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Kosher Riesling Horizontal Tasting


It was time to taste all the Rieslings that I had been gathering up for some time. The problem was that I had no time to do it, given all the events I was traveling to, along with some personal needs as well. So, I finally found a day that would work, a week ago Thursday night and we gathered to taste them all.

So let me start with why Riesling and what is Riesling? First, this grape has many names, White Riesling, Riesling, Johannisberg Riesling, and others are real names of the Noble grape, while Emerald Riesling or Welsch Riesling – not so much!

Riesling Grape

Riesling is old, like ancient, it is documented to exist in Mosel dating back to the early 1400s! It is one of the Noble Six grapes that define wine history, but that is all marketing hooey IMHO. In terms of kosher wines, this variety did not really become special until recently, with Hagafen and Carmel doing wonderful jobs with the grape.

Riesling wines can be made in so many ways. The most common are sweet wines, like the impressive Hagafen Rieslings, that Ernie Weir makes every year, or the less impressive Giersberger Riesling, or the even less impressive Gilgal Riesling. These wines all have some amount of RS (Residual Sugar), whether they are called off-dry, semi-sweet, or sweet, they all need a very important component to make them work – ACID! They desperately need acid to balance the sweet notes. Hagafen is the only off-dry Riesling I have ever liked, that I remember anyway.

It is sad, but while Jews do not seem to enjoy white wines, they do drink sweeter wines, and if there was a bit more acid to balance it out, I think they would show better. That said, I brought this subject up to many a winemaker, and the response was all the same. People like it simpler to drink, so spiking the wine with acid would not sell as well, IE, customers like sweet alcoholic water. Acid tends to discourage gulping or whatever to these people do. Truly sad.

I am finding that Riesling is quickly becoming my favorite white wines. The dry wines from Hagafen, Nik, and Carmel bring a smile to my face. They are rich, layered, oily and balanced, with good acid that makes them enjoyable during almost any part of the meal. That is what makes acid work so well. Food dishes, wine, even dessert, all need some amount of acid to balance out the palate.

There are many other white wines out there for sure, look at my list of whites from 2015. Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Riesling are all noble grapes, and they are all lovely when done correctly. Still, Riesling has something going for it, that none of the other white varietals have, funk!

When the wine is done correctly, and then aged for even a year, the wine starts to display notes of petrol and oil. Some may find that offensive, but to me, it is yet another aspect of how I love mineral based wines. The great thing is that these wines come from all around the world! You can find kosher Riesling from California, France, Germany, and Israel!

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Assorted wines I enjoyed over the past few weeks

Well, I hope I get into the flow of weekly posts, or even more often. For now, I am behind on wine posts from Yom Tov and other get-togethers. So, here is a list of wines I have recently tasted. Some I enjoyed and well, some not. There are a few shmita wines here, so be careful, as always I highlight them as shmita of course.

2007 Elvi Utiel-Requena Makor – Score: A- (Crazy QPR)
This wine is a blend of 85% Bobal and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. The nose on this wine is rich with lovely umami, soy sauce, ripe plum, rich earth, loam, mushroom, raspberry, and black cherry. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is rich and impressively structured for such an old wine, showing really nice acidity, still integrated tannin, with an inky mouthfeel of velvet and texture with crazy mushroom, earth, barnyard, dark concentrated fruit, blackberry, ripe fruit, perfectly balanced with ripe currant, dark red forest berry, and green notes. The finish is long and tart with more dirt, and barnyard, showing still gripping tannin, and nice ripe and rich fruit. The oak does not show strongly in the mouth but it’s influence is felt nicely. BRAVO!!

2014 Louis Blanc Crozes Hermitage – Score: A- (Good QPR)
This is a lovely black fruit Syrah, with hints of blue fruit in the background. The nose on this wine is lovely, with roasted meat, rich licorice, with blueberry notes in the background, along with earth, loam, mineral, and spice galore! The mouth on this medium bodied wine is balanced and well-focused, with a mineral core, followed by sweet boysenberry that comes alive with time, followed by blackberry, spiced plum, and rich loam, that is wrapped in spicy oak, rich mouth coating tannin, and fig. The finish is long and spicy, with leather, chocolate, lovely charcoal, and bitter almond notes that give the wine its edge. The sweet fruit shows quickly and really is a nice wine, I hope it turns more French with time. It is ready now and will be at peak in two years. Drink till 2021.

