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My top 25 kosher wines of 2020 including Wine of the Year, Winery of the Year, and the best Wine of the Year awards

Like last year, I wanted to make this post short and sweet – so the criteria are simple. I could care less about price, color, or where it was made. All that matters is that it is/was available this year sometime to the public at large and that I tasted it in a reliable environment, not just at a tasting, and that it was scored a 92 or higher. Also, there are a few lower scoring wines here because of their uniqueness or really good QPR.

We are returning with the “wine of the year”, “best wine of the year” along with categories I added last year, “Winery of the Year”, “Best White wine of the year”. Wine of the year goes to a wine that distinguished itself in ways that are beyond the normal. It needs to be a wine that is easily available, incredible in style and flavor, and it needs to be reasonable in price. It may be the QPR wine of the year or sometimes it will be a wine that so distinguished itself for other reasons. The wines of the year are a type of wine that is severely unappreciated, though ones that have had a crazy renaissance, over the past two years. The Best Wine of the year goes to a wine well worthy of the title.

This past year, I think I am pretty sure about my state on kosher wine overall. In the past, I had not yet tasted the pape Clement or other such wines. However, over the past year, those have been covered, and they were a serious letdown. As stated in the article, I truly believe the entire kosher production of the Megrez wines, following the EPIC 2014 vintage of the Pape Clement and others, to be below quality and seriously overpriced, and without value in every category, which is a true shame. The 2015 reds are all poor quality and the whites are not much better, in 2015 and 2016. The 2016 Pape Clement, while better, is a total ripoff for what it is. As I will talk about in my year in review post, 2014 will come out as the best vintage for the past decade in France. That is a hotly debated subject, but IMHO, in the world of kosher wine, there were FAR more best wine options in the 2014 vintage than any other vintage in the past decade. That may not be the case for non-kosher wines, but news flash, I do not drink non-kosher wines, or even taste them, and further this blog is about kosher wines. The 2018 vintage may well have some serious “best wine of the year” candidates, but sadly, not all of those wines are here and I could not travel to France to taste them all, as I do commonly.

There are also interesting wines below the wines of the year, think of them as runner-up wines of the year. There will be no rose wines on the list this year. If last year, I thought the roses were pure junk, this year, you can add another nail in the coffin of rose wines, IMHO. Thankfully, the task of culling the bounty of great wines to come to these top wines was more a task of removing then adding. We are blessed with a bounty of good wines – just not like a few years ago when that bounty included many 95 and 95+ scoring wines.

The supreme bounty comes from the fact that Royal released the 2018 French wines a bit early! Throw in the incredible number of kosher European wines that are coming to the USA and being sold in Europe and this was truly a year of bounty for European kosher wines.

Now, separately, I love red wines, but white wines – done correctly, are a whole other story! Sadly, in regards to whites, we had no new wines from Germany, still. Thankfully, we have some awesome new entries, from the 2017 and 2018 Dampt Freres Chablis, both Grand Cru and Premier Cru, and the new 2019 Meursault!

The wines on the list this year are all available here in the USA, in Europe, and a few can be found in Israel, as well.

Finally, some of these wines are hard to find and they may have different siblings – but they are worth the effort. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

The 2020 kosher wine of the year – is a return to its greatness – the 2018 Elvi Wines EL26

Elvi EL26 is back! Back to the glory days and I have stocked up and sadly, it will sell out quickly, if it is not already sold out! Get a move on, there was not a huge production of this beauty!

So, why did EL26 win? Simple, it is a great wine, and then throw in its WINNER price, and this wine punches at two levels, at the same time! You can read more about this fantastic wine here, in my post about it. Enjoy!

2018 Elvi Wines EL26, Elite, Priorat – Score: 93 (QPR: WINNER)
This wine is a blend of 80% Garnacha (Grenache) and 20% Carignan. This wine is pure heaven, dirt, smoke, roasted animal, saline, mineral, juicy tart red, and blue fruit, with incredible precision and fruit focus – Bravo!
The nose on this wine is pure fun, showing tart red fruit, incredible fresh loam, and dirt, hints of mushroom, licorice, roasted animal, a whiff of oak, sage, rosemary, with dirt, and green notes. This wine is currently far more Bordeaux in style than that of a Spanish Priorat! The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is not overly extracted, but it is well extracted, with good mouth and fruit texture, with incredible acid, good fruit focus, showing dark cherry, plum, ripe and tart raspberry, strawberry, oak, vanilla, and garrigue, with green notes, and lovely mouth-draping tannin. The finish is long, green, yet ripe, with great control and precision, with lovely graphite, more roasted meat, scraping minerality, saline, rich smoking tobacco, and smoke, lots of char and smoke. Bravo! With time the wine opens more and shows its riper side, still very controlled, but the fun red and blue fruit become a bit fuller and richer in the mouth – quite an impressive wine! Drink from 2026 until 2036. (tasted December 2020)

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Kosher Sparkling wines for the end of 2020 – WINNERS from Drappier and Yarden

With 2020 coming to a close, I am posting the top sparkling wines, but to be clear, I drink sparkling wine all year round! We have been blessed recently with Yarden selling their Gilgal Sparkling wine for under 20 dollars a bottle! Honestly, there is no better deal out there and that is why they were the wines of the year last year! Yarden continues to impress with their 2014 entries and they are the sparkling wine producers to beat, for anyone entering this market.

How is Sparkling wine made?

There are many options – but the vast majority of sparkling wines fall into three categories:

  • Le Méthode Champenoise (Méthode Traditionnelle)
  • Methode Ancestrale
  • The Charmat Method

Le Méthode Champenoise (Méthode Traditionnelle)

So, what is Champagne and how do we get all those cool bubbles? Well, it all starts with a grape of some sort, in most cases, Chardonnay, but we will get back to the other varietals further down. For now, like all wine on planet earth, Champagne starts with a grape. It is picked (often early to lower alcohol and increase acidity), then crushed, pressed, and allowed/encouraged to go through primary fermentation, exactly like all white wines on planet earth. At this point, most houses ferment the base wine in metal tanks or barrels. Some still use wood, but they are the minority.

Of course, like much of France (Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne), especially in Champagne, the wine can be chaptalized after racking, until an 11% ABV. Now before the heat waves that have covered much of this earth (call it what you wish), Bordeaux and Champagne prayed to hit their desired mark of ABV, and therefore they used to add sugar to bring up the ripeness on their fruit. Nowadays, Champagne is picking earlier and earlier, and Chaptalization is not a common thing anymore, as mother nature is taking care of the fruit’s ripeness all on her own!

Once the wine has been fermented the next question arises, should they let the base wine go through a wine’s second natural fermentation called Malolactic Fermentation? Most allow the fermentation to take place and require it, a fact that is easy nowadays with controlled winery environments, though some do not like it at all. Finally, the barrels/tanks are blended or in the rare case, kept aside as a Vintage Champagne, meaning the base wine used in it, is sourced from one vintage and not a blend of a few vintages.

So, at this point what we have is base wine, and while it may be an OK wine, it is far from what the final product will be like. Most base wines are nice enough, but it would be like licking on a lemon, these wines are highly acidic, and not normally well balanced at that point.

The next step is to bottle the wine, with yeast and basic rock sugar, which causes a second fermentation. The actual amount of the two added ingredients is a house secret. The wines are closed with a simple beer bottle cap. You will notice that ALL wines made in this manner have a lip around the top of the bottle, where the cap is attached to. Again, if the year is exceptional then the wine becomes vintage champagne and is aged for at least three years. If the vintage is normal then the bottle’s content is a blend of a few vintages and is aged for at least one and a half years.

All the while during this second fermentation process, the wine is aged and the wine becomes more complex from the yeast. The yeast breaks down as it eats the rock sugar, adding the effervescence, and while the yeast breaks down, it adds a lovely mouthfeel and rich complexity. This process is known as autolysis, releasing molecules that are slowly transformed as they interact with those in the wine.

The process is a dual transformational process. First, the yeasts are broken down, but if that occurred in a 100% hermetically sealed environment, we would have SERIOUS issues, like HS (Hydrogen Sulfide) and mercaptan (think nasty rotten eggs). Oxygen is a two-edged sword, with too much a wine oxidizes, and with too little, you get HS and nasty foul egg smell. So, the cap that covers the Champagne bottles as they rest for 18 months to 3 years in these cool racks, actually allow for a certain amount of oxygen to flow through, the caps are not hermetic seals. The special stoppers, AKA caps, allow the wine to mature on the lees, with a very slow feed of oxygen coming through, thereby allowing the wine to mature at a rate that is best for it. You can mature them quicker, with a different cap, but you would lose the value of a wine sitting long on the lees.

