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
In my state of kosher wine industry post – I lamented at the lack of QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) options in the kosher wine world. Now that is not to say that the options do not exist, as you can see by the number of QPR options on my top wines for Passover last year. Still, given the sheer number of wines in a kosher wine store (many hundreds) and the number of kosher wines on the open market (many thousands), we are left with a very small minority – sadly.
So, I thought I would list the most recent QPR wines I have enjoyed over the past 6 months. I wanted to catch up with wines I had not had till later last year and place them in a single easy to find place.
My hope is that people will enjoy the wines and demand more of them. For instance, the lack of many of the QPR wines from Elvi Wines on the open market. I can find them on Royal’s website and on Elvi’s website, but sadly I cannot find them at many wine stores. Thankfully, Kosherwine has gotten the Elvi Cava back along with the Gilgal Brut, but they have older vintages or no vintages of the Elvi options. Onlinekosherwine.com, also has many of the older Elvi wines. I have spoken with Moises and he says they exist here somewhere in the USA – only God knows where though!!! Sadly, the exact same can be said for Netofa wines – another QPR superstar! Where are the wines? I taste them at KFWE – but they are not at stores, online or at shops!
I hope to one day write a post about wine cellaring, but till I do, understand that certain wines are made to enjoy early, like Cava, most 2014 white wines, and lighter reds. The richer and tannic reds can use time in the cellar and that is normal. This list is not a list of wines that are meant for cellaring, though many can withstand a few years. The idea here is to enjoy these wines now while you let the long-term wines cellar and age. We all have that interest to drink interesting wines and while I agree with that, that is NO excuse to raid the cellar when u have a hunkering for a complex note or flavor. Many of these wines will scratch the itch while the beasts’ lie and settle.
Finally, some of these wines are hard to find and they may have different siblings – I will point out when an older one will be an issue or a newer vintage would not be on the list (like the 2011 Ella Valley Cabernet Franc versus the 2012). The 2012 Ella Valley Cabernet Franc would never be on this list. The 2011 is a fine wine for another year, after that I fear it will turn to date juice.
Also, many of the white/rose/bubbly wines will be repeats from the various posts I made, as most of the 2015 whites and rose are not coming to the USA as they are shmita in Israel. I tried to keep these wines under 30 dollars or so, some are more most are less and that is the point of this list. Of course, that means that for some wineries there will be one or no options, like Matar or Four Gates Winery. Though I could have thrown in the Four Gates Chard – which is a lovely wine, it is still far from my goal to add into this bucket. The same can be said for many more wineries. Also, 2015 Israeli wines are not on this list, actually no 2015 wines are on this list, though Hagafen Winery, has released their 2015, but I have yet to taste them and the 2014 Hagafen wines are the ones on the market anyway. Finally, wines that can only be found in Israel like the epic Tabor Rose of 2014 and the 2014 Reca Gris du Marselan and the yatir rose and the new 2014 Yatir Viognier – and so on. All of these wines are not on this list because they are hard to find, but they are on previous lists I have posted.
So, without further ado – here is my list of kosher QPR winners so far and if you have any more please tell me!! They are listed below without any real order.
2014 Domaine Netofa White – Score: A- (Crazy QPR)
I must say this is clearly the best Netofa white so far, and I hope they continue to impress! The wine is 100% Chenin Blanc sourced from the slopes of Mount Tabor. The nose is redolent with rich and bright quince, straw, mineral, lemongrass, and wet grass. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is lovely and rich mineral bomb, with more hay, spiced quince, now dry fresh cut grass, green apple, Asian pear, along with a crazy dry and insanely tart crab apple. The finish is long – spicy, dirty, and mineral based, with dry fruit, rich ripping acid, cloves, and nutmeg – BRAVO!!!
