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)
This past week the gang gathered at Josh Rynderman house, many thanks to MR for hosting us! I brought a few bottles of Italian wine, and so did others, while some brought non-Italian wines, and in the end, we made it into the wine event I have been waiting to have – as it was time to get down and write up my Italian wines.
It is no new revelation, that my palate has moved more old-world in style. Yes, I still enjoy Four Gates wines (which have moved new-world in style over the past few years), along with Herzog wines, Hajdu wines, mostly white Hagafen wines, and yes, Shirah wines as well (even if they think I do not love their wines). However, I was never a huge fan of Italian wines, even if in the non-kosher world, they make TONS of old-world style wines. Sadly, the issue is that there were few to none that impressed me other than the Falesco wines from 2005 and 2006 and the 2010 Moncheiro. However, recently, things are changing. First is the release of wines from Terra di Seta that I really like, (the original all-kosher winery in Tuscany). Next, is the fact that Hajdu is releasing lovely wines made from Italian varietals. Finally, there is a new all-kosher winery from Tuscany, Cantina Giuliano, who released three new wines, along with the 2014 Chianti he had last year. The 2015 Chianti from Cantina Giuliano is for sale in Europe, but it is not yet available in the USA.
Let me start with answering questions people will have before I start with this article. This may offend some, but hey, what can I do. No, there was no Bartenura wines, why? Simple, I am not a fan. What about Borgo Reale wines and Cantina Gabriela? Well, I like the two top line Borgo wines, the Brunello and Barolo, but the Borgo Reale Barolo pales in comparison to the Paulo Manzone Tenuta Moncheiro Barolo 2010, even though it sells for the same amount of money. The 2010 vintage in Barolo was one of the best in a long time, I would love to try the Paulo Manzone Tenuta Moncheiro Barolo 2010 again in a few years, like 5 or so. We did not taste these three wines at the tasting, but I have added the notes of the Paulo Manzone Tenuta Moncheiro Barolo 2010 below. Sadly, I cannot find my notes for the two Borgo wines I liked.
A bit of background on Italy’s four wine classifications:
(1) Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) – This classification denotes the highest quality recognition for Italian wines. There are only 20 or so wines meriting this classification. (2) Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) – This is the same classification as the French wine classification, Appellation d’Origine Controlee (AOC). Wines that fall under the DOC classification must be made in specified, governmentally defined zones, in accordance with particular regulations intended to preserve the wine’s character. There are some 300 or so wines in this classification. (3) Indicazione di Geografica Tipica (IGT) – These table wines are often ubiquitous wines, grown in specific geographical growing regions. (4) Vino Da Tavola (VdT) – This designates wines that reside firmly on the “low end” of the totem pole. Comprised of Italian table wines, these products must meet the sole criteria of being produced somewhere in Italy. Read the rest of this entry
This past Shabbat I enjoyed some ribs with the Aglianico and the O’dwyers Sauvignon Blanc with lunch. Friday night the Aglianico tasted like straight-up date juice, but with time, that flavor profile receded. It is still a wine that is pushed, but one that can and should be enjoyed within the next 14 months or so.
The 2013 Aglianico showed in a very different manner, not as pushed and one that is built for aging. This wine is rich, layered, and extracted, but it is so pushed – ripe fruit wise – that it cannot last for long, IMHO.
The 2015 O’dwyers Creek Sauvignon Blanc was a tropical juice nightmare that really did not work for me at all. The 2016 vintage, on the other hand, is dry, with far drier fruit, showing more lemongrass and citrus. The wine is truly mouth puckering with insane acidity. This may well be the best 2016 white so far, in terms of straight-up acid.
The wine notes follow below:
2016 O’dwyers Creek Sauvignon Blanc – Score: A- (mevushal) (QPR)
Wow! What a fun, bright, not crazy tropical redolent nose, with lime, Meyer lemon, lovely grass, straw, cat pee, with lemongrass, and herb. The mouth is a crazy, mouth puckering joy, showing insane acid, with a good fruit focus, nice floral notes, lemon blossom, with great gooseberry, hints of honeysuckle, ripe grapefruit, lovely citrus, and nice mineral. The finish is long and tart, good acid, pith, with crazy lime, saline, and tart tropical in the background. Nice!! Drink by the end of 2017.
