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A tasting of M & M Importers’ latest imports – March 2022

Well folks it has been too long since my last post, Passover, life, lots of work, anyway, I have a lot of notes to post, so look for them to be coming very soon., For now, I need to post the lovely wines I received from Ralph Madeb, president and CEO of M & M Importers. These are all Italian options and some of them can be found in Europe from Honest Grapes while most of them are here in the USA from some stores in and around NY and NJ.

The simpler wines have a new label, gone is the Botteotto brand and now we have the wines under the original winery’s brands. A few of these wines are Mevushal and while I have my issues with the need for Mevushal in our lives today, it seemed to have little to no effect on the wines themselves.

Also, I finally had the chance to taste the 2016 Tassi Brunello di Montalcino Franci, Bettina Cuvee, Brunello di Montalcino, for a second time. I had it in France last year, and while I liked the wine it did not blow me away, as I was expecting. I am happy I had the chance as I felt the wine did not show well in pairs. Sure enough, the wine was indeed better and the revised score and notes can be found below.

The wine list is another example of why Italy is a wonderful wine region to find QPR stars. This entire list is either GOOD to WINNER. No duds. Overall another great list from M &M Importers.

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 – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:

2020 Cristallo Pinot Grigio, Colline Pescaresi, IGT (M) – Score: 89 (QPR: GREAT)
This wine is fun, it is simple but fun, refreshing, funky, and enjoyable.
The nose of this wine is funky, with notes of straw, rosebud, rose petals, green apple, slate, white flowers, and more hay!
The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is fun, simple, refreshing, well-balanced, with lovely acidity, nice weight, good fruit focus, orange notes, nectarine, tart lemon/lime, and citrus, but what sticks with you is the refreshing weight and salinity.
The finish is long, green, tart, balanced with good acidity, hay, straw, violet, and long lingering tart green fruit with minerality. Lovely! Drink now. (tasted March 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 12.5%)

2020 Illuminare Dry Moscato, Colline Pescaresi, IGT (M) – Score: 89 (QPR: GREAT)
This wine reminds me of the other dry Muscat wine I know of on the market – Michael Kaye’s lovely wine. Michael’s wine is fruitier, this wine is lean, very floral, but also shows tart/dry tropical notes, really very different but also similar and equally fascinating.
The nose of this wine is intoxicating, it pulls you in and grabs you, showing tart and dry pineapple, intense jasmine, white flowers, tart green and yellow mango, lychee, smoke, flint, and more floral notes. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is fun, showing lovely saline, refreshing, tart, with great acidity, sweet Mandarin orange, pineapple, sweet pear, Meyer lemon, honeyed notes, and lovely honeysuckle.
The finish is long, tart, green, yet nicely ripe, very floral, with good saline, minerality, and more fruit. Bravo! Drink Now (tasted March 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 12.5%)

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The top 10 Kosher Mevushal wines of 2021

If you ever wondered what Kosher wine or the Mevushal process is, well I made a post these many years ago and nothing has changed about those facts, because kosher wine is kosher wine! The Mevushal process has evolved a bit over the years but the premise is still the same and the best craftsman in this space are Hagafen Cellars and Herzog Wine Cellars.

Royal Wine Europe does a good job as well, though from time to time, the white wines do not show as well after they go through the Mevushal process. The red wines are indeed done very well as I saw this past November 2021.

The whole premise for Mevushal wine is really a U.S. concept. Europe and much of Israel do not care for or need the wine to be Mevushal to serve at restaurants or events. The USA Rabbinic leaders think that there are too many issues and potential concerns at events and restaurants – given the vast number of servers being non-Jewish. As such, they demand Mevushal wines be served at the events. I have been to events where the pourers were all Shomer Shabbat Jews and that is what they do in Europe and Israel, but those are far and few between, here in the USA.

Overall, the 10 Mevushal wines below are not great, they are not bad, but not great. Now, this is not a cause and effect – meaning Mevushal does not ruin the wines. Mevushal – done incorrectly absolutely does cause damage to wine, and I have had many a “cooked” Mevushal wine. However, Herzog and Hagafen do not have these issues. Royal Europe, does a good job, but not as good as the previously mentioned wineries. Last year’s mevushal list would have had lovely wines as it would have included the 2018 Herzog wines! Also, we do not have examples of Mevushal wines that scored 95 points that are mevushal, again this is not a cause and effect but rather the issue that people do not yet Mevushal Pontet-Canet! Mind you, as I stated before, it is not from a lack of desire, on behalf of Royal Wines, they would boil anything to be able to sell more Mevushal wines. Still, so far, of the top wines that I have scored, the highest scored Mevushal wine is 2014, 2016, and 2018 Herzog Chalk Hill Cabernet Sauvignon.

More and more wines are being made Mevushal to meet the needs of restaurants and caterers that want high-end Mevushal wines for their venues and events. The theme of the wines here is mostly Hagafen or Herzog with some smattering of European names as well.

