here too, the gate personnel were on the phone more than they were checking papers, again, new protocols equal confused gate agents. I am sure that this will all get streamlined soon, once the tests and the COVID-19 vaccination cards are digitized so that many of these headaches can be avoided.
Finally, we were on our way to Paris, once we landed it was an hour’s wait to get through border entry. The lady at border entry looked at me and asked why are you coming to France? I was not sure what to say, I came to see Paris, she only got louder and angrier. Now, until this point, no one in front of me was getting screamed at! Well, I said I was there to see my family, which all live in or around Paris, The vast majority of my family live in France. She asked me specific names and locations and then let me on through. Now, if you open a country to Americans, with your rules and protocols, and people follow those to the T, what does one gain by the subsequent questions about why you are here? I have lived in fear for the past year-plus of the COVID-19 madness. I have taken it as seriously as anyone around me. Most of my friends are either lax about it or wonder if it ever existed. So, no, I do not take what has happened lightly. But, if you allow US citizens into the country then let us in! If you want us to wear masks and to follow distance rules and so on, great, we will do that, but the added anger gains no one anything. That is my 2 cents. I asked people what was the reason for this strange attitude and the response was that France was still in its crises and that the United States had not reciprocated with opening its borders, so I felt a bit for the border agents’ frustrations with an American who wanted to come to Paris to enjoy life. Maybe, either way, I will expand on many of these points below.Read the rest of this entry
In case you missed my last post on Dampt Freres Chablis – those were the top of the line Kosher Chablis, from Dampt Freres. Bradley Cohen, the importer asked me to taste the next three wines, which while not as good as the topline wines, were OK. There are a lot of Chablis floating out there at this time, totally shocking numbers. Israel has some 8 Chablis options, some of them made just for kosher wine drinkers in Israel. France has most of them as well, based upon weird distribution issues, some are truly just for Israel, while most of the others are available in Europe as well.
The Dampt Freres wines seem to have less distribution throughout the world. Bradley has been doing a great job of getting the topline wines here and wanted my opinion of the slightly lower-end wines that were also made kosher in 2017 and 2018. I had most of the 2017 wines at a tasting with Nathan Grandjean in 2018. The higher-end wines from 2017 showed well while the lower-end wines from 2017 were less interesting.
I had the chance to taste three 2018 Chablis:
- 2018 Dampt Freres Chablis, Brechain
- 2018 Dampt Freres Chablis, Tradition (M) – the only Mevushal Dampt Freres Chablis
- 2018 Dampt Freres Petit Chablis, Sur les Clos
In my mind they were all wines I would enjoy, some more than others. These were not like the 2017 wines. They had more life, more mineral, more acid, overall better wines. Clearly, the best of the bunch was the Brechain, which in many ways is a close relative to the Premier Cru, but at a slight discount. The other two fall in line, and are of lesser quality, but they have their positives as well.
In the end, the cost for the Brechain I hope will fall in line to allow it to be a WINNER, but that will all depend, if it is imported, and what the price will be. In Europe it is an easy WINNER, IMHO. The Tradition is a solid wine, again depending on price, but again, in France, it is not a WINNER but it is a solid wine.
My many thanks to Bradley for sending me the wines to taste. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:
2018 Dampt Freres Chablis, Brechain – Score: 91 (QPR: WINNER)
This wine is the closest thing to a Premier Cru without being it. The nose on this wine is lovely, with lovely apple, pear, peach, crazy mineral, orange rind, and orange blossom, with smoke and flint. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is really nice, with screaming acid, a lovely plush and almost oily mouthfeel, with more of the stone fruit, peach, apricot, with pear, yellow apple, rich saline, lovely green notes, a touch tropical, but really lovely. The finish on this wine is lovely, plush, layered, and rich, with lovely sweet spices, cinnamon, saline, acidity, smoke, flint, and rich minerality, lovely fruit, and great balance. NICE!!! Drink by 2025. (tasted May 2021)
2018 Dampt Freres Chablis, Tradition (M) – Score: 90 (QPR: EVEN)
The nose on this wine is classic Chablis, mineral, green, dirt, saline, smoke, flint, and stone fruit, with a hint of apple and pear. Still, the main pull is the screaming bright fruit, and more mineral. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine has a real pull, the acid is solid, with a lovely weight, not as oily as the Brechain, followed by rich pear, peach, yellow apple, nectarine, orange peel, and orange notes. The finish is long, with saline, mineral, smoke, and flint/rock. Drink until 2025.
2018 Dampt Freres Petit Chablis, Sur les Clos – Score: 87 (QPR: EVEN)
The nose on this wine is a bit rounder and more boring than I would have liked, I wanted more steely notes than what we have here, with muted green notes, sweet herbs, quince, and nice minerality. The mouth is where things really shine and I think the wine is nice but simple, the mouth is super spiced, with lovely green notes, pear, spiced quince, and green notes. The finish is long, smoky, saline, really good acidity, and foliage. Drink soon. (tasted May 2021)
There are a few lovely old and pretty good Hungarian sweet wines from the old days, the last time I had them, they were nice, now they are dead. However, there are some new ones out, recently released which have yet to get to the USA. I tasted them by Andrew Breskin’s house – the founder of Liquid Kosher, along with Gabriel Geller, and he was tasting them to understand their potential here in the USA.
For full disclosure, these wines do not have an OU or OK, or such, they have off-brand supervision. I checked into it and I found it OK for ME, you need to do your research before trying them, IMHO.
There are a total of 5 of these new Hungarian wines, four of them are off-dry to sweet and one is a stunning dry wine, which in the USA will not garner a WINNER as the costs to get them here will evade the QPR price. However, the dry Furmint is awesome and exactly what I crave in a dry white wine.
