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Sommelier 2015 results – White wines ruled along with a few reds

Sommelier 2015Sadly, Sommelier 2015 has come and gone and I can fairly state that I found nothing to be heartened about, in terms of the Israeli kosher wine scene. To be fair, the issue is still the same, wineries are deepening their love for all things over ripe and the excuse of poor vintages is really just that – an excuse. Having tasted almost every viable kosher wine at the event, I can safely say that only a few wineries care to make wines that are not over ripe, and the rest are the usual suspects. Before, anyone says there were many great wines, I can say I totally agree! The clear winners, winery wise were:
1.    Tzora Winery (the 2012 vintage is insane)
2.    Gvaot Winery (the 2012 Masada may well be their best ever)
3.    Recanati Winery (clearly the biggest winery with a desire to build very good wines from the bottom up)
4.    Tabor Winery (they continue to excel at the Adama series, though the Adama II wines have lost a step since 2010). Still, the whites, rose, and reds of Adama were impressive.
5.    Carmel Winery (the whites continue to excel and even the reds are solid, sadly the US labels are date juice)
6.    Yatir (nothing new here they are one of the best of the bunch)
7.    Yarden – SOLELY for the whites and bubbles. The reds were all date juice, the classic example of a winery that has purposely and consciously taken the road of over ripe fruit.
8.    Netofa Winery (the 2013 and 2014 wines will blow your socks off) – not listed here because I will post separately
9.    Mia Luce (Another winery made by a Recanati Associate Winemaker, this one being kosher) – maybe the best wines of the entire event
10.   Tura Winery (continues to push the boundaries and improving mightily. Love the Merlot, blends, and the new Gewurztraminer. Will post their wines on a separate post).

A few to keep track of – if they keep things up:
1.    Kishor Winery (some of their reds were truly impressive, their new whites were a step behind 2013)
2.    Jezreel Winery (Their white blend and the Carignan were nice, they need to tighten up the rest)
3.    Gush Eztion (Their whites were solid though they too need to tighten up on the reds)

Sadly, of the 200+ kosher wines at the event, fewer than 40 reds were anything to write about. It was the whites, even at wineries that I found physically painful to taste at, were quite acceptable. In the end it was the white wines that saved the event for me. White wines are the clear new trend in Israeli wineries and a trend that continues to impress. Sadly, the 2014 whites are step behind the 2013 vintages, as many did not add acid to the wines, but they are very solid none the less. Read the rest of this entry

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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

A wine lover in a land of sobriety – what is a oenophile to do?

This past Jewish Holiday press left me away from home for much of the time – whether at friends or family and that enabled me to enjoy many a wine, some that I bought, some that I enjoyed at other people’s homes, and some that I enjoyed or did not enjoy at synagogue.

The Jewish holidays following the high holidays – are meant to be ones filled with joy, food, and wine, yet I happen to always be separated from the very people who really understand my madness. Do not get me wrong I love my family – but they really are not oenophiles – and that leaves me at a major disadvantage – when my main objective is to drink and enjoy as much wine as possible in a very short period of time! Sure, they sip at the glass and are happy to drink it – but the joyous side of the High Holidays to Sukkot religious gauntlet is meant to be a relief valve, a way to thank the lord for all the good and for another year to do his bidding. So, how do Jews celebrate? Why with prayer, food, and wine of course. I know I am a bit over the top when it comes to wine and food – but I crave the interactions with others around the table, a table filled with joy and food, and also some wine chatter.

So I was faced with the classic dilemma of a lone wine fanatic attempting to enjoy wine amongst those who find wine to be a tool rather than a purpose. Do I buy and enjoy by myself an expensive bottle of wine and drink half at night and the other half the next day – and continue this through the meals – or should I dial it back a touch because, it is just myself and the expensive wine does not always taste as good the next day?