Here is my list of the top 10 Mevushal wines that are available here in the USA. They are listed by score and after that in no particular order. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:

2019 Chateau Le Crock, Saint-Estephe, Bordeaux (M) – Score: 92+ (QPR: WINNER)
This wine is a blend of 59% Cabernet Sauvignon and 41% Merlot. While I liked the 2018 vintage some did not, but this is a nice wine either way.
The nose on this wine is perfectly balanced, with lovely fruit, loam, dirt, smoke, bright and ripe plum, black and red fruit, with ripe dried strawberry, Tisane tea, and rich mineral. The mouth on this medium to full-bodied wine is ripe, layered, beautifully controlled, with rich smoke, saline, lovely loam, beautiful graphite, pencil shaving, sweet oak, mouth-draping tannin, blackberry, dark plum, strawberry, elegance, and control, that gives way to some extraction, with sweet tobacco, and mineral. The finish is long, green, loam, dirty, rich, and yet elegant, with roasted meat, smoke, draping elegance, incredible richness without the show, really a wine to hold but one that can be enjoyed now. Drink from 2027 until 2036. If you must have it now decant for 2 hours. (tasted November 2021) (in Paris, France) (ABV = 13%)

2019 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Reserve, Lake County (M) – Score: 92+ (QPR: WINNER)
This is a lovely wine, it reminds me of the 2017 lake County Cabernet Sauvignon, just a tad less ripe and more fruit-focused. The nose on this wine is lovely. This is a classic Cabernet Sauvignon, in all the right ways, screaming mineral, insane graphite, pencil shavings, with ripe green, black, and lovely red fruit, with tar, loads of roasted herb, and classic garrigue. The mouth on this full-bodied wine is softer than the 2017 vintage, with nice acidity in the middle, wrapped by intense tannin, nice extraction, blackberry, juicy raspberry, hints of boysenberry, and loads of minerality, all coming together quite nicely. The finish is long, green, mineral-driven, but black and blue, with leather, sweet spices, with mineral lingering long, sweet smoking tobacco, and juicy boysenberry staying long. Bravo!!! Drink from 2023 until 2030. (tasted April 2021)

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My top 25 kosher wines of 2021, 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 was scored a 92 or higher. Also, there are a few lower-scoring wines here because of their uniqueness or really good QPR.

We are returning with the “wine of the year”, “best wine of the year” along with “Winery of the Year”, and “Best White wine of the year”, along with a new one – “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 personally 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 this will be the first year where we do it.

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 me spending my money on. So, no I have not tasted as many Israeli wines as I have in the past, but overall, this is the largest number, for me. 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.
IMHO, this past year brought the best wines I have seen in a long time.

IMHO, this past year brought the best wines I have seen in a long time. No, I do not just mean, the lovely 2019 Chateau Pontet Canet, but overall, the scores garnered this year are on keel with my top wines of 2017, which included the best wines from 2014 and 2015 vintages. Nothing has come close since that list, until this past year – so that really excites me as there are still a few wines from the 2019 vintage that I have yet to taste.

As I will talk about in my year in review post, 2014 will come out as the best vintage for the past decade in France. That is a hotly debated subject, but IMHO, in the world of kosher wine, there were FAR more best wine options in the 2014 vintage than any other vintage in the past decade. That may not be the case for non-kosher wines, but news flash, I do not drink non-kosher wines, or even taste them, and further this blog is about kosher wines. The 2018 vintage may well have some serious “best wine of the year” candidates, but sadly, not all of those wines are here and I could not travel to France to taste them all, as I do commonly. The 2019 vintage may have as many once we taste them all, but for now, the 2014 vintage across all wine producers has created a far more complete and consistent product than any of the years, up until 2019.

There are also interesting wines below the wines of the year, think of them as runner-up wines of the year. There will be no rose wines on the list this year. If last year, I thought the roses were pure junk, this year, you can add another nail in the coffin of rose wines, IMHO. Thankfully, the task of culling the bounty of great wines to come to these top wines was more a task of removing than adding. We are blessed with a bounty of good wines – similar to 2017. To highlight the last point, I scored 109 wines with a 92 or higher, and 66 of those were given the QPR score of WINNER (or WINNER in FRANCE).

The supreme bounty comes from the fact that Royal released the 2019 French wines a bit early! Throw in the incredible number of kosher European wines that are coming to the USA and being sold in Europe and this was truly a year of bounty for European kosher wines.

Now, separately, I love red wines, but white wines – done correctly, are a whole other story! Sadly, in regards to whites, we had no new wines from Germany, still. Thankfully, we have some awesome new entries, from the 2019 Chateau Malartic and the 2019 Château Gazin Rocquencourt (NON-Mevushal), and the new 2020 Meursault!

The wines on the list this year are all available here in the USA, in Europe, and a few can be found in Israel, as well. 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 2021 kosher wine of the year – is new!

