For years I have always sported a purple colored beaming grin when I finish my tasting at the IFWF (International Food and Wine Festival) in LA, which hid my grumbling stomach’s discontent. Like I have documented for years, I never get to eat at the events, even as the entire food court mocks me, attempting to pull me into their warm, delicious, and very present embrace, with their wafting and intoxicating aromas. Still, I stand strong and I taste through the night until my teeth are purple and my stomach is close to rioting on the lack of food. Truth be told, I am not that good at taking notes when eating – the flavors of the food cover up and belie the flavors and aromas of the glass that beckons me closer with its “come hither” look and aromas. So every year, after the event I go to dinner at Jeff’s Sausage (down the street from the new location of the IFWF). Which is sheer madness of course, here I have half the Pavilion at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza, filled with food from one of the best kosher restaurants in the world – Tierra Sur Restaurant, and I pass on that for the spicy and homely fare of Jeff’s Sausage. In no way is this a slight to the joy of Jeff Rohatiner’s cookery and food. Rather, it has been my conscious tradeoff, throughout my many year experience at IFWF to drink through as much of the world-class wine I can before my taste-buds shutdown, rather than give them to the food court, no matter how wonderful it is.
This year was a massive shift for me, gone was the purple grin and my mutinous stomach, as I visited and added the New York KFWE to my travel dates. To say the KFWE was different than the IFWF would be an extreme understatement, the IFWF has close to 1000 people at the show, while the KFWE has closer to 2000 people. Further the event hall at Pier 60 is some 2 to 3 times larger than the Pavilion tent at the Hyatt Regency. Also, there were many options for lunch and dinner from the myriad of NY restaurants that all share half the hall, all clamoring to share their wonderful fare with great fanfare. The Pier 60 overlooks the Marina and Harbor and many folks were outside braving the cold to grab a smoke, but at least they had some comfort of looking at the marina and its waterfront.
To really appreciate the event you had to come to it with a game plan, and there were many guests who had a few of their own. The event started at Noon for those in the trade, a new thing that the KFWE started last year and something that the IFWF has been doing from the start (though initially with a smaller trade time). The trade event was crowded but there could not have been more than a thousand folks there, so access to wine was not a problem in any way. The event hall can easily handle 1000 people, it is a bit more complicated when the number swells to two thousand people, but still there was no pushing or shoving going on even at the end of the public tasting, when the number of guests was at its maximum. But I digress; the trade tasting allowed me to focus solely on wine and the winemakers, which was great. Read the rest of this entry
The winery is tucked away at the edge of the road leading out of Moshav Beit Yitzchak – which is located in the Sharon. The winery was founded by Yoram Shalom in 1996 when his father (who had injured his hipbone) asked someone in the family to carry on the tradition he had been keeping alive his whole life. So in 1995 Yoram started to produce small quantities of wine, which his father quite liked. That gave Yoram the push to keep producing wine. Yoram was quite an accomplished producer and technician of television programs within Israel. However, in 1998, based upon the encouraging responses to his wine production – he decided to quit his day job and jumped into the wine business full time. When we called Yoram to talk about our meeting – he was excited to hear that I was also of Tunisian decent. Tunisia artwork graces all of his wines along with the label names that are all of family members. Alexander the great – is named after his father (who unfortunately passed away in 1997). The other lines are named after his sister, brother and mother.
After many years of highly successful releases for his wine, Yoram decided that the 2006 year would be kosher. Most of the reds from that year, are either still in barrels or are just being bottled. Yoram hopes to release them soon. The whites have already been released and a tasting note for the Sauvignon Blanc Lisa 2006, follows below.