Like all things – I decided the best rule of thumb in these situations is to do both! I bought some good wine and some nicer wine, but no crazy wines, which in hindsight was a great idea, as I really got sick and could not enjoy them anyway. The first night we drank a bottle of 2010 Galil Mountain Winery Barbera, which I wrote up about on a previous post about QPR, and it was OK, but not a QPR winner. We also tried a bottle of 2010 Joseph Mellot Sancerre. Sancerre white is the archetype Sauvignon Blanc for many. Many believe that Sancerre best defines the truest form of Sauvignon Blanc. However, some are now pointing to New Zealand and California for what they have done with the grape. Unfortunately, while the classic Sancerre is meant to be bone dry, with intense fruit expressions and mineral to boot, this bottle was so-so at best. It lacked the bone gnawing dry palate that I crave in a Sancerre, balanced perfectly with nice bright fruit and good acidity. Instead, this Sancerre was green, tart, and without fresh fruit, making it for a very passable wine to quaff, but not much more.

On an aside, there is a growing demand out there for truly bone gnawing dry wine with fresh fruit and bright acidity. The closest I have found to that is another kosher Sancerre from Bokobsa, but the 2007 vintage is slowly dying. The need exists, but the answer unfortunately is lacking for now. Please do not get me wrong there are MANY lovely kosher Sauvignon Blanc wines on the market – but they all have varying degrees of residual sugar, making them feel flabby, which to many is as annoying as nails against a chalkboard. Read the rest of this entry

International Food & Wine Festival (IFWF) in Oxnard brings back great memories!

These past two weeks have been what the Jews call the 9 days that are rather famous for the infamous events that have occurred in this specific span of time. Thankfully, once they were passed Herzog Cellars and Royal Wines put on an encore event of the IFWF (International Food and Wine Festival), this time in the Herzog Winery itself, to celebrate the winery’s 25th year in the industry! What an event and celebration it was! It brought back memories of the old IFWF events that were held in Oxnard, since the inaugural IFWF event in 2008.

Sure there were some 200 or so in attendance, but with the fully expanded setup, including an enclosure in the back that housed the French wine table, dessert table, and room to hunker down, it felt spacious and very comfortable.

In many ways, this event felt like an almost exact replay of the first International Food and Wine Festival. The crowd size was perfect, there was room for you to hunker down and taste wines and there was room for you to huddle up and talk with friends or people of like or dislike opinions.

Besides the layout and crowds, the food was absolutely fantastic, just like in previous events here. Once again, Todd Aarons and Gabe Garcia created wondrous delights that were so wrong in all the right ways! Of course, I came to the food area too late to partake of all of the goodies, but I still got to taste many fantastic culinary treats, including the absolutely stunning puffed chicken nuggets topped with incredibly tasty barbecue sauce.

Unfortunately, I came a bit late to this event because of what I came to call parking lot A and B (405 and 101 respectively). Whenever, I watch the Dodgers or the Angels, I can now understand why the crowds are so empty for the first three innings, because everyone is parked on one or more highways! My guess to why they all leave by the 7th inning is that after the folks get so aggravated waiting in the traffic, they get tired and want to go home. Quite clearly getting to and from any event in LA adds a few hours to the overall time and that is aggravating and tiring. However, like I, once the guests arrived they had to almost physically throw us out. The place did start to peter out in the last hour, but the place was still humming and drinking until the last second. Read the rest of this entry

Wine Spectator scores a gaggle of kosher Israeli Wines

In the June 30th edition of the Wine Spectator, Kim Marcus reviewed some 21 wines from Israel and many scored above 85 point. The highest scored wines were:

