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Vitkin Winery’s latest releases

2016 Vitkin Israeli Journey, White, 2016 Vitkin Grenache Blanc, Vitkin Gewurztraminer, 2016 Vitkin Israeli Journey pink, 2015 Vitkin Pinot Noir, Vitkin Grenache, Vitkin Cabernet Franc, VAs I stated in my last post, I landed in Israel and I had very few days to see a lot of wineries. Vitkin Winery was the first winery I visited and I finally got the chance to taste the entire kosher line. Asaf Paz, is the head winemaker there now, after spending so much time helping at Vitkin for years, he is finally at home in his family’s winery for good I hope.

I have written before about Vitkin in passing last year when I tasted his 2015 wines, the first year he made the winery kosher! Yes, as stated last year, Asaf believed that it was time to go kosher, so why not make it on a shmita year! They moved from 60K bottles in 2014 to 100K bottles in 2015 and on. The hope there is that expansion would be possible by moving kosher. Royal Wines is the USA importer for their wines from 2016 and on.

The winery has grown from its early days in 2001 to now making 100,000 or so bottles of wine, and though it has space for more, it will stay there for now. We arrived during the crush for Grenache, so it was fun to see how the tanks are situated in the winery. They do not use pumps to move the wine must to the top tanks, but rather they use hydraulics to move the bins to the top of the tank and drop them into the tank. This makes sure that the fruit and it’s must is not crushed a second time, allowing for better wine. After the wine is finished fermenting, using gravity the grapes and the must are placed into the press and then the resulting wines are then dropped into the barrels. Tank to press to barrels all using gravity, with an assist from the hydraulics at the start. This is not a new scheme, it can be seen all over France, but it is nice to see it in Israel as well (Galil Mountain winery also does this along with others, but not many family-run boutique wineries show such care and concern).

Vitkin has three main lines of wines; Israeli Journey, Vitkin, and Shorashim (the elite wines), and some dessert wines as well. The kosher line started in 2015 and so initially the whites and rose were the only available options. Of the wines, we tasted the rose is in the Israeli Journey line, along with the white Israeli Journey. The other three whites; Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and Grenache Blanc are all in the Vitkin line, sadly there was no 2016 Riesling. The 2016 Gewurztraminer and Grenache Blanc, have the added collector’s edition moniker on them. The current red wines that are kosher all fall into the Vitkin wine label, both the 2015 Vitkin Israeli Journey, Red and the 2016 Vitkin Israeli Journey, Red, along with the 2015 Vitkin Pinot Noir, 2015 Vitkin Cabernet Franc, 2015 Vitkin Petite Sirah, 2015 Vitkin Carignan. The 2015 Vitkin Grenache Noir is the only red with the collector’s edition moniker.

There are two fascinating aspects of the wines produced the Vitkin Winery. One is that 50% of the bottles produced are either rose or white! Think about that for a second! Are you kidding me, that is really impressive if you ask me personally. Israel has changed so much in the last 10 years, in two core aspects. The Israeli public now drinks more wine, and they like white/roses, and the second is that red wines are turned riper – a drum I constantly beat – and one that is not changing yet. Read the rest of this entry

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My top kosher 25 wines of 2016

wall of wineWell, I have posted my year in review, and now I wanted to get to my top wines for 2016. Please beware that I know I missed many wines and that this list does not include wines that I have tasted that are not available on the open market.

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 an A- to A or higher. Also, there are a few lower scoring wines here because of their uniqueness or really good QPR. I also included some of the ebst wines I tasted this year – they are at the bottom.

On an aside, there continues to be a whole mess of madness around wines notes and scores, even the Jewish Week weighed in on the matter. So, let me explain this really simply – go look at some of my recent blog posts – they talk about some nice enough wines, but wines I would not specifically buy. They have all the nice words and such, which were all true and to the point. But without the final value score, I can tell you a Cabernet is full bodied with good fruit and spice – and you may say cool I want that – but then I would say well, yeah but it was not complex or layered. You could try to reason that out of the words I wrote, because the words complex and layered are missing. However, the simple fact that it was scored a B+ or whatever, would have told you that it is not always a wine worth going after (unless it is the Terrenal or such where it gets a QPR moniker).

My point being that wine notes – without a proper context (AKA a real score) – is like looking at a wedding hall through a slit in the window. Sure you can “see” the hall, but are you really sure you want to get married there? I never scored wines to tell people to listen to my score. I score wines to set the context and to always read the notes to see if that sort of wine works for you!

I posted this about my scores – and what they mean, so I hope these are useful to you. OK, enough of the darn score rant for the day, back to the matters at hand, being wines of the year. The list is long – get over it. It is a list of wines that I would buy, have bought, and will buy again – simple enough I hope. I hope you enjoy!

