Another round of QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) Hits and Misses, Nineteen QPR WINNERS – May 2023
First off, this is not the largest roundup I have written – there is a larger one from October 2021. Sadly, that one only had 6 QPR WINNER. This post has 19! Also, we have a shockingly high number/percentage of EVEN QPR score wines, 26 to be exact. Either the price or the quality pushed them to this level. So, without further ado, the 62 wines I tasted over the past few months.
QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) Wines
It has been four months since my last QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) post and many people have been emailing me about some unique wines I have tasted and some lovely wines that are worth writing about.
Thankfully, no matter how much garbage and pain I subject myself to, we are still blessed with quite a few wonderful QPR wines out there. This post differs though, this is the first time I have seen so few N.A. or POOR/BAD QPR scores! This is not because things are getting better as much as I am selectively picking wines to taste recently. Still, many of these notes are from KFWE in Los Angeles, so it does represent a proper distribution, IMHO. We have 19 WINNER scores and a few GOOD/GREAT scores. A shockingly large number of EVEN scores, which could have snuck into POOR/BAD, and only 8 POOR/BAD.
Thoughts on the wines
Harkham is back!!!
My interest and love for all things Harkham is well known. I loved discovering the Aziza in Australia, some 13 years ago! I missed Richie that day, but I made up for that many times afterward. I thought the two Shiraz, imported by Kosherwine.com, were solid entries into the Kosher US market. The 2021 vintage was tough in Australia and these wines show Richie’s drive and passion! Looking forward to even more stuff!!
Missed Bordeaux Wines
Between my Royal Wine tasting and the rest of the wines that Avi and I tasted, we covered most of the 2020 vintage in Paris, in Nov 2022. However, we missed the 2020 Chateau Fayat and the 2020 Chateau Meyney. That has now been rectified. The Fayat is an AWESOME WINNER, while the Meyney may come around, otherwise, it is still a solid wine.
Michael Kaye continues to strive to make wines that are unique while also interesting. Some are hits and some are close but either way, he continues to impress. Hopefully, as he scales up production, the cool and refreshing wines will continue to roll! His website is up and running – Invei WInes.
My dear friend Josh Rynderman continues to pump out great wines. The rose and Emunah are prime examples. I liked the rose, it is refreshing and puts a smile on my face. The Emunah is nice, not as balanced as in the past, but a solid next play. I hear more fun stuff is coming soon. Looking forward!
A couple of weeks ago, I was at Covenant Winery to taste the Hajdu wines with my friend Elk. Elk eventually showed up, but either way, it was great hanging out with Jonathan Hajdu and seeing Elk, eventually! The wines that I tasted were all balanced, refreshing, and enjoyable. The rose and Pinot Blanc were lovely wines. The reds were balanced as well.
I tasted these wines at the KFWE in Los Angeles and also some were sent to my home to taste. Overall, I was shocked by how good the 2021 Baron Herzog Pinot Grigio and Gewurztraminer were. Balanced, tart, and refreshing, and for the price! WOW! The 2020 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley is a hit as always, on even vintages. 2019 was not bad, but not this good!
Overall another nice list of QPR WINNERS. I can always look at these kinds of lists and say there are only 19 wines I would want to buy from this entire list, but that would be a defeatist attitude. The correct way to classify this list is we have 19 more wines available to us and in the end, as I have stated many times now, I cannot buy all the WINNER wines even if I wanted to. There are just too many good wines out there and that is what we should be focused on!
The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:
We have a nice list of QPR WINNERS:
- 2020 Chateau Fayat, Pomerol – Stunning wine! Enough said
- 2020 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, Special Reserve – Great wine!
- 2021 Hajdu Proprietary Red, Napa Valley, CA – Big and bold wine, but balanced
- 2020 Chateau Meyney, Saint-Estephe – This wine scares me but it may eventually come around
- 2020 Terra Di Seta Guiduccio, Toscana – Same with this one, it scares me but should come around
- 2020 Elvi Wines El26, Priorat – Big, bold, but far more balanced than others here
- 2021 Hajdu Menagarie, California – Nice wine
- 2021 Harkham Hark Angel Shiraz – Harkham is back in the States! Lovely wine!
- 2021 Hajdu Barbera, Sierra Foothills – Nice, tart, and balanced wine
- 2020 Hagafen Rose, Brut, Napa Valley, CA – Nice bubbles!
- 2022 Invei Gewurztraminer, Dry, Clarksburg, CA – Huge ABV but you do not feel it – loved it!
- 2020 Chateau D’Arveyers, Bordeaux Superieur – Great Mevushal Winner!
- 2022 ESSA Liv & Luv Rose, Durbanville – Not bracing with acidity, but balanced and refreshing.
- 2021 Dalton Sauvignon Blanc, Reserve, Galilee – A nice Sauv Blanc – enjoy!
- 2021 Baron Herzog Gewurztraminer, California (M) – Impressed by this wine, refreshing
- 2022 Hajdu Pinot Blanc, Anderson Valley, CA – Floral and joyous
- 2022 Hajdu Rose, California – Nice, and refreshing
- 2021 Baron Herzog Pinot Grigio, California (M) – Another impressive Herzog Baron that is tart and refreshing
- 2022 Goose Bay Pinot Grigio, South Island (M) – One of their best Pinot Grigio, tart and refreshing
A tasting of M&M Importers’ latest imports – April 2023
In contrast to my previous post on M&M imports, this follow-up post was only a couple of months apart! This post is meant to catch up with the wines that I missed in my last post. I finally got to taste the non-mevushal version of the lovely 2021 Arneis! Along with the other Sicilian and the Reserve Brunello! I also got to taste the new 2018 Falesco wines. So, yeah a few more Italian wines that I missed in the last post to round out the M&M wines that are produced under their label. Of course, they also import Les Vins de IDS into the USA, but those wines can be found under my IDS tasting.
It is also a pleasure to taste the wines from Ralph Madeb, president and CEO of M&M Importers. The BIG news is that now his wines are available on kosherwine.com! I really hope this helps to spread the good word about the work that Ralph and his team do!
Just take a quick look at the wine notes below and you will find 3 QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) WINNER scores. That is incredible for such a small number of wines. Three out of six WINNERS is another incredible value-based lineup. Unlike the previous posts’ WINNER, these wines fall in the middle of the pack in regards to pricing for their category.
I finally got to taste the non-mevushal version of the Arneis and it is superior in all things I desire. Acidity, minerality, and verve. In the end, this is a clear QPR WINNER!
The 2016 Tassi Brunello is a fantastic wine and while I liked the 2016 Brunello, Riserva, the outcome for me was that I will appreciate the non-Riserva more. I am sure that in a decade I might think otherwise, but for now, I like the comparable calm and balance that the non-Riserva shows, at this moment.
Famiglia Cotarella (AKA Falesco)
The 2018 Falescos feel far more in balance than the 2014 vintage. The 2018 Falesco Marciliano is the one that tickles my 2006 memories, while the Montiano is close but not quite there. I did not try the 375 ml of the 2018 Marciliano, but I intend to do so soon. I guess is that it will show the notes I describe earlier than it took the 750 to arrive at.
I got to taste the other two Sicilian wines, the Cabernet Sauvignon and the Nero D’Avola. I think this is the first kosher Nero D’Avola. This is cool and while I liked it again, the issue was balance. It has enough but I crave the texture and tension and that was where it was lacking. The Cabernet Sauvignon is just a big wine and one that I think many will appreciate.
This tasting was not done in a day or a week, like last time, it took over three weeks to taste through the lineup and throughout it all, I kept to the same approach. Write the initial notes at the opening, then a few hours later write any changes, and then finally over the days I would add thoughts. The wines did evolve, other than a few, and when/if they did, the notes reflect those thoughts and concerns.