  1. 2009 Bazelet HaGolan Cabernet Sauvignon – 90
  2. 2007 Binyamina Cave – 90
  3. 2009 Yarden Chardonnay – 89
  4. 2008 Yarden Pinot Noir – 89
  5. 2009 Domaine du Castel Petite Castel – 89
  6. 2009 Segal Chardonnay, Special Reserve – 89
  7. 2007 Barkan Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve – 88
  8. 2007 Barkan Merlot, Reserve – 88
  9. 2009 Binyamina Cabernet Sauvignon/Petite Verdot, Yogev – 88
  10. 2009 Dalton Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot/Cabernet Franc Alma – 88
  11. 2009 Segal Merlot, Special Reserve – 87
  12. 2009 Galil Yiron – 87
  13. 2010 Teperberg Meritage – 86
  14. 2007 Binyamina Merlot, Reserve – 85
  15. 2010 Barkan Merlot/Argaman, Classic – 85
  16. 2009 Binyamina Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot, Yogev – 85
  17. 2010 Segal Merlot/Cabernet Franc/Cabernet Sauvignon, Fusion- 85
  18. 2009 Binyamina Sauvignon Blanc/Chardonnay, Yogev – 84
  19. 2010 Barkan Pinot Noir, Classic – 83
  20. 2009 Binyamina Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz, Yogev – 83
  21. 2007 Binyamina Zinfandel, Reserve – 82

Personally, I have a few things to comment here. First of all I am so very happy to see Israel again being taken seriously and having their wines scored, whether for the good or the bad.

Secondly, these scores are VERY much in line with expectations, though there are a few shockers in there as well, more on that soon. The wines that were tasted were not blockbuster superstars, on the contrary these were second tier wines, for the most part, and many of which we have scored in the very same manner. In other words, the reason why these “low” scores are such good news is that they are VERY legitimate scores for the wines reviewed.
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.

Read the rest of this entry

Lemon Rosemary Roasted Chicken, Risotto, Baked Herb Encrusted Fish Loaf, and a myriad of wonderful wines

On the week of August 19th we were so happy to host really good friends of ours who were doing a west coast vacation. They are friends that go back far in my life, and it is always great to see them, because they are really cool people and because they bring back memories of my childhood. So, we tried to make some risotto work, but once again, Risotto as a Friday Night dish, can take the place of Dr. Jeykll and Mr. Hyde in any good 50s black and white movie. Sure enough Hyde showed up Friday Night, it was OK, but the Risotto was mushy instead of perfectly cooked – sad! The already patented Lemon Rosemary Roasted Chicken was killer, and was mostly consumed, while the Risotto was just OK.

Getting back to script, the meal started with a lovely baked herb encrusted fish loaf, we paired it with black and green olives, hummus, and eggplant salad. We opened a pair of lovely white wines with this course. I have tasted these wines a few times now, and each time the wines show off lovely honey and tart fruit characteristics. Though this time the unoaked wines showed off better. Yes, I said unoaked wine – what is that? Really? Are we that jaded? Most of the entry level wines that we do and don’t enjoy are not oak infused or modified. Instead, we have all become so jaded that if a wine is not oak influenced, it is not a nice wine. That cannot be farther from the truth! Some white wines are better without oak or malolactic fermentation (malo), because the fruit can either stand on its own and make the wine cleaner, or because the wine is so bad that adding in oak would cost money that is not warranted. So, it was a real kick to taste two Chardonnays that were separated at birth (or must – fermented grape juice), with one going to a home of rich oak, while the other went to live in a clean but plain steel home. The wines notes will show my precise feelings, but in short, the non oak laden Chardonnay was far more bright, evocative, and attention grabbing.

We then moved to the Mr. Hyde (Risotto) and some lovely Lemon Rosemary Roasted Chicken, along with a nice green salad. The Chardonnays paired nicely with the dishes, but we also enjoyed some Sara Bee, and some nice Hagafen Merlot. The Merlot went well with the cholent and cold cuts on the following day as well.

The wine notes follow below – many thanks to my buddies for swinging by the house – it was a real KICK!

2009 Binyamina Chardonnay Reserve Unoaked Galilee (Israel, Judean Hills) – Score: A-
The nose on this straw to light gold colored wine has stayed fairly consistent between the two times I have tasted this wine, some 6 months apart. The nose explodes with rich ripe and tart summer/tropical fruit, pear, kiwi, lychee, honey, grapefruit, ripe lemon, apple, and floral notes. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is super rich with explosive fruit that follows the nose, peach, lemon, apple, kiwi, lychee, and grapefruit. The mid palate flows off the mouth with super rich and tart lemon, honey, apple, and mineral almost yeasty. The honeyed and spicy finish is super long with crazy tart fruit, lychee, grapefruit, kiwi, lemon, floral notes, and mineral. The wine is super enjoyable with more than enough attention getting fruit, minerality, and floral notes. The lack of oak is a benefit with this fruit and makes one wonder whether oaking this wine is such a good idea!