2014 Elvi Wines EL 26 – Score: A- to A
This wine is a blend of 45% Carignan, 35% Grenache, and 20% Syrah. This wine is showing far more accessible than previous vintages. The 2014 vintage in Spain makes fro wines that are easily approachable now and yet has the power to last a long time. The nose on this wine is fruit forward with dark candied raspberry, blackberry, and spiced boysenberry, with root beer and earth, showing spice, anise, and cranberry. The mouth is beautiful and controlled, with great mouth coating tannin, sheer elegance, with great sweet and focused fruit, lovely extraction, showing ripe and tart strawberry, raspberry, and boysenberry all mixed together into a compote, with black fruit and earth. The finish is ridiculous, some of the best of the evening, with sweet fruit and ripe structure, yet balanced and focused, with coffee, leather, and sweet spices, nutmeg, and mineral galore, with scraping graphite, BRAVO!!

2014 Capcanes Peraj Habib – Score A- to A
This wine is a blend of 45% Grenache, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 20% Carignan. This wine is showing far more accessible than previous vintages. The 2014 vintage in Spain makes fro wines that are easily approachable now and yet has the power to last a long time. The nose on this wine shows nicely, with chocolate and oak, along with crazy red fruit, roasted animal, toast, graphite, and lovely smoke, with floral notes galore. What a lovely wine, full bodied with great extraction, ripping acid and great crazy tannin that gives way to blueberry, blackberry, lovely cherry, and insane fruit focus that is backed by intense graphite, and mineral, scraping mineral, with mouth drying tannin all coming together into a far more accessible wine than any year before. The wine is really young but accessible, with insane fruit and mineral all coming together. The finish is long and epic, with leather, and rich extraction lingering with coffee and sweet spices coming together beautifully. Bravo!

2013 Covenant Cabernet Sauvignon, Solomon lot 70 – Score: A- to A
Really lovely but pushed nose, with ripe black fruit, tar galore, with garrigue, earth, and rich blackberry. The mouth on this full bodied wine is rich and extracted, showing an impressive attack with rich focus of blueberry, intense gripping tannin, spicy oak, sweet dill galore, with massive almost tactile mouth showing black fruit focus, with impressive inky structure that gives way to black and blue fruit. The finish is long and spicy, with green notes, foliage, good dirt, all wrapped with dark chocolate, leather, tobacco heaven, more green notes, and rich Asian spices.

2014 Elvi Clos Mesorah – Score: A- to A
This wines a blend of 50% Grenache, 35% Carignan from vines that are 105 years old, and 15% Syrah. Wow what a California Syrah nose, with intense root beer, watermelon, crazy how this smells like Shirah Syrah, with blueberry, and boysenberry, and spiced plum punch. The mouth on this full bodied wine wow, the mouth is full bodied, extracted, and crazy rich, with layers of extraction and concentrated fruit, showing searing tannin, ripping acid, that gives way to black and blue fruit, blackberry, plum, with crazy chocolate and coffee coming together to show mouth drying tannin, with earth, spice, cloves, black pepper, and spicy, with heady spice and blue fruit. The finish is long and spicy, with sweet spice and fruit that gives way to chocolate, roasted meat, and graphite. Really impressive wine bravo!

2010 ELvi Wines Rioja Reserva – Score: A- to A
Wow what a glass of umami, pure hedonism, bravo! The nose on this wine is pure joy, with root beer, blueberry, roasted meat, black pepper, mushroom, dirt, smoke, and toast. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is far more accessible than the 09, with sweet fruit, earth, dirt, sweet blue fruit, crazy candied and juicy blue fruit, that gives way to cherry, candied and spiced raspberry, with mouth coating and drying tannin, rich juicy and concentrated fruit, with insane focus and attack. The finish is long and juicy, with sweet fruit, nutmeg, sweet baking spices, milk chocolate, smoke, and crazy spices, anise and licorice. Bravo!

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Four Gates Winery – the newest wines for 2017

In case you have all been sleeping under a rock for the past 10 years – you all know my deep love for all things Four Gates. Last year was a great year for Four Gates Wine, and this year is no different. Once again, I have been asked about prices, and I am seriously not sure why this is being directed towards me. Sure, I am his friend, but prices are not my decision. Four Gates makes a tiny amount of wine and it is his business what he charges for them.

With that business out-of-the-way, let’s get to the wines for this years release. This year there is a new varietal, a Petite Sirah and there is a return of a Zinfandel, and there is a re-release of the 2013 Syrah and the 2013 Chardonnay. The Syrah, Petite Sirah, and Zinfandel, are not his grapes of course, as Four Gates vineyards is made up of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc.

The Cabernet Franc from this year’s release, also a 2013, comes from his aforementioned vines. It is a vastly different wine than the 2013 Cabernet Franc that he released last year, that was made from grapes sourced from the Monte Bello Ridge area. The Monte Bello Ridge CF was pure mineral and less fruit. This 2013 Cabernet Franc is a return of the classic Four Gates Cabernet Franc, rich in its floral and fruit notes.

