With the Jewish Holidays at their end, I must say that I really did enjoy them, but spiritually and wine wise! I have been slowly but surely changing over my collection from wines that I thought I liked to wines I actually do like. Sure, I have a few duds here and there, but for the most part, I think I have thinned the ranks of the unwanted.
Years ago – I blindly bought whatever red reserve Yarden wines the late Daniel Rogov scored a 92 or higher, and to his credit it was a grand time for a bit. But sadly before he passed, his golden touch, in terms of picking the perfect Yarden Reserve red was losing its aura. To be fair it is not a detriment to the man I truly respected. It is simply that my palate and interest have moved so starkly from the overripe notes of old, that I have finally broken down and written my Dear John letter to many Israeli wines.
As I stated 9 months ago in my year in review and ahead, I stated that I would start to track wines that I find overly ripe in style, whether it comes from Israel or anywhere else. I have been doing that in my wine notes, but I and finding less and less of them, simply because I am turning over my library in the direction of wines like Tzora, Yatir, and so on.
To be fair, wineries are making wines like this because that is what the public wishes, or so they say. I understand that a palate is a hard thing to come by, and that it may well be an evolutionary road for many. Still, there is a thing called nuance and then there is a thing called a 2×4. To create wines that are so obtusely in your face – one has to stop and wonder if the winemaker is actually unwilling to trust his wines to you. Maybe it his/her way of saying – here I dare you not to taste something in this wine! Mocking you as the winery takes your money and you are left with that aching feeling that is more akin to a used car lot than a culinary experience.
So, I thought it was time to publicly publish my Dear John letter to wines from Israel or elsewhere that continue to cater to the LCD (least common denominator) – and make wines that only a dead person could miss notes in.
Dear overly ripe wines,
I have to be honest, for the longest time you were a wonderful accompaniment to my weekend dinners. However, in these past 5 years, I cannot help but think that we have drifted apart. Oh come on, do not flutter those sweet and cloying tannins at me, you know how I hate that so. I wish I could say it is me and not you, but I would be lying. This is all on you!
This is not about you or about me “winning or losing”, you know I have lost so much over the years when I happily gave away bottles of the 2004 Ortal Merlot and so much more. There is no denying that we have changed so much, you continue to be so sweet, of course, but what I finally realized is that you are also so empty. Sure you have those wonderful structural qualities, that we all look for in a companion, but the rest is hollow, no stuffing, no meaning, just a flat and empty being.
I tried so hard to make it work, to ignore my wine friends, telling them that it was just a bad night or a really bad weekend, like that bender in December. Sadly, it always turns out the same way when I wake from another night of debauchery, I am thankfully a bit lighter of you and you are always the same – big, bold, loud, and empty!
So, I am happy to say I think I am rid of you from my cellar. I have worked hard to empty it of your kind and thankfully, I can now say that you are in my past. I waited too long to write this letter, for that I am sorry to you and my guests. However, going forward I know that I have made the correct decision and wish you and those wineries all the best. I even have a lovely new moniker for you DJL – if you see that on a note I write, you will know that you have found a wine you will truly come to love. For me, it will be a badge of shame.
Thanks for all the great times, and I am also happy to say good riddance and bon voyage! Read the rest of this entry
This past week we had lovely whiskey braised short ribs along with quinoa, and a fresh green salad. To pair with the sweet notes of the ribs, I enjoyed both a 2009 Bravdo Shiraz and a 2011 Landsman Syrah. We also enjoyed a shocker a 2004 Chateau Le Bourdieu, a wine that I had ZERO hope would be alive, but one that really was enjoyable. This is a nice wine that is in the mid-tier pricing in terms of French kosher wines, and one that is OK, but not a QPR wine.
The wine notes follow below:
2011 Covenant Syrah Landsman – Score: A-
The nose on this dark purple and brooding colored wine starts off with a BAM of blueberry liquor, something that is impossible to miss, followed by boysenberry, rich blackberry, raspberry, and spice. The mouth on this rich and medium bodied wine starts off with an attack of rich massive tannin, rich and velvety, with concentrated, sweet, and focused blue and black fruit that mimics the nose along with root beer, and enough oak to round the fruit, with all the components coming together nicely. The finish is super long and rich, that has an air of completeness while still being firm and concentrated, laced and ribboned with roasted meat, rich espresso, chocolate, and vanilla.