2009 Binyamina Chardonnay Reserve Galilee (Israel, Judean Hills) – Score: B++
The nose on this light gold colored wine started off muted and not nearly as bright as its unoaked brother. The nose opened to a rich and deep honeyed nose, oak, smoky toast, floral notes, grapefruit, lemon, yellow apple, and mounds of caramel and butterscotch. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is rich with honey, oak, pear, kiwi, grapefruit, lemon, and apple, all rounded with a tad of oak which seems to dull the fruit. The mid palate is oaky with toast, cut grass, and butterscotch. The finish is long and richly honeyed with butterscotch, oak, kiwi, lemon, melon, and grapefruit. Honey coated butterscotch candy along with ripe grapefruit, lemon, and melon linger.

2006 Hagafen Merlot (USA, California, Napa Valley)  – Score: B++ to A-
The nose on this purple colored wine is filled with rich cedar, black cherry, raspberry, fig, herbs, vanilla, chocolate, cloves, and smoky notes. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is classic Hagafen, with a soft plush mouth of rich cedar, plum, raspberry, fig, cherry, and nice mouth coating tannin. The mid palate is balanced with nice acid, chocolate, more cedar, and nice tannin. The finish is long and spicy with cloves, cinnamon, cedar, vanilla, chocolate, raspberry, plum, herbs, and tobacco. Herbs, cinnamon, chocolate, cedar, vanilla, and tobacco linger long after the wine is gone.

2008 Clos de Nouys Vouvray Moelleux (France, Loire Valley, Touraine, Vouvray)  – Score: B to B+
This was a disappointment. Rogov predicted this one was going to last, but when we opened it, the wine was a shade of its previous self, which we tasted a year ago. The wine had much of the same fruit, but lacked the very grace that a good Chenin Blanc should have and that is ACID! No zip, nor in the middle or the end. Truly sad.

 The nose on this straw to gold colored wine is rich and honeyed, with wet grass, floral, green apple, honey, guava, pear, and citrus. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is rich with honey, floral notes, green apple, and tropical fruit. The mid palate is semi-sweet with almost no acidity, plain and old with a touch orange peel. The finish is medium with honey, floral notes, tropical fruit, vanilla, and citrus. A nice wine that has lost its ay, the zip is gone and so is the enjoyment in drinking it. DRINK UP!!!

Meatballs, Panade, Linguini, and a bottle of Binyamina Zinfandel

On the weekend of August 12th we were laying low with a continued hunkering for meatballs. I cannot truly explain why I am constantly tinkering with my meatball recipe. I guess I can only say that I like to tinker, and I like to play with recipes. This one went very wrong! I normally add in shredded vegetables to make the meatballs softer, instead of using a panade. What is a panade and what do you use it for? According to Cook’s Illustrated: “A panade is a paste of milk and bread that is typically used to help foods like meatballs and meatloaf hold their shape and moisture. Starches from the bread absorb liquid from the milk to form a gel that coats and lubricates the protein molecules in the meat, much in the same way as fat, keeping them moist and preventing them from linking together to form a tough matrix. Mixing the beef and panade in a food processor helps to ensure that the starch is well dispersed so that all the meat reaps its benefits.”

Steaks can handle being eaten medium rare, my favorite temperature, because the bacteria does not penetrate the solid surface of a steak too deeply. However, ground meat can have or attract the bacteria and now it has the potential to get into every nook and cranny of the meatball or burger – which can be painful or far worse. The answer is to fully cook the ground meat dish and still have something edible in the end, which is no small feat. The panade gives you a cushion or life jacket because it allows you to cook the ground meat right to the end and maybe a bit more and not end up with ground up shoe leather.