According to Wikipediathe effects of autolysis on wine contribute to a creamy mouthfeel that may make a wine seem to have a fuller body. The release of enzymes inhibits oxidation which improves some of the aging potentials of the wine. The mannoproteins improve the overall stability of the proteins in the wine by reducing the number of tartrates that are precipitated out. They may also bind with the tannins in the wine to reduce the perception of bitterness or astringency in the wine. The increased production of amino acids leads to the development of several flavors associated with premium Champagne including aromas of biscuits or bread dough, nuttiness, and acacia. As the wine ages further, more complex notes may develop from the effects of autolysis.

Finally, it is at this stage, after the bottles have matured their proper time, based upon their label (blend or Vintage), we get to the final stage of Champagne, remuage (or “riddling” in English) and Dosage. To get rid of the lees (the dead yeast cells and other particulates), the bottles are hand or machine manipulated to convince the lees to move towards the cap. Then the neck of the bottle is frozen, and the cap is removed, the lees come flying out in a frozen format, and then the bottle is recapped with the famous champagne cork, but not before it is dosed with more sugar. This very last step is the reason for this post, but let’s leave that till further down in the post, for now, let’s talk varietals and color/style.

Color/style and Varietals

So, we have covered the how part of Champagne (well almost more on Dosage below), and now we need to talk color and grapes. The base grapes for Champagne are Pinot Meunier, and Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay. There are very few houses that also use Arbane, Petit Meslier, Pinot blanc, Pinot Gris. Champagne, like the rest of France’s wine industry, is controlled by the AOC (appellation d’origine contrôlée).

So, for Blanc de Blancs Chardonnay, which is white from white, Chardonnay is the only grape allowed. Meaning, that the juice from Chardonnay is 100% of a BdB Champagne, or in rare occasions from Pinot blanc (such as La Bolorée from Cedric Bouchard).

For Blanc de Noirs, the Champagne is made from either Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier, or a blend of the two. Finally, for Rose Champagne, it can be a blend of the three grapes.

Late Disgorgement

This has been all the rave recently, LD or Late Disgorgement. All this means is that the house or winery (outside of Champagne) kept the bottles capped for a longer time. So the 2007 Yarden Blanc de Blancs was sold in 2014 or so. It is a lovely wine and recently Yarden released a 2007 LD Yarden  Blanc de Blancs. It is the same wine, just held longer in capped format (another 4 years or so), and then recently they disgorged the wine, more on that below, and put in the dosage and the Champagne style cork and released it now. Essentially, for all intent and purpose, Yarden aged the Sparkling wine 4 more years and released it later on. The interesting thing will be to taste the two wines (the LD and normal 2007 Yarden BdB and see how 4 extra years of lying on lees helped/hindered/or did nothing). I will be doing that soon enough.

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Three wines that have sadly lost their luster

So, in my last post, I posted about good simple white wines and two of them were the 2018 Les Marronniers Chablis wines. Sadly, they have taken a step back over the past year, since when I had them last. I knew I should have tasted them before reposting my old score and notes.
In related news, the 2007 Yarden Blanc de Blanc, Brut, Late Disgorged, is in the throes of dying, as I was 100% worried it would be, in this earlier post. As explained in the post, it is like that because Yarden decided to make the Late Disgorged Brut in the style of Brut Nature, more on that here.

This is just an update and essentially all three of these wines have similar notes to where they were a year ago, except for the fact that those notes and enjoyment end after a few hours. In the case of the Yarden, maybe 15 minutes after opening.

So, IMHO, I would drink what you had now and I will not be buying any more of these, sadly.

If you look back at my earlier post – a month or more ago, you will see my wine notes for the newly released Drappier Brut Nature – I loved it, but it too is very short for this earth. DOUBLE check the disgorgement dates and make sure you keep it within 8 months max from the disgorgement date.

The wine note follows below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:

2018 Les Marronniers Chablis (M) – Score: 90
Sadly, as I continue to watch this wine evolve I feel it is not a wine that I will stock up on. This and the 1er Cru, sadly. The reason is that the wine keeps losing acidity as it ages. We opened the wine on Friday afternoon and by Shabbat morning the acidity was far removed from where it was on Friday and that feels further removed from my notes and memories of a year ago. 
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. The mouth is still lovely, but the last three times, 2018 is not as good as when I had it in France. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is fun, the acidity is not nearly as intense as in the past year, showing nice saline, with lovely layers of sweet Meyer lemon, grapefruit, with quince, and pie crust, with Anjou pear, and nice peach. The finish is long, crazy long, almost oily, with baked pear and apple, cinnamon, nutmeg, and loads of mineral, with slate, rock, and saline. Sadly, as I state above the acidity dies in a few hours, so while I love the wine to start, it is not for long holding. Drink until 2022.

2018 Les Marronniers Chablis, Premier Cru, Cote de Jouan – Score: 90+
Sadly, as I continue to watch this wine evolve I feel it is not a wine that I will stock up on. This and the 1er Cru, sadly. The reason is that the wine keeps losing acidity as it ages. We opened the wine on Friday afternoon and by Shabbat morning the acidity was far removed from where it was on Friday and that feels further removed from my notes and memories of a year ago.

The nose on this lovely wine has finally opened and now it is showing well. The nose on this wine showing lovely notes of mad floral notes, starting with rosehip and yellow flowers, followed by nice minerals, 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, nice peach/apricot, with 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. Sadly, as I state above the acidity dies in a few hours, so while I love the wine to start, it is not for long holding. Drink until 2022.

2007 Yarden Blanc de Blancs, Brut, Late-Disgorged – Score: 88
Drink UP! I was dead on with this wine, my concerns were 100% warrantied, very sad! This wine was made in the style of Brut-Nature and while it is cool at the start it dies quickly.
The nose on this wine starts nicely but within minutes, even less now, the nose gets oxidized and becomes applesauce. Same with the mouth, of course, the acidity and lovely mousse is off the charts, but this is a wine that needs to be drunk NOW!

The first Rose QPR WINNER, along with two other QPR Winners, and even more roses and whites from 2019, and a few Sparkling wines as well!

Sorry, it has been so long before I have posted here, but I am back and lets start with a few good wines and well, the rest of the 2019 wines white and rose wines that I could find.

QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) is the non-qualitative score I have been giving to wines recently. In my last update to QPR, a week after I posted the QPR revised methodology, I defined the QPR score of WINNER. A QPR score of WINNER is defined as a wine that scores a qualitative score of 91 or more, a score I define as a wine I would buy happily while also being a wine that is cheaper than the respective median wine category.

This week we have a mix of 27 wines 10 whites and 14 roses, and 3 Sparkling wines. One of the whites I have already posted about, a winner of the QPR GREAT score, the 2018 Domaine Netofa, White. The wine is a bit hit and miss and I wanted to update folks about it.

However, the absolute clear QPR WINNER of this week’s post is the FIRST 2019 Rose that gains the QPR WINNER title! Bravo!!! The wine is the 2019 Carmel Rose, Appellation. There were two other Sauvignon Blanc WINNERS, the 2019 Goose Bay Sauvignon Blanc (being released soon), and the 2019 Hagafen Sauvignon Blanc (Just released). 2019 white wine WINNERS are ALL Sauvignon Blanc and I am stocked!

The 2019 Teperberg Rose, Essence is another wine that got close to WINNER status, yet sadly, it did not, as the price is too high. This is a wine that should sell for less, like so many others from Isarel, yet that is just not the case.

The 2019 Herzog Rose, Pinot Noir, Tasting Room Reserve was a lovely wine for me. The weight and the acidity and the refreshingness of it really made it quite a fun wine indeed!

I continue to stand by my opinion that 2019 is one of the very WORST vintages for white and rose wines in the last 10 years for Israeli wines. I continue to dream of the 2013/2014 vintage for Israeli whites. Some of the very best Israeli whites came from the 2013/2014 vintages. Yes, I have not had as many of the 2019 whites and roses from Israel, as I would normally have had by now, sadly, the current circumstances do not let me do that. There are many roses still in France and Israel that I have not had, but of the ones I have had from Israel so far, I am fine with my statement.