2013 Domaine Netofa Red – Score: A- (and more) (QPR!)
This wine is a clear step up from the 2012 Netofa Red, that is not putting the 2012 down in any way, it is just that this wine is even better! This wine is a blend of 65% Syrah and 35% Mourvedre. The nose on this wine is redolent and packed with mineral, lovely smoke, flint, ripe plum, lovely blueberry, with currants in the background. The mouth on this full bodied wine is attacks you first with lovely currants, followed by layers of blueberry, floral notes, richer and more extracted than the 2012, with great mineral, dried strawberry, all wrapped in ripping acid, and lovely tannin. The finish is long, extracted, and richly mineral in style, with blackcurrant, draping tannin, while being spiced with cloves, black pepper, sweet her, and hints of pith and lovely acid. BRAVO!!!
2012 Weinstock Cabernet Franc, Cellar Select – Score: A- (Mevushal) (QPR!)
This is not the same wine as the 2011 vintage, which was crazy and great this vintage started off closed and disjointed, but is now showing far better. The nose on this wine is mad green with red fruit notes, and herb. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is nice and round, with green notes, well balanced with good acid, raspberry, plum, earth, more bell pepper, crazy sweet dill, mouth coating tannin, and green foliage. The finish is long with nice enough acid, forest floor, nice butterscotch, good sweet tobacco, cedar, with tannin adding weight. Read the rest of this entry
It always starts the same way, a blank page, you can look at it as a blank slate/canvas, or you can look at it as yet another post that feels at time like you are bearing your soul and feelings for all to ponder. Still, when it comes to writing about stuff you love, the fear of a blank page turns into a flowing river of text, the hard part is cutting it down to something manageable!
When it comes to Elvi Winery – I can only let my fingers do the talking, much like Moises Cohen’s wines do for themselves. It was our first day in Barcelona, and it saw my wife and I making our way to Clos Mesorah, a lovely vineyard 2 hours out of Barcelona, by train. Of course, things do not always go as planned, Moises the epitome of a host sent us detailed instructions for how we are to get from BCN to his lovely home. Sadly, time and luck were not on our side, two times on our travels to the lush vineyards of Montsant, we ran into Murph. First the train from BCN to the main train station of Barcelona was just pulling out as we walked from the ticket handler, a minute faster and we were on that one. Well, then the next domino fell, the next train would get us to the train station after the first of two trains to Clos Mesorah was pulling out, of course! So, a minute delay cost us two plus hours, such is life when traveling in a country that is foreign and complex like Spain.
But I am digressing, if anyone has read this blog before, you will know my appreciation for all things Spanish, when it comes to wine. To me they are the best kept secret in the world of kosher wine. Sure, Royal Wines has jacked the prices up on Capcanes – ever since taking over the distribution in the US from Solomon Wines. The prices are almost double for the Peraj Habib and Flor du Flor, and they almost double the Clos Mesorah prices in the US, as well. Still, if you go for the lower priced wines, there is nothing close in terms of QPR, and that is what makes kosher Spanish wines so special.
The best part of Spanish wines is that over ripe and unbalanced flavors do not find their way into the kosher Spanish offerings. Do not get me wrong, they are new-world wines of course, but they are balanced and controlled, something I think Israel could emulate, if they wanted to move to the next level. Read the rest of this entry
Well, it has been too long, I admit – mea culpa. We have just come back from a crazy long vacation, leaving right after the Jewish Holidays. All of this required time and setup, and well, I never found the time.
The trip consisted of a week in Greece, then on to Spain (more on that in a minute), then to Gibraltar for Shabbos, then to Glasgow for the 2015 World gymnastic championships. While the trip was epic, by far Santorini and Barcelona were beyond compare. The wine options in these locations are really very poor. Please beware that this post is more about the trip than wine and food, but there is also useful information about that as well.
Greece has ZERO good kosher wine options. Humorously, one of the most expensive hotels in Santorini (Mystique) has a crazy wine cellar, and it has some old Yarden wines there!! Sadly, I did not stay there, but I stayed at another epic hotel that overlooked the Caldera, the Katakies. We used points for this entire trip, otherwise, I would never spend that kind of money per night!