This is a new wine for the kosher wine market and it sits a bit above where I would like it, price-wise, but it is the best wine for a price that is still comfortable for the value. It is one of the rare wines that score a GREAT QPR – when priced above 100 dollars. Still, it fits right there to make it GREAT. There were so many to choose from this year – I am so happy to restate, but in the end, this award goes to a reasonably priced wine that garnered the highest score. The 2014 and 2015 Domain Roses Camille was an option, but the price pushed out of the competition. There was the 2017 Elvi Clos Mesorah, at a far better price than the LaGrange, but again, the LaGrange fit right in that space, barely above the Clos (quality-wise), and within the range of QPR. There was the 2018 Malartic and the 2017 Leoville, but they, like the DRC, were priced out. Finally, there was the 2019 Jean Luc et Paul Aegerter Nuits St. Georges 1er Cru, Les Vallerots, but that wine is almost impossible to find, sadly!

If there was a single QPR WINNER that blew me away – it would be the 2012 Château Cru Ducasse – in France, I can see no reason not to buy as much of this as humanly possible! Either way – the new Chateau LaGrange is a wonderful wine and one that is worthy of the 2021 wine of the year!

2019 Chateau LaGrange Grand Cru Classe En 1855, Saint-Julien – Score: 94+ (QPR: GREAT)
WOW, what wine for a 12.5% ABV wine, come on, the next time someone says I need to wait for the phenolics to talk with me, the answer is this wine! This wine is a blend of 80% cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot, & 2% Petit Verdot.
The nose on this wine is lovely and perfumed with rich minerality, dense loam, graphite, smoke, roasted animal, clay, black and red fruit, all wrapped in more dirt, tar, and licorice, wow!
The mouth on this medium-plus bodied wine is beautiful, the acid is perfect, balanced and tart, elegant and layered, with lovely raspberry, plum, dark currants, hints of blue fruit, with ripe cassis, scraping mineral, dirt, loam, roasted herbs, menthol, with sweet vanilla, and lovely licorice.
The finish is long, with draping tannin, scraping mineral, and lovely tar, loam, nice leather, and rich garrigue, really lovely! Drink from 2031 until 2042. (tasted November 2021) (in Paris, France) (ABV = 12.5%)

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A few good red wines along with too many misses – Jan/Feb 2022 Tasting

This is my second QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) WINNER Hit and Miss post of 2022 and while this started in January as a poor showing, I had two more wines in February that made the overall post much better. We started with one QPR WINNER and that grew to three WINNER by February. Still, the star of the show was the first QPR WINNER, the 2016 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico, Assai, Gran Selezione, Chianti Classico!

This post is filled with many more examples of what people are raving about from Israel, the 2018 red vintage, and all I can say is, yes they are not date juice! They are not uncontrolled madness, they are OK, they lack acidity and mostly they are copy and paste of each other with different fruit. Still, an improvement over other vintages. Essentially, much like the 2016 vintage, another highly vaunted vintage, which I described to my buddy EA as: “milk chocolate, either blue or black fruit, loads of cedar and tobacco – copy and paste wines”.

I wish it was better, even when God forces a winery to make good wine by keeping the temperatures at bay, they still make mediocre stuff. Such is life! Thankfully, we are blessed with Terra di Seta, aka TDS, which won my first ever winery of the year in 2019 and a winery that I have been touting for many years now! The newly released 2016 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico, Assai, Gran Selezione, is a stunning wine and maybe their best Assai so far!

The next two QPR WINNER are the 2019 Herzog Winery Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, and the 2020 Chateau Signac Pliocene, Cotes du Rhone. I must say, the 2019 Herzog is shockingly ripe but the level of acidity it has really helped to tamp down the fruit and with time they all work together to make a harmonious wine. Still, it is ripe to start so leave this wine alone for many years. The 2020 Chateau Signac Pliocene, on the other hand, is lovely and ready to go. It is NOT as ripe as the 2018 vintage, but it is nice and very enjoyable for the next few years.

Finally, there is a repeat tasting of the 2019 Pavillon du Vieux Chantre, Puisseguin Saint-Emilion. As I stated in the Moises Taieb post, I needed to taste a few wines a second time and I am happy I did. The 2019 Pavillon du Vieux Chantre showed beautifully and just as I expected it to, after having tasted all the previous vintages. Thankfully, this wine is available in the USA in an easy-to-find location, from Andrew Breskin and Liquid Kosher.

The rest are OK, QPR score-wise, with only one wine garnering a score of GREAT, which is the 2017 Ma’ayan Asis Blend, these are relabeled wines from Tom Winery. The Tzora was nice but overpriced for what it gives.

I also tasted three 2019 Pinot Noirs and the clear winner, of those three, was the 2019 Goose Bay Pinot Noir, Small Batch. It is a lovely wine and one to enjoy over the next couple of years.