There are two 2013 Merlot, and sadly I only have notes on the MSC, but from what I remember the non – MSC is lovely. The notes follow below, in the order they appear on his website:

2013 Four Gates Merlot, M.S.C – Score: A- to A
I really love this wine, it shows really old style notes, showing mushroom, earth, with bright red and black fruit mingling into pure hedonism. The mouth on this beautiful and elegant wine is layered and concentrated with ripe blackberry, plum, and rich earth, mushroom, and forest floor, with green notes, and old world structure and mineral, with new world fruit, all wrapped in mouth draping tannin and green notes. The finish is long and green, with earth, menthol, coffee grinds, and roasted herb.

2013 Four Gates Cabernet Franc – Score: A- to A
It is back!! The Franc is classic, with lovely floral and feminine notes, showing rose, floral notes, with green notes, earth, raspberry, and red fruit. The mouth on this medium to full-bodied wine is lovely, old world, and expressive, with ripping acid, wrapped in lovely mouth coating tannin, showing red fruit, with black currant, rich earth, lovely garrigue, earth, and green foliage abounds, all with epic focus and bright fruit. The finish is long and green with spice, mint, lovely saline, graphite, mineral galore, with coffee notes and roasted herb. BRAVO!

2013 Four Gates Syrah – Score: A-
In the past year, little has changed in this wine. One word does correctly define this wine – FILTHY!!! The wine opens slowly – but once it does, the wine opens to a crazy redolence of blue fruit, followed by squid ink, licorice, sweet oak, intense black fruit, mushroom, and wondrous spice. The mouth on this full-bodied wine is layered and extracted to the max with intense black and blue fruit, blueberry, blackberry, blackcurrant, followed by lovely barnyard, crazy earth, mineral, graphite, rich extraction, dense concentration of fruit and mineral, and great acid. The finish is long and spicy, with cinnamon, all spice, root beer, and hints of asian spice, and roasted animal, and miso! BRAVO!

2014 Four Gates Zinfandel – Score: A-
This is a fun wine, a lovely classic California Zin, with blue notes galore, raspberry, currants, followed by bright fruit, and earth. The mouth on this full-bodied is really fun, full throttle California, showing lovely acid, zesty fruity juicy wine, with fun blueberry, blackberry, and zesty fruit, wrapped in a nice cloak of tannin and zesty spice. The finish is long and spicy with cloves, cracked black pepper, and nice spice. Nice!

2015 Four Gates Pinot Noir – Score: A-
This wine reminds me of the Cali Pinot Noirs to start, rather than the older world style of Benyo’s wines, to start. The nose on this wine is ripe and sweet, with sweet cherry notes, raspberry coulis, and baking spices. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is ripe and round, with good fruit structure, nice earth, dirt, and good sweet spices, that are wrapped in lovely searing tannins to start, but give way eventually to mouth coating tannins that integrate slowly. The finish is long and both tart and spicy, with great tobacco, earth, dill, and menthol that lift the ripe fruit and give it elegance and complexity.

2014 Four Gates Petite Sirah – Score: A-
The nose on this wine is dark and brooding, with hints of blue notes, followed by blackberry, plum, earth, and good mineral focus, with time the nose is redolent with blue notes, black fruit, and root beer. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is fun, it is slightly rustic in style to start, but that passes and turns more elegant, with mouth drying and coating tannin, giving way to a lovely inky structure, that is backed by lovely blueberry, boysenberry jam, balanced well with mineral and tobacco, with dark chocolate, and luscious tart and juicy strawberry, all wrapped in sweet oak. The finish is long and tart, with good sweet fruit focus, nice mineral, graphite, great tart fruit structure linger long, with tart boysenberry sorbet, and bright fruit lingering long. Nice!!

2013 Four Gates Chardonnay – Score: A-
The nose on this lovely gold colored wine screams of sweet oak, with honey notes, peach, apricot, guava, mad butterscotch, and creamy sweet notes. The mouth on this full bodied beast is rich, opulent, and viscous with layers of brioche, followed by rich summer fruit, quince, pineapple, grapefruit, lemon/citrus notes, creamy notes, vanilla, and lovely crème fraîche. The finish is long and creamy with lingering oak, great spice, nutmeg, cloves, mad intense acid, and overall balance from the oak and fruit. This is clearly Benyo’s first heavy oaked Chard, but give this wine time to settle out and round out. With time it will show the trademark creamy, buttery notes that make his wines so appealing.

A birthday party long in the makings

Well, this past weekend I had a long-delayed birthday party at home, with friends and great wines. In honor of my birthday, I made the classic Tunisian Friday night dinner, but without all the classic trimmings; Couscous with boulettes.

This was one of my better couscous for a few reasons. First of all, the axiom – more is better, is truly meant to describe how much chicken you should throw into a chicken soup recipe. Second, I threw in a bunch of onions, zucchini, and ground up – oven roasted – mushrooms into the meatball recipe. Sadly, the makoud was lacking, because I refused to douse it with oil and eggs. The age old Tunisian cooking rule holds very true to makoud, if the dish does not look like an oil spill, you have done it all wrong. In this case, the lack of 12 eggs and an easy hand on the oil made for more of a potato mash than a souffle.

