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Taieb continues to excel at making solid wines for reasonable prices in France

After our miraculous escape from the hotel which brought vivid memories of one of my favorite songs of all time – Hotel California, highlighted by the most famous line in that song: ”Relax said the night man, we are programmed to receive. You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave!”. If you were there, the dude almost said those words as we were running for the door, anyway, on to more happy thoughts.

We escaped “Hotel California” and made our way to the train station in Lyon for our trip to Roanne. This train is the common man’s train, and it allowed us an interesting glimpse into the melting pot of France’s middle class. The trains from Paris or Strasbourg were TGV trains and though they can be bought on the cheap, they are for folks moving between large cities. This train was a commuter train, the only real way to get from Lyon to Roanne.

This trip to Taieb wines was far less insane than the trip earlier this year from London, that trip was too crazy to even believe. This one was far simpler, other than the Hotel California issue. That said, overall it took two trains and an automobile to get Avi Davidowitz from the Kosher Wine Unfiltered blog, and me from Strasbourg to Roanne. Yoni Taieb from Taieb Wines was so kind as to pick us up from the Roanne train station and take us to the offices.

Sadly, there had been a death in the family so George Taieb, Yoni Taieb’s father, could not join us, but Yoni was so nice to facilitate the tasting.

Kosher wine pricing again

If you look at the kosher wine producers/facilitators in France, Taieb comes out far ahead in regards to their pricing and quality. I love that we have kosher Chateau Leoville Poyferre or Smith Haut Lafitte, but those prices are crazy, absolutely bonkers, especially when you see their non-kosher pricing (showing at double the price). Again, I have spoken about pricing many times, and no matter how often I talk about it, it is still crazy to me, that we pay such high prices for kosher wine.

There are two issues here. One is that the big-name wines are super expensive and this issue continues to disallow others from enjoying such wines, given the price tag. Secondly, the lower stature wines, ones that are still fun to enjoy and QPR wines, are far and few between, when you look at the sub-20 dollar bracket. Look at Kosherwine.com and tell me how many sub-20 dollar QPR wines exist? In red, there is THREE, 2018 Chateau Les Riganes, Bordeaux, the 2018 Elvi Herenza Rioja, and the 2017 Chateau Mayne Guyon. THREE wines I would buy for under 20 dollars and two fo them are Mevushal! Under 10 dollars there are none.

In France, under 10 Euros, there are MANY! There lies in the issue. Obviously, to get a wine from France to here takes hands and hands cost money, but Taieb had four wines that I would buy under 10 Euros. If they were brought here, they would probably cost 20 dollars. Overall, this is the issue. The second you add hands into the picture it gets too expensive. Royal Wines makes the wines, imports the wines, and sells them to distributors. So, within all that, you have cut out many hands that would otherwise raise the cost structures. If Taieb exported the lovely 2018 Baron David, Bordeaux, which costs 9 or so Euros and even less when on sale, and the importer added his costs, this wine would probably sell for 23 dollars. This is what is so broken with the system. Of course, I have no issue with people making a living! That is not the discussion here. The issue I have is that there are MANY sub-10 dollar wines from France in the USA and some are quite nice, even scored a 90 by Wine Spectator. That is just one example. I do not get it. Are we saying that these wines, yes it is sold by Costco and Trader Joe’s, so their margins may be a bit thinner? But do they not make money? Does the importer not make money? The winery? The Distributor in the USA? The non-kosher market for sub-10 dollar wines follows the same system as kosher wines. So, please where is the money going? The kosher supervision on wines like this are a total joke, maybe 20 cents a bottle, so please move on from that. Why is it so hard to import this Baron David and make it work for everyone? Why is it not that difficult for the non-kosher market? There lies in my question!

Anyway, in France, these wines are a wonderful buy and I hope those that live there get a chance to taste them, as they are 100% worth the money!

So, to repeat the Taieb wines in the USA are hard to find, other than the Burgundy wines, because of the horrible wine distribution of Victor Wines and Touton wines, here in the USA. It is a shame as they make some very solid QPR (for France pricing) wines. You can find some of the wines here but most of them are just in France. With that said, Saratoga Wine Exchange, out of NY, seems to stock almost all of the wines, I have no idea why as they are not a kosher wine or near a large Jewish community. Still, that is only for the few wines that are imported here in the first place. Vive la France for QPR kosher wines!

Taieb Wines

Yoni Taieb and the wines

Taieb started making kosher spirits 50 years ago and since then he has added kosher wine to the company. Many of the Bordeaux wines that he now makes have been in production for decades. Taieb is famous for the Phenix Anisette, a liquor made from Anis.

Recently, I have been loving the wines coming from Taieb, because they are making some really great Burgundy wines, including maybe the best Burgs to be made kosher in quite some time, the epic Domaine Lescure and the 2012 Domaine d’Ardhuy Gevrey-Chambertin, which may well be the best Burgundy in some time, though I find the 2014 Domaine Lescure to be as good.

Taieb has been spoiling us with great Burgundy wines and the only reason why we know about them is because of Nathan Grandjean and Andrew Breskin. Sadly, distribution of these and many of the lovely Bordeaux wines from Taieb have no distribution here in the USA, without Breskin. Victor Wines officially imports Taieb Wines, but the wines rarely show on shelves, I really hope this will be fixed soon, as the Taieb wines I had in France were wonderful.

Sadly, Domaine d’Ardhuy stopped doing kosher wines with Taieb, after the 2015 vintage. The Domaine Lescure was epic in 2014 and 2015, it had a hiccup with the 2016 vintage, but the 2017 vintage is lovely as well!

