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Paris tasting of Royal’s 2019 and other French wines – November 2021

So, in June I made my way to Paris and I posted the Royal wines I tasted, they were mostly white, rose, and a few red wines as well. For the past many years I have been tasting the new releases from Royal wines with Menahem Israelievitch. Sadly, last year, because of COVID I tasted the 2018 vintage in my house. Thankfully, Paris was open in November, and I returned to taste more wines.

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

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

While the 2015 and 2016 vintages were ripe, the 2017 vintage was not ripe at all, with the 2018 vintage making the 2015 ripeness look tame! Well, I am happy to say that the 2019 vintage is far more in control, less heat is obvious, though it showed up in a few wines below. Now that is a very broad-stroke statement that cannot be used uniformly, for the most part, go with it! Thankfully, the 2019 vintage will be priced slightly lower than 2018, overall, more on that below.

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

The Mevushal wines from France for the 2018/2019/2020 vintages will be the

  • 2020 Les Marrionniers Chablis, Chablis
  • 2020 Chateau Les Riganes, Bordeaux
  • 2020 Chateau Genlaire, Bordeaux Superieur
  • 2018 Des Barons Edmond & Benjamin de Rothschild Les Lauriers, Montagne Saint-Emilion
  • 2019 Des Barons Edmond & Benjamin de Rothschild Les Lauriers, Montagne Saint-Emilion
  • 2018 Barons Edmond & Benjamin de Rothschild, Haut-Medoc
  • 2019 Chateau Greysac, Medoc
  • 2019 Chevalier de Lascombes, Margaux – YES this is new for 2019 OH! How exciting (note by sarcasm!!!)
  • 2019 Chateau Le Crock, Saint-Estephe, Bordeaux
  • 2018/2019 Chateau de Parsac
  • 2019 Chateau Gazin Rocquencourt, Blanc, Grand Vin – YES this is new for 2019 OH! How exciting (note by sarcasm!!!)
  • 2019 Chateau Gazin Rocquencourt, Red, Grand Vin – YES this is new for 2019 OH! How exciting (note by sarcasm!!!)
  • 2018/2020 Chateau Les Riganes, Blanc
  • 2017/2019 Chateau Mayne Guyon

Now does mevushal impede the long-term viability of aging in regards to the wine? Well, that too is not something that we have scientific proof on. I have tasted a mevushal 1999 Herzog Special Edition and it was aging beautifully! Same with the Chateau Le Crock, over the past few years. So, would I buy the mevushal versions of the wines I tasted below! The answer is yes! Would I age them? Yes, I would hold them for slightly fewer years. To me personally, it is very clear, if Royal had their way they would make the Pontet Canet Mevushal! Nothing to Royal is sacred and this will not stop with the list above, it will grow, proof is Chevalier and Gazin!

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

The 2019 Pricing and access

When the 2019 wines were released “En primeur” the date was late May 2020. The world, at that time, knew nothing about COVID other than it was killing thousands and questions were all we had. Still, wineries in Bordeaux decided to plow on and the first of the virtual tastings took place on May 28th, 2020 – from Chateau Pontet Canet! This was the non-kosher tasting but at that moment when wines were shipped the world over, wineries decided to lower prices! Remember, we had been raising prices year over year, 2014 to 2015, to 2016, to 2018, it was time to reset. The pandemic allowed for that. Thankfully, and sadly, the world has slowly come back from the brink of death, and now, the 2020 vintage, which has the “En primeur“, in Bordeaux, June 2021, raised prices – so yeah, the 2020 Chateau Pontet Canet is more expensive than the 2019 vintage.

On top of that, the 2019 Chateau Pontet Canet is going to be impossible to buy. I have asked why certain wines in the past were not made more often or the such? Like why do we have Leoville every 2 or more years? Why can it not be more like Giscours? The answer I have received, from many at Royal is that folks still fear what happened during the last recession of 2007/2008. They had made too much of Leoville and Pontet Canet, in a short period, and well, sadly it sat. I get it, who wants to stare at walls of wine they cannot sell?
My issue with that is – well that was more than 15 years ago guys! Maybe a better way to say it is to channel Dorthy – Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.
Do we believe that another 100 cases would not sell?? The Malartic white is almost sold out! Malartic white! A wine no one thought they could sell 10 years ago. The world of the kosher wine consumer has moved in leaps and bounds – to continue to think like it is still 2008 is to belittle us and deny many what they want – more Pontet Canet! I will get off my soapbox, but it is truly time to stop with the kneejerk mindset. Like no 2019 Chateau Leoville Poyferre, why? Look at the famous 2014 Chateau Montviel story! It sold out in a week. Why? Because there was so little made. Again, the kosher consumer has moved past the days of old – I think it is time for Royal to do the same.