Roses have continued to disappoint. We finally have a QPR WINNER for Rose, from Israel, but the vast majority of them this year have been an absolute letdown. There are now 8 QPR winners in whites (plus two in this post, and one from this post), it is clear as day to me that white wines are the way to go this summer.

Probably the saddest and maybe controversial wine note in this post is my score of the 2019 Chateau Les Riganes Blanc. What can I say, I did not love the wine. I LOVED the 2018 vintage! That wine had it all! The 2019 is just not as good and that is life sadly. I was really hoping for a repeat, like the 2019 Goose Bay Sauvignon did.

Finally, Royal has just released THREE newly disgorged Drappier Champagne! In this post I give you the score – it is AWESOME, I hope to taste the other two soon!

The wine note follows below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:

2019 Hajdu Rose – Score: 90+ (QPR: EVEN)
The 2019 Rose market has been so weak, it is nice to see Jonathan Hajdu and the Shirah brothers picking up the slack with their 2019 Roses, even if the QPR score is not as good as I would have wished for.
The nose on this wine is classic Cali rose notes, bright, sweet, ripe, yet well-balanced notes of blueberry, yes blue fruit, followed, by pomegranate, with raspberry, and sweet plum notes, this sounds riper/sweeter than I like, but it is more tart fruit than it is ripe fruit. The mouth on this medium-bodied plus rose is really fun, truly tart, refreshing, with great acidity, along with balanced sweet fruit, of blue fruit, tart strawberry, raspberry, grapefruit, sweet/tart collage of nice plum, strawberry, sweet and tart strawberry, and really tart red peach. The finish is long, sweet, tart, with nice mineral, body, freshness, and refreshing qualities that are truly a lovely summer wine – Bravo!

2019 Shirah Rose – Score: 90 (QPR: GOOD)
This is a nice wine, and with my new QPR scoring even though it is more expensive than the median price for rose wine, it garner’s a quality score that is in the 2nd quintile, so the math says the QPR score is GOOD.
This rose is a blend of Grenache, Nebbiolo, Cabernet Franc, and Aglianico, using the Saignee method. The nose on this wine shows nice notes of peach, sweet and juicy strawberries and creme, along with cranberry, cotton candy, and vanilla, with a touch of heat, and rhubarb. The mouth on this light to medium-bodied wine is well balanced, with good enough acidity, showing little in complexity, but this is not a pure fruit bomb, it has acidity and pith to bring the wine around, with sweet notes of grapefruit and pomelo, with hints of orange, sweet orange pith, and flint. Drink now.

2019 Teperberg Rose, Essence – Score: 91 (QPR: GOOD)
This is a nice wine, and with my new QPR scoring even though it is more expensive than the median price for rose wine, it garner’s a quality score that is in the 2nd quintile, so the math says the QPR score is GOOD.
This is the best of the three roses with Grenache and Barbera. This wine is a blend of 45% Grenache Noir, 35% Mourvedre, and 20% Barbera. The nose on this wine is fruity, it has clear sweet notes of candied strawberry, and lychee, with bright melon, gooseberry, and passion fruit, with hints of white flowers. The mouth on this wine is a REAl winner, lovely acidity, the acid hits you like a ton of bricks up front, though the finish, at this point, is a bit shallow, with clear and lovely notes of strawberries, rhubarb, loads of gooseberry, pink grapefruit, and lovely overall refreshing mouthfeel and a bright and easy-going freshness that has enough complexity for me to make this the best Israeli rose by far, that I have tasted this year. With time, the finish fills out and then you get lovely rocks, slate, saline, and more tart and bright red fruit, with flowers, and crazy lemon/lime lifesavers lingering long on the bright and floral finish. BRAVO!!!

2019 Five Stones Rose, D vs G – Score: 86 (QPR: BAD)
This is a wine that is just good enough, but with my new QPR scoring it is one quintile more expensive than the median rose price and it is not as good as the median score so that is why this wine gets a BAD on the QPR score.
The nose on this wine is fruity, too fruity for me, the fruit needs to be there, but when it is so obvious it feels like overkill, The wine is a blend of 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. While I liked the 2019 white D vs G, the rose is not interesting to me.The nose on this wine is fruity, showing clear sweet notes of candied plum, red fruit, and too much heat for me, at 13% ABV. The mouth on this light to medium-bodied wine is flat, not showing a lot, really lacking, there is a nice hit of acidity, but then it falls apart in the middle and disappears at the finish. The mouth is just acid and crazy fruity fruit, with candied and overly ripe strawberry, grapefruit, and melon, bummer. There is some refreshing notes if you like fruity wines to this extent. Drink now!

2019 Herzog Rose, Pinot Noir, Tasting Room Reserve – Score: 91 (QPR: GOOD)
This is truly a lovely wine but it is a bit more expensive than the Median. With my new QPR scoring, it is one quintile higher in price than the Median, however, it scores in the 2nd quintile, so that makes it a GOOD QPR score.
I have liked this version of their rose lineup for a long time now, yes it has oak, and yes it is a fuller-bodied wine, but it is also very enjoyable!The nose on this wine is classical in its rose styling, with lovely dark strawberry notes, with lovely red fruit, and peach, with citrus, and sweet cedar. The mouth on this full-bodied rose, yes I wrote that is actually quite fun, the acidity is lovely, maybe their best acid showing in this wine so far, with crazy Kirche cherry, tart grapefruit, plum, and sweet notes of cedar, followed by saline, gooseberry acidity, and very tart pomegranate. The mouthfeel is tart, juicy, with great weight, but yes so very refreshing! The finish is long, tart, with lovely acidity, with sweet watermelon, hints of candied fruit, but really impressive precision with the acidity and refreshingness. Bravo!!! Drink now.

2019 Chateau Sainte Marguerite Rose – Score: 87 (QPR: POOR)
Sadly, this wine is right on the Median line for quality and it is more expensive than the median price, so this lands it as a POOR QPR wine.
Lovely nose with classic leanings for a Provence rose, showing lovely mineral, rosehip, citrus, gooseberry, classic ripe and juicy strawberry, and red fruit, but I am shocked by the ripeness/sweetness of the fruit on the nose and mouth. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is ripe, and while there is a load of pith, it lacks the acidity to make this work, it has crazy pith and hints of tannin, the mouth shows sweet peach, apricot, guava, and strawberry, with lemon, and yet more pith. That is about it, mineral-wise it is loaded, but the lack of acid is really surprising, IMHO. In regards to my refreshing scale, this one is low, now acidity and the pith is more aggressive than it is balancing. Drink now.

2019 Carmel Rose, Appellation – Score: 91 (QPR: WINNER)
This wine is in the 2nd quintile of quality scoring and it is RIGHT on the median price line, so this wine SHOULD get a score of GREAT for QPR. However, it is ALSO the ONLY rose from the 2019 vintage, so far, that scored at least a 91, and that has a price that is at or below the median price line, so this wine gets the coveted score of WINNER for QPR. Bravo!!!
This wine is a blend of 65% Marselan and 35% Grenache. The nose on this wine is really fun, truly Provence in style, with loads of mineral, red forest berry, yellow flower, rosehip, citrus galore, and passion fruit. This is a fun and funky wine, I like how the Israeli Rhone varietals, used ina rose style wine, get funky in the right ways, with a lovely core of screaming acid, followed by luscious and tart strawberry, raspberry, currants, loads of rosehip, floral notes, with mineral, dirt, and crazy fun and refreshing acidity,  it may well be the best rose from Israel. The finish is crazy long, refreshing, with saline, slate galore, and pith to round out the attack. On the refreshing scale, this one is off the charts, showing the best so far maybe for 2019! Bravo!!! Drink Now

2019 Binyamina Rose, Grenache Barbera, Reserve – Score: 75 (QPR: NA)
This wine is a blend of 90% Grenache and 10% Barbera. Let us start off by the fact that those two varietals do not belong together, at least not by any territory. In regards to this rose, it is up for debate. The nose on this wine is funky, and no, not like the funky aromas, I mean the aromas are all over the place, with sweet fruit, yet tart, with dark aromas, and also peach-like aromas, there is no clear approach of style here. Like I said, up for debate.
The nose on this wine is sweet, almost like it has some RS, with peach and apricot notes, followed by raspberry, and very ripe and maybe too-ripe strawberry, with floral notes, and almost a peach perfume. Ok, this mouth is not for me, sorry, the nose is maybe debatable, but this is really unbalanced, and the RS is really off-putting, throw on the oak, and goodbye. The mouth on this wine is unbalanced, it is really all over the place like a kindergarten kid hopped up on adrenaline and Adderall. Sure there is some fruit, loads of RS, and much of the nose’s fruit, along with Pineapple, and guava, essentially, not a wine for me, though the acid is OK. Drink now.