The line of kosher wines that Taieb produces includes entry-level wines for restaurants and weddings. It then has a myriad of wines at the next level, from lovely a Sancerre wine to Brouilly wines. The next level includes some very solid Bordeaux wines and Burgundy wines as well. Read the rest of this entry

Tasting of Royal’s 2017 and some 2018 French wines in France

This is my third year tasting wines with Menahem Israelievitch in Paris and it is the first one that is not related to my visit to Bordeaux three years ago, almost to the date of this tasting (give or take two weeks). Three years ago, I was given the opportunity to taste many of the 2015 and 2016 wines from the barrel at each of the wineries in Bordeaux.

The 2014 vintage to me, was crazy fun because it is less ripe than the 2015 or 2016 vintages. They were also FAR cheaper. Then you had the 2015 wines which were more expensive and far riper than the 2014 vintage. This 2016 vintage is the best of both worlds, but it comes at a crazy high price. I warned you at that time, during the epic post of my visit to Bordeaux with Mr. Israelievitch, that you better start saving your money, sadly nothing has changed about that. The REAL shocker price-wise of the 2016 vintage was Chateau Malartic, which rose to almost 150 or more a bottle! That was close to double the 2014 vintage.

In a previous post about the most recent French wines (at that time in 2017) that were arriving on the market – I already spoke about pricing and supply, so there is no need to talk that over again in this post.

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While the 2015 and 2016 vintages were ripe, the 2017 vintage is not like that at all. The 2017 vintage in Bordeaux, though this is a massive simplification and generalization of the 2017 vintage, was overall less ripe than the 2015/16 vintages and maybe even in some cases a drop less than the 2014 vintage. The 2017 vintage flowered early and then the frost came, which killed off a fair amount of the fruit from the vines (Grapevines are self-pollinating and as such the flowers are an all-or-nothing situation in regards to yield). Quality itself is not affected by the early frost which froze the flowers, while the rest of the season was mostly OK, except for the late rains that diluted some of the acidity, again this is an overall generalization, with varying degrees of difference between the Chateaus.

The Mevushal push, from Royal wines, is continuing for the USA labels. More wines are being made Mevushal and while I wonder if this is good overall for myself, it makes sense for Royal wines, which in the end, I guess is what matters to them. Will this be an issue? In the past, I have found that the mevushal work of Mr. Israelievitch is top-notch, and really just ages the wine rather than ruining it.

The Mevushal wines from France for the 2017 vintage will be, the 2017 Barons Edmond et Benjamin de Rothschild, Haut-Medoc, 2017 Chateau Greysac, 2017 Chateau Chateau de Parsac, 2017 Les Lauriers, Des Domaines Edmond de Rothschild, 2017 Chateau Le Crock, 2017 Cuvee Hautes Terres, Chateau Fourcas Dupre, along with the whites wines, the 2018 Bourgogne Les Truffieres, Chardonnay, the 2018 Les Marronniers, Chablis,  and the 2018 Chateau Les Riganes, Blanc.

Now does mevushal impede the long-term viability of aging in regards to the wine? Well, that too is not something that we have scientific proof on. I have tasted a mevushal 1999 Herzog Special Edition and it was aging beautifully! So, would I buy the mevushal versions of the wines I tasted below – absolutely! Would I age them? Yes, I would hold them for slightly fewer years.

Other than the mevushal aspect, there are no differences between the European version of the wines and the USA version of the wines. While that sounds obvious, I am just stating it here. The wines will be shipped now and the temperature issues that clearly affected Israel’s wines of old, have not been a factor here.

Tasting in Paris

I landed in Paris, got showered and the such, and then made my way to lunch with Menahem Israelievitch. This year I was not alone in my tasting, I was joined by Avi Davidowitz from the Kosher Wine Unfiltered blog. After lunch, we went to a lovely home to do the tasting. The wines were all laid out in the order for the tasting, and one by one we went through the 30 wines. There was one missing wine, the 2018 Chateau Genlaire, Bordeaux Superieur and two of the wines were bad, I did taste them later in the week and they are listed here as if I tasted them at the tasting.

My many thanks to Menahem Israelievitch for going out of his way to help me to taste all the current French wines from Royal Wines before they were publicly released. The labels on the pictures may not all have a kosher symbol, but that was because they rushed some of the bottles to Mr. Israelievitch before they were properly labeled with supervision symbols attached. My many thanks to Mr. Israelievitch, Royal Europe, and Royal Wines for making this tasting possible in the first place, and secondly, for taking the time to taste the wines with me.

The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

2018 Les Marronniers Chablis – Score: 93 (QPR madness) (Mevushal)
This wine is made with native yeasts and as little manipulation as possible. The nose on this wine is beautiful with orange blossom, yellow apple, and rosehip, with lemon curd, and yeasty and creamy notes. This is so much better than the 2016 or 2017 vintage, this is so much fun! The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is crazy fun, intense acidity, incredible salinity, piercing, almost painful, with lovely layers of lemon, grapefruit, with quince, and pie crust, with Anjou pear, and quince. The finish is long, crazy long, almost oily, mostly creamy, with baked pear and apple, cinnamon, nutmeg, and loads of mineral, with slate, rock, and saline. Bravo!! Drink until 2023 maybe 2024.

2018 Les Marronniers Chablis, Premier Cru, Cote de Jouan – Score: 92 to 93 (QPR)
The nose on this wine is closed, but it shows lovely notes of mineral, slate, blossom water, and loads of citrus, with apple, and smoke. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is rich, layered, and impressive, with a rich oily mouthfeel, showing a lovely weight, with yellow apple, tart citrus, Asian Pear, and beautiful acidity that is well integrated with a strong mineral core, showing Orange pith, with tart citrus and slate and yellow plum, with saline, and more earth and hints of nectarines and orange. Lovely! Drink from 2020 to 2024 may be longer. Read the rest of this entry

2016 Chateau Lamothe-Cissac (kosher)

I recently had the chance to sit down and taste this wine in my house. I tasted it twice at KFWE and in the end, it was better in the home, after it had the chance to decant and show its real potential.