A very nice Syrah, and still the best in Napa so far, but I found the wine to not be as big as I first thought and the wine had a bit of trouble keeping up sweet ribs. Still a lovely wine all around.
2009 Bravdo Shiraz, Karmei Yosef – Score: A-
The nose on this wine is rich and heavy with ribbons of blueberry, black plum, cranberry, along with licorice, floral notes, and lovely crushed herb. The mouth on this full bodied wine shows the curse of 2009 (overly sweet wines), but it is controlled, with clear date notes, searing tannin, nice structure, black fruit, along with sweet cedar, and bramble. The finish is long and sweet with more date, tobacco, chocolate covered raisin, and ginger. Overall a lovely wine that continues to evolve nicely.
2004 Château Le Bourdieu – Score: B++
The nose on this just garnet colored wine (more ruby than garnet, with a still light halo, is filled with nice dirt, mineral, black fruit, barn yard (a bit) – but OK, and layers of toast and smoke. The mouth is medium bodied with nice concentration of currant, blackberry, and cranberry, along with nice integrated and mouth coating tannins, that linger long on the rise, and sweet oak notes. The finish is long with smoky tobacco, insane mushroom patch, charcoal, green foliage, and sweet roasted herbs – nice wine indeed. The true joy of this wine is the mouthfeel and lovely soft but mouth coating tannins that take on a number of comers, including cheese and sauces.
This past weekend our good friends invited us and having gotten back from New York a few days earlier, which is another story for another blog posting – I happily accepted the invitation! To thank them sufficiently, I brought over two wines, one was a solid double and one was a single that was caught in a run down – sad!
The last time I wrote about Bravdo Winery (AKA Karmei Yosef Winery), it was about the 2010 red vintages, but this was the 2009 vintage Cabernet Sauvignon. To be fair, the 2009 vintage is cursed – with overly ripe fruit characteristics, that show themselves later on. When we tasted them in 2011 – they were still nice. Unfortunately, the Cab is now showing more of the date and raisin issue that haunts the 2009 vintage in Israel. Thankfully, the 2009 Merlot is still showing nicely, a wine that has successfully circumvented the issues and has the muscle to keep it where right it is for a few more years!
Many thanks to Mrs. L, EL, and LS for hosting us and making the shabbos dinner such a treat! Sorry again for no pictures.
The wine notes follow below:
2008 B.R. Cohn Cabernet Sauvignon – Score: A-
I last enjoyed this wine some two+ years ago, and then it was closed and not really showing its best. It was labeled “elegant” then, but this time, it was far from elegant. It was not a sledgehammer, but a highly fruit forward wine, that if I did not know better I would think it was a very different wine. At least that is what I thought, but then I read the notes – and WOW the wine is absolutely the same wine – but with a bit more attitude and clearly no aspect of closed nose or mouth.
Like I said enough times, this wine is no longer a wallflower, in its place is a forceful and forward thinking 90s woman styled wine. The nose is immediately accessible with ripe and almost liquored raspberry, black plum, eucalyptus, cranberry, chocolate, and a hint of vanilla. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is less elegant and more assertive, but still not one to rely upon shock and awe, rather a wine that attacks with ripe blackberry, dark plum, along with cherry liquor, lovely soft mouth coating tannins, and a mouth feel that is still luscious and attention grabbing. The finish is well-balanced with acid, tobacco, chocolate, cedar, and eucalyptus. This finish lingers long with dark chocolate covered tobacco leaves, licorice, and vanilla. Drink within a year at most!
2009 Karmei Yosef Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Bravdo – Score: B+ to A-
I hoped and prayed that Bravdo would be clean of the cursed 2009 year, unfortunately, it was not to be. In the past two years since I tasted this wine in Israel and here, the wine has turned to become a pure date bomb with serious attitude. To be truthful, it is less that it turned into something else, and more that the wine’s overripe fruit persona has taken up center stage and there is little else that shines. The spotlight is on the date component and the other characteristics have a hard time shining from the shadows – it is a shame.