Of the 4 off-dry to sweet sweet wines I tasted three of them, and I would only buy one of them. The five wines are:
- 2019 Tischler & Halpern Reserve Tokaji Dry Furmint (Dry)
- 2015 Tischler & Halpern Reserve Furmint Tokaji Félédes (Semi-Sweet) (NOT TASTED Yet)
- 2015 Tischler & Halpern Reserve Tokaji Late Harvest (Semi-Sweet)
- 2015 Tischler & Halpern Reserve Tokaji Szamorodni Édes (Sweet)
- 2015 Tischler & Halpern Reserve Tokaji Aszú 5 Puttonyos (Sweet)
The wines have not yet been imported in by Liquid Kosher, but they are available in Europe, my buddy Ari got some, and they are priced perfectly well for the European market. The Dry Furmint is a screaming WINNER there along with the 5 Puttonyos. The other two that I tasted are reasonable, for the price paid in Europe, but not worth the trouble. I have not yet tasted the Feledes.
The 5 Puttonyos is nice now, but I think it will evolve, even more, it has the fruit and the acidity to go to the next level. The Dry Furmint will be good for a year or so, but why wait – the wine is beautiful as it is – right now!
The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:
2019 Disznoko Tischler & Halpern Furmint Reserve, Dry Tokaji – Score: 91.5 (QPR: EVEN – USA, WINNER – EUR)
The nose on this wine is lovely, with beautiful floral notes of lemon blossom, honeydew, honeyed notes of Meyer lemon, wax, straw, lavender, and flint, lovely! The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is lovely, showing straw, Meyer lemon, green apple, incredible acidity, lovely tannin, ginger, with weight and density, showing rich saline, mineral, straw, and peppercorn. The finish is long, spicy, tart, with white pepper, ginger, smoke, flint, and mineral, wow! Bravo! Drink until 2023 (maybe more). (tasted April 2021)
2015 Disznoko Tischler & Halpern Tokaji Aszu, 5 Puttonyos – Score: 92.5 (QPR: GREAT – USA, WINNER – EUR)
While I think this wine is nice enough it is not as good as the previous vintages and it hits the point but this is missing a few steps. The nose on this wine is nice showing rich funk, brown sugar, sweet notes, guava, candied peach, apricot, candied ginger, lemon, and lemon zest. The mouth on this full-bodied wine is nice, with good enough acidity, lovely funk, good mouthfeel, plush, rich, concentrated, unctuous, with more citrus, lemon, mineral, and clay, nice and while I like it the wine lacks the punch, but still very nice, with intense pith, zest, funk, and acid lingering long. Very nice – Drink until 2030. (tasted April 2021)
2015 Disznoko Tischler & Halpern Tokaj, Late Harvest Furmint – Score: 90 (QPR: POOR – USA, EVEN – EUR)
This wine is fascinating as it has common notes to the dry younger wine. The nose on this is nice is off-dry, with wax, Meyer lemon, honeysuckle, sweet brown sugar, good enough acidity, and while I like it I want more acid. Drink by 2025. (tasted April 2021)
2015 Disznoko Tischler & Halpern Tokaji Szamorodni – Score: 90 (QPR: POOR – USA, EVEN – EUR)
Szamorodni, which takes its name from the Polish word ‘Samorodno’ meaning ‘as it comes’, is made from whole bunches that combine the treasured noble rot grapes and the healthy ones.
The nose on this wine starts with hints of funk with good saline, but after a few minutes, it explodes with pure funk, lovely socks, peach, guava, candied apricot, and Meyer lemon. It does show a nice blend of funk and fruit, but it has issues in the middle that may calm over time. The mouth on this full-bodied wine is rich, layered, but still showing a hollow with nice ripe and candied fruit, with good acidity, after a few minutes, and nice enough fruit, but it lacks the punch I crave. The finish is long and sweet with more acid, saline, mineral, slate, and lots of tannin and wax. Drink by 2025. (tasted April 2021)
It has been a few months since my last QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) post and 10 or more people have been emailing me about the EPIC 2019 terra di Seta Chianti, that I said, I had to pump out another post ASAP!
Thankfully, no matter how garbage and pain I subject myself to, we are still blessed with quite a few wonderful QPR wines out there. This post includes superstars like Elvi Wines’s new 2017 Clos Mesorah and many others. It goes to show that when wineries reasonably price wines, even 70 dollar wines can be a QPR winner!
We have quite a lovely set of QPR WINNERS:
- 2017 Elvi Wines Clos Mesorah
- 2019 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico
- 2019 Cantina del Redi Pleos Toscana Sangiovese
- 2019 Capcanes Peraj Ha’abib Pinot Noir
- 2019 Chateau D’Arveyres Bordeaux Superieur
- 2016 Chateau La Clare Grand Vin de Bordeaux
- 2018 Vieux Chateau Chambeau Reserve
- 2018 Hagafen Cabernet Franc
- 2018 Hagafen Cabernet Sauvignon
- 2019 Hagafen Riesling, Off-Dry
There were also a few wines that are a slight step behind with a GREAT or GOOD QPR score:
- 2016 La Chenaie du Bourdieu Grand Vin de Bordeaux
- 2018 Secret des Chevaliers Grand Reserve
- 2020 Bartenura Prosecco Rose
- 2019 Golan Heights Winery Riesling
- 2020 Sheldrake Point Gewurztraminer
- 2020 Unorthodox Sauvignon Blanc
- 2016 Hagafen Merlot, Prix, Reserve
- 2016 Hagafen Cabernet Sauvignon, Prix, Reserve, MJT
- 2018 Hagafen Merlot
There are a few wines that got a QPR Score of EVEN – meaning expensive or average:
- 2019 Hajdu Montepulciano – a nice wine but very expensive
- 2019 Domaine du Castel Petit Castel – nice enough but very expensive
- 2019 Golan Heights Winery Pinot Noir, Gilgal (Gamla) – not interesting but cheap
- 2020 Gendraud Patrice Chablis – nice enough and expensive
- 2020 Vitkin Israeli Journey
2020 Gush Etzion Sauvignon Blanc
2020 Domaine De Panquelaine Coteaux Du Giennois
2020 Bat Shlomo Sauvignon Blanc – OK or even nice enough but expensive
The others are essentially either OK wines that are too expensive, duds or total failures:
- 2016 Hagafen Pinot Noir, Prix, Reserve
- 2017 Chateau de By, Grand Vin de Bordeaux
- 2019 Hajdu Grenache
- 2019 Hagafen Don Ernesto’s Ah-Ha!