The wine is made at Domaines Fabre in the Haut-Médoc AOC. The wine is classified under Cru Bourgeois, which while may not be a top classification, includes 267 estates today! One of my all-time favorites is under the Cru Bourgeois classification, Fourcas Dupre!

The classification has wineries from many regions on the left bank and the vast majority of these wines are Cabernet Sauvignon dominated.

The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

2016 Chateau Lamothe-Cissac, Cru Bourgeois, Haut-Médoc – Score: 91 (QPR)
This wine is a blend of 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, and 8% Petit Verdot. This is a fun wine, remember that we have not yet seen the big wines of 2016. As I have said many times on this blog, the 2016 vintage in Bordeaux may well be better than the 2015 vintage! For now, the few 2016 reds we have seen from Bordeaux are showing nicely.
The nose on this wine shows very nicely with rich loam, dirt, green notes, followed by bright and big black fruit, with hints of mushroom in the background, lovely mint, and menthol notes abound as well. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is fun and alive, with screaming acid, that gives way to intense tannin that is soft and yet rich and mouth coating, with great fruit focus, showing blackcurrant, blackberry, with red cherry, and olives, that give way to green notes, mouth scraping mineral, foliage, and tobacco. The finish is long and green, at the start it is a bit too astringent and green to truly enjoy, with time it comes around with nice spice, earth, graphite, sour notes, more red and black fruit, and nice coffee/chocolate mix. Nice! It can be drunk now, but to really appreciate it, I would decant it for a good 3 hours, to cut some of the green and astringent notes. Drink now (with decanting) till 2027.

The French are coming the French are coming

By now it should no surprise to you at all that I really like old world wines and controlled new world wines, like California, Spain, and some top wineries in Israel. The wines from Italy, like Terra de Seta’s wines, are all old world in style, though they have a couple of new world wines as well, and they are a bit too much for me.

So, I thought it was time to update the notes on all the 2014 and 2015 French wines that are here in the USA. Yes, the 2014 wines have been here for some time, but I am shocked to see that they did not sell out yet like the 2014 Chateau Montviel, which flew off the shelves and essentially disappeared within a month. Much akin to the 2013 Chateau Piada Sauterne, that also disappeared within a month or so, a great wine with a very good price tag. Of course, both of them were made in too small of a run, which we can all complain about to Royal. However, as I stated earlier, in my post of the 2015 and 2016 Bordeaux wines, Royal will do whatever it needs to never see a wall of wine sitting in its warehouse again, even if that means we all lose out. The saying, “Less is more”, is a perfect ideal by which Royal runs its French wine business. Please do not get me wrong, we are all indebted to the Royal wine company and its Royal Europe division for making us wines we all adore. That said, they made a small run of the two aforementioned wines and having less, while painful for the consumers, is more for Royal, as the memories of 2003 and on, where walls of wine sat unsold, is one that will not be forgotten anytime soon.

I have already posted about some of the whites and the Sparkling wines from France, and I will add the two 2014 Sauterne that I enjoyed below.

So, that sets us up for the state of French wine in the USA, the 2014s are all here including the 2014 Chateau Smith Haut Lafite, which is made by IDS, and I will leave it at that. However, the 2015 wines from France, are already starting to arrive on our shores. The 2015 wines from Royal, that I tasted last year in Bordeaux from the barrel and posted on here, will be here in bottle format, before the end of the Gregorian calendar year. As I stated in my post, the prices will shock you, the Grand Vin from Leoville Poyferre will top the $200 range retail, and they will be priced alongside older vintages of Leoville that are being sold in NYC and soon on Kosherwine.com. That will be fun to watch.

The 2014 vintage in comparison is actually very reasonably priced, and while it is not the monster 2015 vintage, it is still a very good vintage and one that will not give you the heartache and sticker shock that the 2015 vintage will give you. The superstar wines of the 2014 vintage are still very reasonably priced, Chateau Giscours, Chateau Malartic, Chateau Soutard, Chateau Marsac Seguineau (in France only sadly). Along with the very good 2014 Pavillon de Leoville Poyferre, and Les Roches De Yon-Figeac Saint Emilion Grand Cru. The latter two wines are wines that should be laddered into your wine list as they will drink earlier and not last as long. That gives you wines that will be ready soon and help to keep you away from the Grand Vin wines which need a TON of time. Of course, you should buy as much of the 2015 Fourcas Dupe that you can find when it arrives along with the other QPR shocker – the 2015 Chateau Larcis Jaumat – which I think will be priced at the same range as the Fourcas Dupre. But remember, the Fourcas from 2015 will be priced a good 15 to 25% higher than in previous vintages and maybe the 2015 Chateau Larcis Jaumat will be priced at the higher tier as well.

Recently, I have been tasting other 2014 superstars, and a new one is here now, the 2014 Chateau Tour Saint Christophe – a lovely wine that we tasted side by side the 2014 Chateau Soutard, two wines that are very different in style but which are located very near to each other. They are both A- to A wines and the Christophe is actually cheaper than the Chateau Soutard.

