Well, I have been off for too long, that is for sure. First Passover, then travels to Japan and more work. Finally home for a bit, Passover was great as it was enjoyed with family and that is what makes the holidays so great!
I will keep this short and sweet – the wines were mostly good to great, except for one wine that I was really looking forward to tasting – sadly it was clearly not stored well. Other than the single disappointment – the rest of the wines were solid wines.
I also had the opportunity to enjoy some wines with friends at EZ’s house, with BC and CG. It was a lovely evening and we enjoyed 6 wines – the best of which was the 2012 Domain Netofa Latour Red, followed by 2010 Hajdu Grenache, 2011 Netofa Red, the 2004 Chateau Montviel (which is in drink up mode at this point), and the 2011 Hajdu Grenache. Many thanks to EZ and his wife for hosting us so graciously.
The wines are listed below – and I hope you had a great Passover as well:
2012 Herzog Petite Sirah, Clarksburg, Prince Vineyard – Score: A-
I found this wine to be showing better than the Hajdu PS, at least for now. Lovely blueberry jam and crazy black plum, with mounds of fresh vanilla, sweet cedar, with lovely floral notes, and sweet spices. Lovely full body wine with still searing tannin and lovely acid showing rich extraction and crazy spices with boysenberry and blackberry with rich sweet spices and elegance at the same time, along with ribbons of charcoal, and mineral. The finish is long and jammy, with rich leather, and mounds of mineral and black tea, with sweet tobacco, and sweet fruit lingering long. Drink by 2020.
2012 Hajdu Petite Sirah, Brobdingnagian – Score: A-
This wine was really a wine I was looking forward to tasting again, and it is either in a real funk, or it has taken a step back from its earlier stature. The wine opened quickly, it was not as closed as in the past, showing ripe blackberry, blueberry, and lovely dirt, and earth, with root beer galore and spice. The mouth on this full bodied wine is rich, but lacking the impressive extraction of old, with rich layers of blue and dark fruit, sweet oak, and tannin that does not let up. The finish is long with layers of dark fruit, leather, spice, Swiss mocha, boysenberry, and nice tart, and sweet fruit. This wine is on target, but lacking the complexity of old. Drink by 2021.
2007 Yarden Blanc de Blanc – Score: A- to A
Same as last time, deep, mineral, and attack that is almost hedonistic.
NV Gamla/Gilgal Hashmura Brut – Score: A- (crazy QPR)
This is the new vintage (which is now out of stock in most places). The way to know it is the most recent vintage is to check if the wine says extra dry – otherwise, it is a previous vintage and not as fun, the wine is mostly 2011 grapes. The nose on this bubbly is sick with lovely quince, apple cider, with straw and tart citrus. The mouth is full and an attack force of small mousse bubbles, followed by yeast and rich undertones, followed by layers of pear and madly refreshing with crazy acid and pith, and more bubbles that do not give up. The finish is long with dried fruit, nice dry mouthfeel, that flows into nice dried herb, and rich white tea. BRAVO!!!!
This past weekend was the 16th anniversary of OTBN (Open That Bottle Night), and what a party we had. I originally posted that we would get to the nine bottles of wine, well we did but not those nine! Benyo brought over a bottle of the famous 2003 Syrah and a friend brought over a bottle of his own concoction, and so the Ella Valley and Katrzin will have to wait for another week.
Kiddish was made over my friend’s Quail Hill Cabernet Franc, which was super smooth and fruity. After that we had some awesome whole wheat Challah, that my wife makes, and then on to some very nice olive and bean soup. The soup never ceases to amaze me, I love how the kalamata olives dominate the flavor profile, while the beans add the heft and body to the dish, really fun.
Wine wise, things started off with a bang! The 2006 RSR was my last bottle – but this wine has another two to three years left in the tank easily! WOW! What a great wine that is. The layers are rich, dense, almost fleshy with rich mineral and earth – truly extraordinary! The 07 Yatir Shiraz was nice, but it really showed its colors the next day. The Netofa Latour red, was insane, a lovely black and blue wine – so old world in style that it was shocking that it was made in Israel.