My sincerest thanks to Ralph and his partner at M&M Importers for sharing their wonderful wines with us all! The wine notes follow below, listed in the order I tasted them – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:
2021 Pescaja Solei’ Arneis, Terre Alfieri – Score: 92 (QPR: WINNER)
The 3rd kosher vintage now comes in mevushal and non-mevushal formats. This was the tasting for the non-mevushal. PSA – This wine needs to be CHILLED – LIKE Champagne chilled, PLEASE! The nose of this wine shows entirely differently than with the mevushal, what hits you first is the incredible brightness, minerality, smoke, dense flint, and sheer precision. The perfume of minerality takes my breath away, with nicely ripe peach, almond, intense flint, violet, and sweet ripe pear. The mouth is medium-bodied wine is incredible, with intense acidity, rich and unctuous mouthfeel, pear, nectarine, peach, nutmeg, and lemon/lime. The finish is long, tart, ripe, spicy, and driven by its mineral core, with lovely fruit, and rich spices. The wine shows refreshing, elegant, complex, and tart all at the same time. BRAVO! Drink until 2025. (tasted March 2023) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 13%)
2016 Tassi Brunello di Montalcino, Bettina Cuvee, Franci Riserva, Brunello di Montalcino – Score: 94 (QPR: GREAT)
The nose of this wine is incredible, ripe, balanced, and mineral-driven, but equally floral, with dense underbrush, mushroom, violet, blue flowers, stone, and rock, all wrapped in red and black fruit, intoxicating and refreshing. The mouth of this medium-plus-bodied wine is shockingly accessible at this point, which is different from the Tassi 2016, with grippy yet mouth-draping tannin, showing a ripeness I was not expecting, with sour cherry, raspberry, black plum, citrus, intense acidity, and elegance that belies its youth but also tells a story of its future. What a lovely wine, plush, dense, elegant, smoky, and concentrated without being an overbearing beast. Really impressive! The finish is long, tart, screaming with minerality, scraping graphite, earth, loam, mushroom, intense acidity, and a sense that this wine is ready but also still holding back. Drink until 2032. Bravo!!! (tasted March 2023) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 14.5%)
2019 Feudi del Pisciotto Cabernet Sauvignon, Terre Siciliane – Score: 90 (QPR: EVEN)
I wanted to love this one as much as I loved the Merlot it is close but it is still too ripe for me. Still, this is a professional wine and one that many will appreciate. The nose of this wine starts ripe and while it slows down a bit the wine stays ripe behind the scene, with blackberry, anise, candied raspberry, boysenberry, sweet vanilla, roasted herb, and smoke. The mouth of this full-bodied wine is ripe, dense, concentrated, and smoky, with blackberry, candied raspberry, cranberry, pomegranate, sweet profile, nice acidity, some refreshing mint, menthol, anise, and sweet roasted herb. The finish is long, ripe, smoky, herbal, and concentrated, with mouth-draping tannin, sweet herbs, vanilla, leather, milk chocolate, and graphite. If I had not known better I would have said Napa Cab, but instead, it is Sicilian! Drink from 2024 until 2028. (tasted March 2023) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 13.5%)
2019 Feudi del Pisciotto Nero D’Avola, Terre Siciliane – Score: 90.5 (QPR: GREAT)
This is the first Nero D’Avola that I know of that has been made kosher. Very cool. The nose of this wine starts ripe and rife with oak, with some time that calms to show a nose of ripe black and blue fruit, floral notes of violet and rose, intense smoke, mineral, graphite, smoked Arbol chili, bay leaf, sweet cedar, tar, and grilled meat. In many ways, this feels like a Syrah mixed with a Cabernet, very unique. The mouth of this full-bodied wine is bold, intense, layered, and complex, yet too ripe for me, still, a unique wine showing blackberry, dark cherry, dark plum, boysenberry, roasted mint, menthol, floral notes, intense sweet cedar, ripe and concentrated fruit that gives way to extraction, sweet mouth-draping tannin, lovely acidity, almost refreshing, but still a bit too ripe. Nice! The finish is long, dense, and ripe, with more green notes, hot chili, smoked meat, roasted herb, loam, dust, ripe black/red fruit, and smoked chocolate lingers long. Interesting. Drink until 2026. (tasted March 2023) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 14%)
2018 Famiglia Cotarella (Falesco) Marciliano, Rosso Umbria – Score: 93 (QPR: WINNER)
This Cabernet starts ripe, but you can see it has potential, and it needs time to come around. The nose of this wine, as it opens, is ripe with mushroom, blue and black fruit, smoke, loam, earth, lovely minerality, iron shaving, tar, licorice, and rich smoke. The mouth of this full-bodied wine is ripe, layered, and concentrated, with lovely acidity, blackberry, boysenberry, dark cherry, candied blackcurrant and raspberry, mushroom, loam, rich dirt, loads of mineral, graphite, elegant mouth-draping tannin, and intense smoke. The finish is long, dirty, ripe, refreshing, acidic, balanced, and just lovely, the minerality, earth, and smoke balance the fruit until it calms, with leather, and smoking tobacco, just lovely! Drink from 2028 until 2034. (tasted April 2023) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 14.3%)
2018 Famiglia Cotarella (Falesco) Montiano, Lazio – Score: 92 (QPR: WINNER)
This merlot also starts ripe, with lovely herbal notes, and roasted blue and black fruit, with smoke, sweet cedar, tobacco, lovely mushroom, rosehip/violet, roasted animal, loam, dirt, and intense bramble, lovely! The mouth of this full-bodied wine is ripe but well-balanced, with lovely acidity, loam, mushroom, blackberry, plum, ripe raspberry, roasted animal, sweet spices, dirt, and lovely mouth-draping tannin. The finish is long dark and brooding, but balanced, with mushroom galore, concentrated, and elegant, deep graphite, smoking tobacco, crushed/roasted herb, cloves, cinnamon, minerality, lovely! The wine really will need time, the window is insane on this wine, let this wine come to you, please! Drink from 2030 until 2036. (tasted April 2023) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 14.3%)
Covenant Wines’ latest releases, five more QPR WINNER – April 2023
Well, it has been 6 months since my last Covenant Winery post and more than a month since I got the wines and tasted them, my apologies, but I am seriously behind on posts. To be fair, the weather is STUNNING now in NorCal, the rains are finally gone and that means lots of time to climb mountains and see gorgeous wildflowers, so yeah, posts have taken a backseat – apologies there. So, now on to the show!
I received the new Covenant wines in mid-march and I tasted them over a week. My initial knee-jerk reaction is that Covenant continues to show a solid focus on acidity, balance, and fruit.
Fun White Wines
The first wines I enjoyed were the new 2022 whites and rose and they were all QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) WINNERS, outside of the Tribe wines. I must be honest of the seven wines I was sent five were QPR WINNER and the Tribe was not. I know it is important to have Mevushal wines, but sadly, these did not hit the spot.
The Viognier is a wine made to make up for the lack of a 2022 white or rose wine from Israel, as 2022 is Shmita. The Rose and the Viognier were lovely, while the Sauvignon Blanc was another hit, a consistent wine indeed for Covenant.
The wine that really got my attention was the 2022 Mensch Zinfandel, it opened a bit slowly, but once it did, the wine was lovely, ripe, yet balanced, the way a Zinfandel should be! The 2021 Covenant Cabernet, is another hit, not as awesome as the 2020 vintage, but still another solid showing for this storied label.