The nose on this dark purple to black colored wine is rich with tar, deep herb notes, crazy ripe blackberry, massive date, cassis, and earth. The mouth on the rich, layered, and super extracted full bodied wine is filled with overripe black fruit, along with hints of red fruit that hides behind lovely mouth coating tannin that coat your mouth, cedar, and bramble. The finish is long with good acid, tobacco, vanilla, rich blackberry, vanilla, along with hints of salt and mineral – such a shame.
I am really behind on my blog, as I have been busy with a new hobby which is taking up all of my time. Anyway, I wanted to highlight the meal we had two weeks ago which was in honor of my nephew and his beux leaving the area to go east. So in honor of them, I wanted to try a bunch of Israeli Merlot wines. Now, when people think of Israel, Merlot is not first on their mind, mostly because many do not appreciate Merlot, which is done incorrectly tastes bland and benign. That blandness and lack of character, was initially its draw, but over time, it was nuked both by the Sideways effect and by its sheer lack of anything fun. The folks in the know, would blank at Merlot from Israel, given the areas hot climate, which is counterproductive to making good Merlot.
The truth is that I have been talking about Merlot from Israel, but Merlot only from the Shomron region, a region that has found a way to harness what Israel has to offer and channel it into lovely and rich Merlot. The Shomron is becoming quite the up and coming wine region, much like the Judean Hills was some ten years ago. Now, Castel, Flam, Tzora, and many other wineries have made the Judean Hills a household name. I think the Shomron will soon follow in its next door neighbors footsteps, and come out from under the shadow of the Jerusalem hills to capture its own claim to fame; namely Merlot!
Merlot, as stated above has many needs, one is climate, two is proper drainage, and three is it needs careful vineyard management to control its vigor, nitrogen levels, and many other intricate issues that make Merlot a finicky grape, though not as maddening as its Sideways replacement Pinot Noir. As a total aside, the Sideways movie to me was far too vulgar and not to my taste, but there is a hidden joke in the movie that many miss. In the movie, the shlubby protagonist, Miles, screams afoul of Merlot and even disses Cabernet Franc, but especially extolls his love for all things Pinot Noir. Why did Miles love Pinot Noir so much, why go to great lengths to get his beloved nectar, well he defined right at the start:
“Um, it’s a hard grape to grow … it’s thin-skinned, temperamental, ripens early … it’s not a survivor like Cabernet, which can just grow anywhere and thrive even when it’s neglected. No, Pinot needs constant care and attention … it can only grow in these really specific, little, tucked- away corners of the world. And only the most patient and nurturing of growers can do it, really. Only somebody who really takes the time to understand Pinot’s potential can then coax it into its fullest expression.”
Two weeks ago we enjoyed a lovely meal with friends and family and it was centered around meat lasagna and kosher wine blends from around the world. We had some vegetarians over, so I made lasagna with soy instead of meat, and in the end both pans of food disappeared, so I think it came out OK.
The lasagna dishes used the same recipe as I have here, but one used trader joe’s soy meat and the other used plain old beef chuck ground up.
I am cutting it short today – so this is the wine list and thanks to everyone for coming by and making the meal that it was:
2010 Don Ernesto Clarinet – Score: B+
The nose opens with lovely blueberry, the blend is undocumented but is quite nice for Hagafen’s entry-level wine, along with raspberry, ripe black and blue fruit, along with butterscotch. The mouth has nice toast, chocolate, mouth coating tannin, along with espresso coffee, and black cherry. The finish is long and spicy, with graphite, toast, boysenberry, and more cinnamon.
2009 Karmei Yosef Winery Bravdo Coupage – Score: B+ to A-
The wine is one of my favorites and a wine that needs time to open, but I also think this wine is in a bit of a funk and needs more time to find itself, such is the way of wine – time to time. For now the score is lower than in previous tastings as it was in a funky mood.
The nose on this deep black colored wine is rich with mineral, herbaceous, black cherry, raspberry, and rich plum. The mouth on this full bodied wine is lovely but closed for now, with blackberry, heavy not integrated tannins that coat the mouth, and cedar. The finish is super long and rich with ripe fruit, heavy tannin, lovely vanilla, tobacco, and rich chocolate. Give this wine 6 months and it should start showing its real self.