At this point we brought out the Beef Bourguignon, which if you follow the official recipe is not very kosher at all 🙂 Now, to be fair, the original video of the recipe did not call for bacon at all, instead she browned the meat in olive oil, in the video above. Still, the book has the bacon and so it has become the “law”. Since, our Jewish law does not allow for either bacon or the butter (no milk and meat), I was stuck with modifying the recipe to my liking. Instead of bacon I used Meal-mart Beef Fry and instead of butter and flour to thicken, I used chicken fat and flour. In the end, it was definitely not the fat free or healthy diet food of the 20th century, but we did serve a lot of wine with it – so if the 60 minutes episode about the French Paradox has any truth, we will all be alive to write about it! Read the rest of this entry
This past weekend I was hanging with EL and MT, those same two of Napa wine adventure fame. It was a true insane blast, and the wine intake was so intense that I had to name this post appropriately. The blueberry reference is an ode to the sheer number of wines we had that were seriously showing blue fruit.
When I think of hospitality so many names come to mind including ER, Mrs. L, Shaindy and Chaim, and now I am happy to add EL and MT to the wonderful list of people who think of others above themselves. I came this shabbos to NY to hang with family and go to two wine events. The two wine events sandwiched a Shabbos so I asked EL if he could handle a madman like me for a weekend! He graciously accepted and now the Shabbos is in the history books and may well go down in annals of mankind as one of the craziest Shabbos that I have had the opportunity to enjoy (though my first Benyo Shabbaton is up there too with the Shirah Boys).
The Friday started with me opening the bottle of Tavel, which while deeply aromatic was a slight letdown with a light and almost lifeless mouth. Still, it had the acid to keep up; this was all while we learned some Yoshua before heading to minyan. El lives in a large Jewish community and the number of synagogues within a square mile of his house, rival the number of museums in all of NY City! Still, we were blessedly spared the walks to those hallowed halls. Why? Think August in Las Vegas and add 90% humidity and you get the picture – AKA felt like walking through swap land – without the swamp!
So, where did we go, well that is the funny thing, if there are tons of options for free standing synagogues in this section of New York, there may well be more options of home bound synagogues! Indeed, people have synagogues in their basements, living rooms, and just about any section of their home that their wives can tolerate (more on that in a bit).
Friday night started in the library room of a beautiful home, 5 doors down from EL’s house. Mincha started at 8 PM and we were done with Mincha and Maariv at 8:45 PM. Heck, where I live, we could still be davening Mincha in 45 minutes! We went home, and even walking the length of 5 homes made you feel like you wanted to jump into a shower ASAP! What heat! Anyway, dinner started with a bottle of 2012 Lueria Gewurztraminer. A lovely wine that was cold and bracing, with enough residual sugar in it to make both EL and his wife happy! From there we moved to two Roses that accompanied a plethora of sushi! Awesome idea, really, clean tasting sushi is a great idea on a hot summer day! The sushi was solid as was CL’s SICK challah that was greatly enjoyed with dips and soup. The Tavel was OK, as said above but the Agur rocked it for me and it was mostly drunk by me as well.
After that we moved to the main course, which was roasted chicken and some incredible Rib Roast! EL begged me to taste some before Shabbos and I knew at that point that this chunk of meat was going to slay it on Shabbos! The roast has something for everyone, it was rare inside and medium rare on the edges. It was herbed to perfection and was so juicy that it screamed to be eaten some more – WOW what a real treat!
At this point I must point out that we had already decanted two wines for the dinner, the newly released 2011 Vignobles David Reserve GS wine and the 2012 Hajdu Cabernet Franc (will probably be blended – but a distinct barrel sample for now). It was at this point that the family bailed and left EL and I to slowly enjoy the two bottles/carafes of wine. That was until Mark came over with two more wines in tow. The wines were the famous 2007 Brobdignagian/Brobdingnagian Syrah – a blockbuster wine we have enjoyed twice, and a 1999 Hagafen Syrah! The wine is a richly layered, concentrated beast that has zero desire to calm down or back-off its no holds barred structure that makes one truly stand up and take notice. Some find it too much, but for me it is a wine created by an unbridled mad genius, with eyes wide open – what a wine! When I saw the hagafen Syrah at Mark’s house before Shabbos I thought there was no way that the wine was drinkable. It turns out that the Syrah was Hagafen’s first and a wine that has truly stood the test of time. Read the rest of this entry
This past weekend friends from the kosher wine forum were coming over for the Sabbath and it was time to do my long-awaited blind tasting of the only 6 wines from California’s 2009 Syrah vintage (there may be another out there but it is not yet available). I wanted it to be blind, as all our favorites were in this one and I wanted all the table to vote without any prejudices.