With that, the rest was up to me and Benyo, from Four Gates Winery to handle the rest of the wine duties. ER and HK brought apple cobbler dessert, while SR and JR brought some dessert that was hijacked by Rochel for later consumption. Fear not, they both know the drill, some things that are dessert based, never make it to the table, they are essentially Teruma to the goddess of the house. Read the rest of this entry

Assorted wine notes from two dinners with friends

2015-contessa-annalisa-collection-minutolo-gavi-di-gavi-goose-bay-sauvignon-blanc-2013-landsman-pinot-noir-narrow-bridge-la-fenetre-2010-shirah-coalition-2010-cha%cc%82teau-trigant-2011-tura-m

Over the past few weeks, we have had a couple of Friday night dinners and as such, I wanted to catch up quickly with just the wine notes. Three of the wines were brought by friends, while the rest were mine. All of them are from California, and they are highlighted below in that manner.

My many thanks to AG and LG, we will miss you both as you move to the east coast, and thanks for sharing the 2 with us – a lovely wine! Also, thanks to NB and AB for sharing the 2013 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Variations four, very nice wine. Finally, thanks to Benyo for bringing the only 2013 Pinot Noir that I had yet to taste from California, the 2013 Narrow Bridge Pinot Noir. It is made by Joshua Klapper, who also makes the kosher 2013 La Fenetre Pinot Noir, which we also opened side by side the Narrow Bridge. They are both made in Santa Maria, CA and are handled by the Weiss brothers and Rabbi Hillel. While both 2013 Pinot Noir (the La Fenetre and the Narrow Bridge) were nice, and almost identical twins, sharing commonalities like sourced fruit and winemaker, the Narrow Bridge surprised me! I thought it showed more acid and accentuated the green notes more than the fruitier La Fenetre. Sadly, the 2006 Falesco Montiano was corked, made me cry!

I also tasted two wines from the new 2015 Contessa Annalisa Collection, which are being sold on Kosherwine.com. They are the 2015 Contessa Annalisa Collection Gavi di Gavi and the 2015 Contessa Annalisa Collection Minutolo. These two wines are both a first in the kosher wine market. They are nice wines but lacked a true character that I craved, though air helped them a bit.

Well, there you go, I will be posting soon on a bunch of French wines, but for now, these wine notes will have to do. My many thanks to friends who shared our table with us.

The wine notes follow below:

2010 Shirah Coalition – Score: A-
I have said this before – we need the I LOVE Button for some of these special wines, and this one is in that camp, the first Coalition and wow what a GREAT wine still!!

This wine is a blend of 45% Touriga Nacional, 30% Syrah, and 25% Petit Verdot. The crazy part is that after 6 years this wine has changed and not at all. The wine has changed from its early days when the finish was shallow. But it has changed little in the past 4 years. The unique qualities of the Touriga come screaming in the nose with another crazy Shirah special blend. Once again, the red, white and blue nose of Shirah wines come from this unique and crazy blend! The label’s unique styling, styled after the constitution – is perfect for a wine whose essence is red, white, and blue.
The nose starts off with ripe and screaming blueberry, boysenberry, followed by loamy earth, herb, dirt, peach, apricot, pomegranate, lychee, and citrus fruit. The mouth on this medium+ bodied wine is layered with extracted red, white, black, and blue fruit, black cherry, plum, raspberry, peach, ripe apricot jam, rich tannin, boysenberry, watermelon, root beer, and lovely oak. The finish is balanced and rich with great acid, more tannins on the rise, more white and red fruit, chocolate, insane and crazy spices, nutmeg, cloves, black pepper, and so much more that it could fill a spice cabinet, finishing off with freshly baked raspberry jam pie. WOW BRAVO!!!

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The state of aged carignan wine from Israel and many others

2015 Don Ernesto Clarinet, 2012 Hagafen Cabernet Franc, 2012 Matar Petit Verdot, 2010 2012 Bro.Deux, 2005 Four Gates Syrah, 2012 Trio Carignan, 2012 Mia Luce Carignan, 2012 Recanati Carignan, 2007 Gush Etzion Blessed Valley, 2012 Shirah Whites

I have been offline for a month because of many reasons – the chief among them being that we were away for a trip through South Dakota and Montana. South Dakota was a bore, but Montana and Glacier National park are impressive, worth the insane drive.

Now on to wine, before I left we had a dinner with friends and I opened the remnants of what I had in the world of kosher Carignan (yeah there is a new one from Hajdu, I know). As of now, there really is just four main wineries in Israel making good to great Carignan. The list in order of ageability by far is Mia Luce, followed by Trio, then Recanati, and finally Jezreel Winery. Now before, you scream at me, yes, Recanati makes a lovely Carignan – but after three years it is date juice. Many of my friends love them, date and all, good for them! To me and the folks at the table that night – it was the least drunken wine of the night! The Mia Luce was slow to come around – but it was lovely. The Trio was epic from the start till the last drop. Yotam Sharon was the winemaker at Trio till 2013 and the wines he made during his short time there are indeed impressive.