Dr. Moises Cohen, owner and head wine maker of Elvi Wines, fell into his current love as part of his thesis defense of his other love – Agricultural Engineering, which he received from the Technion in Haifa. For the next 21 years Moises has used his degree and knowledge to build patented technology that allows vineyards to be remotely monitored on all aspects of the vine’s health and stress. Telemetry ranging from the vine’s overall health to how much water it has consumed and how much it still needs! It turns out that with some really cool technology a vine can tell you all the info you can ever imagine without damaging it in any way. The telemetry data allows the vineyard manager to control the water, fertilizer, and/or vineyard fans to cool or heat the vines.
Moises and his wife, Anne who holds a degree in History of Art and is a Sommelier, has been consulting with wineries, all around the world, to manage their vines and to make wines. In 2003, Moises started Elvi Wines, while continuing to being a wine consultant for wineries across Spain and South America. The duality of seasons between the northern and southern hemispheres allows Moises to help each in their own wine harvest and growing seasons.
Dr. Moises Cohen, the winemaker, is passionate about the terroir, and their winery’s name (Elvi) says it all; an abbreviation as Cohen explains it; EL (elokim or general rules or mother nature, just as you want, as you feel, as you believe) is always above VI (vino, wine). Wine is a mirror image of the vineyard and the wine maker. The more the wine maker manipulates the grapes and the wine, the more it feels and tastes fake. The more he/she lets the grapes and wine change and age naturally, the more the wine will be able to show its true terroir characteristics. All of the Elvi’s wines come from organically maintained vineyards! Further, the wines are brooding with earthy and mineral notes that show the terroir in ways that are quite enjoyable.
Weekend off with friends, great food and wine, Elvi Wines Ribera del Júcar Adar, Tishbi Emerald Riesling, and Sol De Chile Cabernet Sauvignon
This past week saw us hanging with friends and so no recipes this week. Benyo from Four Gates Winery was there so we got to taste two wines that are very close to release, which I think will be nice wines. Our friends made some unbelievable food, including a lovely vegetable soup (no cans here), fantastic challah, tons of salads, along with a main course of Beef bourguignon, rice, and a few more side dishes that I lost track of! Absolutely awesome food and great company to boot! The following day for lunch we had fish, many more salads, roasted chicken, cholent, and gobs of side dishes.
The only thing we did was show up and bring a few bottles of wine, the wine notes are found below. I begged Benyo to bring another of those wonderful old 1996 non-sulfite Chardonnay. Once again it was a crowd pleaser with even more concentrated butterscotch!
Thanks so much to our friends for hosting us, feeding us, and allowing us to stay in their wonderful home, and making us feel at home as always!
2009 Tishbi Emerald Riesling Zichron Yaakov and Kfar Tavor – Score: B to B+
The nose on this light straw colored wine is exploding with apple, ripe peach, ripe melon, lychee, perfume, and apricot. The mouth on this light bodied wine follows the nose with apple, strong lemon showing, ripe melon, peach, and apricot. The mid palate is balanced with bracing acidity that calms down over time, perfume, and tart lemon. The finish is long and refreshing with a slight sweetness, tart lemon, melon, perfume, and bit oily texture. A wonderful quaffer that is goes great with spicy fare, light fish dishes, and soft cheese.