Another friend from the shul brought two wines from Italy of which his brother is the kosher supervisor. We had the first one for kiddush and the second one later on, more on those in a minute. Finally, we my last – which was awesome!
For the fun we threw in another non- Cali Syrah (really an SMV) from Dalton – pre Shabbos meals, which was lovely – but not up to the caliber of the top wines we had later that evening.
Food wise, same old same old – which is great to me! We started the meal with some lovely Herb encrusted gefilte fish and then moved on to some sausage stew. For dessert, ER or HK made a crazy good blueberry topped crisp – which was served alongside some non-dairy vanilla ice cream. All in all a great meal, made better by the friends that were there – and of course by the lovely wines we had to enjoy with them all.
To start the evening we enjoyed a nice bottle of Dalton Alma, a lovely wine though not as complex as the rest of the big wines we had that night. Blue and lovely – a very nice wine. Read the rest of this entry
On Sunday night we were blessed to be part of an extremely exclusive 27-course meal, well more like 30 or so – if you count the decadent small dishes after dessert, but who is really counting. The event was put on by the dynamic duo of Chef Yitzchok Bernstein and Brobdingnagian Wine maker Jonathan Hajdu. The event was a fundraiser for Beth Jacob, Oakland’s Orthodox Synagogue – and what an event it was!
When I have tried to explain the event, attempt to verbalize the magnitude of the effort, and the uniqueness of it all, I have so far failed, till now I hope, to transport the listener, or reader, to the mind-blowing state of conscious that we were all leaving within for 6 or so hours – this past Sunday night. The meal was a, 27 or so course, of mind-blowing culinary talent – coming to life in front of us lucky few. Each dish was hand plated with such exacting detail, that not only did each plate fill us gastronomically, but also the visual sumptuousness of each and every plate truly was equally a feast for one’s senses. The funny thing was that the meal started at 24 courses, as I had an early preview of the menu. However, by the time we lived it, it had grown to 27 and could have been 30, if the participants could have kept up with Bernstein. I was more than happy to taste the other two or so courses, but I did not call it a 30 course meal, as they were not formally served to the participants.
The second we entered the home of the host and hostess we knew we were in for a real treat. The house is a lovely sprawling ranch style home, remodeled to as close as possible to the mid-century modernism style of some 60 years ago, while all the while bringing the current century’s modern touches to life in a truly non-obtrusive manner – a real success in my humble opinion. If the home is an extension of the owners, than the simplest way to summarize the hosts is, sleek, modern, highly functional, with an ode to the past and arms open as wide as the glass sliding doors that truly define minimalist architecture and the MCM movement. The openness and warmth that are exuded by the home’s colors and textures truly reflect the host and hostess, and all of us were constantly in awe of their ability to deftly steer the epic culinary adventure to the success that it was. While the event may have stretched a bit longer than some were ready for, as most needed to go to work the next day, the intimate setting and cosmopolitan mix of people truly added to the entire evening.
With the well-deserved forward now handled, it is only fair to throw the light unto the culinary genius of the evening – Chef Yitzchok Bernstein. Mr. Bernstein is mostly self-taught, but has also received formal training in Bread Baking at French Culinary Institute. He also studied pastry and advanced bread baking at SFBI. (san francisco bakers institute), and has been working in and around restaurants, since the age of 14. Food is a truly passionate thing to Mr. Bernstein; you can see his persona expressed clearly in his food and in his open and warm demeanor. Throughout the evening the dishes were harmonious, balanced, tempered, but never losing focus and always packing more than enough bite, texture, and complexity to grab and keep your attention, until magically there was yet another unending course to partake from. Each course built on the past one, adding layers and nuances that were not lost to the foodies that ensconced the close-knit twin table setting.