2014 Shirah Aglianico – Score: A-
This wine needs time to open, it starts off very sweet, almost date-like, but with time, it mellows and becomes very nice. This wine is ripe, almost pushed, but it comes around with time.
Wow! what a nose, this wine is young and needs time, with candied cherry, blackberry, dried and roasted herb, rich heady spices, mocha madness, and fig jam. The mouth on this full-bodied wine starts off very ripe, almost date-like, but with time it calms down, still showing very ripe, new-world, clearly still warm weather fruit, blueberry, raspberry, lovely mineral, graphite galore, and chocolate. The finish is long and soft with a plush mouthfeel, layered with charcoal, nice leather, rich with warm baking spices, and good pith on the long finish. The wine’s very ripe structure will not hold long, I would drink it very soon! Drink 2017 – early 2019.
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
Well, I have posted my year in review, and now I wanted to get to my top wines for 2015. Please beware that I know I missed many wines and that this list does not include wines that I have tasted that are not available on the open market – like older Covenant Wines and the sort.
I wanted to make this post short and sweet – so the criteria are simple I could care less about price, color, or where it was made. All that matters is that it is/was available this year sometime to the public at large and that I tasted it in a reliable environment, not just at a tasting, and that it was scored an A- or higher. Anything less would not be on my list.
On an aside, there continues to be a whole mess of madness around wines notes and scores, even the Jewish Week weighed in on the matter. So, let me explain this really simply – go look at some of my recent blog posts – they talk about some nice enough wines, but wines I would not specifically buy. They have all the nice words and such, which were all true and to the point. But without the final value score, I can tell you a Cabernet is full bodied with good fruit and spice – and you may say cool I want that – but then I would say well, yeah but it was not complex or layered. You could try to reason that out of the words I wrote, because the words complex and layered are missing. However, the simple fact that it was scored a B+ or whatever, would have told you that it is not always a wine worth going after (unless it is the Terrenal or such where it gets a QPR moniker).
My point being that wine notes – without a proper context (AKA a real score) – is like looking at a wedding hall through a slit in the window. Sure you can “see” the hall, but are you really sure you want to get married there? I never scored wines to tell people to listen to my score. I score wines to set the context and to always read the notes to see if that sort of wine works for you!
OK, enough of the darn score rant for the day, back to the matters at hand, being wines of the year. The list is long – get over it. It is a list of wines that I would buy, have bought, and will buy again – simple enough I hope. I did not differentiate by another other criteria or aspect – if it was solid (A- or higher) it made the list. I hope you enjoy!
2013 Elvi Wines Clos Mesorah – Score: A- to A
This is the flagship wine of Elvi Wines (though the Herenza Reserva may have a word to say about that) and it is a blend of 50% Carignan, 30% Grenache, and 20% Syrah. Elvi Wines makes 7K of these bottles. The wine was sourced from vines that are 20 to 100 years of age. The nose on this wine is insane and intoxicating with aromas of watermelon, root beer, ripe boysenberry, blueberry, along with chocolate and black fruit. The mouth on this full bodied wine hits you with layers of concentrated fruit, with an attack of blue and black fruit, balanced perfectly, showing great elegance, along with mad mineral, graphite, slate, rich and freshly tilled earth, along with deeply concentrated black fruit. The wine is the perfect example of elegance and balance with ripe fruit that flows into a plush mouth made from mouth coating tannin and rich fruit structure. This is truly a wine speaks for itself. The finish is long and intense, showing rich roasted animal, lovely mushroom, and floral notes. With time, the wine shows mad barnyard, mushroom, and even more loamy dirt. Bravo!!!