- 2016 Hagafen Melange, Prix, Reserve
- 2017 Herzog Quartet
- 2019 Flam Classico
- 2019 Twin Suns Pinot Noir
- 2019 Vanita Nero d’Avola
- 2018 Tabor Eco, Red
- 2017 Segal Cabernet Sauvignon, Dishon
- 2016 Tabor Merlot, Adama
- 2017 Tabor Shiraz, Adama
- 2018 Matar Stratus
- 2018 Matar Cumulus
- 2018 Celler de Capcanes Peraj Ha’abib (Mevushal version)
- 2020 Shiran Chardonnay
- 2017 Hagafen Chardonnay, Prix
- 2018 Tabor Eco, White
- 2019 Covenant Lavan Chardonnay
- 2020 Domaine De Panquelaine Sancerre
- 2018 Pascal Bouchard Chablis, Le Classique
- 2018 Binyamina Chardonnay, The Chosen
- 2019 Chateau le Petit Chaban
- 2019 Chateau Mayne Guyon Grand Vin
- 2019 Covenant Cabernet Sauvignon
Some things that made me stand up and take notice (AKA QPR WINNERS):
The first BIG takeaway for me, was that Hagafen Wine Cellars is back, at least in regards to red wine! I was there to taste some wines with Gabriel Geller and I was impressed by the 2016 and 2018 red wines. There were some misses as well but overall, 2 QPR WINNERS and 3 QPR GOOD to GREAT scores – that is good stuff!!! There is also the very nice, but expensive, 2018 Hagafen Sauvignon Blanc, Prix. It is really fun and while it is oak-driven, it is a nice wine and it just needs some time.
Terra di Seta Continues to CRUSH it! Two more EPIC wines at QPR WINNER status, we need a super QPR WINNER status! Fear not I am joking. Anyway, the 2019 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico is beautiful, more elegant than previous vintages, but without the sheer power of the 2018 vintage. The 2016 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico, Riserva, is a sheer powerhouse, but one that is far more accessible than previous vintages, this may well be the best in some time!
Royal has another Italian QPR WINNER with the 2019 Cantina del Redi Pleos Toscana Sangiovese, yes another Sangiovese, and no, it is not better than the TDS and it is a bit more expensive, and it is not Mevushal, so I am not sure how it fits into the Royal portfolio puzzle, but hey, that is not my job to worry about!
The 2019 Capcanes Pinot Noir is on point a very nice wine – the 2019 vintage, from all over the world, has given us a bounty of choices for Pinot Noir!
Finally, there are more French QPR WINNERS, like the 2019 Chateau D’Arveyres Bordeaux Superieur. The previous vintages were bad to horrible, but this one returns to its old form. The 2016 Chateau La Clare, Grand Vin de Bordeaux also is very nice, it continues its theme of well-priced Bordeaux wine for a reasonable price, and it is Mevushal. I would happily drink this or 2015 at a restaurant – no questions asked. Finally, the 2018 Vieux Chateau Chambeau Reserve is a nice wine for the price, though it is harder to find, it may be worth the effort.
Other wines worth of note (AKA QPR GREAT or GOOD):
I am happy to say there are other solid wines – and many are European. I found some of these at NYC stores (not online) and others online.
The 2016 La Chenaie du Bourdieu Grand Vin de Bordeaux, is not a new wine for me, I had it at Taieb in 2019 and I was happy to see it here in the USA. Another nice wine was a new one for me, the 2018 Secret des Chevaliers Grand Reserve, a simple enough wine but at the price, it has a SOLID QPR.
I was shocked to finally find a Prosecco I could taste without physically making me ill. I have had a few in the past, but this one is the best of the bunch, for now. I am talking about the 2020 Bartenura Prosecco Rose, solid if this is your kind of wine. For me, there is no better QPR WINNER or bubbly, for the price, than the Yarden and Gilgal (AKA Gamla) wines.
Talking about Yarden, the 2019 Golan Heights Winery Riesling is nice, not my cup of tea, but for those with a sweeter tooth than mine – BUY THIS or the Pacifica Riesling.
The same can be said for the 2020 Sheldrake Point Gewurztraminer. I liked the 2020 Sheldrake Point Riesling and scored it a WINNER, the Gewurztraminer is not as good, but that is fine, this is another wine made for those with a sweeter tooth.
The shocker for me, in my previous tastings at home, was the 2020 Unorthodox Sauvignon Blanc! Look, I have had their wines for years, and they have all made me unhappy. This is, honestly, the first Unorthodox wines, of any sort, that I have liked. Solid deal.
The rest of the good to great QPR wines are all Cali. There were three more wines from 2016 and 2018 at Hagafen that I liked but not as much as the ones above. The 2016 Hagafen Merlot, Prix, Reserve, 2016 Hagafen Cabernet Sauvignon, Prix, Reserve, MJT, and 2018 Hagafen Merlot, are nice enough wines. They lack complexity and tug to make me more interested.
