In my state of kosher wine industry post – I lamented at the lack of QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) options in the kosher wine world. Now that is not to say that the options do not exist, as you can see by the number of QPR options on my top wines for Passover last year. Still, given the sheer number of wines in a kosher wine store (many hundreds) and the number of kosher wines on the open market (many thousands), we are left with a very small minority – sadly.
So, I thought I would list the most recent QPR wines I have enjoyed over the past 6 months. I wanted to catch up with wines I had not had till later last year and place them in a single easy to find place.
My hope is that people will enjoy the wines and demand more of them. For instance, the lack of many of the QPR wines from Elvi Wines on the open market. I can find them on Royal’s website and on Elvi’s website, but sadly I cannot find them at many wine stores. Thankfully, Kosherwine has gotten the Elvi Cava back along with the Gilgal Brut, but they have older vintages or no vintages of the Elvi options. Onlinekosherwine.com, also has many of the older Elvi wines. I have spoken with Moises and he says they exist here somewhere in the USA – only God knows where though!!! Sadly, the exact same can be said for Netofa wines – another QPR superstar! Where are the wines? I taste them at KFWE – but they are not at stores, online or at shops!
I hope to one day write a post about wine cellaring, but till I do, understand that certain wines are made to enjoy early, like Cava, most 2014 white wines, and lighter reds. The richer and tannic reds can use time in the cellar and that is normal. This list is not a list of wines that are meant for cellaring, though many can withstand a few years. The idea here is to enjoy these wines now while you let the long-term wines cellar and age. We all have that interest to drink interesting wines and while I agree with that, that is NO excuse to raid the cellar when u have a hunkering for a complex note or flavor. Many of these wines will scratch the itch while the beasts’ lie and settle.
Finally, some of these wines are hard to find and they may have different siblings – I will point out when an older one will be an issue or a newer vintage would not be on the list (like the 2011 Ella Valley Cabernet Franc versus the 2012). The 2012 Ella Valley Cabernet Franc would never be on this list. The 2011 is a fine wine for another year, after that I fear it will turn to date juice.
Also, many of the white/rose/bubbly wines will be repeats from the various posts I made, as most of the 2015 whites and rose are not coming to the USA as they are shmita in Israel. I tried to keep these wines under 30 dollars or so, some are more most are less and that is the point of this list. Of course, that means that for some wineries there will be one or no options, like Matar or Four Gates Winery. Though I could have thrown in the Four Gates Chard – which is a lovely wine, it is still far from my goal to add into this bucket. The same can be said for many more wineries. Also, 2015 Israeli wines are not on this list, actually no 2015 wines are on this list, though Hagafen Winery, has released their 2015, but I have yet to taste them and the 2014 Hagafen wines are the ones on the market anyway. Finally, wines that can only be found in Israel like the epic Tabor Rose of 2014 and the 2014 Reca Gris du Marselan and the yatir rose and the new 2014 Yatir Viognier – and so on. All of these wines are not on this list because they are hard to find, but they are on previous lists I have posted.
So, without further ado – here is my list of kosher QPR winners so far and if you have any more please tell me!! They are listed below without any real order.
2014 Domaine Netofa White – Score: A- (Crazy QPR)
I must say this is clearly the best Netofa white so far, and I hope they continue to impress! The wine is 100% Chenin Blanc sourced from the slopes of Mount Tabor. The nose is redolent with rich and bright quince, straw, mineral, lemongrass, and wet grass. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is lovely and rich mineral bomb, with more hay, spiced quince, now dry fresh cut grass, green apple, Asian pear, along with a crazy dry and insanely tart crab apple. The finish is long – spicy, dirty, and mineral based, with dry fruit, rich ripping acid, cloves, and nutmeg – BRAVO!!!
2013 Domaine Netofa Red – Score: A- (and more) (QPR!)
This wine is a clear step up from the 2012 Netofa Red, that is not putting the 2012 down in any way, it is just that this wine is even better! This wine is a blend of 65% Syrah and 35% Mourvedre. The nose on this wine is redolent and packed with mineral, lovely smoke, flint, ripe plum, lovely blueberry, with currants in the background. The mouth on this full bodied wine is attacks you first with lovely currants, followed by layers of blueberry, floral notes, richer and more extracted than the 2012, with great mineral, dried strawberry, all wrapped in ripping acid, and lovely tannin. The finish is long, extracted, and richly mineral in style, with blackcurrant, draping tannin, while being spiced with cloves, black pepper, sweet her, and hints of pith and lovely acid. BRAVO!!!
