My trip to Paris in November and in June showed me terroir is not enough to make good wine. There are endless shelves of useless wines, at equally high prices, just like here in the USA. Thankfully, there were a few good ones and those will be outlined over the next weeks.
However, I wanted to catch up on a few wines that people have been asking about. The new Yarden wines are all the rave. People are crowing about them, and while they are not classic Israeli Date juice, they are not very interesting at all. I opened a lovely 2018 Baron Herzog Zinfandel, and that was far more interesting, refreshing, and enjoyable, than the 2018 Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon.
There were also two lovely wines from California. First was the return of a kosher B.R. Cohn wine, this time it is not the Trestle Glen wine but a nice Cabernet Sauvignon, nonetheless. It was balanced, well made, and far more enjoyable than the Yarden, any day. Finally, I enjoyed the N.V. Hurliman Pinot Noir. It is a lovely wine made in honor of Joe Hurliman, head winemaker at Herzog Wine Cellars.
Finally, I need to once again highlight how much I like the 2020 Sheldrake Riesling, Dry, Finger Lakes, NY. It is a lovely wine, that may well be the most refreshing and enjoyable wine out there, at this moment. NO, I did not say the best wine out there. I said, refreshing and enjoyable. Some wines are elegant, unique, layered, and expressive, like the epic 2019 Chateau Pontet can’t or the almost equally impressive 2019 Chateau LaGrange. But, not every wine experience is about Pontet Canet. There are times where I want an enjoyable white wine to have during Shabbat lunch. In that case, I will either reach for sparkling wine or an acid-driven but equally refreshing white wine. Ari Lockspeiser’s 2020 Sheldrake Riesling is lovely and meets all of those requirements, nicely done buddy!
2020 Sheldrake Point Riesling, Dry, Finger Lakes, NY – Score: 91.5 (QPR: WINNER)
This is the first year that Ari Wines has made this wine and it is a true joy! First, I love the fact that he makes clear what dryness the wine has. The wine label shows an RS (Residual Sugar of 0.7 which is a bit more than I would have liked but still not within the average person’s opinion of what is “dry”. Officially, 0.5% is off-dry, but that is crazy precise, to most people below .10% you are dry, but everyone has their opinions. Finally, IMHO, this wine is not the best Riesling I have this year, nor is it the most complex wine of this year. However, and this is of great importance, this wine may well be the most refreshing wine I have tasted this year! That could well be because of either the lovely acidity, the low ABV (Alcohol By Volume), or because I love Riesling!
From open until empty this wine is always ready, enjoyable, and fun! The nose on this wine is lovely, showing notes I crave with intense honeysuckle, peach, tart citrus, honeyed notes of apple and pear, more floral notes, spices, and great minerality! The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is where this wine goes into solid WINNER status, it starts with a wave of acid, followed by a wave of balanced mouthfeel, with a weight that is lovely, not oily, but lovely, with ripe peach, tart tangerine, crab-apple like nectarine, and intense acidity. The finish is long, ripe, yet layered and expressive, with an acidic backbone, mineral, flint, rock, and intensity of mineral that makes this wine a true joy! Bravo! Drink until 2024. (tasted Novemeber 2021) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 11.10%)
Two weeks ago I enjoyed a bottle of the new B.R. Cohn wine that is kosher, from the 2011 vintage. The wine is still from the same region and vineyard as the last vintage, which was from 2008. But in my opinion, nowhere as good, though to be fair, 2011 was a very hard year to make good wine, as the climate was never warm and there were rains as well.
I spoke before about the BR Cohn brand and how they made the wine. The previous vintage was from 2008 and that was a killer wine. The wine was truly elegant and rich at the same time. On top of that, the price was truly reasonable, at 28 or so dollars. However, for this vintage they have essentially doubled the price and are now charging some 50+ dollars for the wine, unless you are part of their wine club, which is not kosher. In the end, this vintage in my opinion is not worth the 50 dollars, but the 2008 vintage may well have been worth that. I hear that they have made another vintage (from 2012) and maybe will do it again in 2013. The 2012 vintage will be far better, and this one is not bad, given the climate and the grapes they were given.
All in all, not a bad wine, but one that I only bought a single bottle of, as I wanted to see how the 2011 climate affected the wine before “investing” in more.
The wine note follows below:
2011 B.R. Cohn Cabernet Sauvignon, Trestle Glen Estate Vineyard: Score B++ to A-
This wine has no significant flaws, but the cooler year, seems like it forced the winemakers to keep the grapes on the vine longer, causing more date and sweet fruit notes. I have no proof to that, just what I am tasting in the wine. Add to that the 50 dollar price tag, and this wine, IMHO, does not come close to its older and original kosher brother – the 2008 Trestle Glen. The wine was aged in tight grain French barrels.