Wines that are either good but too expensive or average (AKA EVEN):
The only wine I wanted to highlight is the 2019 Hajdu Montepulciano. It is a lovely wine that while I enjoyed it is just too expensive for the value.
Wines that are either OK but far too expensive or bad wines (AKA BAD):
I wanted to highlight the 2019 Covenant Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2019 Covenant Chardonnay, Lavan. They are nice enough wines but not like the days of old, and expensive. The same idea can be said for the 2017 Hagafen Chardonnay, Prix.
There are also, many duds to losers and I will just leave you to peruse the names and scores down below.
The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:
2017 Elvi Wines Clos Mesorah – Score: 94 (QPR: WINNER)
This is a super elegant, floral, and feminine wine, bravo!! The nose on this wine is beautiful, showing floral notes of violet, white flowers, with blueberry, black fruit, smoke, roasted duck, earth, and loads of smoke, dirt, and loam. The mouth on this full-bodied wine is so elegant, layered, concentrated, earthy, fruity, smoky, and richly extracted, with boysenberry, blackberry, dark cherry, plum, smoke, earth, loam, and lovely sweet cedar, with green notes, sweet tobacco, sweet basil, and lovely acid. The finish is long, green, with draping elegant tannin, sweet smoking tobacco, dark chocolate, white pepper, and anise. Bravo!! Drink from 2025 until 2035. (tasted April 2021)
2019 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico – Score: 92+ (QPR: WINNER)
The nose on this wine is lovely, with ripe notes, which is classic for a Chianti so young, with classic notes of burnt rubber, balsamic vinegar, rich smoke, incredible mineral, dark red fruit, menthol, and roasted animal, with loads of roasted herbs. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is lovely, richly extracted ripe, and layered, with incredible acidity, this has to be the highest acid we have ever tasted on Terra di Seta wines, the body is lighter than previous vintages, with incredibly ripe fruit, at the start, but the crazy acidity makes it work, with dark plum, rich ripe cherry, menthol galore, with incredible minerality, showing saline, rocks, charcoal, with light tannins, showing beautiful mouthfeel but after a short time the mouthfeel goes thin and the fruit-focus is gone, this is a strange wine indeed! The finish is a bit short, with lovely smoke, mineral, dark chocolate-covered espresso, with more dried herbs, oregano, and dried mint. Drink by 2027. I am surprised by this wine, I will need to see where this goes, for now, I like it, and I will buy more, but it may not be for long holding.
OK, so that was the notes after opening the bottle and tasting. The next day – the wine evolved into the classic wine we all take for granted! Now the nose is intoxicating, the ripeness has calmed down greatly, as I expected, but now the nose is dominated by lovely dried porcini mushrooms, dense fruit, menthol, smoke, roasted duck, and soya sauce galore, wow what a nose!! The mouth has evolved beautifully, and while the tannins are still gentler than in previous vintages the wine is lush, plush, and mouth-filling, the hole or shortness is gone, and now it is everything I want in a wine, though the weight has not filled out and I think this is just a lighter wine but the tannins are draping and mouth-filling, elegance is clear and the wine is lovely. This is a wine that can be enjoyed earlier than previous vintages, the minerality on this one is off the charts! 2018 is richer and fuller, while 2019 is more elegant, simply stated. Bravo!! Drink from 2022 until 2029, if you want it now, decant for 5 hours or take a glass, close it and enjoy it the next day. (tasted April 2021)
2019 Cantina del Redi Pleos Toscana Sangiovese – Score: 91+ (QPR: WINNER)
The nose on this wine is classic, dirty, earthy, smoky, with controlled ripe fruit, nice structure and loads of earth, lovely floral notes of rose and violet, and dark fruit in the background. The mouth on this medium to full-bodied wine is ripe, and concentrated with nice extraction, showing nice acidity, rich fruit-focus, with black plum, strawberry, dark raspberry, hints of blackberry, with an intense acid and mineral core, showing richness, with layers of fruit, dirt, earth, charcoal, rosehip, mouth-draping tannin, and lovely structure. The finish is long, dark, with hints of green, mushroom, red and dark fruit, tannin, more floral notes, and earth lingering long, with coffee, and leather. Nice!! Drink until 2026. (tasted March 2021)
An epic tasting of M & M Importers latest imports – QPR WINNERS and the best Kosher Pinots on the market
I was in NYC for a few days and I had the opportunity to have lunch with Dr. Ralph Madeb, president and CEO of M & M Importers, one of M’s in M & M (I just think Ralph secretly loved M&Ms as a child, but hey). I was joined by GG, Yed, and Avi Davidowitz of Kosher Wine Unfiltered. It was a wonderful tasting that had no duds, just hit after hit, and truly a unique experience, IMHO, as we are finally seeing the power of kosher wine in Italy. Of course, we have been blessed with fantastic wine from terra di Seta for more than a decade now, but our Italian experience has been limited to Chianti. There are other options but they rarely impress me. There was the epic 2010 Barolo and Barbera d’Alba from Florenza, but sadly that was a one-time run (there was more made in 2011 but it never came to the USA).
There were many more wines than just Italian, the gamut included Provence Rose from IDS, followed by Falesco’s new Ferentano, one of the very few wineries that make a varietal wine from Roscetto, followed by IDS 2018 Clos des d’Argent, which is showing well now! Then came the mind-blowing 2019 Pinot Noirs from IDS 2019 Jean Luc et Paul Aegerter Nuits St. Georges 1er Cru, Les Vallerots, and the 2019 Jean Luc et Paul Aegerter Corton-Vergennes, Grand Cru. There was supposed to also have been a Meursault to match JP Marchand’s 2019 Meursault, but sadly they ran out of fruit. The 1er Cru is on par with the best of the JP Marchand and Lescure, but the Grand Cru takes kosher Pinot Noir to a very new level, one that I am blown away by and I hope this continues!