We also enjoyed a fair number of new 2015 wines and some are downright awesome and some are nice, but their costs are already getting out of hand. Like the 2015 Domaine Condorcet Chateauneuf du Pape. It is a very nice wine, but for 75 dollars retail, it is not worth it. A lovely wine that is super bright and tart and very nice, but is you kidding me! Trust me when I say, this is JUST THE START, of a bunch of wines that may well price themselves out of the market – which would be scary, given the sheer number of 2015 wines made!. What if these 2015 wines are just very nice – why would I pay 75 dollars for that? It is a very important question that will be answered over time. Sure, people will take a shot on one of them here and there, to see what it tastes like. However, soon enough the word gets around and then what? Will it sit there? Only time will tell.

The prices went up, and the costs of producing them as I explained in my Bordeaux post has either stayed the same or gone up as well. So, what happens if the importers do not have enough money to keep them on the market? Only time will tell!

There is another 2015 Domaine Condorcet Chateauneuf du Pape, the other one has the label of Cuvee Anais of Condorcet – but I did not find it the day I bought its “cheaper” little brother. The Cuvee Anais of Condorcet is meant to be a bolder wine while the Domaine Condorcet is the lower label.

Below please find all the 2014 and 2015 red wines that I have tasted so far. Some of them are not easy if at all available, like the 2014 Chateau Pape Clement, but they are worth the search.

The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

Available in France Only

2015 Chateau Le Caillou, Pomerol – Score: A- (will be here eventually)
WOW! This wine was released early, like 6 months early, this was not a barrel sample wine. Lovely nose of mineral and black currant with crazy mushroom and dirt. Nice medium body, with enough complexity, though nice but a drop hollow, with good fruit focus and nice acid, showing great mineral and terroir, with dark cherry and draping tannin. The finish is long and green with foliage and coffee, nice saline and acid, and earth. Drink by 2021.

2015 Chateau Pouyanne Red – Score: B+
Very interesting nose, almost tropical, juicy tart red guava notes, with strawberry, showing dark fruit, with accessible notes of cherry and sweet fruit notes. Nice medium body with a simple attack, but nice tannin and extraction, with earth and mushroom and green notes. Drink now.

2014 Barons Edmond Benjamin de Rothschild – Score: A- (will be here eventually)
This wine is a lovely fruit and herb driven wine, very spicy, with cloves and all-spice, showing black fruit and herb. Very different mouth with spice, but you can see where this wine will look like the older brothers with time, showing a full body with crazy spice and searing tannin, a mineral core of graphite, and spice with great acid balance, black and red fruit with time showing a draping tannin velvet. The finish is long and herb, with chocolate, leather, tar, and smoke.

2014 Chateau Marsac Seguineau, Margaux – Score: A- to A
Lovely rich black fruit, so young with crazy mineral, saline, with mushroom and hints of barnyard, with crazy elegance and green note that are in your face, more than I expected, but epic elegance. The mouth is layered and extracted and crazy good and rich acid, with blackberry, ripe currant, with layers of elegance and complexity, showing draping tannin that dries the mouth, rich and epic, mineral takes center stage with spice galore, wow. Long and crazy dry finish, ripping acid, mounds of mineral, rich leather, tobacco leaf, espresso, and rich saline, with lots of foliage lingering long. Bravo! Drink 2020 till 2030. Read the rest of this entry

Rosh Hashanah 2010/5771 – Friday Night

To start, Friday Night was not Rosh Hashanah; I just put Rosh Hashanah in the title of this blog posting because it came right after it, and to be true I could not come up with a better title 🙂 There were six meals in total eaten during the three day holiday time, and we had guests for two of them and ate in for the rest. It all started with the wonderful meal and get together on Wednesday Night, as described in my previous post. The next meal we had with guests was on Friday Night. Sandwiched in between them were three meals on our own, where I enjoyed wine from the first night. Thursday and Friday afternoon we enjoyed brie, fresh vine ripe tomatoes, and avocado. Thursday Night we had some more simanim, along with a sneak peek of Friday Night’s main course, along with some Roasted Fresh Green Beans, sliced onions, and a fresh salad.

Friday Night started with Lox and Boiled Eggs, along with Benyoganoush. Benyoganoush is Benyamin Cantz spin on Babaganoush. I call it a spin, because until we enjoyed the dish at Benyamin’s house, we were used to only store bought Babaganoush that is normally roasted eggplant submerged in a pool of mayonnaise – Yuk! However, Benyamin taught us that the recipe is truly as simple as it comes! The main course consisted of Tri-Sausage Stew, Brown Rice, Parve Spinach Kugel/Soufflé, and a fresh green salad. The Tri-Sausage stew consisted of three different sausages, as the name suggests; 12 oz of Merguez cut into chunks, 12 oz of Italian Sausage cut into chunks, and 12 oz of Tofurkey Kielbasa sausage. The rest of the Kielbasa Stew recipe stands (pretty much).

One of our guests brought us a Bordeaux, while I struck out with a so-so to bad bottle of Segal Fusion and a not so bad bottle of Vouvray, which is a Chenin Blanc wine that turned out to be quite nice.

The meal was a joy, because we got the chance to stretch our legs from the grueling Rosh Hashanah services that were long, and well worrisome. It is after all the Day of Judgment, with Yom Kippur being the day our judgment is sealed. We sang some lovely Shabbos songs, spoke about the week’s Torah portion, and just kicked back a bit. It was a wonderful meal, with a lovely group of friends, along with nice food and wine. Again, may God seal us all for a year of life, success, joy, and health – Shana Tova and Gamar Chatima Tova!

The wine notes follow below in the order they were served:

2007 Segal Fusion (Israel, Galilee, Upper Galilee) – Score: B
The nose on this purple colored wine shows clear effects of mevushal, the nose has cooked plum, blackberry, raspberry, black fruit, loamy dirt, spice, and oak. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is spicy with black pepper, cooked blackberry, plum/prune, and dirt. The mid palate is balanced with oak, nice tannins, and tobacco. The finish is long and spicy with cooked black fruit, raspberry, loamy dirt, and licorice.