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

2016 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico, Assai, Gran Selezione, Chianti Classico – Score: 93.5 (QPR: WINNER)
This vintage of Assai is its best and this wine is 100% Glorious, rich, elegant, focused, balanced, fruity, but tart, refreshing and concentrated – WOW! BRAVO!!! The nose on this wine is pure heaven, it is soy sauce, funk, forest floor, mushroom, fruity, red and black fruit, tar, smoke, violet, very floral, wild herbs, and rich mineral. The mouth on this medium to full-bodied wine is ripe, concentrated, but well-controlled, with ripe plum, dark strawberry, candied raspberry compote, with menthol, licorice, baking spices, all wrapped in dense sweet oak and elegant draping tannins, just incredible! The finish is long, dense, dark, rich, layered, concentrated, yet perfectly balanced, with screaming acidity, rich espresso coffee, mushrooms, almost truffle, forest floor, mineral, charcoal, graphite, and star anise. WOW!!! Drink from 2026 until 2033. BRAVO!!! (tasted January 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 15%)

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Four Gates Winery’s January 2022 new releases

I was not going to post these notes but I received too many requests – so OK, here you go!.

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 his care and control that he has for his vineyard. That said, the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes he receives from the 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 that 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.

No new wines

This year there are no new wines, there is a red blend, but that is a blend of existing red fruit that Benyo owns. The Petit Verdot is from Santa Clara Valley AVA, and another Malbec from the same vineyard as in 2017, in Santa Cruz, but not from the Four Gates vineyards. The Chardonnay is under the Ayala label, and I did not get good notes on it to post them.

The rest of the wines are the normal suspects, but this year’s crop is less ripe than last year. First, you have the 2018 Four Gates Cabernet Franc, N.V. Four Gates Red Blend, which is a blend of his fruits, 2016 Four Gates Merlot, M.S.C., last year we had the non-M.S.C., the 2017 Four Gates Cabernet Sauvignon, and the 2016 Four Gates Fraire Robaire, which was a no-show last year.

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 the 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 I 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.

Lastly, the fact that he sold out his year’s stock of wine in 9 minutes or so, tells you that his wines are in demand and that the prices will reflect that. This year’s sale lasted 2 minutes longer but there were more wines to sell. Benyo and I did have conversations on how to get the tech better, there are clear issues, hopefully, next year it will be better, but no promises there, and I am not involved!!

So, I am done with the discussion, and I hope you all got some of the wines. Sadly, all the wines we tasted were shiners, so there are no pictures.

The notes speak for themselves. Again, this year, I “liked” all the options for sale, though I did not buy Malbec or Petit Verdot, in case anyone is asking. I did not get to taste the Chardonnay in the best manner, so there are no notes for it. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:

2019 Four Gates Malbec, Santa Cruz, CA – Score: 90 (QPR: POOR)
This vintage is a bit more balanced than in the past with nice blue and black fruit, nice herb, root beer, good smoke, and a nice overall approach. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is nice, with good fruit, saline, smoke, good acidity, blueberry, blackberry, boysenberry, with hints of raspberry, earth, and smoke. The finish is long, acidic, with mouth-draping tannin, good fruit focus, and nice earth. Drink by 2026. (tasted January 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 14.20%)

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Final Tasting from my trip to Paris – November 2021

As stated in my previous post, I was in Paris in November, and while it took forever to post these notes, I am happy to finally be getting to them at this point. The total number of boxes in our hotel room, much like in June, still makes me laugh!

As I stated, in my previous post, I kept to my hotel room for much of the trip. I was joined by Avi Davidowitz from Kosher Wine Unfiltered. Even vaccinated, I was worried, as such we kept to ourselves, where possible. Almost all the wines below were tasted with Avi, in our hotel room, a few were tasted after he returned home to Israel.

Marmorieres Wines

I truly enjoyed the Château de Marmorières Les Amandiers, La Clape, Languedoc we had in June. So, I made sure Avi tasted that along with other wines from the winery, which was only released after I left Paris in June. The rose and white were nice while the Cab and Merlot were less interesting.

White wines from all over France

For the most part, the list was weak as it had too many boring Chablis. There were one or two nice wines, so look for those WINNERS. The best of that group has the worst name I have ever seen – LaCheteau Sauvignon Blanc – like seriously??? Anyway, horrible name – great wine!

Charles Pere & Fils Burgundy Wines

I was hoping to enjoy some 2020 Burgundy wines, but sadly, none of them stood out in a good way. They felt rushed, not complete, and overall, lackluster. I hope subsequent vintages will be better.

Rhone Wines

We had wines from Famille Daubree and Les Vins De Vienne and neither of them stood out. Again, they were very ripe, and we gave them days to come around, they never did. These are not what I am looking for. They are well made but too ripe for me. If you like well-made ripe French wine, try them out.

Various Bordeaux Wines

This group was a total loser, just like in June, except this time – there were no new wines to save me! Thankfully, for Avi, there were many of the wines I enjoyed in June, but for me, there was not a SINGLE red wine I would drink. That is how bad the options were!

German Weingut Gehring Wines

These wines were the most enjoyable and reasonably priced wines we tasted in our own tasting. The wines were made for an Israeli entrepreneur, who was going to sell them to hotels and restaurants, but sadly, he died, and the wines just sat in Germany! Some of them made their way to Israel anyway and that is where Avi and a few others saw them and worked crazy hard to buy them. Avi brought one wine with him, but I wanted to taste them all, there are three of them.