2012 Weinstock Cabernet Franc, Cellar Select – Score: A- (Mevushal) (QPR!)
This is not the same wine as the 2011 vintage, which was crazy and great this vintage started off closed and disjointed, but is now showing far better. The nose on this wine is mad green with red fruit notes, and herb. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is nice and round, with green notes, well balanced with good acid, raspberry, plum, earth, more bell pepper, crazy sweet dill, mouth coating tannin, and green foliage. The finish is long with nice enough acid, forest floor, nice butterscotch, good sweet tobacco, cedar, with tannin adding weight. Read the rest of this entry
It always starts the same way, a blank page, you can look at it as a blank slate/canvas, or you can look at it as yet another post that feels at time like you are bearing your soul and feelings for all to ponder. Still, when it comes to writing about stuff you love, the fear of a blank page turns into a flowing river of text, the hard part is cutting it down to something manageable!
When it comes to Elvi Winery – I can only let my fingers do the talking, much like Moises Cohen’s wines do for themselves. It was our first day in Barcelona, and it saw my wife and I making our way to Clos Mesorah, a lovely vineyard 2 hours out of Barcelona, by train. Of course, things do not always go as planned, Moises the epitome of a host sent us detailed instructions for how we are to get from BCN to his lovely home. Sadly, time and luck were not on our side, two times on our travels to the lush vineyards of Montsant, we ran into Murph. First the train from BCN to the main train station of Barcelona was just pulling out as we walked from the ticket handler, a minute faster and we were on that one. Well, then the next domino fell, the next train would get us to the train station after the first of two trains to Clos Mesorah was pulling out, of course! So, a minute delay cost us two plus hours, such is life when traveling in a country that is foreign and complex like Spain.
But I am digressing, if anyone has read this blog before, you will know my appreciation for all things Spanish, when it comes to wine. To me they are the best kept secret in the world of kosher wine. Sure, Royal Wines has jacked the prices up on Capcanes – ever since taking over the distribution in the US from Solomon Wines. The prices are almost double for the Peraj Habib and Flor du Flor, and they almost double the Clos Mesorah prices in the US, as well. Still, if you go for the lower priced wines, there is nothing close in terms of QPR, and that is what makes kosher Spanish wines so special.
The best part of Spanish wines is that over ripe and unbalanced flavors do not find their way into the kosher Spanish offerings. Do not get me wrong, they are new-world wines of course, but they are balanced and controlled, something I think Israel could emulate, if they wanted to move to the next level. Read the rest of this entry
Well, it has been too long, I admit – mea culpa. We have just come back from a crazy long vacation, leaving right after the Jewish Holidays. All of this required time and setup, and well, I never found the time.
The trip consisted of a week in Greece, then on to Spain (more on that in a minute), then to Gibraltar for Shabbos, then to Glasgow for the 2015 World gymnastic championships. While the trip was epic, by far Santorini and Barcelona were beyond compare. The wine options in these locations are really very poor. Please beware that this post is more about the trip than wine and food, but there is also useful information about that as well.
Greece has ZERO good kosher wine options. Humorously, one of the most expensive hotels in Santorini (Mystique) has a crazy wine cellar, and it has some old Yarden wines there!! Sadly, I did not stay there, but I stayed at another epic hotel that overlooked the Caldera, the Katakies. We used points for this entire trip, otherwise, I would never spend that kind of money per night!
It has been a few weeks since I posted my wine notes. I have been posting other ideas, but this was a long time coming. The biggest take away for me was that the 2013 Terrenal Malbec was out, a new Terrenal kosher wine that can be bought at Trader Joe’s and it is mevushal. Sadly, I was not a fan. It is OK, but for me, I will look elsewhere. It is a shame as the non mevushal Terrenal wines from Spain continue to impress!