2006 Elvi Wines Priorat EL26 – Score: A-
I know this wine continues to have its polarizing following, with passionate lovers and haters, given its unique and clearly earthy qualities, I love it. The earth and mineral almost accentuate every flavor in the mouth and add so much complexity to it – that I think the mouth will explode.
This wine is a lovely blend of 35% Grenache, 35% Syrah, and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon. It starts with an aromatic nose of anise, ripe blackberry, black pepper, raspberry, and plum. The mouth is full and concentrated with mouth coating tannin, nice dirt, graphite, black cherry, ripe fruit, with spicy wood all coming together into a nice mouth. Finish is long with spice, mineral, herb, eucalyptus, tobacco, and chocolate. This is a massive and extracted wine with ripe fruit and one that balances well with the oak and spice. Read the rest of this entry
Unless you have been living under a rock for some time, you would know that I am a huge fan of the Bravdo winery! The winery is a family affair, with Professor Bravdo making the wine and his daughter, Hadar managing the winery. I really enjoyed visiting the winery, late last year, and re-tasting the 2010 red wines, that I tasted at the Gotham event in 2011. Well, recently at the 2012 Gotham Wine Extravaganza, I had the chance to meet Hadar again and taste through the new vintages of the wonderful wines!
Bravdo is imported into the United States by Happy Hearts Wine Importers, who has kept the prices on these wonderful wines at a reasonable level, while also continuing to make the newest vintages available, and not bringing in old wines. While, I was talking with Hadar, which is always a joy, Benyamin, manager of Happy Hearts, swung by and proudly stated that Happy Hearts had suggested they make a blend – and the output was Coupage! WOW! That is quite synergistic, if I say so myself, the importer suggesting a different wine, and the Professor delivering, with what I think is the best bottle, along with the Shiraz, that Bravdo makes.
There was one slightly under performing wine and that was the 2011 Bravdo Chardonnay, but given the trouble that 2011 presented, in Israel and the US, the wine is just fine thank you.
I must excuse myself for the lack of pictures, but I seem to have forgotten to take pictures of the 2010 wines! I am very sorry. The bottles look the same as the 2009 vintages just of course with a different year. You can find those, along with the wine notes here.
So many thanks to Hadar, The Bravdo Family, Happy Hearts, and of course Costas for the wonderful opportunity to taste through these fantastic wines. I hope to be tasting through these wines again soon, at a shabbos table, where I can have a bit more time to enjoy them and actually drink them. Read the rest of this entry
Israel’s wine industry may well be 100+ or a few thousand years old, depending upon how old you are or how deep your convictions run. Carmel winery made a wine, simply called #1, as in those days that was how they labeled their wines. In 1900, at the Paris Fair, it was rated as a gold label wine! A few thousand years before that, wine was made for the temple, wine made in the Judean Hills. Still, the existing rebirth of the Israeli wine Industry, that seemed to go to sleep for some seventy to eighty years, was reborn on the backs of professors like Professor Ben Ami Bravdo, the head wine maker and co-founder of the Bravdo Winery. I think it was Adam Montefiore who stated that the true genius behind the success of the Golan Heights Winery (Yarden), was not only its fine grapes, but the fact that they were smart enough to follow Carmel, in 1983, and hire only wine makers with a degree from renowned universities, like U.C. Davis and Hebrew University. It may sound obvious now, but 30 or more years ago that was not always the case.
Around that very same time, Ben Ami Bravdo was inaugurated with his now synonymous professor title from Hebrew University. Though even before his official title, he was already teaching students for 16 years on the intricacies of agriculture and viticulture. It is not hard to see how this man is a truly influential figure in the Israeli wine industry, if you do a bit of digging. For some 35 years Professor Bravdo trained hundreds or even thousands of aspiring agriculturalists, including many of Israel’s leading winemakers. Of the four or more existing universities in Israel focusing on agriculture, Hebrew University is the oldest and the most famous.