2008 Clos de Nouys Vouvray Moelleux (France, Loire Valley, Touraine, Vouvray) – Score: B++
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 bracing and balanced acid and orange peel. The finish is long with honey, floral notes, tropical fruit, and citrus. A nice wine that has just enough complexity to get your attention and keep it, but not for long enough. This is pairs nicely with spicy food, medium to hard cheese, and rich white sauces.

2005 Château Le Bourdieu (France, Bordeaux, Médoc) – Score: B to B+
The nose and mouth on this wine starts off very slowly and can definitely use some air, but it is also a wine that is at its peak or a bit behind it, so it is a very careful balance that you need to keep an eye out for. The nose on this browning garnet colored wine has cherry, raspberry, currant, a hint of plum, along with coffee, smoke, bell pepper, and mineral. The mouth on this medium bodied wine has raspberry, currant, plum, and cherry. The mid palate is acidic with oak, almost integrated tannin, and oak. The finish is spicy and long with mineral, acid, coffee, and vegetal notes. This is a wine that works well with light meat, chicken, and medium cheese. The wine is one that can is medium weighted with enough to get some attention, but not enough to make it worthy of must have wine. Open it an hour in advance and then start enjoying it. Also, it is really nice chilled down to about 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

Yarden, Galil, and Delagrave Bordeaux Wines in the Sukkah

This past weekend saw us spending time in a Sukkah with our family in Florida.  Yep, pretty hot temperature, but the Sukkah is shaded and we hooked up a pair of fans (attached to a timer), so that the fans are blowing when we are in the Sukkah.  The fans are on opposite sides of the Sukkah, giving us a nice cross breeze.  Further, the Sukkah walls are made of crisscrossing wood slats that have hollow parts.  So the combination of cross breeze fans, open walls, and mesh roof, made the Sukkah a nice place to hunker down.

We did not cook or prepare any of the food for this family occasion, though I did help with the decorating and electrical aspects of the Sukkah.  Beyond that I bought the wines.  I went for a simple combination of whites and reds and I was quite happy with the outcome.  Still, the clear star of the holiday was the food that was magnificently prepared by my sister in-law and a few other family members.  They are always so kind and courteous, fantastic hosts, with a lovely family, and a kind soul.  So, before the holiday (which started on Friday Night), we made our way to Crown Wine & Spirits.  There used to be a wonderfully stocked kosher wine store, called – Corks Kosher Wine Emporium, but they are gone now — just another casualty of the economic times in which we live.  The selection of kosher wines was far smaller than it had been before, because of the business that was taken away by Corks.  So in the end, the economy handed a double whammy to the Boca Raton kosher wine scene, by putting Corks out of business and limiting the selection at the only other purveyor left.  There is a small selection of lower quality wines at the Kosher Market Place, whose owner owned Corks, but not the stuff I was looking for.  The selection may be also small at Crown, but they have a nice selection still of solid wines from Israel, France, and the USA.  A nice mixture of Yarden, Galil, Herzog Reserve, Herzog (plain but good for the basic meal), Herzog Selection from France, Hagafen wines, and a smattering of Alfasi wines as well.  Again, a nice mixture of quality wines at all price ranges, and the prices were very reasonable.  I walked out with six quality wines for less than hundred dollars, which is OK.  The prices were comparable with KosherWine.com, which I use as a barometer for pricing wines at local purveyors.

The meals were out of this world.  The first evening we were served Matzah Ball soup, perfect roast, salad, moist turkey, Capon, and gobs of salads and sides, pairing lovely with some of the 2007 Yarden Odem Vineyard Chardonnay, 2005 Yarden Pinot Noir, and a blue bottle of Bartenura Moscato.  The next day we were served gefilite fish, heavenly cholent, Turkey and gobs more of side dishes, paired nicely with a bit of leftover Yarden Pinot Noir, Yarden Odem Chardonnay, and some 2007 Galil Cabernet Sauvignon.  For Saturday night we had Matzah ball soup, an unbelievable assortment of chicken dishes, and turkey, along with many lovely sides, pairing nicely with the Galil Cabernet Sauvignon.  For the second day we were served gefilte fish, veal, turkey, gobs more of sides, and a killer Sushi salad (which mimics all the components of sushi in a nice salad).  To pair with all of those flavors we had a 2004 Delagrave White Bordeaux and an overkill of a 2003 Yarden Merlot.

I would like to extend my many thanks to tour lovely hosts and the rest of the family which made our stay so comfortable.  Best wishes and a happy and healthy year to all.  The wine notes are listed below in the order they were consumed:

2005 Yarden Pinot Noir – Score: A-
This is a wine that Daniel Rogov rates as one of Yarden’s best Pinot Noirs ever, and I was not disappointing as much as I had higher hopes for it.  The wine reminds me more of the N.V. Four Gates Pinot Noir, with a touch more tannins and attitude.  The nose on this dark ruby colored wine is popping with black cherry, raspberry, black plum, rich oak, and vanilla.  The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine (once it opens) is layered and rich with not yet integrating tannins, black plum, black cherry, and oak.  The mid palate is crisp and acidic with nice tannins and oak.  The finish is long with red fruit, vanilla, oak, and spice.

2007 Yarden Odem Vineyard Chardonnay – Score: A-
The nose on this dark straw with green hues wine is popping with kiwi, papaya, lemon, peach, rich oak, and violets.  The mouth on this rich and full bodied wine is almost mouth coating with fruit that follows the nose.  The mid palate is tight yet balanced with bright acidity, and salt water – which threw me off!  The finish is long and lovely with rich oak, tropical fruit, acidity, and a bit more salt water.