The other take away from these wines was that the new NV Freixenet Cava Excelencia Kosher Brut was no fun either. The final notes revolve around the return of Lewis Pasco and his wines! Mr. Pasco was the head wine maker at Recanati until 2006. After that he did wine in the US and other places and in 2012 he returned to Israel to work with Hillel Manne of Beit El Winery, and to make his own wines as well! The wines we tasted in early 2012 were nice, but the Pasco wine has really come around with oak and time. The insane Carignan wine of 2012, is not as good as we remembered it from the barrel in the winery, but it is still very nice a clear QPR.
Finally, as I stated when I was at the Tzora Winery, the 2012 Judean Hills is lovely and is a crazy QPR wine. That said, the notes have not changed but the wine needs serious time to open and when it does it shows its blue and black madness. The wine has really just arrived to the US and it seems to be in bottle shock, so either wait a month or two to enjoy, or open it now and decant for at least 2 to 3 hours ahead of time. If it is not black and blue, wait!!!!
So, I hope you enjoy the notes and have a great Shabbos! The notes follow below:
2012 Shirah Rosé – Score: A- (and then some)
WOW What a rose! This wine is 100% rose of Grenache. The nose is bright and tart with crunchy roasted herb, forest floor, garrigue, red fruit, and spice. The mouth is insane on this medium bodied wine, it starts with an attack of red currant, followed by blue fruit, herb, and crazy acid. The finish is long and attacking with mad acidic tart summer fruit, kiwi, candied strawberry, intense slate, mineral, and crazy tart zinberry that lingers forever, long after the wine is gone. The acid is so intense it is awesome and the fruit is ripe and expressive – BRAVO!!!
2012 Tzora Judean Hills – Score: A- (and more) (crazy good QPR)
When I was at the Tzora Winery, the 2012 Judean Hills was showing lovely and was a crazy QPR wine. That said, the notes have not changed but the wine needs serious time to open and when it does it shows its blue and black madness. The wine has really just arrived to the US and it seems to be in bottle shock, so either wait a month or two to enjoy, or open it now and decant for at least 2 to 3 hours ahead of time. If it is not black and blue, wait!!!!
This is a wine that is made of a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Petite Verdot, Syrah that was fermented and aged in oak, and named for the terroir and vineyard that the wine was sourced from. This was a barrel/tank sample but such a wonderful wine and one very close to bottling that I had to write about it. The nose on this deeply black colored wine is rich with crazy black fruit, along with ripe blueberry, blackberry, along with deep mineral notes, roasted animal, and nice floral notes with slate. The mouth on this lovely full bodied and elegant wine shows far more control than the 2011 vintage, with great control and style, with layers of concentrated black and blue fruit, rich graphite, bracing acid, coming together with mouth coating tannin, and spicy oak. The finish is long and mineral with lovely chocolate, bright fruit, and lovely sweet spices. BRAVO!
2013 Terrenal Malbec Kosher – Score: B
The 2012 vintage of this wine was a favorite of mine last year, till it turned into a flower bomb. This vintage is starting that way out of the chute. The noise on this purple colored wine starts off with nice blue and black notes, followed by floral notes that feels disjointed, along with plum, and spice. The mouth on this medium bodied wine shows blackberry fruit, blackcurrant that spikes, along with nice tannin and blueberry/green notes. The finish is long and all over the place with green blue notes that cover over the nice root beer notes. Read the rest of this entry
For years I have always sported a purple colored beaming grin when I finish my tasting at the IFWF (International Food and Wine Festival) in LA, which hid my grumbling stomach’s discontent. Like I have documented for years, I never get to eat at the events, even as the entire food court mocks me, attempting to pull me into their warm, delicious, and very present embrace, with their wafting and intoxicating aromas. Still, I stand strong and I taste through the night until my teeth are purple and my stomach is close to rioting on the lack of food. Truth be told, I am not that good at taking notes when eating – the flavors of the food cover up and belie the flavors and aromas of the glass that beckons me closer with its “come hither” look and aromas. So every year, after the event I go to dinner at Jeff’s Sausage (down the street from the new location of the IFWF). Which is sheer madness of course, here I have half the Pavilion at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza, filled with food from one of the best kosher restaurants in the world – Tierra Sur Restaurant, and I pass on that for the spicy and homely fare of Jeff’s Sausage. In no way is this a slight to the joy of Jeff Rohatiner’s cookery and food. Rather, it has been my conscious tradeoff, throughout my many year experience at IFWF to drink through as much of the world-class wine I can before my taste-buds shutdown, rather than give them to the food court, no matter how wonderful it is.