Weingut Gehring made three kosher wines with this gentleman who passed away, a Riesling, Grauer Burgunder (Pinot Gris), and an off-dry muscat. So, while I was in France I called the winery and paid them to ship the wines to my hotel, which worked perfectly! That was how I was able to taste all three of them. The wines that were sent to me all have Hebrew back labels as they were meant for the Israeli market and while the Hechsher is good it is not one many would know.

Thoughts on this tasting

Overall, these wines were unimpressive, but wow did we find some real sleepers! The 2020 LaCheteau Sauvignon Blanc, Les Cimes, Haut-Poitou, Loire Valley is a no-brainer for those in France/Europe. Same for the two german wines. Other than that it was a total mess and I hope the next trip will have better options!

Though none of these wines will ever make it to the USA shores, some are in Israel and I feel bad for you. The LeChateau is in Israel, but I have no idea if there were transport issues, like with many other French wines imported into Israel, in the past. The two German wines were in Israel but I have no idea about their distribution. Either way, thankfully, these wines can stay in France/Europe, there is nothing I want here, other than maybe the German wines, but I think they are all spoken for.

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

Chevalier Wines

2020 Chevalier De Marmorieres Rose, Vin de France – Score: 90.5 (QPR: GREAT)
Clean smelling rose with good lines, bright fruit, floral notes of violet, honeysuckle, raspberry, honeyed fruit, and tart lemon. Nice job, the mouth on this medium-bodied rose is tart, right on the money, well priced, with lovely strawberry, sweet pomelo, mango, with searing acidity, tart lemon, lemon pith, sweet peach, and nice refreshing acidity to bring it all together – nice! The finish is long, ripe, and well-balanced, with slate, acid, and good fruit. Nice! Drink now! (tasted November 2021)

2020 Chevalier De Marmorieres Blanc, Vin de France – Score: 90 (QPR: GOOD)
The nose on this wine is very fruity, smells a lot like Viognier, with white peach, apricot, funk, guava, and sweet fruit. The mouth on this opens slowly, with nice acidity, that is slow to fully show, nice acidity, with guava, ripe peach, Pomelo, sweet honeysuckle, honeyed tropical fruit, and ripe melon. The finish is long, tart, ripe, and well balanced, with more funk, saline, mineral, and slate. Nice! (tasted November 2021) (in Paris, France) (ABV = 12.50%)

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Wines I tasted over the past few weeks with five QPR WINNERS

My trip to Paris in November and in June showed me terroir is not enough to make good wine. There are endless shelves of useless wines, at equally high prices, just like here in the USA. Thankfully, there were a few good ones and those will be outlined over the next weeks.

However, I wanted to catch up on a few wines that people have been asking about. The new Yarden wines are all the rave. People are crowing about them, and while they are not classic Israeli Date juice, they are not very interesting at all. I opened a lovely 2018 Baron Herzog Zinfandel, and that was far more interesting, refreshing, and enjoyable, than the 2018 Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon.

There were also two lovely wines from California. First was the return of a kosher B.R. Cohn wine, this time it is not the Trestle Glen wine but a nice Cabernet Sauvignon, nonetheless. It was balanced, well made, and far more enjoyable than the Yarden, any day. Finally, I enjoyed the N.V. Hurliman Pinot Noir. It is a lovely wine made in honor of Joe Hurliman, head winemaker at Herzog Wine Cellars.

Finally, I need to once again highlight how much I like the 2020 Sheldrake Riesling, Dry, Finger Lakes, NY. It is a lovely wine, that may well be the most refreshing and enjoyable wine out there, at this moment. NO, I did not say the best wine out there. I said, refreshing and enjoyable. Some wines are elegant, unique, layered, and expressive, like the epic 2019 Chateau Pontet can’t or the almost equally impressive 2019 Chateau LaGrange. But, not every wine experience is about Pontet Canet. There are times where I want an enjoyable white wine to have during Shabbat lunch. In that case, I will either reach for sparkling wine or an acid-driven but equally refreshing white wine. Ari Lockspeiser’s 2020 Sheldrake Riesling is lovely and meets all of those requirements, nicely done buddy!

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 Sheldrake Point Riesling, Dry, Finger Lakes, NY – Score: 91.5 (QPR: WINNER)
This is the first year that Ari Wines has made this wine and it is a true joy! First, I love the fact that he makes clear what dryness the wine has. The wine label shows an RS (Residual Sugar of 0.7 which is a bit more than I would have liked but still not within the average person’s opinion of what is “dry”. Officially, 0.5% is off-dry, but that is crazy precise, to most people below .10% you are dry, but everyone has their opinions. Finally, IMHO, this wine is not the best Riesling I have this year, nor is it the most complex wine of this year. However, and this is of great importance, this wine may well be the most refreshing wine I have tasted this year! That could well be because of either the lovely acidity, the low ABV (Alcohol By Volume), or because I love Riesling!
From open until empty this wine is always ready, enjoyable, and fun! The nose on this wine is lovely, showing notes I crave with intense honeysuckle, peach, tart citrus, honeyed notes of apple and pear, more floral notes, spices, and great minerality! The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is where this wine goes into solid WINNER status, it starts with a wave of acid, followed by a wave of balanced mouthfeel, with a weight that is lovely, not oily, but lovely, with ripe peach, tart tangerine, crab-apple like nectarine, and intense acidity. The finish is long, ripe, yet layered and expressive, with an acidic backbone, mineral, flint, rock, and intensity of mineral that makes this wine a true joy! Bravo! Drink until 2024. (tasted Novemeber 2021) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 11.10%)