2019 Yatir Rose, Judean Hills – Score: 84 (QPR: BAD)
This is a wine that is honestly not even good enough, so with my new QPR scoring it is one quintile more expensive than the median rose price and it is not as good as the median score so that is why this wine gets a BAD on the QPR score.
This wine is a blend of 53% tempranillo and 47% Mourvedre. This wine does not work for me, sorry, first it has sweet, I mean really sweet notes, even if it comes in at 12.5% ABV, this wine is ripe! The nose on this wine is ripe, with over the top and fruit-forward notes of blackberry, raspberry, and mulberry, with nice floral notes. The mouth is OK with the acid, but right after the acid front, the mouth behind it is sweet, unbalanced, with currant, mulberry, and black fruit, that is really not put together. The finish is ripe and it does not work. Drink Now.

2019 1848 Rose, 2nd Generation – Score: 78 (QPR: NA)
This is the 2nd blend of Grenache and Barbera of the tasting and the third from Israel, with the lovely Tepperberg also using that blend. This one is a blend of 85% Grenach and 15% Barbera.The nose on this wine is far more put together than the Binyamina but not nearly as good as the Teperberg. The nose shows notes of mineral, red forest berry, and floral notes, the noes is less expressive than I would have liked. The mouth though is highly expressive and once again, this blend reminds me of a hopped kindergarten child, it is a mess. It has more acidity than the Binyamina and a bit of funk, the acid is really intense, but wow, this is all over the place and no, it is not refreshing. It is a hard pass.

2019 Pacifica Rose – Score: 89 (QPR: GREAT)
This is a nice enough wine, but with my new QPR scoring it is still is not as expensive as the median and its score is also above the median, so it is a GREAT QPR, though not a wine I would run after. Still, for the heady prices of rose today, this is a solid buy if you like this kind of wine.
This may well be the highest scoring off-dry rose I have ever scored. The nose on this wine is sweet and IMHO it is the PERFECT sleeper agent rose to get people to like roses, it is super bright, well balanced, and respectful to both sides of the fence here.
The nose on this wine is ripe, and sweet, with nice pineapple, guava, and red fruit, followed by tart gooseberry, and lovely floral notes. The mouthfeel on this medium to full-bodied wine is lifted by the RS and sweetness, but it has crazy good acidity and the fruit and winemaking style respects the concept of rose, with lovely sweetness, followed by much of the fruit in the nose, along with crazy pineapple again, passion fruit, and intense grapefruit, and pith. The finish is long, sweet, and well done with sweet pomelo, and its citrus pith lingering long. Nice!

2019 Tulip White Franc – Score: 75 (QPR: NA)
I know, this is not an official rose, I get it, blanc de noir, I get it, but it looks rose, so in the rose list it goes, but sadly, rose or white, this wine misses the mark. Look at the 2019 Pacifica, which is off-dry but hits the mark well. This one is semi-sweet/off-dry, who cares, it is just off.
This wine is a blend of 60% Cabernet Franc and 40% Sauvignon Blanc. This wine tastes like they tried to pair sweet Cabernet Franc fruit with dry Sauvignon Blanc fruit, and for me, it is once again a crazed kindergarten child running all over the place. No focus and no approach. The nose on this wine shows intense fruity and sweet aromas with pineapple, guava, and gooseberry in the background, followed by flint, and pear. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is indeed all over, with sweet and tart fruit trying to meld together, but all I get is the sweet pear and apple with the pineapple fighting horribly with tart gooseberry and apple. Sorry, this one does not work.

2019 Dalton Rose, Alma Coral – Score: 86 (QPR: EVEN)
This wine is below the Median line for quality and it is below the median price, so this lands an EVEN QPR score.
The nose on this wine is nice enough with red and white fruit, showing some citrus, with floral notes, and hay. The mouth on this wine is boring, with no acid, a little fruit, and some mineral. Bummer. Drink now.

2019 Jerusalem Hills Rose – Score: NA (Mevushal) (QPR: NA)
This wine is a rose from Cabernet Sauvignon. The nose on this wine is sweet and cooked rosehip, followed by cooked strawberry, sweet cherry, and candied and sweet fruit galore. This wine may win the award for the worst rose from 2019, it is pure evil, there is nothing but cooked cherry compote and residual sugar sweetness. There is some acidity, but the wine is painful.

2019 Hagafen Don Ernesto Beret Rose – Score: 89 (QPR: POOR)
While this wine is nice enough it is two quintiles higher in price than the median and as such even with a quality score higher than the median the price pulls it down to a POOR QPR score.
This wine is a rose of Syrah. The nose on this wine is lovely, showing bright yet ripe fruit, with good strawberry, somewhat dull pear, melon, and jasmine flowers, with compote of rhubarb. The mouth on this medium-bodied rose has a nice weight and enough acidity, but again I wish it had more, with a lovely pith and sweet fruit mouthfeel, that is still refreshing with jasmine, strawberry/raspberry compote, followed by candied grapefruit, and tart melon. The finish is long, sweet, with red fruit, dried flower petals, and rosehip, and sweet red fruit. Nice. Drink Now.

White Wines

2019 Hagafen Sauvignon Blanc – Score: 91 (QPR: WINNER)
It was awesome tasting this side-by-side the 2019 O’Dwyers Creek Sauvignon Blanc – they are REALY close, with the O’Dwyers Creek winning by a nose. This is tropical but so well balanced! Another white wine WINNER for the 2019 vintage!
The nose on this lovely Sauvignon Blanc is crazy tropical and almost over the top, but still well controlled, and really fun, with lovely notes of gooseberry, pineapple, intense and aromatic passion fruit, and lovely smoke/slate, wow, fun! The mouth on this wine is equally enjoyable and refreshing, with nice acidity, wish it had a drop more, with nice fruit of passion fruit, grapefruit, tart melon, and rich saline, with gooseberry, and slate/flint. The finish is long, green with lemongrass, ginger, and overall fun and refreshing approach. Nice!!! Drink now.

2019 Hagafen Riesling, Lake County, Robledo Ranch – Score: 89 (QPR: POOR)
Sadly, this wine is right on the Median line for quality and it is more expensive than the median price, so this lands it as a POOR QPR wine.
The nose on this slightly off-dry Riesling is too young to get those lovely petrol notes. Petrol takes a good year to really evolve in the bottle. The nose on this lovely wine is sweet, but very bright, with bubblegum, watermelon, with tiny hints of mineral and petrol, followed by lovely honeysuckle, lemon, lemongrass, with lovely melon, hints of pineapple, and rich saline. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is screaming for more acidity, but it is still nice, with lovely sweet notes of pineapple, sweet guava, honeysuckle, honeydew melon, and more watermelon in the background, with sweet pomelo, and nice salinity. A nice wine with a good saline/tart citrus finish but a bit simple and uni-dimensional. Drink now until 2023.

2019 Hajdu Vermentino – Score: 90 (QPR: EVEN)
The nose on this wine is fun, it takes a bit to open, but with time, say an hour, the nose is really fun, showing notes of orange, orange blossom, daffodil, with lovely citrus, ginger, and hints of nectarines. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is really fun, with good acidity, showing a slight miss in the mid-palate, that is covered up by the nice acid profile, with a nice almost oily texture, with orange, pink grapefruit, lime, and sweet yellow apple. The finish is long, really tart and green, with lovely acidity, slate, mineral, and more sweet fruit notes. Very nice! A shockingly good balance for a 14.5% ABV white wine!

2018 Goose Bay Chardonnay – Score: 88 (Mevushal) (QPR: POOR)
Sadly, this wine is right on the Median line for price and it has a lower quality score, so this lands it as a POOR QPR wine.
The nose on this wine is clearly showing its oak at this point, with a nice toasty approach, followed by lovely yellow apples, melon, and nice oak spices. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is nice e enough but it is too simple, it has a nice weight, but the overall package is lacking, with a very simple focus, but nice enough, with more apple, quince, creme brulee, and a bit of the creamy notes one gets from oaked Chardonnay. The finish is sadly short, it is hidden behind the nice acidity of this wine, but that is not enough to make up for the short length. Drink by 2021.

