Over the past three months, I have been trying as many rose, white, and sparkling wines as I could find and it is time to post what I think of them. In the grand scheme of things, 2016 is not much better of a year than 2015 was. The white and rose wines from the 2015 vintage in Israel were a complete disaster. I have stated that many times and that is why I did not post this list last year at all. I was almost not going to post this list this year, but what the heck – it will not be very good information – as many of the wines were boring to painful with a few good exceptions.
To recap, red wines overall from Israel are a total letdown and nothing has changed in that department. However, the 2015 and 2016 vintages for whites and roses have overall been a huge disappointment, in regards to either lack of focus in the wines or lack of acid.
I have covered Rose – many times now, but the latest and last was here and a few French roses that were not worth much as well. The whites and sparkling wines were what I needed to post – so I guess it is time to post them already.
The State of Israeli wines from the 2016 vintage
Israel really got me excited about the rose and white wine potential, but the last two years have totally squashed those aspirations. I really hope 2017 brings it back. Sure, we can always count on Domaine Netofa and Tzora Winery for great wines. Netofa has released some brand new wines and I look forward to being able to taste those wines very soon. The new 2016 Tzora white wines are now in the USA and they are lovely wines that have a good few years in their tanks. The new 2016 Psagot are also quite nice.
Of course, Yarden winery continues to be the best kosher Sparkling winery in the world. Sure, there are great sparkling wines from France and even some nice one from Spain and the USA, but for the price, quality, and enjoyment – you cannot beat the Yarden Sparkling wines. Their white wines are very professional, they may not blow you away, but they are always clean, well balanced, and fun to drink, which is what matters. Their lower level labels (Gilgal here in the USA), have had some issues in the white wines, and Galil Mountain Winery has also been slipping a bit, which is sad.
In regards to Israeli red wines, nothing new here. A great red Israeli wine has gone the way of the dodo bird. Other than Tzora, Netofa, Mia Luce, and some others here and there, I cannot safely recommend reds from Israel to my friends.
Two years ago when I last compiled a cross varietal white wine list, I was praising Israel for its wonderful whites and rose – sadly that was the wonderful 2014 vintage! It was and is still crazy good for some wines like Matar and Tzora. Then we had 2015 and 2016! While the 2016 vintage is better than the 2015 vintage, well anything would have been better than 2015, it is still severely lacking.
My cellar has gone primarily to the USA, then France, then Spain, and then stuff here and there. The USA, mostly because I love all things Four Gates Winery, and a bunch of others as you will see below. That is a sad state of affairs, but it is one that has been created by the Israeli wineries themselves. They always have the chance to change back, till then I will enjoy the wines made in California, Spain, France, and wait for bell curve to shift like it has in France and California. I hope Israel is only slightly behind them, but from what I had over the past couple of years now, things are still going the wrong way in the world of kosher Israeli wines. Read the rest of this entry
This past weekend I was hanging with EL and MT, those same two of Napa wine adventure fame. It was a true insane blast, and the wine intake was so intense that I had to name this post appropriately. The blueberry reference is an ode to the sheer number of wines we had that were seriously showing blue fruit.
When I think of hospitality so many names come to mind including ER, Mrs. L, Shaindy and Chaim, and now I am happy to add EL and MT to the wonderful list of people who think of others above themselves. I came this shabbos to NY to hang with family and go to two wine events. The two wine events sandwiched a Shabbos so I asked EL if he could handle a madman like me for a weekend! He graciously accepted and now the Shabbos is in the history books and may well go down in annals of mankind as one of the craziest Shabbos that I have had the opportunity to enjoy (though my first Benyo Shabbaton is up there too with the Shirah Boys).
The Friday started with me opening the bottle of Tavel, which while deeply aromatic was a slight letdown with a light and almost lifeless mouth. Still, it had the acid to keep up; this was all while we learned some Yoshua before heading to minyan. El lives in a large Jewish community and the number of synagogues within a square mile of his house, rival the number of museums in all of NY City! Still, we were blessedly spared the walks to those hallowed halls. Why? Think August in Las Vegas and add 90% humidity and you get the picture – AKA felt like walking through swap land – without the swamp!
So, where did we go, well that is the funny thing, if there are tons of options for free standing synagogues in this section of New York, there may well be more options of home bound synagogues! Indeed, people have synagogues in their basements, living rooms, and just about any section of their home that their wives can tolerate (more on that in a bit).
Friday night started in the library room of a beautiful home, 5 doors down from EL’s house. Mincha started at 8 PM and we were done with Mincha and Maariv at 8:45 PM. Heck, where I live, we could still be davening Mincha in 45 minutes! We went home, and even walking the length of 5 homes made you feel like you wanted to jump into a shower ASAP! What heat! Anyway, dinner started with a bottle of 2012 Lueria Gewurztraminer. A lovely wine that was cold and bracing, with enough residual sugar in it to make both EL and his wife happy! From there we moved to two Roses that accompanied a plethora of sushi! Awesome idea, really, clean tasting sushi is a great idea on a hot summer day! The sushi was solid as was CL’s SICK challah that was greatly enjoyed with dips and soup. The Tavel was OK, as said above but the Agur rocked it for me and it was mostly drunk by me as well.