The lineup then moved back to Italy with 2019 Terre Alfiere Tuke Nebbiolo, a crazy good QPR WINNER. Followed by another QPR WINNER, the 2018 Irpinia Aglianico. This is what Aglianico should taste like! A beautifully controlled tannic beast with nice fruit, tannin, and incredible floral aromas – BRAVO! The rest of the wines after that were wines I knew, and have written about in the past, so I took no notes. They included the 2005 Valendraud, a monster of a wine but one that is at its peak and is good to go. Following that was the IDS 2018 Jean Luc et Paul Aegerter Gevrey-Chambertin and the 2018 Jean Luc et Paul Aegerter Pommard. Followed by the epic IDS 2015 Virginie de Valendraud and a yet unreleased 2018 Virginie de Valendraud. Then came the IDS 2015 Chateau Labegorce Marguax and the IDS 2017 Chateau Lafon Rochet! Two epic wines that I love! It was finished with the two lovely 2014 and 2015 Von Hovel Rieslings, the Haute Oberemmel and the Saar Riesling, and the crazy QPR WINNER 2019 Pescaja Terre Alfieri Arneis Solei. Thanks to Avi for taking all the pictures!
There was no wine below 90 and there was my first ever 95+ score since I turned to score with numbers. To say it clearly, the lunch was epic, the wines were epic, and to have the ability to hang out like the times of old, with friends and great wine was a day to remember! My sincerest thanks to Ralph and his partner at M & M Importers for sharing their wonderful wines with us all! The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:
2020 Chateau Sainte Marguerite, Cuvee Fantastique Rose – Score: 91 (QPR: EVEN)
This wine is a blend of 50% Grenache, 40% Cinsault, and 10% Rolle (AKA Vermentino). The nose on this wine is lovely with great notes with peach, mineral, grapefruit, lovely apricot, lemongrass, and green note. The mouth is lovely, acidic, refreshing, with good acidity, nice fruit focus, with a lovely mouthful, showing classic strawberry, raspberry, lemon/lime, more peach, mineral madness, and rich salinity, wow! Lovely! The finish is long, with flint, rock, saline, lemon, tart pink grapefruit, and lemongrass, lovely! Adding in the white wine helped. Drink now. (tasted April 2021)
2020 Chateau Sainte Marguerite Rose – Score: 90 (QPR: POOR)
This wine is a blend of 50% Grenache, 40% Cinsault, and 10% Rolle (AKA Vermentino). The nose on this wine is quite nice, with minerality, lovely strawberry, raspberry, peach, lemon, grapefruit, peach blossom, and lemon blossom. The mouth is correct, enough acid, mineral galore, smoke, flint, and nice fruit focus, but missing in the middle. The finish is long, floral, with flint, green notes, and red fruit, nice! Drink now. (tasted April 2021)
2018 Famiglia Cotarella (AKA Falesco) Ferentano – Score: 93 (QPR: EVEN)
This is Incredible, the nose is lovely with great and unique floral notes, Jasmine, white flowers, beeswax, with intense mineral, vanilla, sweet oak, pineapple, hints of banana, lemon, peach, and green notes. The mouth on this full-bodied wine is rich, layered, and extracted, with nice tannin, lovely acidity, great mineral, flint, peach, lemongrass, pineapple, sweet oak, Asian pear, with a lovely viscous body, rich and beautiful, sweet vanilla, grapefruit, honeysuckle, and honeyed quince, just lovely! The finish is long, green, with tannin, tart lime, lemongrass, sweet mint, with flint, and gun smoke, wow!! Drink until 2026. (tasted April 2021)
2019 Jean Luc et Paul Aegerter Corton-Vergennes, Grand Cru – Score: 95.5 (QPR: EVEN)
The nose on this wine starts with deep mushroom and barnyard aromas, then it goes smoky, showing notes of roasted duck, red fruit, smoke, floral notes, rich saline, dense foliage, and toast. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is rich, layered, elegant, plush, and concentrated, but not overly extracted, with sheer elegance, loam, dark cherry, currant, plum, sweet raspberry, and dense dark fruit, porcini mushrooms, dirt, smoke, all wrapped in an ethereal package, just incredible!! The finish is long, dark, green, red, and smoky, with coffee, dark chocolate, and leather. Drink from 2029 until 2036. (tasted April 2021)
Since the last time I tasted and posted notes on the new roses, NorCal was still in the dead of winter/Spring and it was not very Rose weather. At that time, like now, I was deeply underwhelmed and thought it was going to be another stinker of a year for roses. Thankfully, since then, I have had two roses that returned my belief in rose, though that is two out of 48 roses that I have tasted. Overall, the scores are lower than last year and those were lower than the year before, essentially, less happy!
So, this post is scene 2 in the rose open season, and I have now tasted all the roses I would dare/care to try, and FAR TOO many that I did not want to! Sadly, many wines are still not here. We are missing a few new wines from Chateau Roubine, the new 2020 Vallon des Glauges is lurking somewhere in the USA, the 2020 Recanati roses are not here and neither are Yatir or Yaacov Oryah. So, yeah we are missing some that normally come here, but I have tasted almost everything that is here in the USA< outside of some that I could not bring myself to taste, I am sorry.
While rose wine in the non-kosher market is exploding – especially Rose wine from Provence; a wine region of France, kosher roses have ebbed and flowed. Last year, the kosher market for roses slowed down a bit. This year it has returned to absolute insanity and sadly they are all expensive and boring, again, at best.