The Jezreel Carignan is nice, but not in the same league as the first three – but once the Recanati turns to date juice, it is indeed better. We tasted the three Carignan from 2012 and yes – the Recanati is not fun any longer, neither was the 2011 Mia Luce (but that was a one vintage issue for Kobi). The saddest part of all of this to me is that Mia Luce is no longer making Carignan wines. The 2012 was the last available Carignan on the market. The 2013 was pre sold and by 2014 – he has gone to Syrah. Trio is now in another winemaker’s hand and it is not the same quality – maybe that will improve. The Recanati, as I have said turns too quickly – the 2009, 2010, the 11, and the 12 are all date juice. Great quality wines – structure wise, professional in nature, but still – they turn too quickly.

So, IMHO Carignan is in a perilous state if you like them aged. Otherwise, continue to enjoy the Recanati Carignan and drink it within two years – three at most. The 2014 Recanati Carignan is epic, sadly the 2015 (shmita) is not as good, and not one I would invest in.

YG reminded me correctly, that I had forgotten the 2013 Capcanes La Flor Del Flor Samso, which is 100% Carignan. It is not from Israel, and I was talking about Israel alone, but sure it is good to remind people that the capcanes is epic, and is a better option than the rest but it is also almost double the price, though the price on the Recanati Carignan has gone up a bunch as well, in the past few years – which is very sad. Also, there is the epic 2013 Elvi Clos Mesorah which is 50% Carignan. Also a top-tier wine. I have added the two scores below to be complete.

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QPR Kosher wine options that I have been enjoying recently

In my state of kosher wine industry post – I lamented at the lack of QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) options in the kosher wine world. Now that is not to say that the options do not exist, as you can see by the number of QPR options on my top wines for Passover last year. Still, given the sheer number of wines in a kosher wine store (many hundreds) and the number of kosher wines on the open market (many thousands), we are left with a very small minority – sadly.

So, I thought I would list the most recent QPR wines I have enjoyed over the past 6 months. I wanted to catch up with wines I had not had till later last year and place them in a single easy to find place.

My hope is that people will enjoy the wines and demand more of them. For instance, the lack of many of the QPR wines from Elvi Wines on the open market. I can find them on Royal’s website and on Elvi’s website, but sadly I cannot find them at many wine stores. Thankfully, Kosherwine has gotten the Elvi Cava back along with the Gilgal Brut, but they have older vintages or no vintages of the Elvi options. Onlinekosherwine.com, also has many of the older Elvi wines. I have spoken with Moises and he says they exist here somewhere in the USA – only God knows where though!!! Sadly, the exact same can be said for Netofa wines – another QPR superstar! Where are the wines? I taste them at KFWE – but they are not at stores, online or at shops!

I hope to one day write a post about wine cellaring, but till I do, understand that certain wines are made to enjoy early, like Cava, most 2014 white wines, and lighter reds. The richer and tannic reds can use time in the cellar and that is normal. 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 note or flavor. Many of these wines will scratch the itch while the beasts’ lie and settle.

Finally, some of these wines are hard to find and they may have different siblings – I will point out when an older one will be an issue or a newer vintage would not be on the list (like the 2011 Ella Valley Cabernet Franc versus the 2012). The 2012 Ella Valley Cabernet Franc would never be on this list. The 2011 is a fine wine for another year, after that I fear it will turn to date juice.

Also, many of the white/rose/bubbly wines will be repeats from the various posts I made, as most of the 2015 whites and rose are not coming to the USA as they are shmita in Israel. I tried to keep these wines under 30 dollars or so, some are more most are less and that is the point of this list. Of course, that means that for some wineries there will be one or no options, like Matar or Four Gates Winery. Though I could have thrown in the Four Gates Chard – which is a lovely wine, it is still far from my goal to add into this bucket. The same can be said for many more wineries. Also, 2015 Israeli wines are not on this list, actually no 2015 wines are on this list, though Hagafen Winery, has released their 2015, but I have yet to taste them and the 2014 Hagafen wines are the ones on the market anyway. Finally, wines that can only be found in Israel like the epic Tabor Rose of 2014 and the 2014 Reca Gris du Marselan and the yatir rose and the new 2014 Yatir Viognier – and so on. All of these wines are not on this list because they are hard to find, but they are on previous lists I have posted.

So, without further ado – here is my list of kosher QPR winners so far and if you have any more please tell me!! They are listed below without any real order.

2014 Domaine Netofa White – Score: A- (Crazy QPR)
I must say this is clearly the best Netofa white so far, and I hope they continue to impress! The wine is 100% Chenin Blanc sourced from the slopes of Mount Tabor. The nose is redolent with rich and bright quince, straw, mineral, lemongrass, and wet grass. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is lovely and rich mineral bomb, with more hay, spiced quince, now dry fresh cut grass, green apple, Asian pear, along with a crazy dry and insanely tart crab apple. The finish is long – spicy, dirty, and mineral based, with dry fruit, rich ripping acid, cloves, and nutmeg – BRAVO!!!