So while the panade does wonders for ground meat recipes, it does not work in a kosher home – given the whole “meat and milk thing”. That leaves us with a need to get a substance that starts off dry and ends up soft – vegetables! This is not the first time we have made meatballs with vegetables, however, it is the first time we have done it with vegetables that I did not squeeze out! Ouch! I was lazy and tired and did not want to bother – big mistake.

The meatballs came out fine, but they were overly soft. I should have seen it when I made the mixture. A few rules about meatballs:

1) NEVER over mix them – the more you slam them around the harder and more gummy they get
2) A mixture that is correct should feel more like a stiff dough than a soft one – that is where I messed up
3) Cook the meatballs until they float in the pan (if you are braising them). They will sink to start, and the second they bob up to the surface, yank them out.
4) To be sure they are not ready, make sure to not overstuff the pan and the braise, so that the meatballs have freedom to rise to the surface when ready

There you go – I hope you all can learn from my mistakes and, lets be honest – bobbing for meatballs is so much more enjoyable than rotten apples!

To pair with this lovely tasting, albeit overly soft, meatballs, we cooked up a pot of linguini and a tossed a fresh bowl of green salad. The wine we enjoyed over the weekend was the 2007 Binyamina Zinfandel. We also enjoyed a few more wines in the same time, so I am adding them here for posterity.

2007 Binyamina Zinfandel Special Reserve (Israel, Galilee) – Score: B to B++
The nose on this dark garnet to black colored wine starts off way to hot, however over time it calms down to expose chocolate, tobacco, cedar, raspberry, plum, blackcurrant, black cherry, crushed herbs, dirt, and mound of black pepper. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is starting to show its age with excessive date flavors that taste oxidized, plush mouth feel from nice tannin, rich loamy dirt, raspberry, plum, blackcurrant, and black cherry. The mid palate is balanced with nice acid, cedar, and vanilla. Th finish is long and spicy with heaps of black pepper, chocolate, tobacco, vanilla, blackcurrant, date, cedar, and herbs. Cedar, black pepper, date, raspberry, black currant, chocolate, and vanilla linger.

2009 Cantina Gabriele Pinot Grigio (Italy) – Score: B
This past weekend I tasted this bottle at our synagogue’s kiddush and it was lacking to say the least. The nose on this wine was totally killer! The nose on this light gold colored wine was exploding with lemon, aroma, pepper, honeyed melon, and peach. Unfortunately, that was where it ended. The mouth on this light to medium bodied wine was dead with light hints of acidity, peach, honey, and melon. The mid palate was totally flat with little bite, more sweet fruit and melon. The finish was average with a bit of bite but it faded quickly leaving only a hint of melon, honey, and light floral notes. I was so hopeful after the nose but so it goes.

2009 Terrenal Cabernet Sauvignon Yecla (Spain, Murcia, Yecla) – Score: B to B+
Still really like this bottle especially given the cheap price. Much has stayed the same but a few new nuances have shown up. The nose on this dark garnet to black colored wine is rich with dirt, cloves, graphite, 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, mint, and some mineral. This wine is really nice for the price! (103 views)

2007 Binyamina Cabernet-Merlot Yogev Kosher (Israel, Samson) – Score: B
The nose on this garnet colored wine with brown halo has an almost dead nose with chocolate, rich tobacco, dirt, mineral, blackcurrant, blackberry, black cherry, herbs, date from light oxidity, and oak. The mouth on this medium bodied wine starts to show oxidation with date flavors, blackberry, blackcurrant, herbs, soft tannin, and black cherry. The mid palate is balanced with nice acid, spicy oak, more soft tannin, and tobacco. The finish is long with date, tobacco, blackberry, blackcurrant, crushed herbs, and vanilla. This wine dies quickly, drink up or use for cooking.

2003 Four Gates Merlot Kosher (USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains) – Score: B++ to A-
The nose on this electric blue/purple colored wine is vibrant and expressive with rich sweet oak, smoky, vanilla, black candied cherry, raspberry, blackberry, ripe plum, bramble, chocolate, tobacco, crushed herbs, and date. The mouth on this lovely and full bodied wine is concentrated and expressive like its nose, from its fruit and tannin, with slowly integrating tannin, raspberry, blackberry, ripe plum, cherry, and crushed herbs. The mid palate has balanced acid, chocolate, sweet oak, tobacco, and nice integrating tannin. The finish is super long and spicy with acidity, rich ripe plum, chocolate, tobacco, vanilla, long and luxurious finish with dates and vanilla.