QPR and Price
I have been having more discussions around my QPR (Quality to Price) score with a few people and their contention, which is fair, in that they see wine at a certain price, and they are not going to go above that. So, instead of having a true methodology behind their ideas, they go with what can only be described as a gut feeling. The approaches are either a wine punches above its weight class so it deserves a good QPR score. Or, this other wine has a good score and is less than 40 dollars so that makes it a good QPR wine.
While I appreciate those ideals, they do not work for everyone and they do NOT work for all wine categories. It does NOT work for roses. Look, rose prices are 100% ABSURD – PERIOD! The median rose price has stayed the same from last year, so far though many expensive roses are not here yet! So far, it is around 22 bucks – that is NUTS! Worse, is that the prices are for online places like kosherwine.com or onlinekosherwine.com, with free or good shipping options and great pricing, definitely not retail pricing.
As you will see in the scores below, QPR is all over the place and there will be good QPR scores for wines I would not buy while there are POOR to BAD QPR scores for wines I would think about drinking, but not buying, based upon the scores, but in reality, I would never buy another bottle because the pricing is ABSURDLY high.
Also, remember that the QPR methodology is based upon the 4 quintiles! Meaning, that there is a Median, but there are also quintiles above and below that median. So a wine that is at the top price point is by definition in the upper quintile. The same goes for scores. Each step above and below the median is a point in the system. So a wine that is in the most expensive quintile but is also the best wine of the group gets an EVEN. Remember folks math wins!
Still, some of the wines have a QPR of great and I would not buy them, why? Well, again, QPR is based NOT on quality primarily, it is based upon price. The quality is secondary to the price. For example, if a rose gets a score of 87 points, even though that is not a wine I would drink, if it has a price below 23 dollars – we have a GREAT QPR. Again, simple math wins. Does that mean that I would buy them because they have a GREAT QPR? No, I would not! However, for those that still want roses, then those are OK options.
Please remember, a wine score and the notes are the primary reason why I would buy a wine – PERIOD. The QPR score is there to mediate, secondarily, which of those wines that I wish to buy, are a better value. ONLY, the qualitative score can live on its own, in regards to what I buy. The QPR score defines, within the wine category, which of its peers are better or worse than the wine in question.
Finally, I can, and I have, cut and paste the rest of this post from last year’s rose post and it plays 100% the same as it did last year. Why? Because rose again is horrible. There is almost no Israeli rose, that I have tasted so far, that I would buy – no way! Now, I have not tasted the wines that many think are good in Israel, Vitkin, Oryah, and Recanati roses. In reality, there is NO QPR WINNER yet, of the 30+ roses I have tasted, not even close, sadly.
The French roses are OK, but nothing to scream about. I still remember fondly the 2015 Chateau Roubine, I tasted it with Pierre and others in Israel, what a wine! I bought lots of that wine in 2016. Last year, the 2019 Cantina Giuliano Rosato was lovely, and the new 2020 vintage is almost as good.
As stated above, this year, I will not be able to taste all the roses like I have been able to do in the past, or get close anyway. This year, travel is not an option and many of the wines are not coming to the USA. So, sadly, all I can post on is what I have tasted. To that point, I have yet to taste the Israeli wines I stated above, along with a few Cali, and the more obscure Israeli wineries that I normally get to when I am there. Still, what I have tasted is not good. A literal repeat of last year, sadly.
So, if you know all about rose and how it is made, skip all the information and go to the wines to enjoy for this year, of the wines I have tasted so far. If you do not know much about rose wine, read on. In a nutshell, 2020 roses are a waste of time. Please spend your money on white wines instead. They exist for a better price, value, and garner better scores. IF YOU MUST have rose stick to the few that I state below in my Best rose so far in 2020 section, right above the wine scores.
Kosher Rose pricing
I want to bring up a topic I have been hammering on in my past posts, price! Yeah, I hear you, Avi Davidowitz, of KosherWineUnfiltered, please quiet down, gloating does not suit you – (smiley face inserted here). The prices of Rose wines have gotten out of control. QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) has become nonexistent, essentially here in the USA, for the kosher rose market. Finally, I am sorry, but I feel that wineries were either hampered in some way with the 2020 rose vintage, or honestly, they just threw in the towel, The 2020 vintage is as bad or worse than the 2019 vintage, and 2019 was the worst one in the last 10 years, AGAIN. The roses of 2020 feel commodity at best, they feel rushed, with no real care, rhyme, or reason. They feel like we have peaked. They are nowhere near the 2015 vintage that put Chateau Roubine on the map for kosher wine drinkers. This year’s crop of roses feel half-hearted pure cash cows, and really without love behind them, AGAIN. I get it running a winery is a tough business, and you need cash flow, and the best cash flow product out there is Rose and Sauvignon Blanc wines. At least there are some good to WINNER Sauvignon Blanc wines from 2020. In Rose, for 2020, so far there is none.
As always, I will be chastised for my opinions, my pronouncements, and I am fine with that. This is a wake-up post, last year there were one or two roses at this point. This year there are none! In the end, I will repeat this statement many times, I would rather buy, the Gilgal Brut, 2019 Chateau Lacaussade, 2020 Hagafen Riesling, Dry, 2020 Sheldrake Point Riesling, 2018 Ramon Cardova Albarino (2019 is not as fun but solid), 2019 Goose Bay Sauvignon Blanc, 2019 O’dwyers Creek Sauvignon Blanc, 2018 Pacifica Riesling, 2019 Netofa Latour White, 2020 Covenant Red C Sauvignon Blanc. There are far better options, cheaper and better options in the world of white wine! PLEASE!!!