This year was a massive shift for me, gone was the purple grin and my mutinous stomach, as I visited and added the New York KFWE to my travel dates. To say the KFWE was different than the IFWF would be an extreme understatement, the IFWF has close to 1000 people at the show, while the KFWE has closer to 2000 people. Further the event hall at Pier 60 is some 2 to 3 times larger than the Pavilion tent at the Hyatt Regency. Also, there were many options for lunch and dinner from the myriad of NY restaurants that all share half the hall, all clamoring to share their wonderful fare with great fanfare. The Pier 60 overlooks the Marina and Harbor and many folks were outside braving the cold to grab a smoke, but at least they had some comfort of looking at the marina and its waterfront.
To really appreciate the event you had to come to it with a game plan, and there were many guests who had a few of their own. The event started at Noon for those in the trade, a new thing that the KFWE started last year and something that the IFWF has been doing from the start (though initially with a smaller trade time). The trade event was crowded but there could not have been more than a thousand folks there, so access to wine was not a problem in any way. The event hall can easily handle 1000 people, it is a bit more complicated when the number swells to two thousand people, but still there was no pushing or shoving going on even at the end of the public tasting, when the number of guests was at its maximum. But I digress; the trade tasting allowed me to focus solely on wine and the winemakers, which was great. Read the rest of this entry
Kalamata Olive and White Bean Soup, Yellow Tail Sushi, Yarden Viognier, and some assorted Purim Wines
This past weekend we had a lovely and enjoyable double whammy! A Shabbos on Saturday and the Purim holiday on Sunday. The festivities started with a lovely bowl of Kalamata olive and white bean soup, followed by a bunch of Yellow tail, avocado, cucumber Sushi rolls. The funny thing about sushi rolls is that even if you eat a bunch of them, you end of being hungry. To meet that concern, we eat a bunch of fresh green salad topped with some Italian Vinaigrette. The fish did taste a bit metallic and that was unfortunate, almost to the point where I was not enjoying it that much. We bought the fish at 5 or so PM and ate it at 7:30 PM, so it was really not cool, that the fish was not perfect. Personally, the next time we make sushi rolls and go to the store to buy the fish, I will ask to taste the fish before I buy it. The soup was a killer hit again and one I really think it is a recipe that you MUST find and make a batch.
To pair with these dishes I chose a fun and vibrant white wine; the 2006 Yarden Viognier. It is a lovely wine that is showing more honey notes than earlier and clearly a wine that needs to be drunk up very soon. It is not actually showing age or faults; rather it is showing weaker fruit, more honey, oak, and butterscotch.
On Sunday Purim arrived and with it some chances to taste more wines that were quite nice and some that were OK. I did not take serious notes after a while, but at least some heads up are in order.
2008 Golan Heights Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Golan Kosher (Israel, Golan) – Score: B to B+
This is an OK wine but not one that really grabs you. The nose on this dark garnet colored wine has dark cherry, blackberry, vanilla, and oak. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is soft with integrated tannin, blackberry, and cherry. The mid palate is balanced with acid, soft tannin, and light hints of oak. The finish is long and spicy with more black fruit, vanilla, and some crushed herbs.
2006 Casa Da Corca Douro Reserva (Portugal, Douro) – Score B+
I drank this wine again recently and the notes are holding well. The nose on this dark ruby to garnet colored wine is screaming with coffee, smoky notes, black cherry, raspberry, blackberry, fig, crushed herbs, mint, and oak. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine turns full in the mouth after a bit of time, along with blackberry, plum, and dark cherry. The mid palate transition has a quick note of what I can only call a combination of green bean/fig/mint, along with acid, oak, nice tannin, and coffee. The finish is long and spicy with plum, nice oak, tannins that linger along with vanilla. This is a nice wine that should be bought once to open your mind to what the heat of Spain can bring you with its unique fruit and terroir.