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Another round of QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) Hits and Misses, Six WINNERS – October 2021

To start – I really must state something in advance. I am sorry that I missed the chance to properly remember the 10th Yahrzeit of Daniel Rogov’s passing, which occurred on September 7th, 2011 (it may have been the 6th but Israel time and all).

I wrote two of my posts about the man, you can read them here and as such, I will simply say that I miss him as do most of the kosher wine drinking public. So much has changed in the past 10 years, since his passing, and I wonder what kosher wine would be like today if he was still with us. So much of the world is open to the kosher wine world, which was not the case 10 years ago. I wonder if Rogov would have embraced the opening. I wonder if he would have liked or disliked the fact that Israel is producing and importing loads of kosher wine from France and Italy, specially made for the Israeli kosher wine buying community.

I think, in the end, he would have loved all that is changing and we are all worse off by his lack of presence in our lives today. So I raised a glass of 2011 Yarden Blanc de Blanc in his memory and may we all be blessed for having known such a man!

QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) Wines

It has been a few months since my last QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) post and many people have been emailing me about some unique wine I have tasted and some lovely wines that are worth writing about.

Thankfully, no matter how garbage and pain I subject myself to, we are still blessed with quite a few wonderful QPR wines out there. This post includes superstars like Herzog Wines’s new 2019 Herzog Eagle’ Landing Pinot Noir, and a few others. It goes to show that when wineries reasonably price superior wines, even 46 dollar wines can be a QPR winner! Sadly, the Eagle’s Landing Pinot Noir is the most superior wine on this list. There are other nice wines to come but for now – this QPR wine list, overall, was not as good as previous lists.

We have an OK list of QPR WINNERS:

  1. 2019 Herzog Eagle’ Landing Pinot Noir
  2. 2017 Netofa Dor
  3. 2019 Chateau Genlaire Grand Vin de Bordeaux
  4. 2019 Elvi Vina Encina Blanco
  5. 2019 Pacifica Riesling, Evan’s Collection
  6. 2020 Domaine Guillerault Fargette Sancerre

There were also a few wines that are a slight step behind with a GREAT or GOOD QPR score:

  1. 2020 Domaine Joost de Villebois Pouilly Fume
  2. 2019 Domaine du Castel Grand Vin
  3. 2019 Nana Chenin Blanc
  4. 2019 Nana Cassiopeia
  5. 2015 Mad Aleph Blaufrankisch
  6. 2019 Aura di Valerie Zaffiro Super Tuscan
  7. 2020 Vitkin Israeli Journey, Red
  8. 2020 Domaine du Castel La Vie Blanc de Castel
  9. 2019 Herzog Malbec, Lineage, Clarksburg – GREAT Value for a varietal I am not a huge fan of
  10. 2020 Herzog Variations Be-leaf
  11. 2018 Binyamina Sapphire, The Chosen
  12. 2020 Tabor Sauvignon Blanc
  13. 2020 Bodegas Faustino VI Rioja
  14. 2020 Yatir Darom Rose
  15. 2020 Recanati Marselan Rose
  16. 2020 Arroyo del Imperio Chardonnay

There are a few wines that got a QPR Score of EVEN – meaning expensive or average:

  1. 2020 Herzog Sauvignon Blanc, Acacia Barrel Series – very unique but expensive
  2. N.V. Herzog Methode Champenoise, Special Reserve – Nice but expensive
  3. 2020 Herzog Chardonnay, Chalk Hill, Special Edition – Nice but expensive
  4. 2019 Castellare di Castellina Chianti Classico – very unique but expensive
  5. 2020 Matar Chardonnay
  6. 2019 Capcanes Peraj Ha’abib, Flor de Primavera – Still too ripe for me
  7. 2019 Weinstock Cabernet Sauvignon, Cellar Select
  8. 2020 Psagot Sinai, White
  9. N.V. Drappier Rose de Saignee, Champagne
  10. 2018 Les Lauriers de Rothschild
  11. 2020 Pacifica Rattlesnake Hills Viognier
  12. N.V. Vera Wang Party Prosecco, Brut
  13. 2019 Or Haganuz Elima
  14. 2019 Binyamina Chardonnay, Moshava

The others are essentially either OK wines that are too expensive, duds, or total failures:

