My top 30 kosher wines of 2019 including wine of the year, Winery of the year, and best wine of the year awards
Like last year, 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 a 93 or higher. Also, there are a few lower scoring wines here because of their uniqueness or really good QPR.
We are returning with the “wine of the year”, and “best wine of the year” while adding in a new category called “Winery of the Year”, and another new category, the best White wine of the year. Wine of the year will go to a wine that distinguished itself in ways that are beyond the normal. It needs to be a wine that is easily available, incredible in style and flavor, and it needs to be reasonable in price. It may be the QPR wine of the year or sometimes it will be a wine that so distinguished itself for other reasons. The wines of the year are a type of wine that is severely unappreciated, though ones that have had a crazy renaissance, over the past two years. The Best Wine of the year goes to a wine well worthy of the title, especially with its 2016 vintage.
This past year, I think I am pretty sure about my statement. In the past, I had not yet tasted the pape Clement or other such wines. However, over the past year, those have been covered, and they were a serious letdown. As stated in the article, I truly believe the entire kosher production of the Megrez wines, following the EPIC 2014 vintage of the Pape Clement and others, to be below quality and seriously overpriced and without value in every category, which is a true shame. The 2015 reds are all poor quality and the whites are not much better, in 2015 and 2016. The 2016 Pape Clement, while better, is a total ripoff for what it is.
There are also interesting wines below the wines of the year, think of them as runner-up wines of the year. There will be no rose wines on the list this year – blame that on the poor crop or rose wines overall, it was, by far, the worst kosher Rose vintage. Thankfully, the task of culling the bounty of great wines to come to these top wines was really more a task of removing then adding. I may have stated the obvious in my last post, about the state of kosher wine in general, and not all of it was very good. Still, as I stated, we are blessed with more QPR wines and more top wines, while the core pool of wines, which are horribly poor, continue to grow larger and larger.
The supreme bounty comes from the fact that Royal released the 2017 French wines a bit early! Throw in the incredible number of kosher European wines that are coming to the USA and being sold in Europe and this was truly a year of bounty for European kosher wines.
Now, separately, I love red wines, but white wines – done correctly, are a whole other story! Sadly, in regards to whites, we had no new wines from Germany. Thankfully, we had Domaine Netofa and Yaccov Oryah’s Orange and white Wines to come to the rescue. Throw in Vitkin’s good work, and more great work by Royal Europe, including the new Gazin Blanc, and others, and you have quite a crop of fun white wines!
Some of these wines are available in the USA, some only in Europe, and a few only available in Israel.
Finally, some of these wines are hard to find and they may have different siblings – but they are worth the effort. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:
The 2019 kosher wines of the year – we have a four-way TIE all from Yarden!
Yes! You have read it correctly, the wines of the year come from Golan Heights Winery (AKA Yarden Winery), the 4th largest date juice producer in the entire world! The top date juice honor belongs to Barkan Winery, but I digress.
So, why is Yarden here, because albeit’s deep desire to throw away years of work creating very nice wines, at a reasonable price, with its wines from the early 2000s and before, it still makes the best kosher sparkling wines, and it is time that it receives its due.
As I stated in my year in review, the kosher wine public has finally awoken to the joy of sparkling wine! Last week I told a friend I popped a sparkler for Shabbat lunch and he replied in a sarcastic tone, “Oh only a sparkler”, like that was a crazy thing to do. I replied that the Gamla (AKA Gilgal) Brut costs less than most white wines do! Why not pop one with lunch on Shabbat??? Others tell me, yes there is more a public appreciation for Sparkling wines, but it is a different wine category. I do not agree! Sure, sparkling wine has bubbles, so yeah, it is different. However, that is EXACTLY what is wrong here, Sparkling wine is just white or rose wine with bubbles. Who cares? When it is well made, it is a wine like any other wine.
It has not been long since I last posted a new list of QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) Kosher wines. But I am always looking for more winners, and I am sure some of these will be on the QPR wine list of 2019.
To me, Terra di Seta continues to prove that Italian wines can go mano-a-mano with the rest of the kosher wine world. They continue to excel in delivering QPR wines and they continue to prove that you can create impressive to great wines for less than 40 dollars. I have yet to taste the 2015 Terra di Seta Riserva and sadly I was not a fan of the ALWAYS QPR worthy 2017 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico. The 2017 Elvi Rioja Semi, another perennial QPR winner was not my cup of tea but the 2018 vintage is ripe wine, Mevushal, but still nice and QPR winner.