2019 Psagot Viognier, M Series – Score: 83 (Mevushal) (QPR: BAD)
This is a wine that is just not good enough, and with my new QPR scoring it is one quintile more expensive than the median price and it is not as good as the median score so that is why this wine gets a BAD on the QPR score.
This wine has real potential, sadly this was cooked and it feels it. The nose on this wine starts off nice, but within a minute of opening the bottle, it has that slightly extra-fruity note that is not from the fruit. The nose on this wine is a nice Viognier, showing really tart and well-controlled peach, apricot, perfumed jasmine, and loads of yellow flowers and honeysuckle. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is nice, excepting for that ripe fruit that sticks out from this lean and sleek profile, with an annoying spike of ripe honeysuckle, followed by peach, apricot, and honeyed and sweet mango, with nice grapefruit, and an overall sweet mouthfeel. The finish is long, green, in a way, yet sweet, with pomelo and citrus, along with apple, slate, and absurd pith on the long finish. Drink now.

2019 Chateau Les Riganes Blanc – Score: 86 (Mevushal) (QPR: EVEN)
This wine is below the Median line for quality and it is below the median price, so this lands an EVEN QPR score.
I was hoping for another home run from this chateau, and sadly this vintage lacks the acid of 2018. The nose on this wine is lovely but closed with orange pith, orange notes, apple, and orange blossom, ginger, with mineral in the background. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is nice but flat, with no acid, what it has instead is a load of pith and mineral, followed by gooseberry, straw, mineral, and more floral notes, with orange, nectarines, and more pith. Drink until 2023.

2019 Goose Bay Sauvignon Blanc – Score: 91 (Mevushal) (QPR: WINNER)
This wine is in the 2nd quintile of quality scoring and it is well below the median price line, so this wine SHOULD get a score of GREAT for QPR. However, it is ALSO the another Sauvignon Blanc from the 2019 vintage that scored at least a 91, and that has a price that is at or below the median price line, so this wine gets the coveted score of WINNER for QPR. TWO years in a row for Goose Bay Sauvignon Blanc! Bravo!!
The nose is closed and does not show the classic creaming notes, right now the notes are subdued but they are present, with time the wine really opens up, with cat pee, gooseberry, straw, grass, mineral, and Asian pear. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine needs a few minutes and with time it shows a far more restrained version but still quite enjoyable, with intense acidity, followed by loads of pith, straw, cut grass, mineral, dirt, and lovely orange, nectarines, citrus, Asian pear, and lemongrass. The finish is long, green, with passion fruit, more gooseberry, and mineral galore, straw, pith, slate, and flint. Bravo! With time the fruit will come out from under the pith and straw haze. Drink until 2023.

2019 Recanati Yasmin, White – Score: 87 (Mevushal) (QPR: EVEN)
This wine is below the Median line for quality and it is below the median price, so this lands an EVEN QPR score.
This wine is a blend of Chardonnay and 40% Sauvignon Blanc. The wine is all over the place with the Chardonnay being so sweet that it takes over and really makes this wine unfun. The mouth and nose are too all over the place. Not fun, but the Sauvignon Blanc is nice and tart with good gooseberry and straw, but the sweet Chardonnay fruit showing apple, pineapple, and nectarines make the wine a bit of a mess. Drink now.

2019 Recanati Sauvignon Blanc – Score: 86 (QPR: EVEN)
This wine is below the Median line for quality and it is below the median price, so this lands an EVEN QPR score.
This wine is overall boring, with no complexity, but it ha enough acid and fruit to make it a bit interesting. The nose is really not interesting, but the mouth has acid, some good fruit of citrus, lemon, orange, and gooseberry, make it a bit interesting. Drink now.

2017 Pascal Bouchard Chablis, Le Classique – Score: 88 (Mevushal) (QPR: BAD)
This is a wine that is good enough, but with my new QPR scoring it is two quintile more expensive than the median price and it is not as good as the median score so that is why this wine gets a BAD on the QPR score.
The nose on this wine is nice enough, showing notes of smoke, green notes, green apple, quince, lemongrass, and pear. The mouth on this light to medium-bodied wine is nice enough, but the fruit is less focussed, though the acid is nice, with orange pith, orange notes, and the mineral of saline and slate, is nice. Drink until 2024.

2018 Domaine Netofa White – Score: 90 to 91 (QPR: GREAT)
I keep trying to figure out this wine and I think I finally understand it – this wine has crazy bottle variation, plain and simple. Some bottles, like the one I am greatly enjoying now, is ROCK solid and an easy 91. Then I can have a bottle that is tropical and lacking all the acidity I love. If you look at the past posts, this is what I have written:
The good version looks like this – it is evolving in a great way, showing even more hay and plum. The nose on this wine shows a lovely nose of straight-up hay, mineral, and fruit, with apple and quince galore, and lovely fruit and blossom. The mouth on this wine is crazy good, with a clear ripe backbone, yet steely tart and bright with crazy saline and herb, with mineral galore, with crazy apple, and rich quince, with an incredible tension between the ripeness and the tart/dry fruit and minerality. The finish is long and green, with slate, more hay, and lovely freshness and minerality! Bravo! Drink by 2021.
The bad version looks like this – at this point, the nose on this wine has moved past the mineral and into pure tropical notes, with apple and quince galore, and lovely fruit and blossom. The mouth on this wine has lost a step, with a clear ripe backbone, and the steely backbone is barely keeping it afloat, nice quince, with what used to be an incredible tension between the ripeness and the tart/dry fruit and minerality. The finish is long and green, with slate, more ripeness than I would desire, and minerality! Drink up!
What can I say, this is hit and miss. When it is a hit the wine is so good, showing great minerality, saline, hay, straw, and yellow plum, with citrus and quince. So, here is wishing you a good one!

Sparkling Wines

NV Drappier Brut Nature – Score: 92 (Mevushal) (QPR: GOOD)
This wine is a Brut nature, and as such, it does not have the added fruit or liquor as other Champagnes have. This shows extremely clearly in the notes. This is a clean, austere, grown-up approach to Champagne while having a downside as well, which is these do NOT last long. This wine has a disgorgement date of June 2020, meaning this wine is crazy fresh. Look at the bottom of the bottle – below one of the labels (back or front) and you will see a date etched into the bottle.
The nose on this wine is EXACTLY that, crazy fresh with lovely green and yellow apple notes, followed by bright citrus, lemongrass, waxy notes, and of course, loads of yeast. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is dry, rich, and super focused, with incredible saline, quince, and yellow grapefruit notes, intense acidity, with loads of graphite, and hints of tannin, with an incredibly focused small bubble mousse, that comes at you in layers and lingers forever. The finish is so long, so tart, with more mineral, dirt, saline, graphite, and quince/apple/citrus lingering long – Bravo!!! Drink until June 2021. You know my feeling about Brut Nature wines, they are NOT for holding, drink them NOW!

2017 Hagafen Rose, Brut – Score: 87 (Mevushal) (QPR: POOR)
The nose on this wine is very inviting with tart cherry, ripe strawberry, with some heat on the nose, loads of rosehip, and rhubarb. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is tart and refreshing but it has no complexity and is uni-dimensional in nature, with tart fruit, rhubarb, fine mousse bubble attack, and nice mineral. The finish is long and fruity, with mineral, hints of tannin, and loads of bubbles and acidity on the long refreshing finish. A very nice quaff. Drink until 2024.

2015 Hagafen Brut Cuvee, Reserve, Prix – Score: 89 (Mevushal) (QPR: POOR)
70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay, late disgorged recently. The nose on this wine has a lovely aroma of baked rhubarb pie, balanced well with citrus, earth, dirt, and lovely smoke, followed by minerals, strawberry, and some oxidized notes. The mouth on this medium-bodied bubbly starts off with a shot of mushroom, oxidized fruit, followed by lovely strawberry, and then some lovely citrus, tart raspberry, baked apple, and pear pie, and some more rhubarb, with a  lovely small bubble, nice focus. Nice. The finish is long, tart, green and red, and loaded with smoke and almonds. Drink now.