My many thanks to Jeff Morgan, Sagie Kleinlerer, Zoe, and the rest of the Covenant team and family for sending me the lovely wines to taste. The wine notes follow below in the order they were tasted – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:
2022 Covenant Red C Viognier, Lodi, CA – Score: 92 (QPR: WINNER)
The nose of this wine is varietally true, with fresh and clean aromas, tart peach, fresh cumquat, lychee, and flint. The mouth of this medium-bodied wine is lovely, rich, layered, complex, and captivating, not too fussy, refreshing, and relaxing, with incredible acidity, tart, and fresh almost plush mouthfeel, peach, apricot, lychee, tart limoncello, cumquat, and ripe yellow plum. LOVELY! The finish is long, tart, refreshing, and complex, Bravo! Drink now! (tasted March 2023) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 13.5%)
2022 Covenant Red C Sauvignon Blanc, Lake County, CA – Score: 91 (QPR: WINNER)
The nose of this wine is lovely with lychee, gooseberry, orange blossom, orange notes, and some flint. The mouth of this medium-bodied wine is nice, but it starts a bit austere – give the wine time, with bracing acidity, a lovely mouthfeel, lemon/lime notes, nice gooseberry, precision, good fruit focus, and more refreshing acidity. The finish is long, tart, and green, with lemongrass, flint, orange zest, and lovely lemon notes lingering long. Nice! Drink now. (tasted March 2023) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 13%)
2022 Covenant Red C Rose, California – Score: 91 (QPR: WINNER)
The nose of this wine shows more Syrah/Zin-like characteristics than anything else, a very nice balanced and bright nose, with tart strawberry, raspberry, smoke, and juicy plum. Nice. This is not the classic floral or orange-based rose, this is far redder in its makeup. The mouth of this medium-bodied wine is lovely, again, this starts a bit closed, give it some time, showing incredible acidity, and freshness, with a refreshing profile, and fruit focus, and now the mouth shows more than just the red fruit from the nose, along with peach, juicy orange notes, and hints of orange blossom that linger long. The finish is long, tart, and refreshing with some tannin, smoke, and nice red and orange notes lingering long in a tart bed of acidity. Nice!! Drink now. (tasted March 2023) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 13.5%)
2022 Covenant Tribe Chardonnay, Lodi, CA (M) – Score: 83 (QPR: POOR)
The nose of this wine shows its flaws a bit, it smells correct, but a bit muddled, with cooked/bruised apple, peach, apple blossom, and slight oxidation/reductive notes, like browning apple peel. The mouth of this medium-bodied wine is nice, it has good acidity, but the muddled apple and peach do not get elevated and while the mouthfeel is fresh from the acidity and cleanliness, the fruit is where the wine feels a bit behind. The finish is long, fruity, and balanced. Drink now. (tasted March 2023) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 13.8%)
2022 Covenant Mensch Zinfandel, Lodi, CA – Score: 91 (QPR: WINNER)
The nose of this wine shows me what a good Zinfandel can be, controlled, blue and red, none of that Zinberry (AKA a blend of Blackcurrant and boysenberry), instead you get refreshing and bright red and blue fruit, not pushed, but still spicy, herbal, and yes, fruity! This is Zinfandel! The mouth of this medium-plus-bodied wine is where it loses that step, the mouth shows good acidity, and lovely focus, but the fruit is a bit too ripe for my tastes, still, very meaty, herbal, fruity, smoky, and spicy with juicy boysenberry, tart strawberry, ripe plum, and hints of black fruit, with mouth draping tannin. A solid wine and one that works well with some nice meaty and fatty BBQ ribs. After some time the wine opens and the heat calms to show a lovely, juicy Zinfandel. The finish is ripe, tart, and fruity, with great spice, smoke, roasted animal, and a dense presence. I always wonder if it is me or the wine! These kinds of wine make me wonder more. This one is right on the edge, one side is a fruit bomb and the other is a lovely fruity, balanced Zinfandel. Either way, this wine is a balanced, fruit-focused wine that will be enjoyed by many with my intense ailments! Drink by 2025. (tasted March 2023) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 14.4%)
2022 Covenant The Tribe Cabernet Sauvignon, Lodi, CA (M) – Score: 83 (QPR: POOR)
The nose of this wine is ripe and not my cup of tea, it shows less about Cabernet Sauvignon and more about an early-released wine. The nose and mouth of this medium-plus-bodied wine are less ripe than it is just not fully finished before being bottled, showing fermentation notes, hints of banana, black fruit, blueberry, and nice acidity, but sadly that cannot bring this all together, still, it has nice acid, mouthfeel, and tannin. The finish is long, ripe, intensely fruity, and out of balance for my taste buds. Drink by 2024. (tasted March 2023) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 14.5%)
2021 Covenant Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, CA – Score: 92.5 (QPR: WINNER)
It may be me, but is this the first year that the Covenant Cabernet Sauvignon used an amalgamated cork? Just wondering – I drove for this for so long, just wondering. At the start, the wine shows riper than I was expecting and used to from Covenant Cab, but with time it calms, as expected. The nose of this wine is ripe, dense, and fruity, with ripe black and purple fruit, dense smoke, tar, anise, chili pepper, white pepper, iron shavings, and nice minerality. The mouth of this full-bodied wine is on the edge of balance or anarchy. On one side, is an elegant bold wine showing dense fruit, with fruit focus, herbal notes, tart/sharp chili pepper, blackberry, boysenberry, smoke, roasted herbs, anise, and a dense yet elegant mouth-draping tannin. On the other side is a wine that thankfully calms and becomes what I expect. The finish is long, fruity, ripe, dense, herbal, smoky, spicy, and mineral-driven, with lovely iron, graphite, intense and elegant mouth-draping tannin, juicy boysenberry, blackberry, Asian spice, and anise lingering long. Lovely! Drink from 2026 until 2034. (tasted March 2023) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 14.8%)
A unique tasting of Kosherwine.com exclusive wines – nice options that range outside of my QPR because of their small production
As always, I am happy to taste wines that are sent to me or that I buy, I do not normally call them out, per se, unless they are at a tasting, like with Royal, IDS, M&M, and others. This is one of those examples, where Kosherwine.com (KW) sent me 24 wines to taste. I have also added some that I bought, exclusive to KW, the Slight of Hand, and Doubleback wines. There were also, the Harkham wines that KW started to bring in, I also bought those, but I just have not had the time to taste those yet. I remember well my time in Australia when I was one of the first people to post about the incredible Harkham Azziza Shiraz! WOW! So much fun! Even more enjoyable was hanging out with Richie at the tasting in L.A., I truly hope KW will start to import the Semillon as well soon!
Kosherwine.com’s Exclusive wines
I have spoken about exclusive wines, exclusive wine clubs, and the sort in the past. While I have no issue with them, per se, they do tend to drive up pricing. They do not drive up the price because the exclusive merchant makes a bigger cut, the prices go up because of smaller production and exclusivity.
When you make lots of small wine runs or work with small producers that are OK with exclusivity, it tends to lead to higher prices because of how the product is made. Whether it is wineries in Israel like Shiran, Ghito, Mia Luce, or Slight of Hand from Washington State. They are all small wineries with small productions or one-off runs and that leads to higher prices.
In the end, the way I define QPR (Quality to Price Ratio), still revolves around price! So, whether the price is higher because of small production, single runs, or exclusivity, the end goal for QPR is to get a wine that meets the quality and the price of its competitors.
You will see some nice wines below, wines that I would drink, but given the pricing, I could not put the QPR WINNER tag on them. Nonetheless, if you remove the exclusive thing and just stick to the fact that these are a bunch of wines that are nice to well, Israeli reds, the tasting was fun! In the end, that is what matters.
Top Scoring wines
If I was a betting man, and I am not, I would wager that most people will find the Ghito whites to be highly enjoyable. I only had two of them to taste the Uphaz and the Soreqa, but I may well get some other 2021 whites to try.
The Mia Luce white was also quite enjoyable, along with the Yaacov Oryah Chardonnay.
For red wines, the Doublback was quite nice, it had green notes that threw me but overall a very nice wine.
Seven 90 or 90+ scored wines
There were also seven 90 or 90+ scored wines. These included another Ghito white, the Shiran Chardonnay, Mia Luce Syrah, a pair of Domaine Herzberg red blends, along with a Sheldrake sweet wine, and the 2019 Slight of Hand Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Magic.
Overall not a bad lineup of good wines, the prices, as described above keep the QPR scores lower than I would have liked. Still, there are options here for those that want to try new wines, new blends, or unique stories. In the end, KW has done its homework, I hope that as they work on the overall product line, they can maybe also work with their partners to get the prices down.