The other resident genius at the event was Jonathan Hajdu (firstname.lastname@example.org), the associate wine maker at Covenant Winery, and is also the wine maker for wines from the Brobdingnagian and Besomim wine labels. The Brobdingnagian/Besomim winery is located in Napa CA. Hajdu wines was started in 2007, by owner and winemaker Jonathan Hajdu. Hajdu produces small lot artisan wines, with a focus on Rhone varietals under the Brobdignagian, and Besomim labels, though the newer wines are veering all over to where Hajdu can find the highest quality grapes. The Brobdignagian name is derived from Jonathan Swift’s giants, in Gulliver’s Travels, and attests to the winemakers’ proclivity towards intense and powerfully flavored wines. Wine produced under the Besomim label, is a blend of varietals with a focus on complex aromatics. These limited production wines are available directly from the winery. Read the rest of this entry
If you look at the kosher wineries in California, the majority exist here in Northern California. Down south you have the famous Herzog Winery in Oxnard, CA, and a pair of wineries that I call ADS (Agua Dulce & Shirah), for the Agua Dulce Winery and Shirah Winery, both housed in the Agua Dolce Winery. While this is great, Northern California one-ups them with Four gates Winery, Hagafen Winery, Covenant Winery, and the Brobdingnagian Winery. Of course you can actually combine all the California kosher wineries (except for Herzog) into Herzog’s parking lot (a nod to Disneyland and Disney World).
Well the adventure started late last week, when Elliot (Eli) and Michael (Yoav) both visited Benyo and Four gates Winery without me – go figure! However, on Monday I met both Elliot and Michael at my house and we started driving our way north. For this fabulous adventure our chariot of choice was a lovely Buick La Sabre, which before you start laughing, is a crazy and sick car to drive and drive-in. This car was appointed in soft leather, all kinds of toys and warning systems and a great navigation system that got us to and from our desired destinations, in comfort and style, and on time.
The first stop was Covenant Winery where we were going to meet Jeff Morgan and Jonathan Hajdu, Winemaker and associate winemaker of Covenant Winery, respectively. When we arrived, Mr. Hajdu greeted us and we had the chance to taste a few barrel samples of some 2011 Brobdingnagian Wines. We started with some lovely black and blue 2011 Brobdingnagian Syrah, with nice spice, root beer, and good vanilla finish. From there we moved on to a taste of the 2011 Brobdingnagian Grenache, which keeps on giving – what a lovely wine indeed! With the 2011 season being so miserable, to get a wine so redolent and ripe is quite impressive! The nose was rich and ripe with more blue and black fruit, but this time more ripe and sweet and yet controlled with good extraction, sweet cherry drop, watermelon, and citrus peel. Then Jonathan let us have a taste of some wonderful 2011 Brobdingnagian Bordeaux Blend, which stood out to me so well because the fruit was as sweet as the Grenache and maybe even more than the Syrah, yet so perfectly controlled with a nice core of red and black fruit, nice graphite and minerality, and along with spice and green notes that really balance this whole wine out – Bravo! Read the rest of this entry
To start please excuse the obvious play on C. W. Lewis titles, as my ode to the wonderful Olympics that have just completed in Great Britain, and for Britain’s handling and medaling throughout the Olympic extravaganza. While, the games were closing down in London, a few of us were gathering for what can only be called the regal revelry in San Diego! No, we were not reveling over the medal haul of the United States or for anything related with the Olympics. Rather, it was a chance date that allowed the four of us to get down to San Diego and enjoy the insane hospitality of Andrew, the purveyor and manager of Liquid Kosher.
I arrived first and was treated to a glass of Pommery Champagne which was light with a beautiful mousse and notes that remind one of a summer orchard filled with perfume of apple, ripe lemon creme, along with a ribbon of peach and spice. This is not mevushal and it belongs side by side my other favorite sparkler, the Drappier that is mevushal. Well, as I was enjoying the atmosphere and Champagne the regal gastronomic revelry began! I could not believe the effort that both Andrew and his wife went through for the three or four guests that appeared. The haute cuisine, that was impeccably implemented, would have made Gordon Ramsay blush! The gourmet menu consisted of seven courses and each one was better, if that was possible, than the next! I started on the Toast of Caramelized Apple and Tarragon, which was a beautiful example of what one can do with bread, butter, and a few herbs! The baguette was toasted with butter and herbs and then topped with caramelized Pink Lady apple and tarragon! What a treat, as the caramelized pink ladies released their liquid gold and flavored the brioche with a mix of sweetness and bright acidity making for a well-balanced treat! The herb and cheese that topped the fruit brought with it salty earthiness that brought together the entire flavor profile. Read the rest of this entry
This past week I finally got the chance to put together the kosher Syrah tasting that I have been craving. I have been stockpiling Syrah for some time and now we finally had the chance to try them all at the same time. I have been at all of the kosher California wineries; Herzog Cellars, Four Gates Winery, Agua Dulce Winery, Shirah Winery, Covenant Winery and the Brobdingnagian Winery, and I have caught the bug of cool weather Syrah. This is not a myth; this is a real change in the manner of which the Syrah expresses itself.