2007 Galil Cabernet Sauvignon – Score: B+
The nose on this garnet colored wine has blackberry, raspberry, plum, and roasted herbs.  The mouth on this medium bodied wine is concentrated with blackberry, raspberry, and plum flavors.  The mid palate is acidic with nice integrated tannins.  The finish is medium long with more concentrated fruit and herbs.

2004 Herzog Selection Chateau Delagrave White (blend of Sauvignon Blanc and and Semillon) – Score: B-B+
The nose on this light straw colored wine is filled with lemon, green apples, light herbal notes, and floral notes.  The mouth on this light to medium bodied wine follows the nose with green apple, tropical fruit, and lemon.  The mid palate is crisp with nice tart fruit.  The finish is medium long with tart flavors that linger long after the wine is gone, along with green tea, and floral notes.

2003 Yarden Merlot – Score: A-
The nose on this dark garnet to black colored wine is popping and rich with blackberry, cherry, cranberry, green herbal notes, figs, and lovely sweet oak.  The mouth on this full bodied wine is rich, layered, and complex with blackberry, cranberry, and tannins that are still lightly aggressive.  The mouth is complex with layers of fruit, sweet oak, and figs.  The mid palate is acidic and balanced with integrated tannins.  The finish is long with rich ripe black fruit, nice tannins, sweet oak, figs, and vanilla.  The wine is rich and lovely and quite a treat and can easily pair with red meats, but is overkill for the basic food groups.

Tabor Merlot and Grand Prince Bordeaux along with roasted chicken and chicken soup

This past weekend we got the chance to cook some chicken soup and roast some chicken.  But the best part was cooking some Chinese and Japanese Shitake mushrooms, along with some oyster mushrooms.  Sautéing the mushrooms were super easy.  I cleaned them and then I sliced them thinly, while removing the stems, and then sautéed them in hot oil.  The mushrooms cooked quickly and were crispy while staying meaty and nutty, really cool.  We ate them all week, with rice and wheat berries.

My wife roasted some pepper and honey-roasted chicken, and I made some chicken soup.  I love chicken soup, because it is so crazy easy.  The way I cook my chicken soup, is to first sauté the chicken with its skin (a pound of chicken to a quart of soup), to render its fat.  Once the chicken is rendered, drop in chunks of:

  1. Carrots
  2. Parsnips
  3. Sweet potatoes
  4. Potatoes
  5. A beet or two
  6. Onions
  7. Zucchini
  8. Spices and flavorings: cumin, garlic, pepper, bay leaves, sage, and lemon juice

and add water until it covers the vegetables, and cook for an hour or two. The time gives the chicken a chance to extract its goodness and share it with the rest of the vegetables into a killer soup.  Anyway, the soup was awesome, and the beets gave it a red look, which was cool.  Anyway, I paired it with some 2006 Tabor Merlot, which was nice for a couple of hours and then died quickly, which is unfortunate.  During the day, I went to a Kiddush and they served a 2005 Grand Prince Bordeaux, which was a nice mevushal wine, but not so great overall.

Anyway, the wine notes follow below..

2006 Tabor Galil Merlot – Score: B – B+
The nose on this bright garnet colored wine is hot out of the bottle, along with raspberry, plum, cherry, and light mineral notes along with pepper. The mouth on this medium bodied wine has light coating tannins that are close to integrating with the bottle, along with cranberry, plum, and raspberry. The mid palate has light acidity with integrating tannins. The finish is nice and long with cherry and plum along with a dollop of pepper. This wine reminded me of a Four Gates Merlot for a few hours, but that ended quickly when the wine died about two to three hours after it was opened. It was nice in the beginning and got better for about two hours where it peaked, and then it crashed and burned. This wine should be drunk soon, or else you will be left with a bunch of acid and little fruit.

2005 Grand Prince Bordeaux – Score: B+
The nose on this garnet colored wine is very French with tons of mineral/earth notes, along with some black fruit, and pepper.  The mouth on this medium-bodied wine starts off with soft and almost caressing tannins, but man did that change with air.  The tannins exploded and they were heavy handed and far from integrating.  The mouth also has blackberries, plums, and cherry.   The mid palate has nice acid and tough tannins.  The finish is medium long with tannin, cherry, and pepper.  Not bad for a mevushal wine, and I liked it, but it is one of those classical French Bordeaux wines with little complexity and a ton of earth/mineral characteristics, that tends to overpower the fruit. In the bottle I tasted, the tannins were initially quiet, but then made their presence quite known. I think I would have given it a higher score, but its lack of balance, and limited fruit, make me pause.

Baked Gefilte Fish Loaf, Sweet and Sour Brisket, Roasted Root Vegetables, Castello di Cesare Bianco Lazio Toscana, Chateau Graveyron-Carrere Bordeaux, Galil Cabernet, Borgo Reale Chianti Classico, Kadesh Barnea Gilad, Tierra Salvaje Chardonnay

The first night of Passover found us with friends and we had the usual four cups of wine ritual, that makes Passover a wonderful precursor for Alcoholics Anonymous Meetings 🙂  The wines are listed below in the order that they were drunk, also we had quite a few folks, so please do not think I actually need to attend some AA meetings.

Once the first two cups were drunk we started in on the Matzoh (we only use shemurah matzoh), Maror (our custom is to use endives, because they are so easy to clean), and then the meal.  Mind you I am really happy with how the meal came out.  We started with hard boiled eggs with salt water poured over it.  There are many people who are starting to make this simple dish Haute Cuisine, but that is so broken.  The reason for the boiled egg is to remind us of the temple’s destruction and how we used to have a Passover Sacrifice, which is oxymoronic.