I understand that when Pontet Canet started up, again, with a new run of kosher wine, they created a separate sub-winery for the production. Further, they replicated the process, the varietal blend, and overall physical impact. The physical impact does define the total potential output, but it is time to start to grow the market. The market can and should support large output, especially in the trophy wine space, you can always control the output by skipping a vintage, in the end, Giscours and Leoville have proven it is doable, and I hope that Royal will continue to feel comfortable and grow Pontet and Leoville as we progress down the road.

Still, as always, we are indebted to the work of Menahem Israelievitch and Royal Wines for producing so many wonderful wines, even if they are in low supply. The 2019 Chateau Pontet Canet is a very different wine than the 2003 or the 2004 Chateau Pontet Canet. First of all, the system used to make those wines, back then, have changed drastically in the past 10 years, at the Chateau. Everything is now over the top, in regards to everything there. All production is done by hand and that adds to the cost. To me, the wine is also very different, stylistically, gone is the powerhouse, what we have now is a refined masterpiece. It may shock some people, and that is good, but to me, it is a classically styled and built wine for the future, and the best wines I have tasted this year, so far anyway.

Tasting in Paris

I landed in Paris, the day before this tasting and I met up with Avi Davidowitz from the Kosher Wine Unfiltered blog. It was a true joy to hang out with Mr. Davidowitz for a few days. It was so nice of him to fly from Israel to join me in the tastings. We also tasted over 70 wines – outside of the planned tastings. We thankfully had a great hotel room and it gave us loads of space to hang out and taste through those wines.

We had the chance to taste both the Mevushal and the non-Mevushal versions of two wines, side-by-side. Those were the 2019 Chevalier de Lascombes and the 2019 Chateau Le Crock. I missed the Chevalier de Lascombes but I got the Chateau La Crock. In my defense, both of the Chevalier de Lascombes are ripe, and differentiating the ripe from the riper was not obvious, but hey, I missed it!

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

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

2019 Domaine Ternynck Bourgogne, Les Truffieres, Burgundy (M) – Score: 87 (QPR: BAD)
The nose on this wine is ripe apple, pear, melon, a bit of citrus, and spice. The mouth on this wine is nice but lacks the acidity to make it come together well, with melon, pear, mineral, and spice. The finish is a bit short with hints of nectarine, orange, mango, and sweet mint. Drink now. (tasted November 2021) (in Paris, France) (ABV = 13%)

Read the rest of this entry

The French are coming the French are coming

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Available in France Only

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

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

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

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

Yitzchok Bernstein does it again – a 19 course culinary kosher tour de force

Yitzchok BernsteinA few months ago Heshy Fried, Yitzchok Bernstein’s sous chef and frum-satire blogger, was at the house for a shabbos dinner and he said that Yitzchok Bernstein, was back on the scene. Bernstein is the culinary mastermind behind the epic haute cuisine event that lasted some 27 courses, and which was one of the most often read posts on my blog, in the past year. Bernstein was lurking in NY for a few months – but he returned to Oakland after a short, yet successful, stint at Pomegranate.

The gang unpacking early before the dinner prep 3So, when I heard that Mr. Bernstein was back – we agreed that a dinner was in order. Fried was not sure what the actual cost of a multi-course dinner was, but after a few back and forth discussions with Bernstein we were set. Well, while the dinner was set, the next two hurdles were a bit complicated; finding and arranging with 10 other participants and then locking down a date. Throughout the process, Bernstein was as professional as they come, and responded almost immediately to our correspondences. Getting the final gang together had a few missteps along the way, but while the overall process was a bit long to arrange on my end, the final outcome was an absolute delight, but more on that in a bit.

Surf and Turf Salad- Fried Chicken Skins, Sea Beans, Nasturtium, Pansies, petit onions, root greens, Romaine Puree, Spring Green Pea Gazpacho, Morels, Fiddlehead Ferns, Poached Baby Potatoes, Shaved Chorizo - close upOnce the gang was roughly worked out, we agreed that the date was not going to work until after Passover. So once that was decided the next step was agreeing on a final date – which took a few emails. After that we were set and then came the fun part, deciding the food and wine menu. The dinner does not include wines, which is fine with me as I am picky about my wines, but wow were the dishes impressive! Initially, there was some interest in lamb, but in the end that did not work out, as I am not that in love with lamb. In the end the set of dishes were truly innovative and fascinating and unique – so I am happy we passed on the lamb for the dishes we got instead.

Shortrib Pastrami, Sauerkraut Foam, Deli Rye Gnocchi, Roasted Ramp, Rye CrumbsI laughed so hard throughout the process because initially, the number of courses was set at 12 or so, which was 100% fine. However, throughout the process of setting the menu Mr. Bernstein kept adding courses – it was HILARIOUS, I could not help from laughing whenever I would read the revised menu. It turns out that we were very lucky, Bernstein was trying out some new recipes and we were the beneficiaries of some wicked cool imaginative dishes. To be fair, some worked really well, some were awesome, and some were just 100% off the charts. Read the rest of this entry

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