  1. 2018 Covenant Cabernet Sauvignon, Lot 70 – Lovely wine but expensive for the quality
  2. 2019 Hagafen Family Vineyard Red Blend – Lovely wine but expensive for the quality
  3. 2020 Binyamina Moshava Rose
  4. 2019 Yatir Creek White
  5. 2019 Domaine du Castel La Vie, Rouge du Castel
  6. 2017 Barons Edmond & Benjamin de Rothschild
  7. 2018 Domaine du Castel M du Castel
  8. 2020 Padre Bendicho Rose
  9. 2020 Carmel Private Collection Rose
  10. 2020 Yatir Darom White
  11. 2019 Nana Chardonnay
  12. 2019 Segal Marawi Native
  13. 2019 Mia Luce Blanc
  14. 2019 Nana Tethys
  15. 2018 Odem Mountain 1060 Cabernet Franc
  16. 2018 Odem Mountain 1060 Red Wine
  17. 2017 Odem Mountain Alfasi, Special Reserve
  18. 2019 Mia Luce Syrah and Stems
  19. 2019 Mia Luce C.S.M.
  20. 2017 Tabor Merlot, Adama
  21. 2017 Tabor Cabernet Sauvignon 1/11,000, Limited Edition
  22. 2019 Chateau de Parsac
  23. 2019 Gurra di Mare Tirsat
  24. 2017 Tulip Espero
  25. 2019 Psagot Merlot
  26. 2019 Psagot Cabernet Sauvignon
  27. 2018 Jezreel Icon
  28. 2019 Psagot Edom
  29. 2017 The Cave
  30. 2018 Carmel Mediterranean
  31. 2020 Yatir Mount Amasa Rose
  32. 2020 Flam Camellia
  33. 2020 Netofa Latour, White

Some things that made me stand up and take notice (AKA QPR WINNERS):

The real WINNER here, from the entire list, is the lovely 2019 Herzog Eagle’s Landing Pinot Noir, another STUNNING Pinot Noir from Herzog – BRAVO!

There were other high-scoring wines in this overall list, nice wines from Covenant and others, but the prices of those wines put them at a disadvantage in comparison to others in their wine categories, and as such, they have poor to bad QPR wine scores.

In the end, IMHO, the overall list has less quality than the previous QPR list but there are a few nice wines here indeed.

The other WINNERS were the incredible 2019 Elvi Vina Encina Blanco, a lovely Macabeo for 13 dollars! Just lovely! The 2019 Pacifica Riesling, Evan’s Collection, is not as good as previous vintages – but another solid wine that many will enjoy. Finally, we have a Sancerre that I can get up and cheer about and that is the 2020 Domaine Guillerault Fargette Sancerre. It is here in the USA and it is nice!

Other wines worth of note (AKA QPR GREAT or GOOD):

Of these GOOD to GREAT wines – the most interesting of the list, for me, is the 2020 Domaine Joost de Villebois Pouilly Fume. No, it is not as good as the lovely 2019 Jean Pierre Bailly Pouilly Fume, still, it is a Mevushal wine that is reasonably priced, so it gets a solid QPR score. The 2019 Nana Chenin Blanc is nice, but for the price, it is not worth it, and it is DRINK NOW!

The 2019 Domaine du Castel Grand Vin, is nice, yes, but it is too ripe for me and the price is too much for the quality it is, so yeah, nice wine for those that like this style. The 2019 Nana Cassiopeia, is a wine that I found I could taste and at a decent enough price, so yeah, good going.

The 2015 Mad Aleph Blaufrankisch has so many stories revolving around it, that all I can say is, drink it if you like the style. I found it OK, but I do not need to buy any more.

The 2019 Aura di Valerie Zaffiro Super Tuscan is nice enough, but really, why did you need to put those words on the bottle? A Super Tuscon is a term used to describe red wines from Tuscany that may include non-indigenous grapes, particularly Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah. The creation of super Tuscan wines resulted from the frustration winemakers had towards a slow bureaucracy in changing Italy’s wine law during the 1970s (from WineFolly). Why would you place those words on a wine bottle??

The 2019 Herzog Malbec, Lineage is a solid example of what reasonably priced wine from California can taste like! Finally, the newly released 2020 Herzog Variations Be-leaf – handily beats all other no-added sulfite options!

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Paris tasting of Bokobsa/Sieva wines

As stated in my previous post, I was in Paris in June, and while it took forever to post these notes, I am happy to finally be getting to them at this point. I must start by thanking Clarisse and Lionel Bokobsa of Sieva/Bokobsa Wines. They were so kind to host me and allow me to taste through the lovely wines. I was also joined by Mr Henri Molko, sales manager at Sieva, and Benjamin Kukurudz.

So, returning to the trip, as stated in my previous post, I kept to my hotel room for much of the trip. Even vaccinated, I was worried, and am still worried, as such I kept to myself, where possible. However, Clarisse was so nice to setup the tasting so on a bright summer morning, I made my way to the Sieva offices, just outside of Paris.

The last time I was at a Bokobsa tasting, it was at the very early days on this insane life we now live, February, 2020. Of course, until June, 2021, no one from the United States was allowed access to France. Bokobsa, like Royal did not have a tasting in 2021. So, I was really happy to catch up with what new wines were available and to see the offices of Sieva, as I only ever see the Bokobsa family at KFWE or their own tastings.