The Syrah tasting consisted of a bunch of kosher California Syrah, along with one from Australia and Israel in the following order. The 2009 Harkham Aziza Shiraz, Preservative Free (not tasting as great as when I had it in Sydney), 2009 Shirah Power to the People, 2003 Four Gates Syrah, 2008 Syraph Syrah/Grenache, 2007 Brobdingnagian Syrah, and the 2004 Yarden Ortal Syrah. The first five are cool weather Syrah, while the Yarden Ortal is an example of hot weather Syrah. The 2007 Brobdingnagian was Jonathan Hajdu’s inaugural release and since than he has gone on to become the associate winemaker at Covenant Winery, while also making more of his Brob wine. The 2008 Syraph was essentially the first release by the Weiss Brothers, though they did make a smaller batch of wine in 2005 as well. The story of Jonathan and the Weiss brothers can be found in a lovely written article by Gamliel Kronemer here.
In cool weather climates, the Syrah grape is very happy to show expressions of smoked meat, black pepper, tobacco, and leather around their core of blue-black fruit. They also have nice acidity, which helps to brighten the mouth and balance out the wine’s palate. The clear note here is that the grape expresses blueberry and watermelon in ways that will astound you. The bright sweet blueberry along with rich black fruit make for a wine that is unique and truly flavorful. The blue fruit may not always appear at first, but a trademark of the cooler climates, in Australian and California, was that they all exhibited rich blueberry fruit intertwined with some lovely black and sometimes watermelon along with spice. In warm climate regions, characteristic Syrah flavors tend toward dark fruits, cherry, white pepper and earthy notes, though leather and tar are sure to also make a guest appearance.
Rosh Hashanah lunch, Herb encrusted gefilte fish loaf, Rosemary and Sage Infused Encrusted Rib Roast, vegetable kugel, and many wines
Rosh Hashanah day was a bit more wine focused than the previous evening. We invited a bunch of friends over and they brought some wonderful wines for us to enjoy. The first one being the 2008 Brobdingnagian Besomim Wine from Jonathan Hajdu, the associate wine maker at Covenant Wines. The other wine was the 2007 Hagafen Cuvee de Noirs, which I had been craving and was a wonderful surprise and delight to enjoy! We also opened a bottle of 2007 Galil Mountain Winery Shiraz Cabernet, which is another bottle that I truly enjoyed. The wines were all killer and really enjoyable. Now on to the menu and my normal format, we will get back to the wines later.
The meal started with the same starter course as we had the previous night, our reliable Herb encrusted gefilte fish loaf and green and black olives, and hummus. The reason I really like this recipe is because while normal gefilte fish recipes tastes like bland boiled white fish, this recipe tastes like herb-encrusted fish that is lightly charred with the herb and spice flavors permeated through and through the fleshy texture – quite a treat. The main course consisted of one of my favorite cuts of meat – rib roast. This was not a standing rib roast, as it was already deboned. The only way to cook this meat is covered slow and low and then blast it with a 400 degree oven to char the outside. This is the recipe of the generation X master of cooking science; Alton Brown, who I believe took much of what he learned in culinary school and Harold McGee and made it simple and palatable to generation X. The roast came out really nicely; it was NOT over or under cooked. However, the issue was that we served it lukewarm instead of piping hot. It is difficult on Yom Tov to both warm up a chunk of meat and not over cook it while trying to serve it piping hot. At least the rest of the meal was warm, including the Sage and Rosemary Jus. Along with the rib roast we had a repeat performance of brown rice, vegetable kugel, and fresh vegetable salad. The guests did serious damage to the rib roast, so I think it worked out well. We bought two chunks of rib roast, one 7+ pounds and the other one being 5+ pounds. The 7+ beast was consumed on Rosh Hashanah lunch, while the other chunk was served to family, when we all gathered for Succot (more on that is a subsequent post).