The meal started with a new dish for us and a major hit on the table – Baked Gefilte Fish Loaf.  A friend of ours was kind enough to share the recipe, and I hope she does not mind me sharing it with all of you.  It is crazy simple to boot!

Herb Encrusted baked Fish Loaf Recipe
1 loaf of Gefilte Fish
1 onion slices into thin rings
3-4 tsp of a mixture of any Italian Herbs you want (we used Oregano, Parsley, Thyme, and Savory)
2 tbsp of oil
Garlic Powder, Paprika, and Black Pepper

Mix the spices and oil in a bowl and drop the sliced onions into the herb mixture and mix around to coat the onions well.  Next drop the loaf into a baking pan and coat it with the garlic, paprika, and pepper.  Then drop the onions on top and cook covered for 30 minutes in a 350 degree oven.  Then flip the loaf, remove cover and bake until the pan is dry and onions are crispy.

We made three loafs at a time, by simply tripling the recipe and using a large baking pan.  The fish was a hit as were the onions.  The thing that was awesome was that the fish was permeated with a really cool herb and garlic flavor, not just flavored on top – really cool.  We of course served it cold with a nice cold eggplant salad.  We make our own, but it is available in small plastic containers at the supermarket as well.

The fish and eggplant went well with the Castello di Cesare and the Tierra Salvaje Chardonnay.  After the fish appetizer, we moved on to the main course of Sweet and Sour Brisket and roasted root vegetables.  I have described it a few times before, but put simply I braise a whole brisket and ONLY a whole brisket.  I have no idea how anyone can braise any other version of a brisket, really.  Without the top layer of fat to keep the meat moist, it would turn into shoe leather, which I have been forced to eat from time to time.

My World Famous Whole Brisket Recipe
10 white onions sliced thinly and browned in batches
1 10 or more pound whole brisket
1 can of whole berry cranberry
1 cup of ketchup
20 or more garlic cloves
1 bottle of a nice Cabernet or full bodied Merlot

So Anyway, place the browned onions in the bottom of a large roasting pan.  Then take a whole brisket and rub it with garlic powder, black pepper, and tons of paprika on both sides.  Next take the cloves and puncture the top of the meat (fat side up) and place a clove in each whole – make sure to NOT puncture the meat all the way through.  Finally, place the meat fat side up into the roasting pan, and pour the cranberry and ketchup mixture on the meat and then pour the bottle over the mixture.  The liquid should NOT cover more than half of the meat – if it does stop and add no more liquid of any kind.  I need to stress this, as the meat exudes tons of liquid and the fat melts on top of that.  Anymore and you will have a mess and worse a boiled chunk of meat, which is NOT what is meant by braising meat.  Finally roast the meat for 4 or so hours.  After it finishes cooking, let it cool over night and then slice it the next day and rebraise before serving for at least another two hours.

The roasted vegetables were pretty simple; toss whatever vegetables you want to roast in a deep pan with oil, garlic, paprika, and cumin.  Roast until just puncture soft by a fork.

The wine notes follow below:

2001 Four Gates Merlot M.S.C. – Score: A
The color of this wine is a beautiful deep garnet. The nose on this wine has strong aromas of blackberry, dark plum, cranberry, eucalyptus, and oak. The mouth on this full bodied wine is layered and complex. The mouth is full with blackberry, plum, and raspberry and then layers in mint. The mid palate adds core acidity, eucalyptus and lovely integrated tannins. The finish is long and satisfying with black fruit, chocolate, and vanilla. A wonderful wine – it is at its peak if not a bit over the other side – drink up!!

2005 Kadesh Barnea Gilad (Undisclosed mixture of Merlot/Petit Verdot/Syrah) – Score: B+
The nose on this garnet-brown colored classic Cote’ de Rhone wine blend, is heavy in earth, cranberry, cassis, and oak.  The mouth on this balanced medium to full bodied wine follows the nose with cranberry, cassis, and earth.  The mid palate is jammy with red fruit, acidity, and nice oak.  The finish is smooth, balanced, and long with red fruit and oak.  The clear winner of the night, and just as good as when I tasted it in NY.

2002 Chateau Graveyron-Carrere Bordeaux – Score: B
The nose on this ruby/light garnet colored wine was the best part of this wine, with pencil shavings, blackberry, mineral, and oak.  The mouth on this astringent medium bodied wine was unbalanced and really not there.  The fruit was there, but overpowered by the mineral and musty French flavors.  The mid palate had a nice acid core, but the finish was what threw the wine into a tizzy.  It needed a ton of air, and even after all that, it was the least appreciated bottle of the night.

2007 Galil Mountain Winery Cabernet – Score: B
The nose on this dark ruby colored wine was also the best feature of this wine, it had lovely notes of blackberry, raspberry, and spice.  The mouth on this medium bodies wine was also off and astringent.  It may have been the bottle, or the fact that it was shipped to me recently.  I will be taste wine again in the future and will repost.  The fruit did show, but was overpowered by the acidity and astringency.

2007 Castello di Cesare Bianco Lazio Toscana – Score: B
The nose on this straw colored wine is super crisp with citrus, apple, peach, and lychee.  The mouth on this light bodied wine is extra dry, with citrus and green flavors.  The mouth is not as crisp and sharp as the nose is and is a letdown, almost flat.  The mid palate is citrus with a nice but not so long finish.  A bit brighter and fresher than what we tasted in NY.