2005 Elvi Wines Ribera del Júcar Adar – Score: A-
The nose on this dark garnet colored wine, with slight browning on the edges, is hopping with coffee, licorice, black cherry, black plum, blackberry, rich oak, loamy dirt, and dates. The mouth on this full bodied wine is concentrated out of the bottle, that dissipates a bit over time, coffee, black cherry, black plum, and clear oak influence. The mid palate carries the concentrated flavors, and adds in lovely not yet integrated tannins, balanced acidity, and more oak. The finish is super long and a bit firm, which too softens in the glass, with tight and concentrated black cherry, oak, coffee, and dates. The wine is clearly at its peak or a bit over it. The wine is throwing sediment, browning on the edges, and showing date flavors that are not from the fruit but from age. That said, the wine is holding up quite fine with serious flavors, concentration, and oak influence. The wine does soften up a bit with time in the glass but never comes to a soft mouth palate that feels full in the mouth. rather this is a wine that is best enjoyed out of the bottle with little airing and watch how the wine evolves in the glass. It is a wine that is concentrated and will show that way. Enjoy with hearty Ragù, grilled meat, and/or hard cheese.
2008 Sol de Chile Estate Cabernet Sauvignon – Score: B to B+
We have had this wine before, but this time we drank from the bottle, leaving little time for the wine to air and show its best stuff. The nose on this dark ruby colored wine starts off hot, with some mineral and loamy notes, along with cherry, cranberry, and coffee. The mouth on this medium bodied wine has cranberry, cherry, and a soft mouth. The mid palate has integrating tannins, acid, and coffee. The finish is long and spicy, with a dollop of vanilla and a long and pleasing finish. This is NOT an admonishment of the wine as much as it is an admonishment to me for not properly managing this bottle. This wine needs time to open and allow itself to be shown in its best light, which we never let happen, so give this bottle a chance, but please open it a few hours in advance, taste at opening and then a few hours later to see the difference.
This past weekend saw us hosting a meal for my Nephew and friend who had just completed his qualifications to start his PHD at Berkley University. The meal started with a nice Chicken Soup (recipe here) and my wife’s awesome whole wheat challah. It was followed by two stews that were consumed heartily. Benyamin Cantz joined us for the meal, along with some of our dear friends, and as I was preparing the stews, I could hear Benyo saying “never use the same ingredients in two dishes that are served during the same meal”. So as I reused Yukon potatoes and carrots in the two stews, I knew I would hear it from him. That said, the flavors of the two dishes were so very different that it worked out. The tajine recipe starts off with browning both ends of sliced Merguez, cut into one inch tubes. Once both sides are browned, I remove them from my Dutch Oven and brown the onions. I always throw in the salt and pepper at this point to help soften the onions and make them release their water and increase their sweetness. Once the onions are browned nicely, throw in all the spices, and make sure the spices coat the onions. Once the spices are evenly distributed, throw in the other vegetables and let them get some of the spices coated on them as well, and cook them for 10 or so minutes to help them release their liquid. At this point throw in the sun-dried tomatoes, the wine, water, browned Merguez, cinnamon stick, and vegetable stock. Throw this in a preheated 400 degree oven for one hour. Then add in the chickpeas and fruit and let cook for another 30 or so minutes. Remove the cinnamon stick and serve.
Moroccan Merguez Tajine (recipe)
1/4 cup of olive oil
2 pounds of Merguez sliced into one inch tubes
6 cloves garlic
3 large onions cut into chunks
Salt and pepper
Pinch of saffron threads
4 Yukon potatoes cut into chunks
6 carrots cut into chunks
1/4 cup of sun-dried tomatoes
2 cups vegetable stock
1 cup of white wine
1 cinnamon stick
1 can cooked chickpeas
1/2 cup dried apricots
1/2 cup of dried dates
The kielbasa recipe can be found here on another blog posting. It came out OK, but not as glorious as my previous attempt. The stews were paired with brown basmati rice, and a nice fresh green salad. To pair with these foods, we went to a collection of wines that were brought by Benyo from his personal stash and from my stash as well. A side note, some of the wines were well past their prime, and some were a bit past their prime. Please do not look down at the work, rather look down on us for holding on to these puppies for too long.