To pair with the lovely side of cow, we opened two bottles of wine, the two a fore mentioned; 2008 Brobdingnagian Besomim Wine and 2007 Galil Mountain Winery Shiraz Cabernet. The Brobdingnagian Besomim is a field blend of Zinfandel, Grenache, Petite Sirah, and Carignan. The grapes are sourced from the Chabad Rabbi’s small vineyard that he planted on his property in the Napa/Sonoma area. Jonathan then made the wine and it is truly a wine for drinking with food, this is no sipping wine. The wine is crazy rich with spice, which is the obvious derivative for its name (Besomim means spice in Hebrew). The wine easily handled the richly fat and herbed rib roast and the side dishes. We also enjoyed a bottle of 2007 Galil Mountain Winery Shiraz Cabernet. Originally, Daniel Rogov had given the wine a poor score, and I wanted to try it anyway, and I am happy I did. In a later tasting, before his untimely passing, he tasted the wine again, and scored it much in line with my notes and score.
The wine notes follow below in the order enjoyed:
2007 Hagafen Cuvee de Noirs – USA, California, Napa Valley, Yountville – Score: A-
The nose on this lovely burnt peach colored wine was lively with effervescent small bubbles, along with pear, orange, brioche, light toast, yeast, mango, apricot, peach, strawberry, and chocolate. The mouth on this medium bodied wine attacks first with a lovely mousse of small bubbles, followed by strawberry, peach, apple, orange, and pear. The mid palate is lovely and balanced with lively acidity, brioche, yeast, oak, and mango. The finish is super long, concentrated, and spicy with strawberry, lovely mousse, brioche, more chocolate, yeast, mango, peach, light oak, orange, and tea. This is a lovely sparkling wine that really needs time in the fridge and one that is a lovely now and will continue to be lovely for at least a few more years to come.
2008 Brobdingnagian Wines Besomim – USA, California, Sonoma County – Score: A-
This is a wine that truly lives up to its name. Besomim is Hebrew for a potent spice mix that is used as part of a post Sabbath havdalah (or separation) ceremony. The grapes used in this blend come from a field blend of Zinfandel, Syrah and Petite Sirah. The nose on this dark garnet to black colored wine is screaming with spices, nutmeg, black pepper, cloves, along with mint, tobacco, chocolate, a hint of tar, high alcohol to start, cedar, raspberry, plum, black fruit, herbs, and vanilla. The nose is assaulted by all of these aromas in quick succession, so I am sure I missed some. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is hopping and super concentrated with dark cherry, plum, blackberry, nutmeg, cloves, spices, mint, and chocolate. The mid palate is balanced with nice acidity, chocolate, mint, tobacco, and cedar. The finish is super long and spicy, with rich spices, toasty almost spicy cedar, tobacco, chocolate, tar, black pepper, cloves, blackberry, herbs, and vanilla. This is a wine that is best enjoyed with heavy foods, this wine is far to spice infused to be enjoyed as a sipping wine.
2007 Galil Mountain Winery Shiraz Cabernet kosher – Israel, Galilee – Score: B++ to A-
The nose on this purple to black colored wine is an alchemy of the two fruits used, tobacco, rich chocolate, tar, strong alcohol to start, black pepper, dirt, sweet cedar, smoky notes, raspberry, blackberry, plum, and vanilla. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine starts off very hot, but over time cools off to show both sides of this blend, the syrah shows first with a strong presence of black pepper, coffee, blackberry, and tar, over time the syrah gives way to the Cabernet with rich blackberry, plum, sweet cedar and chocolate. The Cabernet side of this wine almost 100% reminded me of the Alexander Winery Cabernet with its sweet cedar, plum, and blackberry combination. The mid palate is balanced with rich acid, sweet cedar, black pepper, tar, chocolate, tobacco, licorice, dirt, plum, raspberry, and a nice dollop of vanilla on top. This wine pack a punch with its heat, but once that dies down, the wine has two sides that are both lovely apart or combined, and linger nicely with rich ripe plum tobacco, chocolate, a hint of tar, and vanilla.