2015 Psagot 7 Shmita Red – Score: B to B+ (shmita wine)
This is a blend of all the varietals that Psagot bought/used for the Shmita year of 2015. The white shmita blend was really nice, while this was good enough. It is very green.
The nose on this wine is cranberry, cherry, and asparagus salad. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is nice, but nothing spectacular, other than the very impressive mouth coating tannin. Other than that, it feels like a second label French wine, with lots of press juice, very harsh and not balanced, with black and red fruit. The finish is long and green, with good acid, and mounds of herb and foliage.

2015 Psagot 7 Shmita White – B+ to A-
This is one of the nicer Shmita white wines, it is a blend of all the white varietals that Psagot has under control. The nose is redolent with Mango, lychee, floral notes, honeysuckle, and lovely bright citrus notes. The mouth is medium bodied with good acid, nice balance, all wrapped in straw, cut grass, mint, green notes, with lovely grapefruit, peach, and pineapple. The finish is long with nice acid, mineral, and spice. Nice!! Read the rest of this entry

Rosh Hashanah 2011/5772, Herb encrusted gefilte fish loaf, Sweet and Sour Brisket, Vegetable kugel, and many wines

Rosh Hashanah (literally translated ”head of the year”) has come and gone again (Wednesday Night – September 28th, 2011), and once more I am reminded that it is a holiday that is more about your relationship with God than your gastronomic relationship with friends and family. Yes of course it is not a fast day like Yom Kippur, of course, but still the frivolity needs to be toned down a bit, and the attention placed on the fact that we are all being judged at this time of the year. So with that frame of mind, yeah too many early morning Selichot Services kind of kill the mood, my wife and I set out to make our menu and meals.

This year we hosted the first meal. We invited friends and family and it was quite awesome! Like last year, we had the same simanim (literally translated to “signs”), except that we modified the way we make the leeks. The simanim are a play on word and are a very basic Jewish tradition of using word play to bring out symbolism and actual changes or good tidings.  This year we made all of the simanim, as our friends were laid up, but we had other friends staying over with us who helped us out, so it was no biggie. The simanim are a yearly rite of passage, and one of my favorite Jewish traditions.  Many of the recipes have been changed to protect the innocent.  The customary recipes from my mother recipes consist of 4 basic ingredients, oil, more oil, honey, and some vegetable, and one cooking style – frying.  We decided that this tradition was awesome, but that it needed to be toned down such that it could be enjoyed for years to come and not just for the few where we are vertical.  So it called for some baking and less oil.  We ordered the symbolic food in the order of Sephardic Jewry, and here they are:

  1. Dates or Figs (Tamar in Hebrew)
    1. The symbolism here is that God should end our enemies
  2. Broad Beans coated with a mixture of olive oil, cumin, and garlic (Rubya in Aramaic)
    1. The symbolism here is that God should increase our merits
  3. Leeks – prepared masterfully by our stay over friends, leek fritters recipe found here(Karti in Aramaic)
    1. The symbolism here is that God should cut down our enemies
  4. Spinach – prepared masterfully by my wife using her spinach kugel recipe (Salka in Aramaic)
    1. The symbolism here is that God should remove our enemies
  5. Sweet Butternut Squash – sliced butternut squash, sprayed with oil and covered with honey, then baked in an oven set to 400 degrees (Kra in Aramaic)
    1. The symbolism here is that God should tear up our evil decrees and read before him our merits
  6. Pomegranate seeds (Rimon in Hebrew)
    1. The symbolism here is that our mitzvot (observance of the Jewish laws) be as plentiful as the pomegranate seeds
  7. Sweet apples dipped in honey
    1. The symbolism here is that God should grant us a New Year as sweet as honey
  8. Fish head – Salmon head poached in white wine and water
    1. The symbolism here is that in this New Year we should be at the head of the class and not at the tail

We always joke that we should try to bring out a head of a lamb instead of a fish head and freak out everyone there.  It would be totally epic, but while it is the preferred manner of implementing the head symbolism, it would fly in the face of “behaving”. The good news is that we did FAR better than last year on the wine parade, which was not too difficult!