2009 Binyamina Yogev Cabernet Sauvignon/Petit Verdot

With so much food leftover from our Passover meals we enjoyed a lovely Sabbath of leftovers, more leftovers, some lovely asparagus, and a lovely bottle of 2009 Binyamina Yogev Cabernet Sauvignon/Petit Verdot. I must admit that we had previously tasted this wine and I was NOT hoping for much out of it. Rogov had little real love for it, stating that it was showing better than his previous tasting, and we tasted it on Purim, and it was a Black Currant fruit bomb. So when we opened this bottle, there was little we were looking for other than a dark wine to go with some meat dishes. In the end the wine started off very much akin to what we remembered on Purim, with a bit more roundness to the mouth. However, as the meal continued the wine started to open up more, the insane Cabernet flavors of black currant and raspberry took a back seat, and the Petit Verdot fruit had a chance to shine. Now to use the terms Petit Verdot and fruit in the same sentence is very much akin to saying New York Yankees and Mets. You see, there is very little fruit that one expects or associates with the Petit Verdot grape varietal. Classically, PV (Petit Verdot) was used as a blending grape (Coupage), with its calling card being added color, tannin, and flavors. In France where it rarely ripens to its fullest potential, the grapes lend a violet like flavor to wines. However, in the Israel, which is in the Mediterranean, the grapes fully ripen and give the wine its badly needed weight, color, and tannin, but the grape also gives the wine more non-fruit flavors, like roasted meat, tar, pencil, molasses, cigar box, espresso coffee, and black olives.

To my delight, the wine was truly a joy once it started to show its more bold flavors and the tannins were quite calm all along, giving the wine an early accessibility, while also showing more than enough body, weight, acid, and stuffing to allow this wine some more staying power. I found the wine lovely now, after some airtime, and Daniel Rogov thinks the wine can stay till 2013. I think the wine shows a bit better than Daniel does, but in either case, I think this is a wine that can be enjoyed now or in the next year or so. Enjoy this with some good meat dishes or some nice medium hard cheeses, which we did on the Sabbath afternoon.

The wine note follows below:

2009 Binyamina Cabernet Sauvignon – Petit Verdot, Yogev – Score: B++
This wine started off showing primarily its Cabernet fruit, but overtime the 20% Petite Verdot started to shine through with espresso coffee, roasted meat and nice black olives. The nose on this purple to black colored wine explodes with heavy black currant, raspberry, mounds of crushed herb, eucalyptus, dirt, smoky notes, and oak. Overtime the wine starts to show off more of its Petite Verdot fruit with roasted meat, espresso coffee, and black olives. The mouth on this rich and full bodied wine is soft with lovely integrated tannin, black currant on first attack, followed by raspberry, crushed herb, and blackberry. The mid palate is balanced with nice acid, oak, more integrated tannin, smoky notes, and herbs. The finish is long, spicy, and luscious with black currant, espresso coffee, smoked meat, herb, inky, and rich. This is a lovely wine that is great to drink right now or in the next couple of years!

Kalamata Olive and White Bean Soup, Yellow Tail Sushi, Yarden Viognier, and some assorted Purim Wines

This past weekend we had a lovely and enjoyable double whammy! A Shabbos on Saturday and the Purim holiday on Sunday. The festivities started with a lovely bowl of Kalamata olive and white bean soup, followed by a bunch of Yellow tail, avocado, cucumber Sushi rolls. The funny thing about sushi rolls is that even if you eat a bunch of them, you end of being hungry. To meet that concern, we eat a bunch of fresh green salad topped with some Italian Vinaigrette. The fish did taste a bit metallic and that was unfortunate, almost to the point where I was not enjoying it that much. We bought the fish at 5 or so PM and ate it at 7:30 PM, so it was really not cool, that the fish was not perfect. Personally, the next time we make sushi rolls and go to the store to buy the fish, I will ask to taste the fish before I buy it. The soup was a killer hit again and one I really think it is a recipe that you MUST find and make a batch.

