Wines I tasted over the past few weeks with five QPR WINNERS
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!
The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:
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%)
Easy drinking white wines for 2020 – better than I expected
Well, the roses from the 2019 vintage, so far, are not inspiring, and initially, I thought the same for the white wines, thankfully, as I tasted through the last 15 bottles of wines things shifted. There is a reason why I have been pushing Price in relation to its quality, AKA QPR (Quality to Price Relationship).
For this tasting, I tasted more than 70 wines, however, I posted only some 49 wine notes here. Rest assured, the others were either not worthy or I did not have detailed enough notes to make it here on this post.
Interestingly, initially, I had zero hope for the white wines, much as I felt about the roses. However, all of this is data-driven and other than my wines notes, the rest is all prices defined by the USA market. The more, I tasted, the more I felt that there are options in the simple white wine category. I was really ready to give up hope, but thankfully, folks like Shirah, Kos Yeshuos, and other Europen wines really pulled their weight. Sadly, of the top 27 wines, there were a total of 11 from 2019. Of them, only two were from Israel. The rest hailed from California, France, and New Zealand. In the end, so far, the vast majority of the Israeli white wines I have tasted from 2019 are also highly uninspiring.
With that said, the median price for the wine category of non-aging white wines is going up! There lies in my over-arching issue, prices keep going up!! The median price for non-aging white wines, here in the USA, is now 24 dollars! Seriously!! COME ON!! This is crazy! As the kids say, total Cray Cray! Turned around, the total number of wines below the median price of 24 dollars that received a 90 or higher was 12, and many of those are our QPR WINNERS. Overall, 2019 is still a dud in Israel, of those that have made their way to the USA, and Califonia is saving the day, so far.
All the wines here are scored both quantitatively, AKA using my classic wine score described here, and using the newly revised QPR score described here. So, yes, there will be more of the QPR discussion that will arise from this post. Thankfully, we have a good number of wines, 7 from my count, that received the QPR score of WINNER, sadly, they are mostly from 2018. Therefore, I repeat again, I am highly unimpressed with how many 2019 white wines I had and how many are subpar. Please be careful with the ones you buy.
Finally, in order of price, the first of the 7 QPR WINNER wines come in at wine #38, sorted by price! That means there are loads of other wines far less interesting than the 2018 Ramon Cardova Albarino, the most expensive of the 7 WINNER QPR wines. This is the kind of data that makes me scream. This is what needs to change! Wineries are willing to produce wines that are more expensive and less interesting, than more than HALF of the wine I tasted! This is what needs to change, kosher wine has gotten out of control, price-wise.
Do yourself a favor, check the price, you do it for everything else you buy! Check the wine, check the price, and then decide!
The wine note follows below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:
2018 Ramon Cardova Albarino, Rias Baixas – Score: 92 (QPR: WINNER)
This wine is in the 2nd quintile of quality scoring and it is just below the median price line, so this wine SHOULD get a score of GREAT for QPR. However, it is ALSO one of the few white wines that score at least a 91, and that has a price that is below the median price line, so this wine gets the coveted score of WINNER for QPR. Bravo!!!
The 2018 vintage of this Albarino, in its second vintage, shows less tropical and ripe than the first vintage, 2017. This bottle also had the thermal active label, and it shows up when the bottle is at the proper drinking temperature. My only REAL and serious complaint is the cork, why would Royal waste the money and my money of a real cork? Use a Diam or any other amalgamated cork, like almost everyone else is. I really hope I do not hit a bad cork for the wines I have.
The nose on this wine is better than the 2017 vintage, Lovely nose of rich mineral, with loads of straw, with which salinity, and lovely peach and dry pear, with honeysuckle, gooseberry, along with green notes galore. Lovely! The mouth on this lovely green and acid-driven wine has a more oily mouthfeel than the 2017 vintage, showing rich salinity, green olives, with lovely dry quince, green apples, more peach, green apple, but also with lovely lime and grapefruit, no sense of guava or melon-like on the 2017 vintage, with a tinge of orange notes. The overall mouth is lovely and it comes at you in layers. The finish is long, green, with gooseberry, tart fruit, with an incredible freshness, and orange pith, slate, rock, and incredible acidity lingering long. Incredible!! Bravo!! Drink until 2022.