The pricing of these wines are mostly cheaper in France than they are here in the USA, as such, some of them of the wines have better QPR scores in France. Also, many of these wines will not come to the USA, but overall I was impressed by the quality of the wines and how some of them have really improved from the first time I tasted them in 2019.

My thanks to Clarisse and Lionel Bokobsa and the rest of the Sieva/Bokobsa team for hosting me and letting us taste the wonderful wines. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:

2019 Jean Pierre Bailly Pouilly Fume – Score: 92 (QPR: EVEN (In France: WINNER))
Another smash hit for this lovely wine, showing notes of sweet fruit, lovely orange blossom, with good fruit focus, gooseberry, melon, grapefruit, and flint galore. The mouth on this lovely medium-bodied is truly fresh, ripe, and well balanced with screaming acid, smoke, flint, gooseberry, melon, grapefruit, orange, orange blossom, and lovely screaming acid, wow! Lovely weight and mouthfeel. The finish is long, green, ripe, and well balanced, with crazy mineral, screaming acid, and lovely rock, flint, and mineral. WOW!! Drink until 2024. (tasted June 2021)

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Three 2018 California Napa Valley Wines

I know some of you are hoping for posts from my trip to France. However, I need to clean up some missing posts, I have a lot of wine that needed to be posted and now I will do those quickly. After that, I will start posting the wines I tasted in France.

In April Gabriel Geller and I went to Marciano Estate, along with Hagafen Cellars, both of them in Napa Valley, California. Then we went to Herzog Wine Cellars, Oxnard, California. Most of the wine notes from Hagafen and Herzog were posted in this blog post. Of the 2018 vintage, I am still a massive fan of the Sonoma County wines over the Napa Valley wines, in this case, the EPIC 2018 Herzog Wine cellars lineup. Though, the 2018 Herzog Forbearers Cabernet Sauvignon was quite nice but too expensive. Overall, the Napa Valley wines are all too expensive for the value, and really, I would stick 100% with the Sonoma County wines. That said, the Marciano wines are beautiful but at 350 dollars or 140 dollars, it really is a matter of value to me. Are they great wines? Yes, you can see that from the scores below. Napa Valley wines are not cheap, and the cost of labor and kosher wine supervision at such a small scale adds to the overall cost of the kosher product. This is just a matter of Napa Valley wines while being nice, are almost pricing themselves out in the kosher market, when there are better options available.

My thanks to all at Marciano Estate and to all at Herzog Wine cellars for hosting us and letting us taste the wonderful wines. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:

2018 Marciano Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley – Score: 93+ (QPR: POOR)
The wine is a blend of 82% Cabernet Sauvignon & 18% Cabernet Franc. The nose on this wine is so elegant it is crazy, with sweet oak, tar, graphite, roasted animal, spice, rich black currant, sweet cinnamon, and lovely floral lavender. The mouth on this full-bodied wine is incredible, richly layered, concentrated, extracted, deep fruit focus, crazy balance, with intense mineral, the graphite and saline are far more pronounced in the Marciano than in the Terra Gratia, with pure elegance, plum, dark cherry, smoke, and loads of earth. The finish is long, green, earthy, with sweet tobacco, vanilla, dark chocolate, sweet spices, more floral notes, and tannin that lingers forever. Drink from 2026 until 2034. (tasted April 2021)

2018 Marciano Terra Gratia, Napa Valley – Score: 92+ (QPR: POOR)
Lovely nose of black currant, roasted herb, rich mineral, serious smoke, star anise, tarragon, with rich saline. The mouth on this full-bodied, really impressive, with polish, plush, rich and concentrated, layered, elegant, with black currant, plum, incredible, rich smoke, raspberry, with menthol, intense acid, draping elegant tannin, green note, lovely, sweet Oak, Asian spice, and spices galore. The finish is super long and green and ripe and smoky and spicy, with elegance, roasted animal, and lovely chewing tobacco, and earth galore, and charcoal. With time the nose changes to sweet oak, sweet dill, smoke, green notes, garrigue, sweet mint, Oregano, tar, sweet black, and red fruit. The mouth is rich, extracted, layered, and elegant. Bravo! Drink from 2025 until 2032. (tasted April 2021)

2018 Herzog Generation IX Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap, Napa Valley – Score: 93 (QPR: POOR)
The nose on this wine is ripe, balanced, and in control, with rich blackberry, anise, raspberry, with tar, smoke, roasted meat, lavender, rooibos tea, black tea, with dense forest floor, mineral, rich tilled earth, and loam. The mouth on this full-bodied wine is ripe, layered, concentrated, and a bit elegant, with a nice plushness, with ripe blackberry, dark cherry, raspberry, currant, plum, and lovely green note, mouth draping tannin, foliage, loam, and forest floor, with anise and tar. The finish is long, green, with chalk, graphite, black tea, dried rose petals, graphite, dried porcini mushroom, and smoke that is wrapped in rich extraction, and foliage galore, Bravo! Drink from 2028 until 2035. (tasted April 2021)

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