The Top QPR Kosher wine winners of 2019

I continue to lament the lack of QPR wines. If there was ONE thing I wanted on my year in review than anything else, it was lower prices. To be fair, this year’s list of QPR wines is longer than last year, and the scores are higher, but I also moved the QPR price bar up a bit to 40 dollars. So, what we are seeing here is price inflation for QPR, at least the higher-end QPR wines.

Once again, Royal has some crazy good wines, even from the 2017 vintage, but the prices are high. Yes, there are some nicely priced wines, but to get the 2017 Montviel or the 2017 Gazin, you will be in the 50 to 70 dollar range.

Also, in my top wines of the year, there was only ONE wine that clocked in at 95, and yeah, that wine is priced accordingly, at 140 dollars.

Netofa Wines are finally back and it shows! They are all over this QPR list. This list is not a list of wines that are meant for cellaring, though many can withstand a few years. The idea here is to enjoy these wines now while you let the long-term wines cellar and age. We all have that interest to drink interesting wines and while I agree with that, that is NO excuse to raid the cellar when u have a hunkering for a complex nose or flavor. Many of these wines will scratch the itch while the beasts’ lie and settle.

This year, the list came to a total of 26 names, and none had to dip below 90 in the scores, which is a large number and better scores overall than last year, but again, the pool from where they are culled continues to grow, and the diamonds in the rough are getting harder and harder to find.

I have added a few new things this year. The first is QPR for France, the prices for many wines there, are dirt cheap! Maybe, Avi Davidowitz, from kosher wine unfiltered, can create a list like that for Israel, this year, a bunch of wines became available there, and a proper QPR list would be worthwhile!

Finally, some of these wines are hard to find and they may have different siblings – but they are worth the effort. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

The 2019 Red QRP kosher kings

2017 Chateau Royaumont, Lalande de Pomerol – Score: 93 (QPR Superstar)
The wine is a blend of 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc. I liked the 2016 vintage but this one may be better! The nose on this wine is pure hedonism, with incredible soy sauce, mushroom, and loads of umami, with crazy smoke, blueberry, earth, mineral galore, and black fruit, with herbs. WOW!!! The mouth on this wine carries the umami madness, with a richness in the mouth that is plush, and layered with less mushroom and more truffles, with loads of blackberry, blueberry, raspberry, smoke, mineral, all wrapped in a rich, layered, umami madness, with tobacco mineral, graphite joy, wow!! Incredible. The wine is ripe, and the voluptuous mouthfeel comes from the combination of oak, ripe fruit, mushroom, and mineral, it will be fun to see this one in three years. The finish on this wine is nuts, layered and ripe, with smoke, mushroom, and tobacco, graphite, charcoal, and more mushroom. Bravo!! Drink from 2021 until 2028. This can be drunk almost now, but it needs time to really be appreciated.

2017 Les Roches de Yon-Figeac, Saint-Emilion, Grand Cru – Score: 93 to 94 (QPR Superstar)
This is great, the Royaumont is mushroom and soy sauce and the Les Roches de Yon-Figeac is mushroom and barnyard heaven, it is insane. The nose on this wine is crazy barnyard, mushroom, forest floor, with freshly tilled earth, followed by a stick of graphite right in the eye, with crazy salinity, and loads of black fruit, wow! The mouth on this medium to full-bodied wine is really fun, layered, with squid-ink notes, with layers upon layers of plush and rich fruit structure, with incredible acidity, salinity, and graphite core, with crazy blackberry, blackcurrant, with dark berries, and smoke, with graphite taking center stage, followed by intense acid, and more mineral, with layers of earth, and lovely roasted herb, and screaming tannin structure that will last for a long time. The finish si long, green and ripe, with mineral at its core, followed by more squid ink, plushness that belies the searing tannin, and a fruit structure that lasts forever. Incredible! Bravo! Drink from 2023 until 2030. (the price is a bit too high to make it on this list and it is not in the USA, but it is so good, I cannot ignore it)

2015 Clos Lavaud, Lalande de Pomerol – Score: 92 to 93 (QPR madness)
The nose on this wine is lovely, far more controlled than the 2014 vintage while also being richer and brighter, showing notes of dark fruit, followed by loads of incredible mineral, with saline, graphite, forest floor, and mushroom, with dark red fruit, and loam that goes on forever. The mouth on this wine is ripe, but in such an old-world manner, with rich loam, bright fruit, great acidity, mouth-draping tannin that is elegant, well-structured, and a focal point for the layers of elegant blackberry, smoke, blackcurrant, dark ripe cherry, wrapped in plush tannin, sweet cedar notes, with incredible saline and mineral, with a plush forest floor that will give way to mushroom madness in the future, with an elegance that is really impressive, and a wine that is now just starting to show its potential. The finish is long,m green, with garrigue, foliage, more forest floor, with a plush yet velvety structure that is vacked with core-acidity and mineral, dark chocolate, licorice, leather, and fine spices. Bravo!! Drink from 2021 until 2028. Read the rest of this entry

My top 30 kosher wines of 2019 including wine of the year, Winery of the year, and best wine of the year awards

Like last year, I wanted to make this post short and sweet – so the criteria are simple I could care less about price, color, or where it was made. All that matters is that it is/was available this year sometime to the public at large and that I tasted it in a reliable environment, not just at a tasting, and that it was scored a 93 or higher. Also, there are a few lower scoring wines here because of their uniqueness or really good QPR.

We are returning with the “wine of the year”, and “best wine of the year” while adding in a new category called “Winery of the Year”, and another new category, the best White wine of the year. Wine of the year will go to a wine that distinguished itself in ways that are beyond the normal. It needs to be a wine that is easily available, incredible in style and flavor, and it needs to be reasonable in price. It may be the QPR wine of the year or sometimes it will be a wine that so distinguished itself for other reasons. The wines of the year are a type of wine that is severely unappreciated, though ones that have had a crazy renaissance, over the past two years. The Best Wine of the year goes to a wine well worthy of the title, especially with its 2016 vintage.

This past year, I think I am pretty sure about my statement. In the past, I had not yet tasted the pape Clement or other such wines. However, over the past year, those have been covered, and they were a serious letdown. As stated in the article, I truly believe the entire kosher production of the Megrez wines, following the EPIC 2014 vintage of the Pape Clement and others, to be below quality and seriously overpriced and without value in every category, which is a true shame. The 2015 reds are all poor quality and the whites are not much better, in 2015 and 2016. The 2016 Pape Clement, while better, is a total ripoff for what it is.

There are also interesting wines below the wines of the year, think of them as runner-up wines of the year. There will be no rose wines on the list this year – blame that on the poor crop or rose wines overall, it was, by far, the worst kosher Rose vintage. Thankfully, the task of culling the bounty of great wines to come to these top wines was really more a task of removing then adding. I may have stated the obvious in my last post, about the state of kosher wine in general, and not all of it was very good. Still, as I stated, we are blessed with more QPR wines and more top wines, while the core pool of wines, which are horribly poor, continue to grow larger and larger.

The supreme bounty comes from the fact that Royal released the 2017 French wines a bit early! Throw in the incredible number of kosher European wines that are coming to the USA and being sold in Europe and this was truly a year of bounty for European kosher wines.

Now, separately, I love red wines, but white wines – done correctly, are a whole other story! Sadly, in regards to whites, we had no new wines from Germany. Thankfully, we had Domaine Netofa and Yaccov Oryah’s Orange and white Wines to come to the rescue. Throw in Vitkin’s good work, and more great work by Royal Europe, including the new Gazin Blanc, and others, and you have quite a crop of fun white wines!

Some of these wines are available in the USA, some only in Europe, and a few only available in Israel.

Finally, some of these wines are hard to find and they may have different siblings – but they are worth the effort. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

The 2019 kosher wines of the year – we have a four-way TIE all from Yarden!

Yes! You have read it correctly, the wines of the year come from Golan Heights Winery (AKA Yarden Winery), the 4th largest date juice producer in the entire world! The top date juice honor belongs to Barkan Winery, but I digress.

So, why is Yarden here, because albeit’s deep desire to throw away years of work creating very nice wines, at a reasonable price, with its wines from the early 2000s and before, it still makes the best kosher sparkling wines, and it is time that it receives its due.