2013 Domaine Netofa Red – Score: A- (and more) (QPR!)
This wine is a clear step up from the 2012 Netofa Red, that is not putting the 2012 down in any way, it is just that this wine is even better! This wine is a blend of 65% Syrah and 35% Mourvedre. The nose on this wine is redolent and packed with mineral, lovely smoke, flint, ripe plum, lovely blueberry, with currants in the background. The mouth on this full bodied wine is attacks you first with lovely currants, followed by layers of blueberry, floral notes, richer and more extracted than the 2012, with great mineral, dried strawberry, all wrapped in ripping acid, and lovely tannin. The finish is long, extracted, and richly mineral in style, with blackcurrant, draping tannin, while being spiced with cloves, black pepper, sweet her, and hints of pith and lovely acid. BRAVO!!!

2012 Weinstock Cabernet Franc, Cellar Select – Score: A- (Mevushal) (QPR!)
This is not the same wine as the 2011 vintage, which was crazy and great this vintage started off closed and disjointed, but is now showing far better. The nose on this wine is mad green with red fruit notes, and herb. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is nice and round, with green notes, well balanced with good acid, raspberry, plum, earth, more bell pepper, crazy sweet dill, mouth coating tannin, and green foliage. The finish is long with nice enough acid, forest floor, nice butterscotch, good sweet tobacco, cedar, with tannin adding weight. Read the rest of this entry

Four Gates Winery – the newest wines for 2016

2012 Four Gates Cabernet SauvignonIn case you have all been sleeping under a rock for the past 5 years – you all know my deep love for all things Four Gates. Last year was an OK year for Four Gates Wine, but this year – may well be his best of all time. Now, I have got way too many emails and posts on FB asking me about the wines and the prices, that have gone up a bit. So, I thought I would post this article earlier than I would have to get people the information they have asked for.

The prices are a bit higher, but to be honest that is none of my business. Four Gates makes a tiny amount of wine and it is his business what he charges for it. That said, the Pinot is one of the best out there – with exception to maybe the 2012 Masada Pinot Noir – which is more expensive. Same goes for the new Cabernet Franc. The 2013 Cabernet Franc that Benyo is selling on his website is NOT from his vineyard, but rather from a vineyard on the Monte Bello Ridge area, close to the vineyard from where he sources his Cabernet Sauvignon that he is selling as well.

Prices are not what I get involved in, I am very adamant that wineries work to lower their prices – to make good kosher wine more accessible to the kosher consumer, but in Four Gates case – I guess it is up to you to decide what you want to buy.

Now to the wines, the Petite Verdot is the last one that will be made from that vineyard, so if you liked the 2010 PV – which was OFF the charts, the 2013 is almost as good, but with time it may be better. Also, being it is the last – get some while it is available.

Finally, as I said before, the Cabernet Franc is a new wine for Four Gates – as this is a new vineyard and while he did get some in 2015 (none in 2014), it was so small that it was blended into the Cabernet from ridge. The 2015 vintage overall is really small all around California, so do not expect too much from any of the vendors – though I think Covenant did well. So, in my opinion those would be the three MUST buys of the list.

After that, in terms of the rest of the wines, the Chard is very oaked – like crazy! But I had it twice and each time I let it sit for a day and after that it was one of the best Chardonnays I have had in a long time. Rich, fruity, but supple, with great butter and butterscotch, and so viscous that it really made me take notice.

The two Merlot are very nice as is the Cabernet Sauvignon. The Frere Robaire is crazy as always – the blend of Cab. Merlot, and CF really does make for an epic Bordeaux-like wine. Finally, the Syrah is very unique and the last for a few years, hopefully benyo can get more this year. The wine is very dirty, mushroom, and almost barnyard – very unique. It will make for a Syrah that is different than many have had in the past.

So, there you have it – the wine notes follow below:

2012 Four Gates Merlot – Score: A- (and much more)
This is yet another lovely classic Four Gates Merlot nose with raspberry and plum, with lovely briery, garrigue, and juicy fruit berry. The mouth on this full bodied wine is lovely with sweet cedar, crazy sweet dill, with layers of concentrated black fruit, blackberry, dark plum, all balanced with searing acid, sweet fruit notes, hints of coconut, and sweet herb. The finish is long and inky with rich black fruit, chocolate, leather, intense sweet tobacco, black fig, and black and red jam. BRAVO!!

2012 Four Gates Merlot, MSC – Score: A- (and much more)
Another lovely classic Four Gates wine nose with rich black fruit, with elegance and restraint. The mouth on this med to full bodied wine is another example of sheer elegance, with layer of concentrated juicy blackberry jam, mouth coating tannin, currant, green herb, bell pepper, with hints of sweet cedar, sweet basil, and dill, with sweet milk chocolate, and cocoa. The finish is long and black, with rich layers of licorice, more sweet herb, and lovely green notes backed by black plum, and sweet spices. LOVELY!