The nose shifts often, like Muhammad Ali fighting Frasier, ducking and weaving. The nose starts off closed, then opens to black cherry notes, blackcurrant, plum, and spice. Over time the blueberry notes are followed by insane graphite, loamy dirt, cloves, and black pepper. The mouth is not as impressive as the nose, and is its clear Achilles heel, medium in weight showing date and sweet notes, along with sweet oak, roasted sweet herb, and mouth coating tannin. The finish is long, with chocolate, vanilla, smoky notes, along with crushed green olive, salty notes, and spice. The lack of acid is really holding back this wine from balancing its sweeter side.
This past weekend our good friends invited us and having gotten back from New York a few days earlier, which is another story for another blog posting – I happily accepted the invitation! To thank them sufficiently, I brought over two wines, one was a solid double and one was a single that was caught in a run down – sad!
The last time I wrote about Bravdo Winery (AKA Karmei Yosef Winery), it was about the 2010 red vintages, but this was the 2009 vintage Cabernet Sauvignon. To be fair, the 2009 vintage is cursed – with overly ripe fruit characteristics, that show themselves later on. When we tasted them in 2011 – they were still nice. Unfortunately, the Cab is now showing more of the date and raisin issue that haunts the 2009 vintage in Israel. Thankfully, the 2009 Merlot is still showing nicely, a wine that has successfully circumvented the issues and has the muscle to keep it where right it is for a few more years!
Many thanks to Mrs. L, EL, and LS for hosting us and making the shabbos dinner such a treat! Sorry again for no pictures.
The wine notes follow below:
2008 B.R. Cohn Cabernet Sauvignon – Score: A-
I last enjoyed this wine some two+ years ago, and then it was closed and not really showing its best. It was labeled “elegant” then, but this time, it was far from elegant. It was not a sledgehammer, but a highly fruit forward wine, that if I did not know better I would think it was a very different wine. At least that is what I thought, but then I read the notes – and WOW the wine is absolutely the same wine – but with a bit more attitude and clearly no aspect of closed nose or mouth.
Like I said enough times, this wine is no longer a wallflower, in its place is a forceful and forward thinking 90s woman styled wine. The nose is immediately accessible with ripe and almost liquored raspberry, black plum, eucalyptus, cranberry, chocolate, and a hint of vanilla. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is less elegant and more assertive, but still not one to rely upon shock and awe, rather a wine that attacks with ripe blackberry, dark plum, along with cherry liquor, lovely soft mouth coating tannins, and a mouth feel that is still luscious and attention grabbing. The finish is well-balanced with acid, tobacco, chocolate, cedar, and eucalyptus. This finish lingers long with dark chocolate covered tobacco leaves, licorice, and vanilla. Drink within a year at most!
2009 Karmei Yosef Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Bravdo – Score: B+ to A-
I hoped and prayed that Bravdo would be clean of the cursed 2009 year, unfortunately, it was not to be. In the past two years since I tasted this wine in Israel and here, the wine has turned to become a pure date bomb with serious attitude. To be truthful, it is less that it turned into something else, and more that the wine’s overripe fruit persona has taken up center stage and there is little else that shines. The spotlight is on the date component and the other characteristics have a hard time shining from the shadows – it is a shame.
The nose on this dark purple to black colored wine is rich with tar, deep herb notes, crazy ripe blackberry, massive date, cassis, and earth. The mouth on the rich, layered, and super extracted full bodied wine is filled with overripe black fruit, along with hints of red fruit that hides behind lovely mouth coating tannin that coat your mouth, cedar, and bramble. The finish is long with good acid, tobacco, vanilla, rich blackberry, vanilla, along with hints of salt and mineral – such a shame.
On the evening of November 5th, we finally got around to making my favorite dish, Tunisian Couscous Au Poulet, whose recipe can be found in this post. When I think about couscous it reminds me of family and friends, as my mother used to make it every Friday Night at our house while I was growing up. Her recipe was a bit more authentic, but I believe I am close enough on the Couscous soup and makoud. Where I have totally taken the liberty to change things up was with the meatballs (boulette).
The thing I love about couscous is the assortment of food and options that the guests have to enjoy. The couscous starts with a chicken/meat/fish/vegetable soup, which has a large assortment of cubed vegetables. The chicken or meat of the soup is used in the makoud (potato kugel), and the couscous itself is fluffy and full of the soup flavor, as it is steamed with the soup. Along with all of that, there are cold pepper and carrot salads, and meatballs. All of these options allow the guests to eat at their own pace and enjoy the plethora of flavors that meld so well together. The contrasts that the display themselves on the palate are a product of the wonderful flavors that each dish on the menu shows. The couscous is soft and fluffy and in perfect contrast with the just firm vegetables. The meatballs are hot and a touch spicy which plays well with the couscous and cold salads. The vegetables are warm and infused with the meat or fowl’s flavor, which carries into the couscous and the rest of the plate.