As I stated in my year in review, the kosher wine public has finally awoken to the joy of sparkling wine! Last week I told a friend I popped a sparkler for Shabbat lunch and he replied in a sarcastic tone, “Oh only a sparkler”, like that was a crazy thing to do. I replied that the Gamla (AKA Gilgal) Brut costs less than most white wines do! Why not pop one with lunch on Shabbat??? Others tell me, yes there is more a public appreciation for Sparkling wines, but it is a different wine category. I do not agree! Sure, sparkling wine has bubbles, so yeah, it is different. However, that is EXACTLY what is wrong here, Sparkling wine is just white or rose wine with bubbles. Who cares? When it is well made, it is a wine like any other wine.

Read the rest of this entry

Two more wines for the road, and some 2019 Beaujolais Nouveau

Well, after the trip to Taieb’s offices to taste the wines, I made my way back to Paris and then eventually home. Before I left Paris to return home I bought two wines I had not seen before. One was an IDS wine that started off slow but came around and another was what can only be called the absolute Poster Child for all that is wrong in the kosher wine world today. The IDS made 2016 Chateau la Tour de By is ripe to start but it came around nicely with time. The 2017 Maison Blanche, Medoc is what is wrong with Kosher wine today. I first thought this wine was not actually made at a Chateau or winery with any history or past wines. That is not true, the wine is made at Chateau Maison Blanche, but it does not use the Chateau moniker which makes me wonder. In the end, whether this is a run of fruit or a real wine, it was not good, flat, boring, no acid, no life, all that was good about that wine was on the outside (bottle and label), the inside was empty. If that was not bad enough, to add insult to injury, or salt to the wound, this wine sells for 40 euro in France! Like what! This just screams more about what I have a real issue within the world of kosher French wine, and overall in the kosher wine industry. The prices are out of control and most of the time, the wine does not live up to those prices. Sure, we have wonderful QPR options but P in QPR keeps going up to meet with the Q and there lies in the problem!

The day before I returned home, I was invited to a party hosted by ED from the French wine group on Facebook, thanks to EK for hooking me up. There was a tasting of some Falesco wines, and they were on par with what I have had before. Many thanks to ED for hosting! At the tasting, EK brought a bottle of 2005 late disgorged Yarden Blanc de Blanc and I was 100% SHOCKED at how flat and dead it was. Either something was VERY wrong with that bottle, or it is further proof that Brut Nature sparkling wines are not built to last. That wine was Late Disgorged two years or so and it was 100% flat. Read more about my discussion on Brut Nature wines and the issues with them. Also, my post on the LD 2007 Yarden Blanc de Blanc, Brut that I had earlier this year.

Finally, we tasted some of the 2019 Beaujolais Nouveau wines. There were two on the table, one was the 2019 Beaujolais Nouveau, Duc de Pagny and the other was the 2019 Taieb Beaujolais Nouveau rose or something like that. Anyway, the Duc de Pagny was 100% disgusting, it was bubble gum flavored banana juice, it was worse than Manischewitz. The Taieb Beaujolais Nouveau was not a wine I would buy but it was not nearly as offensive, which is a compliment in regards to Beaujolais Nouveau.

I brought the two bottles to the tasting and sadly they did not show well there, though the Tour de By did turn around the next day.

ED was the consummate host, he had a table full of food, sandwiches, and charcuterie, but I was so full from the food over Shabbat that I was not in the need of any more food. That said, there was this hunk of cote de boeuf and a crazy cake that I tasted a drop of each.

My many thanks to ED and EK and the entire group of French wine lovers. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

2016 Chateau la Tour de By, Medoc – Score: 91
Wow, this wine is hot showing really ripe and bold with brooding black fruit, with loads of chocolate, oak, spice, and really ripe fruit, with hints of green notes and herb. With time the nose cools down showing fruit without all the crazy heat, with loads of them and black fruit, with spice, smoke, tar, and earth, lovely. The mouth on this full bodied wine is richly layered and black with hints of raspberry, loads of blackberry, smoke, rich and dense and plush mouthfeel with incredible extraction and earth galore, with a whole in the middle, that gets hidden over time with a lovely tannin structure. The finish on this wine is rich and layered and smoky with milk chocolate, leather, and loads of sweet spices, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Nice! Drink until 2026.

2017 Maison Blanche, Medoc – Score: NA
Flat and flabby wine. Showing nothing but fruit and no balance. Sad.

2005 Yarden Blanc de blanc, late disgorged, Brut Nature – Score: NA
Flat and dead barely any bubbles and the acidity was lost. I hope it was a bad bottle. I fear it could the issue with Brut nature wines. Yarden’s late disgorged wines are brut nature in implementation.

2019 Beaujolais Nouveau rose, Taieb – Score: Not bad
Not bad for a Beaujolais Nouveau but not a wine I buy.

2019 Beaujolais Nouveau, Duc de Pagny – Score: NA
Disgusting bubble gum and banana juice. Horrible.

The latest crop of Kosher QPR wines and some losers

It has not been long since I last posted a new list of QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) Kosher wines. But I am always looking for more winners, and I am sure some of these will be on the QPR wine list of 2019.

To me, Terra di Seta continues to prove that Italian wines can go mano-a-mano with the rest of the kosher wine world. They continue to excel in delivering QPR wines and they continue to prove that you can create impressive to great wines for less than 40 dollars. I have yet to taste the 2015 Terra di Seta Riserva and sadly I was not a fan of the ALWAYS QPR worthy 2017 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico. The 2017 Elvi Rioja Semi, another perennial QPR winner was not my cup of tea but the 2018 vintage is a ripe wine, Mevushal, but still nice and QPR winner.

Another of those QPR superstars, in the sparkling wine world, is, of course, the Yarden Winery. Gamla is their second label behind the Yarden label, but when it comes to bubbly, the Gamla label is always well accepted. Of course, the stupid spat between Yarden Winery and Royal Wine means that we have a single wine called Gamla in Israel and Gilgal here. Why? Because these two wine businesses cannot make nice long enough to come to their senses and figure out a way to be civil with each other. I am so surprised that this is still going on today. The Gamla label, a wine made by originally by Carmel in Israel for this label in the USA, and now who knows who makes it, either way, it is not a wine worthy of this bickering, but sadly, here we are.
Now, back to the wine, I wrote about the new Gilgal Brut back in January, and the wine has moved beyond its insane acid lemon trip and it is now rounding out a bit, with some added complexity and richness.

Domaine Netofa was always on my QPR list, but sadly that was just for Israel, but thankfully Royal and Kosherwine.com have combined to bring the entire line back to the USA! I hear it is going well so get on these before they disappear!

Now, I also wanted to add a list of losers as people have been asking me what I thought of some of the newer wines and here is my response, so I have a QPR list and a NOT so QPR list.

I wanted to keep this simple, so the wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

2017 Domaine Netofa, Red – Score: 91 (QPR Superstar)
This wine is now exclusively imported by Kosherwine.com and I hope they are selling well. This has really stabilized now. It is a bit fruity still, but it also has some nice old-school style and swagger. The nose on this wine is nice and smoky, with great control and roasted animal. The fruit is blue and black and lovely. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is layered and with nice blueberry, blackcurrant, great acid, and great control showing earth, raspberry, root beer, that give way to spice, vanilla, and loads of dirt. The finish is ribbons of mineral, charcoal, graphite and bitter coffee, Solid!! Drink by 2021.

2017 Domaine Netofa Latour, White – Score: 91 to 92 (QPR)
Crazy Oak nose with yellow pear and apple, quince and rich saline with hay and dry herb. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is crazy good, layered, extracted and richly round, but tart, and saline bomb, with lovely tension and rich herb, and lovely sweet spices and sweet Oak. The finish off long, green, with vanilla, herb, and mint, and lemongrass, with tart lemon curd and spices. Drink by 2023.

2017 Domaine Netofa Latour, Red – Score: 91 (QPR)
The 2017 vintage is less austere than 2016, it is more accessible now and will still hold. The nose on this wine is really nice with rich black currant, blackberry, and blue notes that give way to smoke, Oak, toasty notes, and lovely tar. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is super tart and really bright, with great acid, blackberry, blueberry, black currant, with garrigue, sweet but well-balanced note, with mouth-coating elegance and layers of concentrated fruit and earthy notes, with chocolate and sweet spices. The finish is long, bright, tobacco, mineral, pencil shavings, with tar, and root beer. Lovely! Drink now until 2022. (To be released soon I think)

2016 Domaine Netofa Latour, Red – Score: 92 (Crazy QPR)
This wine is a blend of 65% Syrah and 35% Mourvedre. The nose on this wine is lovely, ripe and balanced, with sweet oak, blueberry, boysenberry, with bright fruit, and loads of dirt. This wine is really still very young, showing great potential, with incredible tannin, great acid, rich layers of blue and black fruit with great aging potential, loads of chocolate and rich spice, dark fruit, and herb, all wrapped in a plush yet elegant mouthfeel. The finish is less green than past vintages, showing a more ripe fruit profile, but still clearly balanced, with foliage, tobacco, mint, and sweet spices and herbs. Bravo!! Drink from 2020 till 2024.