N.V. Elvi Wines Adar Brut Cava (Spain) – Score: B+
The notes on this wine are consistent with my last tasting. The nose on this bubbly and effervescent light pink colored wine, is hopping with strawberry, lemon, and cherry. The mouth on this light to medium bodied wine is packed with small bubbles that are active and alive; they mingle well with the strawberry and cherry. The mid palate is alive with bracing acidity. The finish is medium long with core acidity, strawberry, bubbles, and a lemon burst at the very tail end. Drink UP!
2006 Yarden Viognier (Israel, Galilee, Golan Heights) – Score: B++
This wine has lost a step or two and is now on its way down. It does not taste like a lost puppy, but clearly one that is looking for its owner. The nose on this dark gold colored wine is filled with floral notes, along with petrol/gasoline flavors, toast, honey, butterscotch, melon, pear, peach, and oak. The mouth on this full bodied wine is oily in nature with almost glycerol viscosity, showing rich honey, melon, pear, and peach flavors. The mid palate is nicely balanced with acid, oak, and floral notes. The finish is long and tenacious with more floral characteristics, oak, a hint of butterscotch, and a heavy dose of honeyed mead like flavors and pear.
2006 Herzog Merlot, Special Reserve, Alexander Valley (Mevushal) – Score B++ to A-
The nose on this dark garnet to purple colored wine is packed with black fruit, blackberry, raspberry, currant, oak, cherry, chocolate, and tobacco. The mouth on this full bodied wine is soft, rich, and mouth coating from lovely integrated tannin, along with blackberry, currant, and cherry. The mid palate is balanced with acid, rich oak, lovely tannin, and tobacco. The finish is long and spicy with black fruit, raspberry, oak, and tobacco. Drink up.
I have a couple of these and will taste them again soon. For now, the wine tasted OK with clear and strong upfront black currant fruit along with cherry, crushed herbs, and raspberry. I hope to taste this again and give more data.
This past weekend saw us hosting a meal for my Nephew and friend who had just completed his qualifications to start his PHD at Berkley University. The meal started with a nice Chicken Soup (recipe here) and my wife’s awesome whole wheat challah. It was followed by two stews that were consumed heartily. Benyamin Cantz joined us for the meal, along with some of our dear friends, and as I was preparing the stews, I could hear Benyo saying “never use the same ingredients in two dishes that are served during the same meal”. So as I reused Yukon potatoes and carrots in the two stews, I knew I would hear it from him. That said, the flavors of the two dishes were so very different that it worked out. The tajine recipe starts off with browning both ends of sliced Merguez, cut into one inch tubes. Once both sides are browned, I remove them from my Dutch Oven and brown the onions. I always throw in the salt and pepper at this point to help soften the onions and make them release their water and increase their sweetness. Once the onions are browned nicely, throw in all the spices, and make sure the spices coat the onions. Once the spices are evenly distributed, throw in the other vegetables and let them get some of the spices coated on them as well, and cook them for 10 or so minutes to help them release their liquid. At this point throw in the sun-dried tomatoes, the wine, water, browned Merguez, cinnamon stick, and vegetable stock. Throw this in a preheated 400 degree oven for one hour. Then add in the chickpeas and fruit and let cook for another 30 or so minutes. Remove the cinnamon stick and serve.
Moroccan Merguez Tajine (recipe)
1/4 cup of olive oil
2 pounds of Merguez sliced into one inch tubes
6 cloves garlic
3 large onions cut into chunks
Salt and pepper
Pinch of saffron threads
4 Yukon potatoes cut into chunks
6 carrots cut into chunks
1/4 cup of sun-dried tomatoes
2 cups vegetable stock
1 cup of white wine
1 cinnamon stick
1 can cooked chickpeas
1/2 cup dried apricots
1/2 cup of dried dates
The kielbasa recipe can be found here on another blog posting. It came out OK, but not as glorious as my previous attempt. The stews were paired with brown basmati rice, and a nice fresh green salad. To pair with these foods, we went to a collection of wines that were brought by Benyo from his personal stash and from my stash as well. A side note, some of the wines were well past their prime, and some were a bit past their prime. Please do not look down at the work, rather look down on us for holding on to these puppies for too long.