The official meatball recipe is an artery clogging heart popping display of fried food at its greatest. The meatballs are each topped with a fat slice of potato and then fried in oil until golden brown and finished in the oven. Yes the original recipe sounds and tastes great but I am past the oily flavor, so we have been using a more Italian styled recipe with meatballs braised in tomato sauce. I have been playing for many years with the sauce and the texture of the meatballs. I have tried baking and braising the meatballs, and I keep coming back to braising. In the past few years we have pretty much nailed the tomato sauce that the meatballs braise in, but this week we killed on the meatballs as well. We used a combination of beef, turkey, and mounds of shredded raw vegetables. I was concerned that we put in too many vegetables and that the meatballs would be runny and messed up. Instead they were structurally firm but moist in the mouth and to the fork, while not crumbling to easily as well.
Of course if couscous is on the menu close friends cannot be far behind. Our table was filled with some friends who have been absent for too long and some old standbys. Benyamin Cantz was present and brought some lovely old Four Gates Chardonnay, along with other friends who brought a few Cabernet, but we only got around to one of them, that being a 2006 Yarden Cabernet. The wines were served from lightest to boldest, and there were no duds to be found!
Though the dishes do not call for heavy reds, the meatballs and the flavorful broth and makoud easily stood up to the mixture of reds that we served until the last one, which was an all out beast. The meal started with a pair of 1996 Four Gates Chardonnay and was followed by the only partial dud of the evening – the 2007 Hagafen Cabernet Franc Estate Bottled. We last tasted this wine, almost a year ago, at the winery and it was wonderful, full of floral notes, oak, chocolate, and red fruits. We bought two bottles from the winery and though the wine tasted fine, it lacked the fullness, polish, and finish that we remembered from a year ago. I can only guess that the wine is in some dumb period and will once again display its true potential, when it exists it dark cloud period. The third wine of the evening was the much talked about 2008 B.R. Cohn Cabernet Sauvignon, Trestle Glen Estate Vineyard. Mr. Bruce Cohn is the manager for the famous Doobie Brothers, and has been making wine for some 25 or so years. Much has been made of the wine, including a wonderful score of 92 from Daniel Rogov and a lovely write up on the wine and winery as well. For full disclosure, I did not pay for this wine. It was given to me to be tasted and the notes follow below. It was the third rated wine of the evening behind the next two. Those being the 2005 Ella Valley Cabernet Franc and the 2006 Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon. The final wine of the evening was the 2005 S’forno Monastrell Dulce, while nice, was clearly showing its age in color and palate.
The 2005 Ella Valley Cabernet Franc was not sold here in the US. I imported it during one of my visits to the Israel. I bought them at the winery, and alas, this was my last bottle. This wine is still expressive and explosive and one that is not on its last legs at all. The 2006 Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon is a pure beast, one displaying bright and powerful fruit, oak, and layers that come at you in waves. The B.R. Cohn is a polar opposite, in many ways, of the Yarden and Ella Valley wines. Where the Ella Valley and Yarden wines are explosive and highly expressive, the B.R. Cohn is more of an elegant wine with its own flair of complexity and expression. In no way is that a back handed compliment to the wine, but just a definition of its character and makeup.
The B.R. Cohn Cabernet Sauvignon was made in the Herzog Winery, some 420 miles south of the vineyard. The grapes were trucked down and the wine was pressed, fermented, and aged in the Herzog winery, under the B.R. Cohn label and the supervision of the OU. The thing I find truly fascinating, beyond the fact that Mr. Cohn wanted to make kosher wine, was how he and the winery kept it such a secret until it was released. With more and more connoisseurs looking at wines in the kosher market, it is truly hard to keep a secret. Everyone is looking for the next big or special wine to show off to their friends and family. Notwithstanding, the Herzog and B.R. Cohn wineries did a wonderful job at keeping a lid on this success, and we can only hope for more wines to be coming out of this winery in the future.
On an aside, I also served a bit of the 2009 Terrenal Cabernet Sauvignon from Spain. As discussed in my other posting, this is a wine that is available at Trader Joes and one that is really catching on in the kosher market. Look for more coming soon on Terrenal and the rest of the wines under the Trader Joes white label.
The wine notes follow below in the order they were enjoyed. My thanks again to B.R. Cohn Winery for the opportunity to taste the wine and the Allison at Coats Public Relations who was instrumental in procuring us the bottle of wine we so greatly enjoyed:
2007 Hagafen Cabernet Franc Estate Bottled Napa Valley – Score: B+ to A-
This is Hagafen’s second release of a single varietal Cabernet Franc, the other one being the 1996 vintage. This is the second time we are tasting the wine and it did not show nearly as well. The last time we tasted this wine at the winery, almost a year ago, it was showing quite nicely. This time the wine showed weaker with a more shallow finish and less body overall. We got these bottles from the winery, so I am not sure what could be wrong. We really loved the 1996 vintage, but this one was even better, though it has been around 10 years since we last tasted it.