2018 Ramon Cardova Albarino, Rias Baixas – Score: 92 (QPR Superstar)
The 2018 vintage of this Albarino, in its second vintage, shows less tropical and ripe than the first vintage, 2017. This bottle also had the thermal active label, and it shows up when the bottle is at the proper drinking temperature. My only REAL and serious complaint is the cork, why would Royal waste the money and my money of a real cork? Use a Diam or any other amalgamated cork, like almost everyone else is. I really hope I do not hit a bad cork for the wines I have.
The nose on this wine is better than the 2017 vintage, Lovely nose of rich mineral, with loads of straw, with which salinity, and lovely peach and dry pear, with honeysuckle, gooseberry, along with green notes galore. Lovely! The mouth on this lovely green and acid-driven wine, has a more oily mouthfeel than the 2017 vintage, showing rich salinity, green olives, with lovely dry quince, green apples, more peach, green apple, but also with lovely lime and grapefruit, no sense of guava or melon-like on the 2017 vintage, with a tinge of orange notes. The overall mouth is lovely and it comes at you in layers. The finish is long, green, with gooseberry, tart fruit, with an incredible freshness, and orange pith, slate, rock, and incredible acidity lingering long. Incredible!! Bravo!! Drink until 2022. Read the rest of this entry

2007 Yarden Blanc de Blancs, Late-Disgorged Zero Dosage Sparkling wine, along with some impressive California wines

This past week a few new friends dropped by and we enjoyed some new and old wines together. Many thanks to Eli for getting the food together and to Beryl, Greg, and Ari for hanging out with us, and of course many thanks Benyo (AKA Benyamin Cantz) from Four Gates Winery for sharing from his wisdom, time, and wines with us all.

I used the tasting to do an interesting side by side comparison of the 2007 Yarden Blanc de Blancs and the newly released 2007 Yarden Blanc de Blancs late disgorged. What was interesting was that I did not know that the late disgorged Yarden wines were also Brut nature wines, AKA Zero Dosage wines!

If you are following the posts, I recently posted about Zero Dosage wines. My take away from them was that they are a DRINK NOW style wine. Overall, many of the French Champagnes that we have in kosher have been drink-now wines. The Drappier which is mevushal has been a Drink-now style wine, and again Drappier prints the dosage date, so use that to decide if the bottle in front of you is too old.

The Laurent Perrier was also having serious age issues here, as the Champagne was not moving fast enough here in the USA. The not-mevushal Rothschild was outstanding in France.

With all that said, the kosher Champagnes here in the USA are not built to age. However, the Yarden sparkling wines age far better, IMHO. The 2007 Yarden Sparkling Blanc de Blancs has been wonderful for many years now. So, when I had the chance to taste the newly released 2007 Yarden Blanc de Blancs Late Disgorged alongside the normal 2007 Yarden Blanc de Blancs I was really excited! I had bought the wines but I had no one to try them with, so when Eli and his friends said we are coming into the area, I told Benyo and we used it as a great opportunity to share some wines.

The notes speak for themselves, but to me overall, the Late disgorged is not worth the money. The wine is GREAT, but for 70+ dollars, not worth it. Still, to taste them side by side, you could see the same style of the wine, but while the normal bottling was still showing very well, the newly disgorged wine was screaming in tart and very bright fruit.

The color was also, lighter in color, and I loved how the 2007 cork was already very crushed, while the new late-disgorged wine showed a perfect sparkling wine cork. See, the image below, along with Eli, big head!!!!

2007 Yarden Blanc de Blancs and 2007 Yarden Blanc de Blancs late disgorged side by side

Read the rest of this entry

Terra di Seta strikes again with another great QPR red wine and the return of Gilgal/Gamla’s QPR Sparkling Brut wine

It has not been long since I last posted my QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) winners of 2018. But I am always looking for more winners and now two more wines have been added to the list, and I am sure one of these will be on the QPR wine list of 2019.

To me, Terra di Seta continues to prove that Italian wines can go mano-a-mano with the rest of the kosher wine world. They continue to excel in delivering QPR wines and they continue to prove that you can create impressive to great wines for less than 40 dollars.

Another of those QPR superstars, in the sparkling wine world, is, of course, the Yarden Winery. Gamla is their second label behind the Yarden label, but when it comes to bubbly, the Gamla label is always well accepted. Of course, the stupid spat between Yarden Winery and Royal Wine means that we have a single wine called Gamla in Israel and Gilgal here. Why? Because these two wine businesses cannot make nice long enough to come to their senses and figure out a way to be civil with each other. I am so surprised that this is still going on today. The Gamla label, a wine made by originally by Carmel in Israel for this label in the USA, and now who knows who makes it, either way, it is not a wine worthy of this bickering, but sadly, here we are.
Now, back to the wine, while this release is very nice, and it is incredibly acidic with insane citrus notes, it has less complexity than in the past, and it feels a drop rushed. When you taste it, the citrus hammers you and then you wonder, where is the rest of it? It almost feels like they said, hey this can be “good enough”. While that may be true, it is a letdown to me, because this feels like cheated with acid and released the wine at least a year or maybe two years too early. I am not a winemaker, and it is possible that they realized this is as good as it gets, but to me, it is lacking while being so enjoyable.

I wanted to keep this simple, so the wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

 

2012 Terra di Seta Classico, Riserva – Score: 92 to 93 (QPR)
The name Riserva comes from two aspects, first it must have a higher quality than the Chianti Classico, and second, it must have been aged in barrels for 2 years, plus an additional three months in the bottle, before hitting the store shelves. So, while the 2015 Chianti Classico was the co-QPR wine of 2018, this one may have a good heads start on the QPR wine of 2019! Still, I get it, a 30 dollar bottle of wine is not a classic QPR winner, but for the quality, these 30 dollars is money well spent.
The nose on this wine is crazy fun, ripe, and controlled, but with time, the fruit blows off and shows more of the incredible smoke, flint, and with chocolate, with great blackberry, black fruit, and loads of red fruit behind it. The mouth on this full-bodied wine is really exceptional, layered, complex, and richly plush, with loads of mineral, fruit, blackberry, dark plum, garrigue, green notes, backed by a mouth coating tannin that is both rich and expressive, backed by a beautiful fruit structure, with lovely cedar, more smoke, and graphite. The finish is long, green, ripe, plush, and smokey, with toast, cigar smoke, coffee, and rich elegant dark chocolate. Bravo!!!
If you must drink this now, and yeah, it is fun, open the bottle, taste it and make sure it is not corked, by well, drinking half a glass of it, and then leave it open for 2 hours, when you come back it will be fun. Drink from 2020 until 2026.

NV Gilgal Brut, Sparkling wine (Gamla Brut in Israel) – Score: 90 (QPR)
Look I get it, Gamla/Gilgal (depending on if you are in the USA or Israel) when it comes to sparkling wine is legendary. Why? Because, Yarden, its parent company, is the QPR king of all things sparkling wine – PERIOD (unless we are talking about their $80, Late Disgorged Sparkling wines)! Great! Still, this release feels rushed, and it feels like they either thought it had no further potential, and this is as good as it gets, or they were just happy enough with where it was, because of its incredible citrus acid, and said, we will be happy with “good enough”, so lets sell it! I have no idea, but it while it feels very uni-dimensional, it is still very fun.
The nose on this wine is lovely with yeast and citrus, with heather, and lovely floral notes. This wine is nice, but while it lacks complexity, it is absolutely crazy, with the full-frontal attack of citrus, showing very tart grapefruit, dried lemon, with herb, with a great small bubble mousse, followed by a full-throat attack of fruit and mousse. The finish is long, tart, and green, with great citrus, loads of yeast, and a nice creamy mouthfeel, nice! Drink by 2022.

 

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