I was thinking about going with the title: 2020 kosher Roses suck hard – who cares? Because that is how I feel. This vintage is a massive letdown, AGAIN, worse than 2019, prices are still too high, quality has hit rock bottom, and overall professionalism, IMHO, has gone along with the quality. Wineries have been getting away with less and less quality for years, raising prices, and this is the worst I have seen in the rose market overall. So, yeah, who cares?Read the rest of this entry
After two years, Jacques Capsouto Vignobles Cotes de Galilee Village is back, and just in time, as the 2016 vintage was getting over the hill.
I have written extensively on the incredible story of Jacques Capsouto, both here and here. I have been waiting for the new vintage to hit the store and as usual, it is difficult to find, but they are in many stores in the great NY/NJ area. I got mine directly from the distributor – Solstars.
As much as we have seen Israel continue to move away from the Cabernet and Merlot, few have such a plethora of grapes from the Rhone Valley, like Jacques Capsouto. The sheer plethora of varietals and their impact on the wine shows where Israel can find their future. Whenever I get the chance to smell and enjoy a wine with Clairette or Cinsault, it always brings a smile to my face. The wines did show nicely but I would not hold them for too long, they are nice now with a bit of decanting or bottle open time and enjoy!
My many thanks to Selvi Uludere and everyone else from SolStars, along with Pamela Wittmann, as well. The wine note follows below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:
2018 Jacques Capsouto Cuvee Albert, Grand Vin Blanc – Score: 91 (QPR: WINNER)
The Grand Vin Blanc has returned with the lovely 2018 vintage. The 2016 vintage was lovely and so is 2018. The blend is 44% Roussanne, 28% Marsanne, and 28% Clairette. The nose on this wine starts a bit closed, still, the aromas are dry, mineral, straw, with green apple, pear, lovely straw funk, white flowers, green notes, and white tea. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is quite nice, old-world in style, with lovely funk, good balance, nice minerality, with Asian pear, with hints of French oak, followed by green apple, tart notes, and smoke. The finish is long, funky, balanced, with flint, richness, nice weight, and mouthfeel. Drink now. (tasted April 2021)
2019 Jacques Capsouto Cuvee Samuel, Rouge – Score: 91 (QPR: WINNER)
This wine is a blend of 55% Cinsault, 25% Mourvedre, 10% Grenache, 5% Counoise, and 5% Syrah. The nose on this wine starts Syrah-like, but with time it comes around to show better as a whole than as its parts. Very much like a Rhone-style Pinot Noir. The nose starts ripe but calms down to show lovely notes of rosehip, rhubarb, watermelon, dried rose petals, with soy sauce, berries, and minerals. The mouth on this medium-plus bodied wine is well controlled with lovely acidity, nice dirt, floral notes, sweet oak, rhubarb, dark cherry, plum, currants, and nice sweet spices, all wrapped in elegant tannin, mineral, and saline. The finish is long, ripe, but well balanced, with sweet cloves, cinnamon, sweet candied cherry, Asian spice, and sweet red fruit wrapping a dark chocolate bar, with great acidity that helps to balance the fruit. Bravo! Please drink this now, yes, it can make it until 2023, but why? It is good now, will not improve, drink now. (tasted April 2021)
2018 Jacques Capsouto Cuvee Marco, Grand Vin Rouge – Score: 90 (QPR: EVEN)
This wine is a blend of 40% Grenache, 40% Mourvedre, and 20% Syrah. The nose on this wine starts ripe, it is riper than its younger 2019 brother, the Cuvee Samuel. The blend is different as well, and there is much more oak on the Marco. The nose on this wine is ripe, it feels like a Cali Rhone wine more than how the 19 Samuel felt, with black and blue fruit, sweet oak, soy sauce, ripe plum, floral notes, dark and brooding, with roasted animal, and loam. The mouth on this full-bodied wine is ripe, balanced, with good acidity, blackcurrant, blackberry, boysenberry, nice draping tannin, sweet oak, loam, and black tea. The finish on this wine is ripe, with dense black fruit, loam, mushroom, graphite, milk chocolate, and nice smoke. Please drink this now, yes, it can make it until 2023, but why? It is good now, will not improve, drink now. (tasted April 2021)
OK, as I stated before, this season for rose wine is far worse than last year, and last year was far worse than previous years, you get the point! Last season it took about two months and we finally had a QPR (Quality to price Ratio) WINNER, this year, we are into the third month and honestly, things were looking bleak! I know, I owe you more bleak rose wine reviews, that are coming next, but I had to jump the line here and post this one, this is fun! A nice rose and at a good price point. As always, this one is not yet available online – but I hope it will soon be available for us west coasters and Midwesterners. Until then, the 2020 Cantina Giuliano Rosato or the 2020 Cantina Giuliano Vermentino will keep you happy. Enjoy
As always, disclaimers are required. Yes, I received this wine and yes I liked it! The wine is made in Domaine de Cantarelle, a well known Domaine that was purchased by a large conglomerate called Cap Wine Enterprises in 2017 and there was a kosher run of it in 2019, but I never got to taste it as it never made its way to the USA, and France has been cut -off from us here in the USA. I think this looks like a kosher run of the 2020 Domaine de Cantarelle Madam, but I am not sure of that.