My sincerest thanks to Dovid Riven for sharing their wonderful wines with me. The wines are listed in the order I tasted them. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:
2021 Festa d’Estate Pinot Grigio, Provinicia di Pavia (M) – Score: 87 (QPR: EVEN)
The nose of this wine is correct with green grass, straw, quince, yellow apple, and herbs. The mouth of this medium-bodied wine feels stunted, less vibrant than it should be, the apple is bruised, the pear is browning, the fruit is not crisp, and a bit sweet, and there is good acidity, but it is just not refreshing, with some citrus, and herb. The finish is long, balanced, and with good acidity. Drink now. (tasted March 2023) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 12%)
2021 Shiran Winery Chardonnay, Gush Etzion – Score: 90 (QPR: EVEN)
The nose of this wine is the best part of this wine with some muted fruit, not as crisp as I would hope, apple blossom, muddled red apple, muddled pear, and flint. The mouth of this medium-bodied wine feels all over the place, it has acidity but feels hollow in the middle, with red apple, pear, some citrus, and flint. The finish is long, not as refreshing as it should be as the muddled fruit detracts from the overall effect. Drink now. (tasted March 2023) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 13%)
2020 Yaffo Image White, Judean Hills – Score: 88 (QPR: EVEN)
The nose of this wine feels muted with more muddled apple and pear, peach, some smoke, and flint. The mouth of this medium-bodied wine is balanced, it feels almost refreshing, with good acidity, but the fruit is where things take a step back, the muddled peach, pear, and apple, are nice enough, but what I want is crisp and refreshingly tart fruit and I feel this is a bit lacking there. The finish is long, balanced, and fruity, with pith, flint, and some smoke. Drink now. (tasted March 2023) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 12%)
2020 Mia Luce Blanc, Galilee – Score: 91 (QPR: EVEN)
The 2020 vintage in Israel was tough, this wine has fresh fruit, the issue is there is very little of it, which is shocking for me to say about an Israeli wine! The nose of this wine is fresh and bright with tart green apples, flint, hay, funk, tart pink quince, and peach. The mouth of this medium-plus-bodied wine has a lovely weight, even a bit elegant, with refreshing and fresh fruit, and lovely acidity, I wish there was more fruit, with peach, yellow apple, quince, nice funk, and lovely flint. The finish is long, refreshing, and almost oily, with nice acidity, and some elegance. Drink by 2024. (tasted March 2023) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 12%)
2021 Yaacov Oryah Chardonnay, Singe Vineyard, Yaacov’s Playground, Judean Hills – Score: 91(QPR: EVEN)
This wine is a bit closed to start it needs a few hours to fully open up. The nose of this wine is fresh and refreshing with good apple, pear, grapefruit, citrus blossom, a hint of wood, and tart pink quince. The mouth of this medium-bodied wine has lovely acidity, with a lovely mouthfeel, good citrus, quince, lemon/lime, and a nice mouthfeel, crème Fraiche, sweet oak, and nicely refreshing! The finish is long, tart, and refreshing with loads of citrus, oak, and sweet spices lingering long. Drink until 2026. (tasted March 2023) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 12%)
Four Gates Winery’s January 2023 new releases
As you all know, I am a huge fan of Four Gates Winery, and yes Benyamin Cantz is a dear friend. So, as is my custom, as many ask me what wines I like of the new releases, here are my notes on the new wines.
I have written many times about Four Gates Winery and its winemaker/Vigneron Benyamin Cantz. Read the post and all the subsequent posts about Four Gates wine releases, especially this post of Four Gates – that truly describes the lore of Four Gates Winery.
Other than maybe Yarden and Yatir (which are off my buying lists – other than their whites and bubblies), very few if any release wines later than Four Gates. The slowest releaser may well be Domaine Roses Camille.
Four Gates grapes versus bought grapes
It has been stated that great wine starts in the vineyard, and when it comes to Four gates wine, it is so true. I have enjoyed the 1996 and 1997 versions of Benyamin’s wines and it is because of the care and control that he has for his vineyard. That said, the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes he receives from Monte Bello Ridge show the same care and love in the wines we have enjoyed since 2009.
I have immense faith in Benyo’s wines which are sourced from his vineyard and the Monte Bello Ridge vineyard. The other wines, that he creates from other sources, are sometimes wonderful, like the 2010 Four Gates Syrah that I tasted recently, and I would have sworn it was a Rhone wine, crazy minerality, acid, and backbone, with fruit NOT taking center stage, though ever so evident, the way is meant to be! Others, while lovely on release may well not be the everlasting kind of Four Gates wines.
One new wine
This year we have the return of Petit Verdot is from the Santa Clara Valley AVA, and another Malbec from the same vineyard as in 2019, in Santa Cruz, but not from the Four Gates vineyards. There is a new Cabernet Franc, all the way from Santa Barbara County, not a location I normally associate with Cabernet Franc, but it is a REAL WINNER, in all ways!
That ends the list of wines I call – not Four Gates wines. I state this because the Four Gates Cabernet Sauvignon, is also not from the Four Gates vineyard, but for all intent and purpose, of what I care about, the quality is as good or better than the Four Gates vineyard and it has proven itself as such for more than a decade!
The rest of the wines are the normal suspects, though this year’s crop feels riper than the 2017s, still, the Cabernet and Merlot are incredibly beautiful wines. There are two Chardonnay and they are both sold under the Four Gates label, there is no Ayala this year. Next, you have the 2019 Pinot Noir, a bit riper than I like it but a solid wine. Then you have the 2018 Merlot and the 2018 Merlot, La Rochelle, both are beautiful wines! The true star of this release is the 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon, a shockingly ripe but true wine, the fruit is clean, expressive, and true to its nature, a lovely and very unique wine. Finally, there is the 2018 Frère Robaire, which while nice, is a step back from what I expect from a Frère Robaire.
Prices and Quantities
I have heard it over and over again. That I and others caused Benyo to raise his prices. First of all that is a flat-out lie. I never asked for higher prices, but when asked about the value of his wines, the real answer I could give was more than 26 dollars.
Let us be clear, all of us that got used to 18/26 dollar prices and stocked up on his wines in those days should be happy. The fact that he raised prices, is a matter of basic price dynamics, and classic supply and demand. Four Gates has been seeing more demand for wines while the quantity of what is being made is slowing down.
The law of Supply and Demand tells you that the prices will go up, even if you beg for lower prices.
Four Gates Winery is one of the few cult wineries in the kosher wine world that releases wines every year. Sure there have been crazy cult wines, like the 2005 and 2006 DRC wines, or some other such rarities. His wines are in a class of their own, especially when it is his grapes, and there is less of it out there.
This year, the prices reached their highest Zenith, and it took some 30 minutes to fully sell out. The lower-priced wines sold out in the usual 8 or so minutes while the Cabernet and Merlot and Frère Robaire were the last to go. Still, the crazy prices people paid for the Auction wines that just finished selling this past Sunday show the intense demand for Four Gates wines.
My thanks to Michel and Sima Rynderman for hosting the tasting and for putting up with me and Benyo crashing their home and keeping them both up far later than we should have!! Also, Michel’s awesome Apple phone was used to take lovely pictures – thank you, sir!!!
The notes speak for themselves. Again, this year, I “liked” all the options for sale, though I did not buy the Malbec in case anyone is asking. The wine notes follow below, in the order, they were tasted – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:
2021 Four Gates Chardonnay, Cuvee Rishon, Santa Cruz Mountains, CA – Score: 92 (QPR: WINNER)
This is a very unique wine from Four Gates. This is a Chardonnay that was picked early, hence the “Cuvee Rishon” name. It is very different than previous vintages – very cool! The nose of this wine is fruity, not oak-bomb, with rich gooseberry, guava, melon, and Asian Pear, very fun, with rich saline, orange blossom, jasmine, and spice. The mouth of this medium-plus-bodied wine is not in line with the nose, with a lovely mouthfeel, great acidity, sweet oak, spice, orange, nectarines, green/yellow apple, Asian pear, and lovely sweet oak, sweet baking spices, and more saline. The finish is long, tart, ripe, balanced, and refreshing, with lovely vanilla, cloves, nutmeg, sweet oak, and yellow blossom lingering long. Bravo!! Drink until 2030. (tasted December 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 14.2%)
2021 Four Gates Chardonnay, Santa Cruz Mountains, CA – Score: 91.5 (QPR: GOOD)
The nose of this wine is fruity, not oak-bomb, with rich guava, melon, Asian Pear, honeydew, rich saline, orange blossom, jasmine, and spice. The mouth of this medium-plus-bodied wine is more in line with the nose, with a slightly fuller mouthfeel than the Cuvee Rishon, nice acidity, sweet oak, spice, orange, lemon/pomelo, yellow apple, Asian pear, and lovely sweet oak, sweet baking spices. The finish is long, tart, ripe, balanced, and refreshing, with lovely vanilla, cloves, nutmeg, sweet oak, and yellow blossom lingering long. Bravo!! Drink until 2028. (tasted December 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 14.2%)
2020 Four Gates Petit Verdot, Santa Clara Valley, CA – Score: 91 (QPR: EVEN)
This is what Petit Verdot should smell and taste like, clean lines, not over the top, and well-balanced. The nose of this wine is lovely, with bright fruit, smoke, herbs, lovely baking spices, roasted animal, soy sauce, lovely violet, rosehip, and nice black, red, and blue fruit. Nice! The mouth of this medium to full-bodied wine is layered, and lovely, with ripe boysenberry, raspberry, ripe strawberry, and ripe plum, all wrapped in sweet tannin, cedar, smoke, and intense acid, well balanced, with gripping tannin, and nice fruit focus. Bravo! The finish is long, bright, tart, ripe, and balanced, with more smoke, leather, roasted meat, and great fruit. Drink until 2026. (tasted December 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 14%)
2020 Four Gates Malbec, Santa Cruz Mountains, CA – Score: 88 (QPR: POOR)
The nose of this wine is too ripe for me but this will hit the spot for those that like this style. The nose of this wine changes quickly and turns very fruity, too ripe, with zinberry, ripe blackcurrant, leather, meat, smoke, tar, and over-the-top fruit. The mouth of this full-bodied wine is too ripe for me, almost fig-like, with dried fig, blackcurrant, smoke, dried plum, and mouth-draping tannin with nice sweet oak. The finish is long, ripe, over-the-top, and smoky. Drink by 2026. (tasted December 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 15.2%)
2020 Four Gates Cabernet Franc, Santa Barbara County, CA – Score: 92.5 (QPR: WINNER)
This wine is sourced from Santa Barbara County and it shows. The nose of this wine starts with nice bell pepper, spice, cloves, cinnamon, gravel, hints of jalapeno, and nice red fruit. The mouth of this medium-bodied-plus is ripe, with nice ripe strawberry, raspberry, plum, and hints of elderberry, with a bit too much green notes, nice acidity, good fruit focus, nice acidity, refreshing, with good mouth-draping tannin, and some elegance, nice! The finish is long, tart, ripe, and fruity, with good acidity, nice leather, vanilla, and good red/blue fruit. Drink until 2030. (tasted December 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 14.2%)
My top 25 kosher wines of 2022, including the Wine of the Year, Winery of the Year, the Best Wine of the Year, and the Best Mevushal wines 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 scored a 93 or higher.