2008 Tierra Salvaje Chardonnay Estate Bottled – Score: B+
This wine is controversial to say the least.  Many people on the table hated it while I really liked it.  This is not a democracy; it is more like a benevolent dictatorship.  Still, it is important to tell readers that many hated this wine, and that it may not ring true with you.  So on to the notes:

The nose on this brilliant golden colored wine with green halos is almost sweet with clear vegetal leanings, bright acidity, spice, green apples, pear, and lychee.  The mouth on this medium bodied wine is not sweet at all; rather it is almost bone dry, which is funny given its sweet nose.  The mouth is semi rich with green apples, flowers, and dry tea flavors.  The mid palate is acidic and dry.  The finish is medium long with more apples and nice acidity.  This is not a big or complex wine, but a nice dry change of pace and a quite nice quaffing wine, especially given its dirt cheap price.

2007 Borgo Reale Chianti Classico Vespertino – Score: B+
I must start by stating that this wine needs air like Frankenstein needs a new marketing agent!  It was the second worst bottle of the night, but I truly felt all it needed was air.  Sure enough 24 HOURS later, it was really yummy and tasty.  The wine had opened and now the ruby colored wine has a nose filled with cherry, raspberry, and cranberry, along with a nice dollop of chocolate.  The mouth of this medium bodied wine follows the nose with more of the same fruit, in a soft mouth that you feel throughout.   The mid palate is still bright with acidity, and the finish is long with more bright fruit and chocolate.  A really nice showing, it just needs a TON of air or time.

Ella Valley Merlot, Four Gates Chardonnay and Merlot

We spent the weekend at the Four Gates Winery and we had a grand time.  I brought a bunch of wine and Benyamin had a few wines in the ready as well.  The food was awesome but I must say that once again, I brought the duds – AAHH!!  The worst part of it was that I personally brought these wines back from France and had great expectations for them.  Unfortunately, they were total losers.  I brought a Sancerre and a Bordeaux.  The only saving grace I had was the 2002 Ella Valley Vineyard Choice Merlot.

Dinner started with a lovely poached fish that was rich enough in flavor to match the Sancerre – but it was a real downer.  The Sancerre tasted like it was allowed to rot and such was a quarter or more along the way to a Sauterne.  After that we had lovely roasted chicken and a meat stew.  The Roasted Chicken was solely coated with a spice mixture that I guessed was a combination of Curry, Cumin, Coriander, and cloves.  Very nice mix.  The chicken and the stew called for a wine that is highly acidic and/or powerful wine.  The Bordeaux I brought was truly sad as well.  Really, just a sad attempt.  The other wine I brought was a hit and really nice – one of my favorites; the 2002 Ella Valley Vineyard’s Choice (VC) Merlot.  Finally, the Four Gates wines were enjoyed the following day with Cholent and leftovers.  A very nice affair for all.

The wine notes follow:

2002 Bokobsa Sancerre Special Reserve – Score: B-
The nose on this gold colored wine had notes of honeysuckle, grapefruit, earth, and Botrytis. The smell throws off the wine, and unfortunately carries on into the palate. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is fruity. The mid palate was mineral, while the Botrytis commanded the finish. The wine lacked crispness and focus. It was all over the place, a real shame. I had a great experience with a previous Sancerre, and was hoping for it again, but it was not to be.

2003 Château du Desert Grand Vin de Graves – Score: B-
The nose on this garnet colored wine was mineral and raspberry. The mouth on this medium bodied wine has notes of raspberry, and plum. The mid palate had nice earth tones. The finish was muddled with fruit and oak. Again, a non-focused or complex wine. I had high hopes for this one, but it was not to be.

2002 Ella Valley Vineyard’s Choice Merlot – Score: A
The nose on this opaque black colored wine is a big Merlot nose.  Cassis, blackberry, and oak scream to the front.  Mint, chocolate, and earthy tones follow.  The mouth on this full bodied wine starts off with black plum, cassis and mint.  The middle is a complex mixture of oak, black fruit, and well integrated tannins.  The balanced wine’s long finish is filled with meaty texture and flavor along with chocolate, tobacco, and oak.  This is a really fun wine and one that is ready to enjoy now.  There was not a ton of sediment, but still keep a watch out for it.  The fruit is slowing down, so drink up.

Four Gates La Rochelle Merlot 2005 – score: A-
The nose on this deep garnet colored wine is flush with blackberry, mint, asparagus, and oak.  The mouth on this medium bodied wine starts with blackberry fruit and black plums.  The mi palate has lovely notes of acid balanced with oak.  The finish is long with light tannins that have not yet integrated, and red fruit.  The wine is not yet at its peak, but is still quite enjoyable now as well.

Four Gates Chardonnay 2004 – Score: A
One of the best Chardonnay out there right now.  This complex yet approachable wine is a real joy.  This is NOT a lightweight Chardonnay yet not a butterball like other California Chardonnays.  This is what a California Chardonnay should taste like – really nice.  We have tasted this in the past and it has clearly improved.  The nose has gone more citrus and oaky.  The mouth has really filled out and the finish goes on for miles.  But the real excitement is the complexity that has appeared.  The wine is far more complex in nature, with layers of oak, vegetal notes, and wonderful citrus, peach, and apricot flavors.  So on to the actual tasting note now:

The nose on this electric light gold colored wine is filled with peach, apricot, and light hints of herbs, sweet oak and caramel.  The mouth on this full bodied and very rich Chardonnay is packed with a complex and layered mixture of peach, apricot and citrus flavors.  The mid palate is a strong crisp acid core mixed with cloves, vegetal flavors, and a slight sweetness.  The finish is a long crisp and refreshing stroll with sweet wood notes as a partner.  A real success.  This is one of my favorite Chardonnays.  The wine is crisp yet has weight at the same time, a real joy.

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