The wines are listed in the order that they were consumed:
2004 Four Gates Rishona (750ml) – Score: A-
I need to start by stating that this was a bottle that Benyo made for us, as it was a 750 ml bottle, rather than the released 375 ml sized bottle. The color on this brown tinged/dark ruby colored wine, was hopping with chicken cherry cola, coffee, mature oak, fig, and raspberry. The mouth on this intense and full bodied wine was layered with bright black cherry, coffee, and oak. The mid palate was bracing with bright acidity and oak. The finish was long and tantalizing with more cherry, oak, and coffee, layered under a canopy of mature flavors. This is clearly a wine that needs to be consumed now, but to some, this was one of the winners, which was shocking given the list of wines we enjoyed.
Elvi Wines Adar Cava Brut N.V. – Score: B+
The nose on this bubbly and effervescent light pink colored wine, is hopping with strawberry, lemon, and cherry. The mouth on this light to medium bodied wine is packed with small bubbles that are active and alive, they mingle well with the strawberry and cherry. The mid palate is alive with bracing acidity. The finish is medium long with core acidity, strawberry, bubbles, and a lemon burst at the very tail end. Drink UP!
2009 Terra Vega Shiraz – Score: B+
The nose on this garnet colored wine is filled with dirt, mineral, raspberry, plum, violet notes, and cherry. The mouth on this medium bodied wine starts off with cherry, raspberry, and plum that flow into a lovely acidic mid palate, with spicy wood, tannins, and coffee. The finish is long with spicy wood, cherry, plum, coffee, and pepper that all linger on the palate after the wine is gone.
1989 Gan Eden Cabernet Sauvignon – Score: N/A
I still remember this wine in its youth. It was fantastic and some of the best Cabernet I have ever tasted. That said, this was kept too long, which is no affront to Craig (wine maker at Gan Eden). The nose on this mahogany was relegated to oak and some dark fruit. The mouth is still tannic and oaky with bright acidity, but the fruit was all gone and a bit off. What more can be said, this was a glorious warrior in its past, but if you still have some, it should be left to lie in the bottle for sentimental value.
2005 Four Gates Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley – Score: A-
The nose on this dark garnet to black colored wine is filled with blackberry, cassis, plum, oak, and spice. The mouth on this medium to full bodied is concentrated with fruit that follows the nose, blackberry, cassis, and plum. The mid palate is balanced with oak and still gripping tannins. The finish is long and graceful, with spicy oak, black pepper, cassis, and a hint of leather.
1998 Four Gates Merlot – Score: B
This is another one of those wines that was held too long. It was still there, but not at the Four Gates level. In the evening it still had a bit of a nose, but was off. By day the wine was less off, but the nose was all gone.
Galil Mountain Meron (77% Syrah, 11% each of Cab and Petit Verdot) – Score: A
The nose on dark garnet to black colored wine starts off with a quick hit of blueberry, and then continues to show rich and ripe plum, cassis, blackberry (almost bursting with juice), tobacco, ripe black cherry, sweet oak, fig, smoke, and pepper. The mouth on this full bodied wine is layered and concentrated with rich ripe fruit at the attack on a bed of lush and integrated tannins. The mouth follows with layer after layer of more ripe blackberry, cassis, plum, and black cherry in a concentrated and concerted attack. The mid palate flows perfectly with oak, soft integrated tannins, crazy spicy and smoky nuances, chocolate, and tobacco. The finish is long and spicy with black cherry, ripe and nicely extracted black fruit, tobacco, smoke, and oak. Quite a nice wine, and one of the winners of the evening.
2003 Ella Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Vineyard’s Choice (97% Cab, 3% Cabernet Franc) – Score: A
The nose on this inky black wine is screaming with bright and ripe blackberry, cassis, cherry, and gobs of rich and spicy oak. The mouth on this massive full bodied wine is layered with blackberry, cassis, and plum. The mouth is balanced with spicy oak, still gripping tannins, and nice acidity. The finish is long with ripe black fruit, spicy oak, and chocolate. Quite a nice wine, and one that still has a bit of time in it, but may be close to its peak.