We are returning with the “wine of the year”, “best wine of the year” “Winery of the Year”, and “Best White wine of the year”, along with a last year’s new addition the – “Best Mevushal 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.
The Mevushal wine of the year is something I dread. I understand the need for a wine that can be enjoyed at restaurants and events, but when we start seeing Château Gazin Rocquencourt and Chevalier de Lascombes go Mevushal – we know we have a problem. As I have stated in the past, if this is what needs to happen, then please sell both options as many do with Peraj Petita/Capcanes, Psagot wines, and many others. Still, it is a wine and as such, it needs a best-of-the-year moniker, so we do it once again!
This past year, I tasted more wines than I have ever, in the past. Now to be clear here, I did not taste many Israeli wines as they have proven to me over and over again, even with the much-ballyhooed 2018 vintage that they are not worth my spending my money on. Still, I did taste a large number of Israeli wines both in my home and at KFWE events. I spent a fair amount of time tasting all the French and European wines I could get my hands on and I feel that is where I added the most value, IMHO. For those that like the Israeli wine style – other writers/bloggers can point you in some direction. This past year, was a return to an above-average year but not as good as last year’s list because last year’s 2019 wines were incredible and precise.
Last year’s list was star-studded and was driven by the incredible 2019 vintage. This year’s list is solid and will highlight a few top 2020 wines, but the clear winner will highlight a 2019 wine that missed making last year’s list because it was released later.
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. Last year’s list was stronger with some 123 WINNER wines, this year we had 95. Still, another overall solid year.
Royal Wines continues to impress with the wines they make or import. However, slowly, more lovely wines are being made from other sources though they are harder to find in the USA or outside of Europe.
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 entries, from the incredible 2020 Chateau Malartic Blanc to the lovely 2021 Covenant Solomon Blanc, to the beautiful 2021 Jean-Philippe Marchand Meursault.
Finally, this year is the year of the Clos! Between the awesome Wine of the Year – the 2018 Clos Mesorah and the Clos Lavaud from Domaine Roses Camille, the Winery of the year, long live the Clos!!!
The wines on the list this year are all available here in the USA, and in Europe, and a few can be found in Israel, as well. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:
The 2022 Kosher Winery of the Year
This award continues to get harder and harder each year. The sad cold, hard truth is that there are too few great kosher wineries. When I started this award, some 4 years ago I thought it would only get easier. Sadly, there are a few truths that limit my ability to give out this award.
First, as much as we have been blessed with great Kosher European wines, in the past 6 years, most of those blessings come under the auspices of single-run kosher wines. Chateau Leoville Poyferre, Château Smith Haut Lafitte, you name it, are all based upon kosher runs. What we have in Europe, kosher-winery-wise, is Terra di Seta, Cantina Giuliano, and Elvi Wines (including Clos Mesorah). Along with this year’s winner, Domaine Roses Camille. Officially, Domaine Roses Camille only became 100% kosher in 2020, but for all intent and purpose, they have been producing the vast majority of their wines in kosher, since 2011.
The requirements to receive this award are simple, the winery must be kosher, not a kosher-run, the quality must be consistent, and the wines must be readily available. The last requirement is the main reason why Four Gates Winery has yet to win the award, but at this point, it is only a matter of time, as kosher wine availability is becoming less of an issue overall, given the sheer number of cult-like kosher wineries that exist today.
Domaine Roses Camille was one of those cult-like wineries at the start when they produced a stunning 2005 Pomerol. It hit that cult status when the late Daniel Rogov called it the best kosher wine he had ever had, at that point, anyway.
As always, my disclaimers. The U.S. importer of Domaine Roses Camille is Andrew Breskin, of Liquid Kosher, and a person I call a friend. This past week I spent two days with him tasting many a wine, that post will follow my year-in-review posts, along with the Four Gates Winery new releases post.
Domaine Roses Camille’s winemaker is Christophe Bardeau. I have had the honor of meeting him a few times and he always comes across as a kind and professional person. While the main two wines, Domaine Roses Camille and the Echo Roses Camille come from Pomerol, he also makes wines from other regions in Bordeaux, like the Clos Lavaud (Lalande de Pomerol), Chateau Moulin de la Clide (a wine that took on its cult-like status as it was sadly a one and done run), Chateau Marquisat de Binet, and others.
Now, to be clear, the Domaine Roses Camille, Echo Roses Camille, and Clos Lavaud – which are all in Pomerol are made in Domaine Roses Camille winery, the 2022 Winery of the year. The one-off Moulin de la Clide and the lovely Chateau Marquisat de Binet were/are made in those Chateaus. Christophe Bardeau made/makes all the other wines but I named them here for completeness.
Pomerol is a lovely location and the wines of Domaine Roses Camille continue to impress. The Clos Lavaud is a year-in-year-out QPR WINNER along with the Echo Roses Camille. They are both perennially great wines and wines we all are very lucky to have in the kosher wine market! The flagship wine, Domaine Roses Camille has never had a bad year, it is the model of consistency, and the only years it was not made kosher was during the lean years of the kosher wine market in France, 2007 – 2010 (inclusively). It does come in at a higher cost than other kosher Pomerol wines but the high-end quality of Domaine Roses Camille matches the prices and longevity potential of other high-end quality kosher wines that cost much more than the DRC does. Yeah, there, I slipped, we all call the Domaine Roses Camille, our kosher DRC, but yeah, we all know what the real DRC is and that is a different wine region and price, all together!
So, with mad props and great happiness, and hope for even more success, I say Bravo to Christophe Bardeau and Andrew Breskin for all the hard work and lovely wines. The quality of the wines that are here and will be coming, in the future (I tasted many of them over this past week), are impressive and I wish them only continued success!Read the rest of this entry
Another round of QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) Hits and Misses, Eight QPR WINNERS – October 2022
I hope you all had a wonderful Jewish Holiday season! We are now back to the grind and I have a bunch of wines that need to be posted. As usual, my QPR posts are a hodgepodge of wines but thankfully we have some nice QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) wines.
QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) Wines
It has been two months since my last QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) post and many people have been emailing me about some unique wines I have tasted and some lovely wines that are worth writing about.
Thankfully, no matter how much garbage and pain I subject myself to, we are still blessed with quite a few wonderful QPR wines out there. This post includes some nice wines and some OK wines with the usual majority of uninteresting to bad wines.