2013 Four Gates Cabernet Franc, Monte Bello Ridge – Score: A- to A
The nose on this lovely wine is ripping with rich tart and black fruit, along with mounds of dry dirt, loam, and earth, followed by incredible mineral, graphite and #2 pencil. The mouth on this full bodied wine is rich, layered, and complex, and comes at you first with rich roasted herb along with lovely blackberry, tart raspberry, dark plum, with green notes, bell pepper, and lovely foliage, all wrapped in mouth drying tannin, mad acid, garrigue, and black currant. The finish is long and refreshing, with a huge backbone, along with tart, full, and rich fruit, followed with leather, leafy tobacco, sweet dill, more green notes, licorice, along with saline and salt lick, and lovely pith. A very unique and special wine worth finding!

2012 Four Gates Cabernet Sauvignon, Monte Bello Ridge – Score: A- (and much more)
This is a far more restrained wine than the Merlot wines – less fruit on the nose with jammy red fruit, raspberry jam, vegetal notes, and spice. The mouth on this full bodied wine is inky perfect the perfect balance between the Merlot wines, plush and rich, nicely extracted but controlled, with a bit less dill, with lovely sweet tannin, balanced nicely with searing acid, black plum, sweet herb, mounds of ripe cassis, blackberry, sweet fruit jam, mouth coating and drying tannin, and blackcurrant, with great finesse and control. The finish is long with great balance, sweet chocolate, sweet basil, lovely earth, mineral, graphite, and sweet tobacco. BRAVO!!

2012 Frere Robaire, Bordeaux Blend – Score: A- (and much more)
This is another wine with a far more red nose profile, showing redder fruit, with plum and raspberry, ripe candied cherry, and cassis in the background. The mouth on this full bodied wine is rich and perfect with layers of dark fruit, sweet herb, and insane tart and ripe fruit, all balanced with layers of concentration and control. The mouth is layered and rich with an inky fruit structure that gives way to sweet oak, blackberry, and sweet herb. The finish is long and tart with nice tannin and dirt, showing well with dark chocolate, and sweet herb. Very Nice!

2013 Four Gates Petit Verdot – Score: A-
The nose on this wine is earthy, dirty, toasty, and mushroom, with tart red fruit lurking, and with time shows floral notes. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is rich with intense sweet dill, sweet plum, and toasty and smokey notes, with roasted animal, and heavy rich sweet tannin, that gives way to more dirt and sweet spices and intense and crazy acid. The finish is long and mineral with a rich fruit structure showing blackberry, crazy tobacco, and vegetal notes, with dark chocolate, and roasted toasty notes.

2013 Four Gates Pinot Noir – Score: A- (and much more)
The nose on this lovely wine starts with a hit of alcohol, but that blows off quickly to show the classic Benyo Chica cherry cola, followed by rich tilled earth, nice crunchy herb, and rich sweet spice. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is rich and bold and it needs time to come together, with classic cherry, raspberry, dark currant, along with intense acid, and lovely garrigue with impressive fruit structure that is packed with toasty oak, rich tannin, along with layers of fruit, graphite, mineral, and more dirt. The finish is long and vanilla, with great structure and tobacco, with sweet slices, cinnamon, and crushed herb. BRAVO!

2013 Four Gates Syrah – Score: A- (and much more)
One word does correctly define this wine – FILTHY!!! The wine opens slowly – but once it does, the wine opens to a crazy redolence of blue fruit, followed by squid ink, licorice, sweet oak, intense black fruit, mushroom, and wondrous spice. The mouth on this full bodied wine is layered and extracted to the max with intense black and blue fruit, blueberry, blackberry, blackcurrant, followed by lovely barnyard, crazy earth, mineral, graphite, rich extraction, dense concentration of fruit and mineral, and great acid. The finish is long and spicy, with cinnamon, all spice, root beer, and hints of asian spice, and roasted animal, and miso! BRAVO!!!

2013 Four Gates Chardonnay – Score: A-
The nose on this lovely gold colored wine screams of sweet oak, with honey notes, peach, apricot, guava, mad butterscotch, and creamy sweet notes. The mouth on this full bodied beast is rich, opulent, and viscous with layers of brioche, followed by rich summer fruit, quince, pineapple, grapefruit, lemon/citrus notes, creamy notes, vanilla, and lovely crème fraîche. The finish is long and creamy with lingering oak, great spice, nutmeg, cloves, mad intense acid, and overall balance from the oak and fruit. This is clearly Benyo’s first heavy oaked Chard, but give this wine time to settle out and round out. With time it will show the trademark creamy, buttery notes that make his wines so appealing.

A nice cross-section of kosher Cabernet Franc and QPR Merlot wines

2011 Chateau RoyaumontThis past weekend we had many guests over and we enjoyed a lovely cross-section of kosher Cabernet Franc and Merlot wines. Most of them were from Cali – but we had a nice Israeli wine in there as well. The real winner of the blind tasting was the 2011 Ella Valley Cabernet Franc, but I liked the 2011 Four Gates Cabernet Franc more because of the acid. It was clear that certain wines were better appreciated for the depth and power they had, more in your face and full bodied wines.