The nose on this dark garnet to black colored wine showed a bit of floral notes, some crushed herbs, chocolate, along with a bunch of rich and ripe raspberry, black cherry, plum, and sweet oak. The mouth on this medium to full bodied starts off with mouth coating tannins, raspberry, plum, and black cherry. The mid palate is packed with balancing acidity, spicy oak, chocolate, and nice tannins. The finish is medium long and oak with chocolate, vanilla, rich ripe plum, spice, and black fruit.
2009 Terrenal Cabernet Sauvignon Yecla (Spain, Murcia, Yecla) – Score: B+
The nose on this dark garnet to black colored wine is rich with dirt, raspberry, blackberry, crushed herbs, a hint of chocolate, and black cherry. After some time blueberry also makes an appearance, however at that time the wine is starting to degrade. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is heavy with tannin that lends to a nice but crazy mouth feel, along with blackberry, raspberry, and black cherry. The mid palate is bone dry and acidic along with some chocolate and a fair amount of crushed herbs. The finish is long with chocolate, blackberry, black cherry, crushed herbs, and some mineral. After a few hours the tannins soften a bit and turn more mouth coating along with some nice vanilla. However, after a bit more time the wine turns totally tannic and out of balance, so be careful to drink this wine with 3 to 4 hours after opening.
2008 B.R. Cohn Cabernet Sauvignon Kosher Trestle Glen Estate Vineyard – Score: A- to A
The nose on this wine starts off closed and not very enjoyable. After quite a few hours the wine becomes very enjoyable and “elegant”. This is not a sledge hammer wine, not an overly complex or layered wine, rather this is a wine that has enjoyable characteristics. The nose on this purple colored wine starts off closed and muted. Over time it opens to display light notes of sweet oak or cedar, raspberry, black plum, eucalyptus, cranberry, tobacco, chocolate, and a hint of vanilla. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is elegant in its attack, again, not one that relies on shock and awe, rather a wine that attacks with ripe raspberry, plum, cranberry, lovely tannins, and a mouth feel that is luscious and attention grabbing. The mid palate is balanced with acid, tobacco, chocolate, cedar, and eucalyptus. This finish is spicy and long with ripe plum and raspberry, tobacco leaves, dark chocolate, licorice, and vanilla.
2005 Ella Valley Cabernet Franc (Israel, Judean Hills, Ella Valley) – Score: Almost A
The nose on this purple colored wine is hopping with blackberry, cranberry, raspberry, plum, sweet oak, tobacco, chocolate, meaty notes, vanilla, and nice mint. The mouth on this medium bodied wine filled out as it got more air. The mouth on this medium bodied is layered with rich oak, cranberry, blackberry, plum, and tannins that calm down as the wine sits in the glass. The mid palate is balanced with a rich mouth, just enough acidity, and not yet integrated tannins. The finish is long and luxurious with a playful amount of spice, tobacco, chocolate, and vanilla that is joined in by rich fruit. This was the winner of our Cabernet Franc lineup once again – unfortunately I do not have any more. This is a wine that still has another year or two under its belt and another winner for this wonderful winery.
2006 Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon (Israel, Galilee, Golan Heights) -Score: Almost A
This wine is not going to sneak up on you – it is more like a combination of a sledge hammer and a two-by-four hitting you right between your eyes. The nose on this massive, complex, and sledge hammer styled wine explodes with super ripe blackberry, raspberry, chocolate, herbs, rich oak, licorice, plum, tobacco, and sweet cedar. The mouth on this massive full bodied wine is now showing softly integrating tannins that give the wine a super lovely mouth feel. Please do not let the lovely mouth feel fool your perception of this wine, it is massive, aggressive, and heavily layered wine with rich ripe blackberry, plum, cassis, and dates. The mid palate is inky black fruit, massive sweet oak, dates, and balancing acid. The finish is super long and spicy, with nice spice, cassis, date, oak, chocolate, tobacco, and still gripping tannins.
2005 S’forno Monastrell Dulce (Spain, Murcia, Yecla) – Score: B+
The nose on this garnet to mahogany colored wine is hopping with spicy oak, fig, dried plum, dates, honey, spice, and fair amount of heat (alcohol). The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is rounded and accentuated with sweetness and alcohol, but balanced with nice spiciness, along with honey, fig, date, and spice. The mouth is coating and round from the tannin, alcohol, and sweetness. The mid palate is balanced with acid, more spice, date, and dried fruit. The finish is long, spicy, and sweet, that is punctuated at the end with more dried fruit, fig, and honey. This is a nice wine that is a bit over the hill, but still showing enough qualities to make it enjoyable.