To pair with these dishes I chose a fun and vibrant white wine; the 2006 Yarden Viognier. It is a lovely wine that is showing more honey notes than earlier and clearly a wine that needs to be drunk up very soon. It is not actually showing age or faults; rather it is showing weaker fruit, more honey, oak, and butterscotch.

On Sunday Purim arrived and with it some chances to taste more wines that were quite nice and some that were OK. I did not take serious notes after a while, but at least some heads up are in order.

2008 Golan Heights Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Golan Kosher (Israel, Golan) – Score: B to B+
This is an OK wine but not one that really grabs you. The nose on this dark garnet colored wine has dark cherry, blackberry, vanilla, and oak. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is soft with integrated tannin, blackberry, and cherry. The mid palate is balanced with acid, soft tannin, and light hints of oak. The finish is long and spicy with more black fruit, vanilla, and some crushed herbs.

2006 Casa Da Corca Douro Reserva (Portugal, Douro) – Score B+
I drank this wine again recently and the notes are holding well. The nose on this dark ruby to garnet colored wine is screaming with coffee, smoky notes, black cherry, raspberry, blackberry, fig, crushed herbs, mint, and oak. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine turns full in the mouth after a bit of time, along with blackberry, plum, and dark cherry. The mid palate transition has a quick note of what I can only call a combination of green bean/fig/mint, along with acid, oak, nice tannin, and coffee. The finish is long and spicy with plum, nice oak, tannins that linger along with vanilla. This is a nice wine that should be bought once to open your mind to what the heat of Spain can bring you with its unique fruit and terroir.

N.V. Elvi Wines Adar Brut Cava (Spain) – Score: B+
The notes on this wine are consistent with my last tasting. The nose on this bubbly and effervescent light pink colored wine, is hopping with strawberry, lemon, and cherry. The mouth on this light to medium bodied wine is packed with small bubbles that are active and alive; they mingle well with the strawberry and cherry. The mid palate is alive with bracing acidity. The finish is medium long with core acidity, strawberry, bubbles, and a lemon burst at the very tail end. Drink UP!

2006 Yarden Viognier (Israel, Galilee, Golan Heights) – Score: B++
This wine has lost a step or two and is now on its way down. It does not taste like a lost puppy, but clearly one that is looking for its owner. The nose on this dark gold colored wine is filled with floral notes, along with petrol/gasoline flavors, toast, honey, butterscotch, melon, pear, peach, and oak. The mouth on this full bodied wine is oily in nature with almost glycerol viscosity, showing rich honey, melon, pear, and peach flavors. The mid palate is nicely balanced with acid, oak, and floral notes. The finish is long and tenacious with more floral characteristics, oak, a hint of butterscotch, and a heavy dose of honeyed mead like flavors and pear.

2006 Herzog Merlot, Special Reserve, Alexander Valley (Mevushal) – Score B++ to A-
The nose on this dark garnet to purple colored wine is packed with black fruit, blackberry, raspberry, currant, oak, cherry, chocolate, and tobacco. The mouth on this full bodied wine is soft, rich, and mouth coating from lovely integrated tannin, along with blackberry, currant, and cherry. The mid palate is balanced with acid, rich oak, lovely tannin, and tobacco. The finish is long and spicy with black fruit, raspberry, oak, and tobacco. Drink up.

2006 Rothberg Cellars Pinotage – DEAD! Drink up or cook with. The wine was not oxidized or faulty, just showing insane cooked flavors that essentially make it undrinkable.
2009 Binyamina Cabernet Sauvignon – Petit Verdot, Yogev (Israel) – Score: B to B+
I have a couple of these and will taste them again soon. For now, the wine tasted OK with clear and strong upfront black currant fruit along with cherry, crushed herbs, and raspberry. I hope to taste this again and give more data.
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