The story of 2021 Israel whites and roses is very unfortunate, it started with a bang. Matar and a couple of others showed very well. Sadly, after that, every other white and rose wine from Israel was not as impressive. They all show middling work and product, very disappointing indeed. Thankfully, this round has one Israeli WINNER and it is from the 2021 vintage.
We have a nice list of QPR WINNERS:
- 2021 Shirah Rose, Central Coast, CA (A nice solid rose)
- 2021 Covenant Israel Rose, Blue C, Israel (lovely color and great acidity)
- 2018 Allegory Pinot Noir, Duvarita Vineyard, Santa Barbara, CA (Another nice Pinot from Cali)
- 2020 Chateau Montviel, Pomerol (Perennial winner)
- N.V. Drappier Carte d’Or, Champagne (Best of the 4 Drappier Champagne)
- N.V. Drappier Brut Nature, Zero Dosage, Champagne (Lovely but drink now!)
- 2020 Chateau Piada, Sauternes (Not their best but solid)
- N.V. Drappier Rose de Saignee, Champagne (Nice brut rose, hard to find outside of Yarden)
There were also a few wines that are a slight step behind with a GREAT or GOOD QPR score:
- 2021 Shirah Bro.Deux, Blanc, Santa Ynez Valley, CA (A nice wine just missing a bit)
- 2021 Yatir Mount Amasa Rose, Judean Hills (Not bad)
- 2021 Or de la Castinelle Rose, Cotes de Provence (Another solid vintage for this new rose)
- 2021 Vitkin Israeli Journey, Red, Israel (Simple but nice)
- 2021 Laufer Tokaji Late Harvest, Tokaji – Simple but balanced
- 2018 Allegory Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford (too ripe for me but good)
- 2019 Vitkin Grenache Blanc, Galilee (A step back on this vintage sadly)
- 2018 Ma’ayan Cabernet Franc, Shomron (A lovely wine just too Israeli for me)
There are a few wines that got a QPR Score of EVEN – meaning expensive or average:
- 2019 Shirah Nebbiolo, Paso Robles, CA (A bit too ripe for my tastes)
- 2021 Flam Camellia, Judean Hills (Less interesting than previous vintages)
- 2018 Allegory Meritage, Paso Robles, CA (weakest of the Allegory wines)
- 2021 Laufer Tokaji Ice Wine, Tokaji (Not enough acidity to make it work)
The others are essentially either OK wines that are too expensive, duds, or total failures:
- 2021 Jezreel Valley Rose, Sharon (Not very good)
- 2020 Yatir Darom, Red, Israel (Just trying too hard with so little)
- N.V. Drappier Rose, Brut Nature, Champagne (Not a good idea IMHO)
Wine sets that I tasted
This tasting includes three sets of wines.
- Shirah Rose and white wines
- Allegory and Ma’ayan wines (from The Cellar wine store in Lakewood)
- Four newly disgorged Drappier Champagne
- The rest of the assorted wines I tasted over the last 1+ months. I tasted more but I am waiting to post them later.
Some things that made me stand up and take notice (AKA QPR WINNERS):
The largest WINNER group of the sets of wines I had came from the Drappier Champagnes. Three of them were dead on and the fourth, the brut nature rose, is just a bad idea, IMHO.
The other two sets are all made by the Weiss brothers from Shirah wines. The Shirah Wines are made under the Shirah brand and the Allegory wines are Cali wines made for the Cellar wine store in Lakewood.
The Shirah Rose and the Allegory Pinot Noir, two wines made by the Weiss brothers are solid to lovely wines.
Covenant keeps popping out lovely wines and the 2021 Israeli Rose is another example of what care brings you!
The other two wines are the 2020 Piada and Montviel, two more WINNERS for Royal Wines. The Montviel is sheer joy and the highest-scoring wine of this post while the Piada, while nice enough, is a step back from previous vintages.
Other wines of note (AKA QPR GREAT or GOOD):
This group is not a group of wines I would buy and some are not even wines I would drink if given the chance. They are Ok wines but there are far better options out there. The one that did surprise me was the 2018 Ma’ayan Cabernet Franc, Shomron. It is a wine that was close and nice but still too Israeli for me.
Wines that are either good but too expensive or average (AKA EVEN):
This list is also boring, the only real wine to call out, is the 2021 Laufer Tokaji Ice Wine. It should have been a better wine but the wine is a mess, it is all over the place and lacks acidity, sad.
The rest of the wines are not interesting to me and are on this list because of either quality or price.
Wines that are either OK but far too expensive or bad wines (AKA POOR/BAD):
This round this list is just duds and I will just leave you to peruse the names and scores down below.
Overall another nice list of QPR WINNERS. I can always look at these kinds of lists and say there are only 7 or 8 wines I would want to buy from this entire list, but that would be a defeatist attitude. The correct way to classify this list is we have 7 or 8 more wines available to us and in the end, as I have stated many times now, I cannot buy all the WINNER wines even if I wanted to. There are just too many good wines out there and that is what we should be focused on!
The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:
2020 Chateau Montviel, Pomerol – Score: 93 (QPR: WINNER)
This wine is a blend of 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc. The nose of this wine is incredible, this is what I dream about when I smell wine, dirt, earth, smoke, loam, elegance, fruit, and mushroom, yum!!! The mouth of this full-bodied wine is balanced and soft, it comes at you in layers, showing raspberry, plum, rich loam, earth, sweet spices, and forest floor, all wrapped in a silky and elegant plush mouthfeel, with lovely acidity. It is a silky seductress. The finish is long, green, herbal, dirty, loam, and more forest floor that really comes out, with sweet tobacco, dry meat, and lovely green notes. Bravo!!! Drink from 2025 until 2034. (tasted September 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 13.5%)
Covenant Wines’ latest releases – September 2022
Last week, California was overrun by a nasty heatwave, besides breaking records and driving me and everyone else crazy, it meant my entire week was open as mountain climbing was off the table. That left lots of time to go see Jeff Morgan (founding winemaker and co-owner of Covenant Wines) and family (Jodie and Zoe), literally, and Jon Hajdu at Covenant Wines. They were already taking in fruit for the 2022 harvest and it was extremely kind of them to carve up some time for me during this busy time of year.
I remember well the time I was in Canada with Jeff for a vertical tasting of all the Covenant Cabernet, at that time, it was a wonderful experience and tasting! I have said many times, that Covenant Winery is one of the original California wineries that makes solid wines, especially in the Cabernet Sauvignon space. I found some of the wines taken a step back in recent years. The white wines were always enjoyable, like the Sauvignon Blanc and the Lavan white, but that changed recently from what I see in this tasting.
I was at the winery in March for a local RCC (Rosh Chodesh Club) and I got to taste one of the wines but it was not a setting to write notes and appreciate wines. I do remember the wines we had and one wine, in particular, did not show nearly as nicely as it did at our tasting last week. So, I am happy for many reasons to have driven up to Berkeley, CA to taste the 7 wines. All of them were quite enjoyable.
First, we tasted the Covenant Solomon Blanc a new white wine on the Covenant label and the only white wine on the Covenant Solomon level. The 2020 Covenant Solomon Blanc was the wine I tasted back in March and it showed far superior last week. It finally came out of its shell and had fully integrated with the sweet oak, it was a lovely wine indeed! The 2021 vintage, which was newly bottled was a drop better, showing a bit more acidity and an overall complex mouthfeel that did remind me of the 2019 Chateau Gazin Rocquencourt, Blanc. Both showed lovely gooseberry and ripe fruit but also bracing acidity and controlled yet lovely oak, very well made.
After the lovely Sauvignon Blanc wines, we moved to another white wine the 2021 Covenant Lavan, Chardonnay. I am being honest here, I have been falling into the new version of ABC (Anything But Chardonnay). It is new but old, the same old same old, fat, blubbery, overoaked, under-acidified, flat wines. ABC was a thing in 1995 when the MY Times wrote a piece on it and it is coming back with a vengeance again. Much akin to the date juice fiasco in the kosher wine market, Chardonnay is also moving to its old roots and they are being made into oak-driven apple juice that is honestly boring and uninteresting. Thankfully, we have been saved by the two incredible Burgundy Chardonnays for the Meursault region, by Taieb Wines, and by IDS. Those wines are clean and correct, they speak to the place and the time they were made. So, when I had the lovely Sauvignon Blanc wines it further solidified my belief in what I desire, clean and well-made ABC wines. With that as a disclaimer, the 2021 Covenant Lavan Chardonnay, was properly made. It was well balanced and showed a fruit focus that would make an ABC drinker, like myself, enjoy and drink the wine.