When people call a person by their old or past title, such as Senator or Congressman, I always laugh because sure they worked to get that title and rise to the fame that it bestows upon its holder. Still, once they are out of office or power, the title does not fit the holder. With Professor Bravdo, nothing could be further from the truth. For some 40 years, from 1962 till 2001, he trained and studied the effects of viticulture in regards to both the final product; wine, and in regards to the ecology and environment. Bravdo was one of the many scientists who early on spearheaded the usage of drip irrigation in both Israel and abroad for a multitude of applications, including many New World wineries. In 2001 he left the University and was bestowed the Professor Emeritus title, one very befitting his time at the University, and still in the industry.
It was during his tenure at Hebrew University that he met and later advised, his now wine laboratory partner, Oded Shoseyov. It was Shoseyov’s PhD thesis that fascinated Bravdo, the biochemistry of grape and wine flavor evolution. Together they quenched the thirst of the starving minds that passed through their lecture halls, the very same minds that lead wineries and agricultural powerhouses the world around. Shortly after Shoseyov’s PhD they collaborated on improving and developing viticulture methods for optimizing the grape aromas, as well as experimenting with the chemical properties of the wine must and wine to improve wine and aroma qualities.
This past week was the last week in Israel, and we swung by the Bravdo Winery on Friday. I picked up a bottle of the 2009 Bravdo Coupage, which is a melange of 40% Cabernet Franc, 33% Shiraz, 27% Cabernet Sauvignon. When I was talking about this lovely wine with friends, I compared it to one of my favorite dishes, Puttanesca. There are many non-sequitur ingredients in Puttanesca that if ignored or left out ruin the dish. For example, the anchovies; add to much, and it ruins the dish, put in too little or non at all, and the dish is flat, but in the correct proportions, it is magic. It adds depth and richness to the dish, without overpowering it. Same goes for the 2009 Bravdo Coupage, the Cabernet is nice and somewhat noticeable, but it real purpose is to hold the entire, non-sequitur blend together. Cabernet Franc and Shiraz are not common bed fellows, but with the Cabernet, it all becomes a fantastic harmonious whole!
Also, we did get a chance to re-taste the 2010 Dalton Rose, and it did show better than in the previous tasting. The main difference was the finish, it was still shallow, but the tart acid lingered long. The 2010 Moscato was lovely again, with nice honey, pear, rich mouthfeel from nice residual sweetness, and slight bubbles, all of which caused the bottle to disappear quickly.
This was not the first time we tasted the Bravdo Coupage, we tasted it in April, at the Gotham Wine Event. Some of the times I wonder about wine tasting, my abilities and what we sense in wines. It is really great to taste a wine a second time, and without looking at previous notes, make new ones. I am happy to state that the wines notes once again are pretty good, and this wine is truly a monster and one that should be ready for true drinking in 6 months or a year. Stock up on the four red Bravdo wines Cabernet, Shiraz, Merlot, and Coupage), they are great, and wines that will be here for at least four or more years.
The wine notes follow below, thanks so much to my hosts and dear friends:
2010 Dalton Rose – Score: B+
The nose on this rose colored wine starts off nicely with peach, yellow apple, plum, strawberry, floral notes, lemon, and ripe and sweet kiwi. The mouth on this medium bodied wine starts off nicely but ends with a slightly deficient finish. The mouth starts with more yellow apple, plum, peach, kiwis, flowers, and strawberry. The mid palate is balanced with nice acid and a bit of orange peel. The finish is a bit shallow, but ends fully with a lovely tart, strawberry, and orange peel finish. I am happy we tried another bottle.
2009 Bravdo Coupage – Score: A- to A
The nose on this deep black colored wine is rich with mineral, herbaceous, lovely floral, black cherry, and raspberry from the Cabernet Franc, heavy date, tar, and rich plum from the Shiraz, along with blackberry, alcohol, and rich chocolate. The mouth on this full bodied, rich, and layered wine is concentrated with mint, floral notes, ripe plum, raspberry, dates, and massive rich tannins that coat the mouth and make the wine feel even bigger. The mid palate is rich and follows the mouth with nice balanced acidity, chocolate, mint, raspberry, dates, vanilla, cedar, tobacco, and rich tannin. The finish is super long and rich with cedar, tar, raspberry, plum, heavy tannin, lovely vanilla, tobacco, and rich chocolate.