Many have spoken about the demise of Merlot and the rise of Pinot Noir from what is now called the “Sideways Effect.” Miles (the movie’s protagonist) proclaims his hatred for Merlot and his love affair for Pinot Noir, in the movie Sideways. While this has been confirmed by many trusted sources, what has been glossed over is the hammer blow that Miles delivered to Cabernet Franc. In the very same movie, Miles is poured a glass of Cabernet Franc, he smells it, sips it, and ceremoniously pours out the glass into the spit bucket, while dropping an anvil on all Cab Franc fans, as he states “”I’ve learned never to expect greatness from a cab franc, and this is no exception”. “Ouch!” This is the exact kind of snobbery and lack of appreciation for the varietal’s unique qualities, mentioned earlier, that has kept the masses away from Cabernet Franc. In the end of the movie, we find Miles drinking his vaulted and prized bottle of 1962 Cheval Blanc, which is composed of 66% Cab Franc, 33% Merlot, and 1% Malbec!  We do hope that the irony is not lost on you, as it was certainly not lost on the producers!

Ask a winery why they do not sell Cabernet Franc, and they will start by disparaging it as a blending grape, and then add that it is not a noble variety. What’s so funny is that the vaulted Cabernet Sauvignon – the archetype noble grape, is actually a cross between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc – go figure! You see, perception (and a lack of marketing) is reality, and while many have complained that Cabernet Franc is a thin and green flavored wine, that has more to do with the vintner’s and vineyard manager’s incompetence than it has to do with the grape. Cab Franc needs a fair amount of heat to bring it to its true potential, but too much heat, and it gets toasted. Poor viticulture is the grape’s Achilles Heel. Still, the wine’s olfactory charm and bright fruity composition makes it a clear contrast from today’s fat and fruit forward wines. Sure, you find wineries styling the poor Cabernet Franc grape into a Cabernet Sauvignon by suffocating it in oak and tannins. However, the wine’s true beauty lies in its clean lines, bright red fruit, and it’s crazy floral/fruity nose, that may be accompanied by some bell pepper, which causes many a wine critic to turn up their noses to this wonderful wine.

Even further is that many a winery, including one from the tasting will say that they would rather have a Cabernet Franc that lacks green notes than one that shows it. Why? Because truly Cabernet Franc started as a grape grown in France, and in a region that does not get very warm, namely Bordeaux and the Loire Valley. Napa and Israel, however, does get warm, and some in Napa would like their wines to taste along the lines of their preferences, namely less green notes. Green notes normally arise from the lack of ripeness, think of vegetal notes you sometimes taste in fruit when the fruit is less than ripe. As the fruit ripeness, the Pyrazines within the grapes are killed off by the sunlight and ripe flavors appear. I love green notes in Cabernet Franc and am not turned off by them, in my opinion of course.

Wines from Shabbat

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Some great kosher Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot

I have been flying far too much for business reasons this past year, and this past week is a perfect example of the madness. I flew 20 hours of plane time in a day, and I never left the country. Sure, part of that was mileage running, but the first part was business. So, that left me very little time to cook before some of my favorite guests, what I call the “gang” was coming over for a Friday night meal.

To fix that I made all the food the day before I left, froze it and unfroze it on Friday and served it Friday night. Do not fear, there were no leftovers. The wine selection was meant to be 2013 Cali Pinot Noir, but thanks to the generosity of many of the gang, that was thrown for a loop, and I am very thankful for that, as I got to taste some epic wines indeed.

So, instead of just 2013 Cali, we started with a very nice 2007 Gush Etzion Spring Red, brought by AS and that was followed by a wine that I loved very much the last time I had it, the 2014 Eagle’s Landing Sauvignon Blanc. Sadly, something went VERY wrong, since we tasted it in the summer at the winery. Gone was the ripping acid and saline, in its place is more tropical fruit, banana and sweet notes. Sadly, I was not the only one to say this, as others I respect told me this very same thing a few weeks ago. I was shocked and argued vehemently that this was just not true. Sadly, once I tasted the wine that was shipped directly from the winery as part of the wine club, my friend’s allegations were brought to the forefront. This was a real shame and one that left me wanting information – if it was available.

After that we started with a run of Pinot Noir wines, starting with 2012 Makom Pinot Noir, which was as good as it was last week! That was followed by the 2009 Four Gates Pinot Noir – which is hedonistic and rich in so many ways, a wine that was not appreciated at release, but one I held onto. This bottle in particular was brought by its creator – Benyamin Cantz and it was just lovely! The next wine was the 2011 Gvaot Gofna Pinot Noir, and what can I say at the meal it was DEAD! DOA was all I could say, I triple aerated it and nothing helped. THANKFULLY, I saved a bit and after 24 hours the wine was alive and beautiful. In hindsight I should have just read my own notes about this wine – and I would have seen that the wine was closed and sleeping a year ago, sadly it has yet to waken. Give this wine another year or decant it for 12 hours – which I think is absurd! Buy the wine and wait – you will be happy for it.

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