2018 Hagafen Dry Riesling – Score: 91 (Mevushal) (QPR: WINNER)
This wine is in the 2nd quintile of quality scoring and it is below the Median price line, so this wine gets a GREAT score for QPR. However, it is ALSO one of the few white wines that score at least a 91, and that has a price that is below the median price line, so this wine gets the coveted score of WINNER for QPR. Bravo!!!
The nose on this wine is tropical and sweet fruit-focused, with pineapple, guava, melon, peach, but now THANKFULLY the petrol is in full gear, and it commands your attention, with the tropical fruit still very present, along with some nice mineral. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is fun, tart, nice acidity, with more petrol funk, showing nice balance, with good acidity, still, the mouth is sweet and ripe, the petrol and tart notes help, with green apple, tart grapefruit, tart stone fruit, and slate galore, with waxy notes, and tart pineapple. The finish is long, green, with intense mineral, slate, flint, and lovely petrol that gives way to nice acidity, and hints of tannin. The wine has indeed come around and now petrol is more present and the hole in the middle is gone. Drink until 2024. Read the rest of this entry
A wonderful day spent with Gabriel and Yael Geller
On another recent business trip, I spent a day with Gabriel and Yael Geller. My many thanks to my friends for hosting me for the day. The food was awesome, smoked ribs, and roasted chuck, and a game of blind tastings that was really wonderful. The wines we tasted blind were mostly 100% HORRIBLE but the last one we enjoyed was why I just stated that it was wonderful, because GG was so kind to pour a bottle of the 2002 Smith Haute Lafitte a wine I had not tasted till that moment. It was beyond wonderful – thanks so much, buddy!!!
We also took a tour around Teaneck, NJ’s Kosher takeout establishments and they were all horrible. Sorry. There was nothing good to report here. However, the wine shop where we bought a vast number of horrible wines was very nice. The wine shop is called Filler’up. The owner is called Mendy Mark and he was very kind and helpful in finding all the new wines that I have not yet tasted. Sadly, 95% of those wines were horrible but that is not Mendy’s fault there is far too much horrible plonk in the Kosher wine world.
So, if you are in the Teaneck area definitely swing by Filler’up they have a great selection and the staff is very nice. However, do not buy takeout food from around there that stuff is really bad.
Ok, thankfully, the takeout food was just a test of the quick food in the area, not really food we had that evening. If I had an image of the smoked ribs it would have been the post’s featured image, the animal was black bark heaven, with loads of spice and smoke. Do not forget breakfast and lunch before that which was also beautifully served and with such panache, my many thanks again!
I bought a bunch of wines and they were all duds other than one very nice French Mevushal wine that came in a 375ml format, but it also comes in 750ml format, but it is not available at any of the common shops that I can buy from. If someone finds it at a place that ships and does not charge an arm and leg, please tell me, more on the best of the tasting below, other than, of course, the EPIC 2002 Chateau Smith Haute Lafitte.
GG did a blind tasting and they were all bad to horrible, again, other than the 2002 SHL. To be fair, I did not take long notes for wines that were undrinkable. I have listed the blind and non-blind tasted wines below in different sections. Many thanks to Gabriel and Yael Geller for hosting me and for sharing his time, wonderful culinary feats, home, and wines with me. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:
2018 Route Victor Cabernet Sauvignon, California – Score: NA
The nose on this wine is bulk in nature, candied fruit, cherry, and cheap. The mouth on this wine is cheap, far too acidic, and a lack of body, cherry, acid, and vegetables. Move on
2016 Padre Bendicho, Yecla – Score: NA
This wine is a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Mourvedre. This wine is 100% PURE date juice, in all the glorious ways it can be! Read the rest of this entry
2007 Barkan Cabernet Sauvignon, +624, Altitude Series
This past weekend I tasted the 2007 Barkan Cabernet Sauvignon, +624, Altitude Series, and the last time we had it I loved it! This time the wine had flattened out and became more uni-dimensional than before. Still, it is a nice wine, but the dates are taking over and the wine, though it had dates before, has lost a bit of its complexity.
The wine not follows below:
2007 Barkan Cabernet Sauvignon, +624, Altitude Series – Score: B++
The wine is ready upon opening, though a quick hit with the vinturi takes a bit of the sweet edge off. The nose starts off with deep black fruit aromas, followed by black plum, licorice, dark cherry, along with sweet herb, and spice. The mouth is overly sweet with clear date, and raisin notes, followed by intense blackberry, cassis, along with layers of rich cedar and integrated tannins. The finish is long and sweet with hints of bell pepper, vanilla, bakers chocolate, and mounds of fresh leafy tobacco. The acid balances out the wine nicely and allows for the date to not totally overpower the wine. Drink within the year.