2010 Elvi Wines Herenza Rioja Reserva – Score: A- to A
There are only 4K of these bottles made and each one is a true gift! The wine is closed and slow to open, but with time and a fair amount of decanting, the nose shows of mad soy sauce (like the 2009 Herenza Reserva), chocolate, richly tilled earth, loam, along with crazy mushroom and mad mineral. This wine is the epitome of umami, showing intense layers of umami with white summer fruit, cranberry, craisins, blackberry, pomegranate, and tart cherry in the background with mounds of earth. The finish is intensely long and dirt filled, with dark chocolate, licorice, blueberry and red fruit. BRAVO!!!!
2012 Chateau Haut Condissas, Medoc – Score: A- (and much more)
The 2011 was very nice, but the 2012 a slight step up. The nose on this wine is rich and redolent with lovely dirt, dark black fruit, barnyard, earth, and mushroom. The mouth on this full bodied wine is rich, ripe, and in your face with nice chocolate, mad toast, mouth drying tannin, all wrapped in crazy acid, but bigger and riper than the 2011, almost Israeli in nature, but classically French-controlled, with blackberry, raspberry, plum, with mineral and graphite. The finish is long and dirty, with hits of herb, along with layers of concentrated fruit, more mad mineral/earth/dirt/mushroom with dried raspberry, and rich garrigue. WOW! BRAVO!
2010 Chateau Fourcas Dupre, Listric – Medoc – Score: A- (and more) (CRAZY QPR)
This wine is on the list for its insane value and its goto ability above all wines from France for the price! The 2010 was a nice wine – but the 2012 is even better! The nose on this wine is lovely with rich dirt, cherry, crazy tart and juicy raspberry, followed by more dirt and mineral galore. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is lovely and still young but give it time, the acid is impressive along with nice spice, mouth coating tannin that is gripping along with lovely blackberry, cassis in the background, along with crazy mushroom, and layers of fruit and earth and forest floor that come at you and do not give up. The finish is long, with insane acid and more mouth drying tannin, more earth, dirt, tart lingering fruit, and lovely mineral/graphite. The fruit and mineral lingers long – BRAVO!!!! Read the rest of this entry
This thing is starting to be a habit! Last year we did it with the boys, but that trip we got totally shnockered, and I never did get good notes, but man did we move though a lot of wine! This trip, was a bit more shabbos like, we sang, actually spoke about things relating to the weekend, and yes we drank a fair amount of wine. However, the wines for this trip were purposely dedicated to the west coast, no wines at all from Israel or France of the like. Of course the vast majority of them were Four Gates wines, but we also had a Shirah wine in there, the new Aglianico, and a very nice Covenant Sauvignon Blanc from 2011 that was screaming!!
I will skip the pleasantries and the such, as we all know who Four Gates Winery is and that he is a friend of mine, which is why we have our “yearly” Guys outing there! This year the shabbos was not just friends of mine from out of town but also some friends from here in San Jose! Of course none of this would have or could have happened without Binyamin Cantz, winemaker, owner, cask washer, cellar rat, vineyard manager, and all around dude of Four gates Winery – you get the point!
I was happy that I may have only gotten him angry at me once over the shabbos, maybe twice, which for me is a record!
Anyway, the notes and the pics of the wines follow – have a great week all!
1997 Four Gates Chardonnay – Score: A- (and more)
lovely and screaming! The nose is lovely and citrusy, with sweet oak and oriental spice. The mouth is more polished and elegant with great acid, guava, pineapple and great acid with great sweet fruit and fig. The finish is long work lovely fruit, hints of butterscotch and rich summer fruit.
2002 Four Gates Chardonnay – Score: A-
What a joyous wine the nose is rich with a classic Meyrieux nose of pineapple, sweet fruit and lovely spice. The mouth is lovely and medium bodied with great apple pie, kiwi, pineapple, along with crazt tart fruit, with lovely rich acid and intense layers of brioche and fruit. The finish is long and sweet with nutmeg and candied pineapple, with sweet cedar bringing it all together. The acid is what rocks this wine along with the tart and sweet wine notes. Bravo!!! Read the rest of this entry