Over time the nose changes to expose rich cedar, tar, chocolate, crushed herbs, blackberry, and dates. The mouthfeel is still rich with softer tannins, ripe date, blackberry, tar, and crazy inky structure, along with nice plum. The finish is super long and rich with black olives, dates, blackberry, vanilla, cedar, chocolate, all the while taking a long stroll with a fat stogie in its mouth and a rich lather coat. This is a lovely wine – enjoy it for the next 4 or so years, but you can wait another 6 months till you can really start to enjoy it.
Golan 2010 Moscato – No Score – enjoyable
I again did not have the ability to note down the particulars about this wine, but it is a lovely and rich wine with nice honey, pear, rich mouthfeel from nice residual sweetness, and slight bubbles, all of which caused the bottle to disappear quickly.
This past weekend I spent time with some family in NY, as I was attending the 8th Annual Gotham Wine Extravaganza, which I MUST say was the best one so far. Both the VIP tasting, and the wines and ambiance at the normal tasting, were really fun and enjoyable. Kudos to Costas and the entire Gotham staff. On another aside, I helped to open bottles this year, which was really cool, because it will probably be the one and ONLY time I get to open a 2007 Yarden Rom bottle, at 170 bucks a pop, it is a safe bet that I had my onetime fun in the sun!
My entire time spent in NY was just lovely, and spending a lovely shabbos with my family and then going to a wedding of friends of ours on Sunday capped it off. All in all a great trip that was punctuated by a rather large number of dud restaurants in the larger NY metropolitan area. The only really good “restaurant” was a pizza place, that made a lovely whole wheat and vegetable pizza, but the fries and onion rings were deplorable.
So that is my quick recap of the past few days. The wines I enjoyed over shabbos were quite nice and highly enjoyable.
The wines notes follow below in the order that they were consumed:
2008 Terra Di Seta Chianti Classico – Score: B++ to A-
The nose on this dark garnet colored wine is hopping with rich espresso coffee, nice dirt, raspberry, cranberry, and cherry. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is rich and silky with more espresso, ripe raspberry, dark cherry, and lovely tannin. The mid palate is balanced with dirt, acid, tart fruit, oak, and tannin. The finish is long with nice red fruit, acid, tart raspberry, cherry, and espresso. On a side note, this is a wine made by the only full time kosher winery in Italy!
2009 Bravdo Coupage (40% Cabernet Franc, 33% Shiraz and 27% Cabernet – Score: A- to A
In case you are wondering what a Coupage is? It is loosely translated from the French as “cutting”, which is another way of saying a blend. The nose on this dark garnet to black colored wine is exploding with spicy black pepper, crushed herbs and green notes, dark black fruit, blackberry, black cherry, plum, cedar, slight floral nose, more cedar, mineral, and tar. The mouth on this massive full-bodied wine has yet to even start to settle down, the tannins and extraction are intense and nothing has yet melded to give the wine what is expected, a rich full mouth. For now, the wine is massive, intense, inky and showing its extracted structure with blackberry, black cherry, plum, and huge tannin. The mid palate is rich and oaky with raisin, black fruit, cedar, balancing acid, tannin, and vanilla. The finish is super long and super spicy, with cedar, vanilla, spice, blackberry, cassis, tannin, raisin, tar, more extraction, leather and vanilla. This is an exciting wine to keep your eye out for and one that will do well to wait to be enjoyed. Also, kudos to Happy Hearts for importing this wine and not jacking the price up upon realizing what a crazy winner this wine is and will be for some years to come!!!
2008 Elvi Wines Herenza, Rioja, Crianza – Score: A-
The nose on this dark garnet to black colored wine is rich an oaky with chocolate, dark cherry, bright mineral, cedar, raspberry, cranberry, and rich espresso coffee. The mouth on this full-bodied wine is rich and expressive with raspberry, integrating tannin, cranberry, mineral, and bright fruit. The mid palate is balanced with acid, coffee, chocolate, and vanilla. The finish is super long, spicy, and rich with dark cherry, spice, vanilla, coffee, and chocolate. Rich mouth of chocolate, coffee, dark cherry, and coffee linger long after this wine is gone, which is quite quick!