Another of those QPR superstars, in the sparkling wine world, is, of course, the Yarden Winery. Gamla is their second label behind the Yarden label, but when it comes to bubbly, the Gamla label is always well accepted. Of course, the stupid spat between Yarden Winery and Royal Wine means that we have a single wine called Gamla in Israel and Gilgal here. Why? Because these two wine businesses cannot make nice long enough to come to their senses and figure out a way to be civil with each other. I am so surprised that this is still going on today. The Gamla label, a wine made by originally by Carmel in Israel for this label in the USA, and now who knows who makes it, either way, it is not a wine worthy of this bickering, but sadly, here we are.
Now, back to the wine, I wrote about the new Gilgal Brut back in January, and the wine has moved beyond its insane acid lemon trip and it is now rounding out a bit, with some added complexity and richness.
Domaine Netofa was always on my QPR list, but sadly that was just for Israel, but thankfully Royal and Kosherwine.com have combined to bring the entire line back to the USA! I hear it is going well so get on these before they disappear!
Now, I also wanted to add a list of losers as people have been asking me what I thought of some of the newer wines and here is my response, so I have a QPR list and a NOT so QPR list.
I wanted to keep this simple, so the wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:
2017 Domaine Netofa, Red – Score: 91 (QPR Superstar)
This wine is now exclusively imported by Kosherwine.com and I hope they are selling well. This has really stabilized now. It is a bit fruity still, but it also has some nice old-school style and swagger. The nose on this wine is nice and smoky, with great control and roasted animal. The fruit is blue and black and lovely. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is layered and with nice blueberry, blackcurrant, great acid, and great control showing earth, raspberry, root beer, that give way to spice, vanilla, and loads of dirt. The finish is ribbons of mineral, charcoal, graphite and bitter coffee, Solid!! Drink by 2021.
2017 Domaine Netofa Latour, White – Score: 91 to 92 (QPR)
Crazy Oak nose with yellow pear and apple, quince and rich saline with hay and dry herb. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is crazy good, layered, extracted and richly round, but tart, and saline bomb, with lovely tension and rich herb, and lovely sweet spices and sweet Oak. The finish off long, green, with vanilla, herb, and mint, and lemongrass, with tart lemon curd and spices. Drink by 2023.
2017 Domaine Netofa Latour, Red – Score: 91 (QPR)
The 2017 vintage is less austere than 2016, it is more accessible now and will still hold. The nose on this wine is really nice with rich black currant, blackberry, and blue notes that give way to smoke, Oak, toasty notes, and lovely tar. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is super tart and really bright, with great acid, blackberry, blueberry, black currant, with garrigue, sweet but well-balanced note, with mouth-coating elegance and layers of concentrated fruit and earthy notes, with chocolate and sweet spices. The finish is long, bright, tobacco, mineral, pencil shavings, with tar, and root beer. Lovely! Drink now until 2022. (To be released soon I think)
2016 Domaine Netofa Latour, Red – Score: 92 (Crazy QPR)
This wine is a blend of 65% Syrah and 35% Mourvedre. The nose on this wine is lovely, ripe and balanced, with sweet oak, blueberry, boysenberry, with bright fruit, and loads of dirt. This wine is really still very young, showing great potential, with incredible tannin, great acid, rich layers of blue and black fruit with great aging potential, loads of chocolate and rich spice, dark fruit, and herb, all wrapped in a plush yet elegant mouthfeel. The finish is less green than past vintages, showing a more ripe fruit profile, but still clearly balanced, with foliage, tobacco, mint, and sweet spices and herbs. Bravo!! Drink from 2020 till 2024.
2018 Ramon Cardova Albarino, Rias Baixas – Score: 92 (QPR Superstar)
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. Read the rest of this entry
This past Shabbat I wanted to start opening some wines now that the summer season was a couple of days away (from this past Shabbat). So I opened a brand new 2018 Shirah Gruner Veltliner, along with an awesome 2013 Eccelenza, Bianco Umbria, another very reasonably priced import by M&M, and finally the 2018 Camuna White, High Vibes.
What fascinated me was that Malvasia is really not a grape we get to taste too often in the kosher market, in the dry format. We have had the Michael Kaye Malvasia, which was essentially dry, with a bit of RS. However, the 2013 Eccelenza, Bianco Umbria and the 2018 Camuna White, High Vibes are dry wines, though the High Vibes is really tropical and ripe. In the end, it is awesome to get some more unique wines and grapes, especially in the white wine arena!