The rest of the meal started with our reliable Herb encrusted gefilte fish loaf and simanim left over’s. The reason I really like this recipe is because while normal gefilte fish recipes tastes like bland boiled white fish, this recipe tastes like herb-encrusted fish that is lightly charred with the herb and spice flavors permeated through and through the fleshy texture – quite a treat. The main course consisted of our patented sweet and sour brisket, brown rice, vegetable kugel, and fresh vegetable salad. While the brisket recipe is normally rock solid, this one was far from perfect. Once again I am underwhelmed by South American whole Brisket. The US whole Brisket has a layer of fat that helps to baste the meat as the meat cooks slow and low in a 300 degrees oven. The South American whole Brisket is too lean, and lacks the self-basting fat. Further the meat is not marbled like the US whole Brisket, unfortunately, that was all that was available at the time. Read the rest of this entry

Roasted Chicken, Couscous and Abarbanel Beaujolais Villages, Red Fern Cabernet Sauvignon and Red Fern Syrah

niles-east-couscousThis past week we made a bowl of lovely couscous by steaming it over a pot of chicken soup, along with some really nice lemon roasted chicken.  The couscous is one of the best I have ever made.  Normally I take a box of Niles East Plain Couscous and place it in steam basket above a boiling pot of chicken soup.  On an aside, I never imagined I could actually place the couscous in this steamer-insertsteamer insert.  The holes on this thing look so big and the couscous kernels are so small, I thought they would all fall though.  But the trick is to wet the holes of the steamer so that the couscous sticks to it, until it cooks fully.  Also, as it cooks it puffs up and the next trick is to move the couscous in the steamer around so that you see the holes of the steamer.  This allows the steam to move around the steamer insert and create an almost convection like atmosphere in the steamer.

Anyway, this time the pot was so full with soup, that when we placed the insert into the pot, soup leaked into the insert itself.  I decided what the heck, I poured the couscous into the insert and sure enough 15 minutes later, the couscous was done.  It was by the far the very best couscous I ever made, fluffy and flavored perfectly.  The soup was equally enjoyable and the lemon/herb roasted chicken that my wife prepared to accompany the couscous was quite enjoyable as well.  I guess experimenting every so often is not so bad.

To pair with the chicken and couscous I looked for a nice light bottle of wine and found a Beaujolais that would go nicely with dinner.  A friend swung by before Sabbath started and brought the two Red Fern bottles over to taste, so the notes are included below as well.

The wine notes follow below:

2007 Abarbanel Beaujolais Villages – Score: B
The nose on this light burgundy/ruby colored wine is filled with strong dirt, mineral, and earth notes, along with strawberry, cherry, tarragon and spice.  The mouth on this light to medium bodied wine is almost sweet with cherry and strawberry.  The mid palate is acidic and bright with slight coffee flavors.  The medium long finish is spicy with slight acidity.  I highly recommend that you drink up as soon as possible and that once you open the bottle it should be drunk without waiting for it to air out.

2005 Red Fern Cabernet Sauvignon – Score: B+
The nose on this dark garnet colored wine is really nice with cranberry, plum, blackberry, sweet oak, and anise.  The mouth of this full bodied wine is mouth coating with soft tannins, plum, cranberry, and cassis.  The wine flows into a mid palate of strong acidity, oak, and coffee.  The finish is long with more acid, wood, black fruit, and dark chocolate.

2005 Red Fern Syrah – Score: B – B+
The nose on this dark garnet wine colored wine was the best feature of the wine by far, with strong blackberry, cassis, and cherry, oak, and herbs.  The mouth was way out of whack, which was a real shame — the acid was not commensurate with the wine’s body and structure.  Still, the mouth starts with blackberry and cassis.  The mouth flows into a mid palate of way too much acidity and tannin.  The finish is average long with more acid and hints of leather and chocolate.  I hope this wine settles down to reveal the fruit that lies behind the acid and tannin firewall.  Until then, I would say your money is better spent on other Kosher Syrah options.

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