My many thanks to Shai Ghermezian from Allied Importers. The wine note follows below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:
2020 Or de la Castinelle Rose – Score: 91 (QPR: WINNER)
This wine is a blend of 70% Grenache, 15% Cinsault, and 15% Syrah. Finally, there is a rose wine in the USA that I want to buy and drink! Bravo! The nose on this lovely wine is ripe, well balanced, but super bright, acidic, and with nice minerality, showing notes of lemon blossom, Meyer lemon, strawberries and crème, with saline, rock, and green notes. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine shows a nice weight, with gripping acidity, nice fruit focus of grapefruit, strawberry, raspberry, gooseberry, and hints of orange, with mineral galore, and lovely green notes. This is refreshing, bright, tart, and just what I want in a rose. The finish is super long, tart, with great acidity, more lemon, gooseberry, pomelo, and slate lingering long, with orange blossom, and more Meyer lemon! Bravo! Drink now!! (tasted April 2021)
I recently had the chance to taste three wines from Cantina Giuliano one of the few kosher wineries in Europe, along with Terra di Seta, and Elvi Wines. In the past, I have found the Cantina Giuliano wines to be nice but not wines I would buy. Last year I liked the rose enough to buy some and drink them right away. However, this year, Eli & Lara Gauthier have made some nice wines and I hope this goes up from here!
I was able to taste the 2020 rose and Vermentino along with the 2019 Merlot, all of them are sourced from Tuscany. The Rose was lovely but the Vermentino was fun, while the Merlot is a GREAT find and one that is a wonderful quaff.
My many thanks to Eli & Lara Gauthier from Cantina Giuliano and Shai Ghermezian from Allied Importers. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:
2020 Cantina Giuliano Vermentino – Score: 91 (QPR: WINNER)
This feels like what I always wanted from a Vermentino, acid, fruit, crazy mineral, and more mineral, just lovely! The nose on this wine starts off a bit strange, let it air out, with 20 minutes or so, the nose turns into mineral and fruit heaven, with notes of lemon blossom, Meyer lemon, lime, and stone fruit, with intense mineral, flint, and smoke, really fun! The mouth on this mineral-laden and acid core wine is lovely, showing intense mineral, acidity, with lovely saline, olives, peach, apple, and searing acidity – wow! The finish is long, green, fun, with intensity, refreshing, saline, Meyer lemon/lime, and olives. Bravo! (tasted March 2021)
2020 Cantina Giuliano Rosato – Score: 90 (QPR: GREAT)
This wine is lovely, not as epic or as minerally laden as the 2019 but a lovely rose, in a vintage where there are so very few Rose I would drink. The nose on this wine is lovely, bright fruit, tart, with bright aromas of red fruit, strawberry, and crème, bright passion fruit, citrus, with lovely orange blossom, and orange rind notes. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine has a nice weight, shows a good fruit focus, with nice strawberry, tart, and juicy raspberry, bracing acidity, well-balanced, refreshing, showing saline, olives, and a nice mineral focus. The finish is long, green, mineral, slate, and tart, refreshing, and fun! Nice! Drink now! (tasted March 2021)
2019 Cantina Giuliano In Campagna Merlot – Score: 90 (QPR: GREAT)
While this is not a WINNER from a QPR score, it is a winner from the fact that is a nice wine for under 20 dollars, Italy continues to impress at this price point! The nose on this Merlot is lovely, floral, with notes of lavender, toast, earth, nice loam, red and black fruit, paraffin notes, and roasted herb. The mouth on this medium to full-bodied wine is layered with nice red and black fruit, showing dark raspberry, strawberry, plum, dark cherry, smoke, with lovely dirt, loam, earth, and nice acid to bring this wine together, with mouth-draping tannin, and foliage. The finish is long, with green notes, showing red fruit, herbs, more smoke, wax, meaty notes, all backed by crazy acid, nice tannin, and good fruit focus. Bravo! Drink until 2025. (tasted April 2021)
In case you missed the last Herzog Wine Cellars post – please check that out here, I see no need to repeat all of the same content! That said – wow! The 2017 vintage was tough, it was tough for all of Cali, it was a bad vintage. Thankfully, 2017 is past us, and we have 2018 and 2019 looking mighty fine, given the scores/notes from the last post and the ones from this new tasting. Throw in ONE 2020 red wine, the 2020 Herzog Choreograph, which is fun, extremely well balanced, and literally what I wrote – fun!
The other wines in the tasting are from 2018 and 2019 and they garnered QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) WINNER, GREAT, GOOD, or EVEN scores. Still, the most impressive wines, from this tasting, came from the 2019 vintage, the 2019 Herzog Pinot Noir, Reserve, and the 2019 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Reserve, Lake County. There were also two 2018 wines, the WINNING 2018 Herzog Merlot, Special Reserve, Alexander Valley, a return after almost 20 years of hiatus. Along with the 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Reserve, Napa Valley. The 2019 French and American Oak wines were not as good as in previous vintages. Also, the 2019 Lineage Pinot Noir was not as good as previous vintages, though I liked the Lineage Chardonnay.
I will keep this short, so my many thanks to Joseph Herzog, David Whittemore, Joe Hurliman, and Alicia Wilbur for answering my many emails and calls. Be well to you all, California is getting even crazier – stay safe guys! The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:
2018 Herzog Merlot, Special Reserve, Alexander Valley (M) – Score: 91 (QPR: WINNER)
This is the return of the Alexander Valley Merlot – Miles is dead (not in real life but you get the gist)! The nose on this wine calls to mind a Zinfandel more than a Merlot, which is helped by what I think is sweet American Oak, followed by hickory, sweet sugar/toffee notes, followed by blue and red fruit, licorice, with violet notes, and smoke. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine, to start shows more like Zinfandel than Merlot, with enough complexity to grab you, followed by fine tannins to start, but they grip and drape with time, strawberry, boysenberry, cranberry, and hints of pomegranate, with intense garrigue, sweet zin berry notes, and everything that makes me want to say this is a Zinfandel. The finish is long, green, red, smoky, and gripping with tannin, boysenberry, leather, and more violets. You see why I think this is a Zinfandel! With more time the wine does not change, in the end, it is a nice wine that does not taste like a Merlot to me. (tasted March 2021)