Thank goodness Shirah is back with an exceptional 2018 Gruner Veltliner! The last one was the epic 2015 Shirah Gruner Veltliner. They have changed the bottle, but the style is really the same, tight, neat, clean, with minimal work, showing bright and really refreshing.
The 2013 Eccelenza, Bianco Umbria is a unique wine, one that was made in very small quantity and is a super QPR wine. This wine is a blend of 70% Verdicchio, 30% Malvasia. This is a wine that was produced by Ricardo Cotarella, winemaker of Falesco, for his own personal usage and usually not commercially available, yet this one is and for the first time kosher. The wine is unique, old world, and truly wonderful.
Overall, the wines were fun and quite enjoyable. It is truly great to see the kosher wine world opening up to white wines of variety and complexity, and not just another Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc.
We also opened two oldies from Four Gates Winery and they were as always showing wonderfully, though one of them was initially corked. I did the cellophane wrap trick and it mostly worked. Though the flaw was only recognizable on the nose but not at all on the palate.
The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:
2018 Shirah Gruner Veltliner, Tasting Room – Score: 91
WOW! Yes, it is back!! Lovely! This is how white wines should be, light, crisp, though this wine has a serious presence as well, with an oily and weighty feeling to boot! The nose on this wine is beautiful, showing classic notes of hay, straw, with fresh cut white flowers, citrus, lemongrass, more mineral, with hints of melon, and loam. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is present, it shows a weight that is lovely and almost oily, with a beautiful texture, showing great acidity, lovely with nectarines, pink grapefruit, and hints of orange. The finish is long, green, with passionfruit, more citrus, hay, lemongrass, and floral notes lingering long. Bravo!! Drink until 2021.
2013 Eccelenza, Bianco Umbria – Score: 92 to 93
This wine is a blend of 70% Verdicchio, 30% Malvasia. WOW!!! This is a wine that was produced by Ricardo Cotarella for his own usage and usually not commercially available, yet this one is and for the first time kosher. What a wine, the nose on this thing is out of this world, so old school and old-world it is crazy. The nose is incredibly redolent with loads of peach, rich herb, mint, oregano, along with freshly peeled almond, walnut shells, with crazy wildflowers, white flowers, honeysuckle, and loads of hay and straw. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is beyond unique, it is layered, rich, and oily, almost unctuous, with sweet peach, apricot, ginger, pepper, cloves, and white cinnamon, with rich orange, mandarin, nectarines, all wrapped in a cocoon of funk, mineral, sweet yellow plum, and loads of roasted herb. The finish is long, green, sweet, herbal, oily, with saline, honey, almonds, and sweet notes lingering forever long. Bravo!!! Bravo!!! Drink now! It was still nice a day later, but it had lost its verve and tension, so drink up now to enjoy the wine at its max.
2018 Camuna White, High Vibes – Score: 88 to 89
This wine is a blend of 54% Malvasia Bianca and 46% Chardonnay. The nose on this wine is tropical and sweet, with notes of honeysuckle, floral notes, followed by pineapple, guava, and melon. The mouth on this medium bodied wine has an oily texture that has loads of fruit, showing citrus, pith, with orange, yellow grapefruit, sweet spices, sweet notes, that come together under mineral, chalk, and more almond/grapefruit pith. The finish is short, green, and sweet, with good acidity, but the finish and the overly sweet notes take this down a bit for me. Drink now!
2006 Four Gates Merlot, M.S.C. – Score: 92 to 93
Lovely wine, but slightly corked, with rich plum, blackberry, earthy, green, and foliage, with sweet dill, oak, and loads of herb, with lovely spices. The mouth on this full bodied wine is ripe, sweeter than most, with loads of blackberry, plum, round, with layers of acidity, mouth coating tannin, and rich draping mouthfeel, with mushroom, earth, loam, and lovely sweet spices. The finish is long, green, and tobacco-laden, with leather, chocolate, tar, and rich roasted herbs. Nice! Drink until 2022.
2003 Four Gates Merlot – Score: 93
This wine was undrinkable for years given its absurd acidity, now this wine is screaming, it is 15+ years old and it is as young as the day it was released, color wise. The nose on this wine is beautiful with rich plum, cherry, dark milk chocolate, mocha, with coffee notes, tar, and rich mineral galore, followed by mushrooms, and more earth. The mouth on this full bodied wine is beautiful, with layers of chocolate, tannin, fruit, and nice complexity that shows raspberry, cherry, plum, menthol galore, mint, oregano, and rich saline. The finish is long, green, with loads of more tobacco, plum, and rich mineral, graphite, and hints of barnyard under the foliage and forest floor! Bravo! Drink until 2022.