Five Red Wines
After the three white wines, we moved the line along to 5 red wines. In some ways, white wine is harder to make than red wine. White wine has fewer places to hide as a winemaker though I am far harsher, as a wine taster, in the land of red wine, simply because I am sick and tired of lazy winemaking or worse, purposeful and mindful winemaking that removes the grapes from their natural state of being and place to make fruit juice that is sweetened by whatever actions the winemaker has in his/her arsenal that week. Wineries will tell you it sells better but to me, that is just selling out and I have no time or interest in tasting wines like that. So, when I see 5 red wines, I am thinking, like I always do, even in Europe, I hope there is a desire here to let the fruit talk. Sure enough, the team has pulled the winery along into an impressive place where you can find some lovely wines and even some that garner the QPR WINNER score along with quality scores that make me want to buy and drink the wines. Bravo!
The first wine was a lovely Pinot Noir from under the Landsman label. The 2021 Landsman Pinot Noir had just been bottled and it showed no bottle shock. The lines on this wine were clean, with red juicy fruit, floral, earthy, and smoky. No baby fat, just clean lines, and good fruit. Nice! Another WINNER from the Carneros wine region in Sonoma County. Carneros has the moderating influence of the San Pablo Bay, the northern portion of the greater San Francisco Bay, which keeps Carneros cool and windy, but not too cold. We then moved to two Syrah followed by two Cabernet Sauvignon, the flagship wines of the winery.
The first Syrah was the 2020 Landsman Syrah, Santa Rita Hills, Robert Rae Vineyards. This was a new one for me, I was unaware that Syrah grew well in the Santa Rita wine region. Of course, I love the Santa Rita Pinot Noir from the Herzog Reserve line and their more exclusive Eagle’s landing wine lines. So, when I tasted the Landsman Syrah from 2020, I was not surprised to find it more of an old-world style wine than the next wine we would be tasting. The Landsman Syrah reminded me of the Shirah Syrah from 2013, a dirty, earthy, smoky, meaty animal that was more old-world than new from Santa Barbara County. This wine is comparable if not a bit better, here the fruit is more controlled, yet very present, focused, and precise, I bought what was left – one bottle, maybe Jeff or Sagie can scrounge another one or two up. Either way, lovely wine!
Finally, we tasted a new wine on the Covenant label, the 2020 Covenant Syrah, Bien Nacido Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley, Santa Barbara County. This is one of the most famous vineyards in Santa Barbara County, very difficult to get into and even tougher to keep. In 2020 some folks were too worried about smoke damage and bailed on their allocations. Covenant found out about the availability and jumped on it, there is no smoke taint on this wine, it is smoky, but from the lovely french oak used to age the wine. A lovely wine, one that is balanced, but a bit too new-world for my taste. This is a perfect example of how new-world wine can be made to its place and its fruit without turning it into an abomination. Here the team took beautiful fruit and let the fruit speak to its true nature, lovely! Hopefully, there will be more of this wine being made, it shows great potential.
Two big yet elegant Cabernet Sauvignon wines
The tasting ended with two lovely Cabernet Sauvignon wines from Napa Valley, the Covenant Cabernet Sauvignon, and the Covenant Solomon, Lot 70. I claimed, in a previous post, that the crown for the best red 2019 kosher wine had been given to Chateau Smith Haut Lafite, with the disclaimer that I had yet to taste the Four Gates or Domain Roses Camille wines yet. I should have added that I had also not yet tasted the 2019 Covenant Solomon, Lot 70. The Solomon, as nice as it was, did not eclipse the Chateau Smith Haut Lafite or the Chateau Pontet Canet, but it is indeed up there on the list of top wines of 2019.
The two Cabernet wines were quite lovely though the Solomon was a step above the Covenant Cabernet Sauvignon. The Solomon was so elegant, powerful, and yet precise, with great fruit focus and control, quite a lovely wine that deserves your attention and a place in your wine cellar for many years from now! I say that, but Mr. Morgan will tell you it is just lovely now as well, and while I wholeheartedly agree with him, get a few and enjoy one now, if you must, and then enjoy the rest later!
My many thanks to Jeff Morgan, Sagie Kleinlerer, Jonathan Hajdu, and the rest of the Covenant team and family for setting up the meeting, sharing their wines with me, and taking time out of their busy harvest schedule to meet with me. The wine notes follow below in the order they were tasted – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:
2020 Covenant Solomon Blanc, Bennett Valley, Sonoma County, CA – Score: 92.5 (QPR: WINNER)
This wine is from the Moaveni Vineyard, in Bennett Valley, Sonoma County.
The nose of this wine is a perfect blend of sweet oak and sweet fruit, showing lovely peach, apricot, bright fruit, green apple, sweet orange marmalade, orange blossom, sweet melon, and sweet Asian pear. The mouth of this medium-plus-bodied wine is incredibly fun, with screaming acidity, lovely minerality, and so refreshing, with lovely sweet oak, lovely green apple, orange marmalade, yellow Asian pear, peach, apricot, and cloves. The finish is long, tart, and balanced, with sweet fruit, incredible balance, loam, flint, and lovely sweet smoke and orange peel. Drink by 2027. (tasted September 2022) (in Berkeley, CA) (ABV = 13.90%)
Herzog Wine Cellars’ latest releases – August 2022
Like much of my posts I am a bit behind, I received these wines in June 2022 and sadly, it took until this week to post them. The truth is that the notes are written quickly, but the delay is caused by the amount of time spent writing the post, with all the metadata in and around the post and the images.
In case you missed the last Herzog Wine Cellars post – please check that out here, the story and background around Herzog Wine Cellars is truly imperative to better appreciate what they have accomplished these many years! One large change since the last post would be the hiring of David Galzignato as Director of Winemaking and Operations. Joe Hurliman is now Winemaker Emeritus. As always I have incredible respect and appreciation for what both Joseph Herzog and Joe Hurliman have done for Herzog Wine Cellars. Their vision, drive, and continued passion for improving the wines and the winery are truly incredible and one that we should all aspire to learn from.
In shortened story form Herzog Wine Cellars is a fascinating story. It started with Eugene Herzog immigrating to the US from Czechoslovakia in 1948 after the war and after communism took over his winery. He worked for a small winery in NY, and by 1958 he became the majority owner of it. In deference to his grandfather, they called it Royal Wines, as he was given the title Baron in Czechoslovakia. By 1985, the family decided that they needed a California presence, and so they hired the famous Wine Maker Peter Stern, to build their initial footprint in the world of high-end wines. After that, they moved to Santa Maria, hired Joe Hurliman, and leased space from Coast Wine Services (CWS), all the while knowing that they needed a place that they could call home. In the end, Joe went looking for a plot of land, that was as close to a Jewish Community as possible (for the Kosher Wine managers) and landed on Oxnard. Not a classic place to house a winery, but one that is close to the highways to truck in the grapes and one close enough to a Jewish Community to allow for full-time Jewish supervision. The winery opened in 2005, and three years later it started hosting the International Food and Wine Festival. In my last post about this year’s KFWE I threw down a gauntlet, I wonder if anyone read/saw it, I think it is time for Herzog Wine Cellars to bring back IFWF, in the summer for a throwback! Time is ticking – the ball is in your court guys!
Now to the wines. The 2017 vintage was tough, it was tough for all of Cali, it was a bad vintage. The 2018 vintage was far better, but still not as good as the 2016 or 2014 vintages. We were all interested in the full 2019 vintage to see if Herzog could break the odd-year curse that has hung over them since the nice 2013 vintage. I guess I will have to say, the answer is maybe. There are clear QPR WINNER wines, but they do not shine as bright as in the even years of 2014, 2016, or 2018. They are riper and less focused, and while they show minerality, it feels/seems secondary to the larger picture.
Generally, when we look at Herzog, and their success for a year, we use the big three, the Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Reserve, Alexander Valley, the Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Edition, Warnecke Vineyard, and the Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Edition, Clone Six. However, there is also the burgeoning Lake County Cabernet Sauvignon, and of course the lovely Edna Valley and Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noirs, from both Eagle’s Landing and the Reserve line. There are the second-level wines from the Variations collection, which also weigh in a bit on a successful year for Herzog, IMHO, but the main wines drive the success ratio the most.