2013 Kosher Food and Wine Experience (KFWE) lived up to all its billing
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
Random kosher wines from last week
I hope you all are enjoying your Hanukkah holidays. This past weekend I enjoyed meals with my family and friends that were lovely and quite Sefardic in nature. The flavors were deep and filling and the tones were rounded with good herb and spice. These are flavors I try to hit in my dishes from time to time, but have been missing for sometime, partially because I do not have all the spices and partially because I do not still know all the recipes – I am working on that.
Sorry about the short notes again, but since I did not cook, I really have nothing more to say about the dishes other than they were lovely and rich and ones I hope to enjoy with my family again soon. If the list of wines sound like wines you should avoid, please remember that I had to taste some of these – SAD!!! In the end, there are some nice ones in the list, but no clear and run away winners. They all have flaws, like we all do, and as such, no real winner.
Many thanks to my family and friends for hosting me and here are the wines enjoyed through the weekend and at sporadic other moments through the week:
2011 Ella Valley Sauvignon Blanc – Score: B+ to A-
This wine is one made totally by the new winemaker at Ella Valley Winery, Lin Gold. She studied her craft at the University of Adelaide, and cut her teeth in her (professionally speaking) at both Tabor Winery and Chateau Golan. This is her first real vintage and it was exciting to see where the winery will be going. The Sauvignon Blanc was oak free as was in the past, and it was also green or herbal free, though that may have been more of a seasonal factor than a winemaker’s factor – time will tell.
The nose on this wine is ripe and bright with nice litchi, cut grass, kiwi, melon, lemon, and nice peach. The medium bodied wine has a nice clean mouth, very New Zealand-ish, cut dry with good clean lines, nice balancing acid, and lime juice infused. The finish is long and bright, almost bracing, with good acidity, lemon curd, and a hint of zest at the finish. A nice wine with bright and ripe fruit and no bitterness, a lovely Sauvignon Blanc. Read the rest of this entry
Barkan Winery – a Pheonix Rising quickly in Hulda
The Barkan Winery is one of the largest wineries in Israel; actually it is the second largest in Israel. It is located in Kibbutz Hulda, where the vineyards that provide the grapes for the Classic range of wines surround it.
Barkan is one of those wineries that have been part of the latest Israeli Winery revolution, that being the modernization and quality improvement of the massive commercial wineries. The winery officially started in 1889 and did not start to get serious about quality wine until 1990, when Yair Lerner and Shmuel Boxer bought the winery that was clearly struggling and whose previous owners were playing hot potato with the winery assets and life. From 1889 till 1990, the winery had changed hands four times and was once again on the rocks and in need of experienced management and wine expertise.
In 1988 the winery started construction of a new facility in the Barkan Industrial zone, near the city of Ariel, to replace the aging plants in Petach Tikva and Netanya. The first order of business for Boxer and Lerner was the modernization of the winery’s processes, winemaking abilities, and vineyards, which they saw as the key to the production of fine wine and expansion of the company.
By 1999, it was clear that the Barkan facility was too small for the quantities of premium grapes that would be soon come on line from the newly planted vineyards. The most obvious location for the new winery was Kibbutz Hulda, where Barkan’s largest vineyard was located. Hulda is also centrally located, close to all the major arteries and enough removed from urban areas as well. The winery’s location allows the grapes to be quickly transported to the winery, to insure freshness and to maximize quality. In addition, the strategic location was optimal for distribution of the bottled wine to market. The new winery received its first harvest in 2000. The bottling line was moved to Hulda in 2003 and the offices were moved there in 2004. A large warehouse was completed in 2007, and with that last addition all of the Barkan Winery operations were officially moved to Kibbutz Hulda.
Till this day, Barkan continues to buy or plant vineyards, including the largest vineyard in Israel, the 300 acre vineyard that surrounds the Hulda winery. Read the rest of this entry
Mamilla Hotel Winery and kosher Wine Bar in Jerusalem
Though this wonderful establishment is not a winery, since it has winery in its name, I will count it as my 12th article on wineries in the Judean Hills.
Truly the simplest way to describe the Mamilla Hotel Winery is to call it for what it is; the only kosher wine bar in Israel! As sad as that sounds, at least there is one. There are many wonderful wine bars in Israel, with many wonderful kosher wines, but they are not exclusively kosher, unlike the Mamilla Hotel Winery.