Upon meeting Yoram you quickly see the passion that exudes out of him along with the self confidence to leave a cushy and successful career and jump into the world of wine. Upon starting the winery Yoram started learning about wine making full time and started with the vineyard managers. As the edict goes – good wine starts in the vineyard, and Yoram knows that better than most. Yoram is blessed with having some wonderful vineyards to build his winery upon. The vineyards are in Dalton Plateau at Kerem Ben Zimra and Kefar Shamay. Both are situated in the Upper Galilee and highly vaunted in their grape quality. Besides the location, the vineyards are tended to with great care and quality control is of the utmost importance. The vineyards are managed to ensure low yield production – which thereby produces grapes of higher quality and concentration. The vineyards are of great importance to Yoram. Whenever, we spoke of the wine he would always harken it back in ways to the grapes and their styling.
After we finished our tasting I had a chance to talk with Yoram and Ilana – his wife who is a graphic designer by trade, and the designer of all of Alexander Valley’s labels. The issues of wine export came up a common theme among Israeli wineries – looking to expand their reach into the global market. He told us about many a story, where people upon tasting his wines, had offered him a nice business deal – of which kindly declined. Though he never spoke about it, I believe that to Yoram it is more than just about the money, it is about family and his love for the winery. I think he would happily take on a opportunity, where the exporter was looking out for the winery as much as they look out for their wallet, a tough thing to find in this global marketplace.
The winery’s wine production is about 45 thousand bottles. The wines are being released in five different labels.
Sandro which is a blend of Cabernet (70%), Merlot (25%), and Sauvignon Blanc. The wine is fermented at low temperature and aged in a mix of French and American oak for 14 months.
Alexander which is the varietal line of the winery. The varieties are;
- Cabernet Sauvignon (aged in American and French oak for 18 months).
- Merlot (aged 18 months in French Oak)
- Syrah (aged in French oak for 18 months)
- Gaston – a blend of Merlot (76%), Syrah (12%), and Grenache (12%) which is aged in a mixture of French and American oak for 12 months.
Alexander the Great the flagship wine that is made out of Cabernet Sauvignon along with a touch of Merlot (5%). The wine is aged in French and American oak for 30 months. The barrels are switched at 15 months with new barrels to maximize oak contact with the wine.
Lisa – the white wine line of the winery.
- Chardonnay – which is fermented and then aged in Burgundy barrels for 18 months.
- Sauvignon Blanc which is cold fermented and co contact with wood.
Bruno – a port like wine which is fortified and released every 2 years. It is made of a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah grapes and aged in oak for 36 months.
We want to thank Yoram, Ilana and everyone from the winery who were kind enough to host us for the tasting and after as well – until the cab showed up to take us home. Following are the tasting notes which we sampled at the winery and afterwards as well.
Alexander the Great 2006 (Barrel Sample) – Score: A-
This dark to almost purple colored wine had just finished malolactic fermentation and will be placed in new oak barrels for another 15 months. The nose on the wine is filled with dark berries, chocolate, and oak. The velvety mouth of this full bodied wine is laden with dark fruits, cassis, and blackberries. The finish is long and velvety as well with cassis, chocolate, and oak. This wine is still quite young and has yet to come into its own.
Alexander the Great 2007 (Barrel Sample) – Score: A-
This black colored wine has a story that is sad a wonderful at the same time. The grapes could not be harvested at their optimal time because of Yom Tov and Shabbos. When the grapes could finally be harvested – they were at some 30 brixs. The initial problem was finding yeast that could eat away at that much sugar – after finally finding some – Yoram had to ferment the grape juice in small batches. After essentially creating his own super yeast – he mixed them all together one more time and fermented them successfully. The wine could possibly be the first kosher Amarone – like wine. The nose is filled with an intensely concentrated aroma dates, figs, and honey. The mouth of this full bodied wine is filled with cassis, chocolate and figs. The finish is long and tannic. This young wine has a long way to go and it will be fascinating to watch its development.
Lisa Sauvignon Blanc 2006 – Score: B+
The nose on this light straw colored wine quite expansive. Aromas of pepper and honeysuckle and grapefruit are ever present. The mouth of this medium bodied wine is initially acidic in nature. But then it opens to a complex and crisp mouth that has strong notes of citrus and honeysuckle and finishes in a long stroll with a spicy and peppery flourish.