Still, Herzog is never resting on their laurels, in the past they were driving hard with a yearly Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, to add to the Cabernet Sauvignon rotation. However, in 2016, they paused the Single Vineyard Program. The good news is that starting in 2021 the Single Vineyard program is back online! After that, they started sourcing Stag’s Leap fruit in 2018 and then expanded the Special Edition line with Oakville and Rutherford.
One final statement around two wines in the lineup. One is Choreograph, it is a wine that has been around for a long time, started in 2016, the earlier name Camouflage started in 2014. It is a serious sleeper in the Mevushal Lineage line. In the first few years, the wine tasted like the makeup of the wine a hodgepodge of grapes, one of the classic issues with large field blends. The larger the number of fruit the harder it is for them to all get together and make the wine work. However, in 2020 and 2021, whatever Herzog is doing, they have been hitting a home run for the price. This is the absolute PERFECT BBQ wine, IMHO. Mevushal, served cool, with meat, chicken, or even fish, all will work if grilled or smoked, just a perfect wine with great acidity and balance.
The other sleeper is the Lake County Cabernet Sauvignon. Napa is either at max or close to the max price, at least for now, though everything was high, price-wise in 2021 and the Napa fruit prices may max out in 2022. They are not pretty! Many a winery has dropped serious money into Lake County, look at Andy Beckstoffer, AKA, Mr. Tokalon. He bought into Lake County in 1997 and continues to invest. This line has been showing great promise from the start and every year the wine improves or keeps the previous vintage’s quality. Bravo! It is not at the quality yet of Alexander Valley Cabernet, but it quickly making its way into that quality level.
Finally, this is more of a PSA, please cool your red wines in the fridge, for say thirty minutes before enjoying them, if they are at, what we call room temperature. If the room is at 75 degrees Farenheight, 20 to 30 minutes in the refrigerator will help to bring the red wine temperature down to what it should be enjoyed at, which is 60 degrees, or so.
There will be no 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon from Stag’s Leap, but interestingly, there will be a 2020 vintage, as it was picked just before the fires. There will also be a bit of 2020 Alexander Valley and Rutherford. Overall, 2019 turned out to be the best odd-numbered year in a long time, and while it does not rise to the quality of 2014/2016/2018 it is a solid showing for a not-so-good vintage.
The wine notes listed below shows seven wines that garnered the QPR (Quality to Price) WINNER score. That is a lovely list of wines the majority of them are 2020 or 2021 wines. There are two 2019 QPR WINNER wines, and they are the ususal suspects, the Alexander Valley and the Warnecke Vineyard.
I will keep this short, so my many thanks to Joseph Herzog, David Whittemore, Joe Hurliman, and Alicia Wilbur for answering my many emails and calls. Be well all of you! The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:
2021 Herzog Sauvignon Blanc, Lineage, Lake County, CA (M) – Score: 91 (QPR: WINNER)
The nose of this wine is more restrained than other Sauvignon Blanc out there, it is less ripe, it is dirtier, with mineral, floral notes, violet, rose, lemon, lime, yellow plum, and dryer sheet notes. The mouth of this medium-bodied wine is fun, refreshing, tart, acidic, and enjoyable, with green notes, lemon, lime, wet grass, mint, lemongrass, saline, hints of passion fruit, and otherwise, green notes, herbs, spices, flint, and rich mineral. The finish is long, green, spicy, and flinty, with saline, smoke, roasted herb, grass, and hay. BRAVO! Drink now. (tasted May 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 14.5%)
The 2022 Kosher rose season is open and I am underwhelmed – Part 2
I started tasting some of these wines in January and February of this year and at the start, some of them were nice to GREAT. Then the rest of the wines were average to poor. I posted my first round of roses here, in May. Then I posted many posts with roses in each of them from my time in Paris. We have found another WINNER in the USA and one more in Europe, and the best Rose so far, as well. However, I have still not tasted many roses from France, which is unfortunate, as it is already August! They are released in Europe but none of them are here still, such is life! Still, this post has all the roses I have tasted so far this year, some 53 roses in total.
While rose wine in the non-kosher market is exploding – especially Rose wine from Provence; a wine region of France, kosher roses have ebbed and flowed. Last year, the kosher market for roses went into overdrive with options and thankfully this year it is slowing down! Some lovely roses are not on this list and while they will not be QPR WINNER they are quite nice. I will be posting those wines when I post my Paris wine tastings. Still, IMHO, who cares, as I have stated a few times, why are we looking at 35-dollar or more roses when we have better scoring whites wines?
QPR and Price
I have been having more discussions around my QPR (Quality to Price) score with a few people and their contention, which is fair, in that they see wine at a certain price, and they are not going to go above that. So, instead of having a true methodology behind their ideas, they go with what can only be described as a gut feeling. The approaches are either a wine punches above its weight class so it deserves a good QPR score. Or, this other wine has a good score and is less than 40 dollars so that makes it a good QPR wine.
While I appreciate those ideals, they do not work for everyone and they do NOT work for all wine categories. It does NOT work for roses. Look, rose prices are 100% ABSURD – PERIOD! The median rose price has risen a fair amount from last year, some are at 40 to 45 dollars – for a rose! So far, it is around 29 bucks – that is NUTS!
As you will see in the scores below, QPR is all over the place and there will be good QPR scores for wines I would not buy while there are POOR to BAD QPR scores for wines I would think about drinking, but not buying, based upon the scores, but in reality, I would never buy another bottle because the pricing is ABSURDLY high.
Also, remember that the QPR methodology is based upon the 4 quintiles! Meaning, that there is a Median, but there are also quintiles above and below that median. So a wine that is at the top price point is by definition in the upper quintile. The same goes for scores. Each step above and below the median is a point in the system. So a wine that is in the most expensive quintile but is also the best wine of the group gets an EVEN. Remember folks math wins!
Still, some of the wines have a QPR of great and I would not buy them, why? Well, again, QPR is based NOT on quality primarily, it is based on price. The quality is secondary to the price. For example, if a rose gets a score of 87 points, even though that is not a wine I would drink, if it has a price below 29 dollars (that is 7 dollars more than last year – like I said crazy inflation) – we have a GREAT QPR. Again, simple math wins. Does that mean that I would buy them because they have a GREAT QPR? No, I would not! However, for those that still want roses, then those are OK options.
Please remember, a wine score and the notes are the primary reason why I would buy a wine – PERIOD. The QPR score is there to mediate, secondarily, which of those wines that I wish to buy, are a better value. ONLY, the qualitative score can live on its own, in regards to what I buy. The QPR score defines, within the wine category, which of its peers are better or worse than the wine in question.
Finally, I can, and I have, cut and paste the rest of this post from last year’s rose post and it plays 100% the same as it did last year. Why? Because rose again is horrible. There is one Israeli rose, that I have tasted so far, that I would drink, but I would not buy!
The French roses are OK, but nothing to scream about. I still remember fondly the 2015 Chateau Roubine, I tasted it with Pierre and others in Israel, what a wine! I bought lots of that wine in 2016. Last year, I bought no roses, other than for tastings.
The weather in the USA is now getting hot and that unfortunately does not allow me to ship wines from the usual suspects, like kosherwine.com or onlinekosherwine.com. So, while I have tasted many roses, I wish I could order more and get up to date, but sadly, the shipping options are truly slim for now.
So, if you know all about rose and how it is made, skip all the information and go to the wines to enjoy for this year, of the wines I have tasted so far. If you do not know much about rose wine, read on. In a nutshell, 2021 roses are a waste of time. Please spend your money on white wines instead. They exist for a better price, and value, and garner better scores. IF YOU MUST have a rose wine stick to the few that I state below in my Best roses section, right above the wine scores.
Kosher Rose pricing
I want to bring up a topic I have been hammering on in my past posts, price! Yeah, I hear you, Avi Davidowitz, of KosherWineUnfiltered, please quiet down, gloating does not suit you – (smiley face inserted here). The prices of Rose wines have gotten out of control. They are now median priced at 29 dollars with some crazy outliers like 45 or 50 dollars, for a rose! The worst offenders are from Israel followed by the U.S.A. Interestingly, Europe is not the high-priced leader, though that will change once the new Roubines arrive here in the USA, they are already released in Europe.Read the rest of this entry