The wines are listed in the order that they were consumed:
2004 Four Gates Rishona (750ml) – Score: A-
I need to start by stating that this was a bottle that Benyo made for us, as it was a 750 ml bottle, rather than the released 375 ml sized bottle. The color on this brown tinged/dark ruby colored wine, was hopping with chicken cherry cola, coffee, mature oak, fig, and raspberry. The mouth on this intense and full bodied wine was layered with bright black cherry, coffee, and oak. The mid palate was bracing with bright acidity and oak. The finish was long and tantalizing with more cherry, oak, and coffee, layered under a canopy of mature flavors. This is clearly a wine that needs to be consumed now, but to some, this was one of the winners, which was shocking given the list of wines we enjoyed.
Elvi Wines Adar Cava Brut N.V. – Score: B+
The nose on this bubbly and effervescent light pink colored wine, is hopping with strawberry, lemon, and cherry. The mouth on this light to medium bodied wine is packed with small bubbles that are active and alive, they mingle well with the strawberry and cherry. The mid palate is alive with bracing acidity. The finish is medium long with core acidity, strawberry, bubbles, and a lemon burst at the very tail end. Drink UP!
2009 Terra Vega Shiraz – Score: B+
The nose on this garnet colored wine is filled with dirt, mineral, raspberry, plum, violet notes, and cherry. The mouth on this medium bodied wine starts off with cherry, raspberry, and plum that flow into a lovely acidic mid palate, with spicy wood, tannins, and coffee. The finish is long with spicy wood, cherry, plum, coffee, and pepper that all linger on the palate after the wine is gone.
1989 Gan Eden Cabernet Sauvignon – Score: N/A
I still remember this wine in its youth. It was fantastic and some of the best Cabernet I have ever tasted. That said, this was kept too long, which is no affront to Craig (wine maker at Gan Eden). The nose on this mahogany was relegated to oak and some dark fruit. The mouth is still tannic and oaky with bright acidity, but the fruit was all gone and a bit off. What more can be said, this was a glorious warrior in its past, but if you still have some, it should be left to lie in the bottle for sentimental value.
2005 Four Gates Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley – Score: A-
The nose on this dark garnet to black colored wine is filled with blackberry, cassis, plum, oak, and spice. The mouth on this medium to full bodied is concentrated with fruit that follows the nose, blackberry, cassis, and plum. The mid palate is balanced with oak and still gripping tannins. The finish is long and graceful, with spicy oak, black pepper, cassis, and a hint of leather.
1998 Four Gates Merlot – Score: B
This is another one of those wines that was held too long. It was still there, but not at the Four Gates level. In the evening it still had a bit of a nose, but was off. By day the wine was less off, but the nose was all gone.
Galil Mountain Meron (77% Syrah, 11% each of Cab and Petit Verdot) – Score: A
The nose on dark garnet to black colored wine starts off with a quick hit of blueberry, and then continues to show rich and ripe plum, cassis, blackberry (almost bursting with juice), tobacco, ripe black cherry, sweet oak, fig, smoke, and pepper. The mouth on this full bodied wine is layered and concentrated with rich ripe fruit at the attack on a bed of lush and integrated tannins. The mouth follows with layer after layer of more ripe blackberry, cassis, plum, and black cherry in a concentrated and concerted attack. The mid palate flows perfectly with oak, soft integrated tannins, crazy spicy and smoky nuances, chocolate, and tobacco. The finish is long and spicy with black cherry, ripe and nicely extracted black fruit, tobacco, smoke, and oak. Quite a nice wine, and one of the winners of the evening.
2003 Ella Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Vineyard’s Choice (97% Cab, 3% Cabernet Franc) – Score: A
The nose on this inky black wine is screaming with bright and ripe blackberry, cassis, cherry, and gobs of rich and spicy oak. The mouth on this massive full bodied wine is layered with blackberry, cassis, and plum. The mouth is balanced with spicy oak, still gripping tannins, and nice acidity. The finish is long with ripe black fruit, spicy oak, and chocolate. Quite a nice wine, and one that still has a bit of time in it, but may be close to its peak.