I arrived early on my first trip to the wine bar. I like to do that so that I have the chance to take in the ambiance and since there were few patrons initially, it gave me the chance to talk with Hadas, the wine bartender. It turns out after talking with Hadas for sometime that she and her father are good friends or acquaintances of Alice Feiring, the Joan of Arc of all things natural and wine.
The wine bar has been open for some three years now, and the last two times I tried to go and enjoy some wine there the bar was closed. To be honest they do keep strange hours at this wine bar. The hours are:
|Sunday Through Thursday||15:00 – 20:00|
|Friday||12:00 – 18:00|
The wine bar is more a feeder for the larger bar and restaurant than a self-contained and sustainable system. It is a real shame as I found the selection and service at the wine bar to be top-notch.
The wine bar has some twenty or so seats and is just outside the famous mirror bar and a few steps from the elevator to the rooftop restaurant in the Mamilla hotel, on the mezzanine floor of the hotel. As you look around and take in the ultra modern, minimalist, and sleek style of the wine bar, you can feel yourself starting to relax and as you start to settle into the atmosphere, you find yourself instinctively yearning for a fine glass of wine. Well, mission accomplished Mamilla Winery! Read the rest of this entry
Purim Wines – a mix of the good and the ugly
Purim came and went and with it we had the opportunity to taste many a wine. Some of the wines were mevushal and some were not. On the whole, the mevushal wines did the worst, but hey that is not an iron clad rule, as described on my blog of what is kosher wine.
Also a slight disclaimer, it was Purim after all, and I did drink these wines – so the notes many be a bit light or off, but I would not print it if I did not believe it.
Some of these were mine and some were wines that others brought. In the end, we tasted three Pinot Noir, and the other two could not even hold the Four Gate Pinot Noir’s jockstrap. Instead, the Eagle’s Landing and Barkan Classic just stood around and were not even finished – we are talking about purim! With many people coming over to our table for wine – none could finish those bottles.
The wine notes follow below:
2010 Barkan Pinor Noir – (mevushal) Score: N/A
This tasting was even worse than the previous one – sorry, this is not a wine I could possible serve to my guests. It has a basic nose, but the mouth tastes of stewed fruit – no hope to be enjoyed. Mevushal wine at times really does bite! Not a single person, drunk or even tipsy could like this wine. I started with it and it failed on all accounts. Read the rest of this entry
2012 Herzog International Wine Festival – part two of wine notes
As stated in the previous posting on this lovely event, there were many wines to taste and there was no way I could post all the wine notes in a single posting. Here is my follow-up posting on the wines tasted at the event, including the wines that I loved and did not love.
The wine notes are listed in the order that I tasted them:
2010 Domaine Netofa – White – Score: B++
The nose on this light gold colored wine shows clean and lovely nose of green apple, peach, grapefruit, kiwi, light quince, and rich/nice loamy dirt and mineral. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is rich and balanced with nice minerality, along with nice bright fruit that mingles well in the mouth. The finish is long and spicy with nice quince, tart green apple, grapefruit, and green tea.
2010 Binyamina Chardonnay, Reserve, Unoaked – Score: B
This wine did not show nearly as well as its 2009 sibling, the wine was flat without much to grab your attention. The nose on this straw colored wine has apple, lemon, nice mineral, bright acid, and melon. The mouth is somewhat plush and the finish has citrus to round out the wine.
2010 Binyamina Chardonnay, Reserve – Score: B+
This wine did not show nearly as well as its 2009 sibling, though not as bad as its unoaked twin. The nose on this dark straw colored wine has light oak, brioche, lemon, nice spice, light creme, and honey. The mouth is round with spice, summer fruit, and oak influence.
2011 Tulip White Tulip – Score: B++
This wine is a blend of 70% Gewurztraminer and 30% Sauvignon Blanc with the sweet and floral notes of the Gewurztraminer showing nicely with honey and guava, while the green apple and bright lemon notes from the Sauvignon Blanc blend together in a unique manner. The nose on this straw colored wine hits you with mineral, light honey, bright lemon, green apple, and guava. The mouth is nice and honeyed with light petrol, and citrus. The finish is long with both sweet lemon creme and bright lemon at the same time, along with fig, and tart notes. This is a great wine that would go well with fish or sushi.