After that we moved to the main course, which was roasted chicken and some incredible Rib Roast! EL begged me to taste some before Shabbos and I knew at that point that this chunk of meat was going to slay it on Shabbos! The roast has something for everyone, it was rare inside and medium rare on the edges. It was herbed to perfection and was so juicy that it screamed to be eaten some more – WOW what a real treat!
At this point I must point out that we had already decanted two wines for the dinner, the newly released 2011 Vignobles David Reserve GS wine and the 2012 Hajdu Cabernet Franc (will probably be blended – but a distinct barrel sample for now). It was at this point that the family bailed and left EL and I to slowly enjoy the two bottles/carafes of wine. That was until Mark came over with two more wines in tow. The wines were the famous 2007 Brobdignagian/Brobdingnagian Syrah – a blockbuster wine we have enjoyed twice, and a 1999 Hagafen Syrah! The wine is a richly layered, concentrated beast that has zero desire to calm down or back-off its no holds barred structure that makes one truly stand up and take notice. Some find it too much, but for me it is a wine created by an unbridled mad genius, with eyes wide open – what a wine! When I saw the hagafen Syrah at Mark’s house before Shabbos I thought there was no way that the wine was drinkable. It turns out that the Syrah was Hagafen’s first and a wine that has truly stood the test of time. Read the rest of this entry
A few months ago Heshy Fried, Yitzchok Bernstein’s sous chef and frum-satire blogger, was at the house for a shabbos dinner and he said that Yitzchok Bernstein, was back on the scene. Bernstein is the culinary mastermind behind the epic haute cuisine event that lasted some 27 courses, and which was one of the most often read posts on my blog, in the past year. Bernstein was lurking in NY for a few months – but he returned to Oakland after a short, yet successful, stint at Pomegranate.
So, when I heard that Mr. Bernstein was back – we agreed that a dinner was in order. Fried was not sure what the actual cost of a multi-course dinner was, but after a few back and forth discussions with Bernstein we were set. Well, while the dinner was set, the next two hurdles were a bit complicated; finding and arranging with 10 other participants and then locking down a date. Throughout the process, Bernstein was as professional as they come, and responded almost immediately to our correspondences. Getting the final gang together had a few missteps along the way, but while the overall process was a bit long to arrange on my end, the final outcome was an absolute delight, but more on that in a bit.
Once the gang was roughly worked out, we agreed that the date was not going to work until after Passover. So once that was decided the next step was agreeing on a final date – which took a few emails. After that we were set and then came the fun part, deciding the food and wine menu. The dinner does not include wines, which is fine with me as I am picky about my wines, but wow were the dishes impressive! Initially, there was some interest in lamb, but in the end that did not work out, as I am not that in love with lamb. In the end the set of dishes were truly innovative and fascinating and unique – so I am happy we passed on the lamb for the dishes we got instead.
I laughed so hard throughout the process because initially, the number of courses was set at 12 or so, which was 100% fine. However, throughout the process of setting the menu Mr. Bernstein kept adding courses – it was HILARIOUS, I could not help from laughing whenever I would read the revised menu. It turns out that we were very lucky, Bernstein was trying out some new recipes and we were the beneficiaries of some wicked cool imaginative dishes. To be fair, some worked really well, some were awesome, and some were just 100% off the charts. Read the rest of this entry
On Sunday night we were blessed to be part of an extremely exclusive 27-course meal, well more like 30 or so – if you count the decadent small dishes after dessert, but who is really counting. The event was put on by the dynamic duo of Chef Yitzchok Bernstein and Brobdingnagian Wine maker Jonathan Hajdu. The event was a fundraiser for Beth Jacob, Oakland’s Orthodox Synagogue – and what an event it was!
When I have tried to explain the event, attempt to verbalize the magnitude of the effort, and the uniqueness of it all, I have so far failed, till now I hope, to transport the listener, or reader, to the mind-blowing state of conscious that we were all leaving within for 6 or so hours – this past Sunday night. The meal was a, 27 or so course, of mind-blowing culinary talent – coming to life in front of us lucky few. Each dish was hand plated with such exacting detail, that not only did each plate fill us gastronomically, but also the visual sumptuousness of each and every plate truly was equally a feast for one’s senses. The funny thing was that the meal started at 24 courses, as I had an early preview of the menu. However, by the time we lived it, it had grown to 27 and could have been 30, if the participants could have kept up with Bernstein. I was more than happy to taste the other two or so courses, but I did not call it a 30 course meal, as they were not formally served to the participants.
The second we entered the home of the host and hostess we knew we were in for a real treat. The house is a lovely sprawling ranch style home, remodeled to as close as possible to the mid-century modernism style of some 60 years ago, while all the while bringing the current century’s modern touches to life in a truly non-obtrusive manner – a real success in my humble opinion. If the home is an extension of the owners, than the simplest way to summarize the hosts is, sleek, modern, highly functional, with an ode to the past and arms open as wide as the glass sliding doors that truly define minimalist architecture and the MCM movement. The openness and warmth that are exuded by the home’s colors and textures truly reflect the host and hostess, and all of us were constantly in awe of their ability to deftly steer the epic culinary adventure to the success that it was. While the event may have stretched a bit longer than some were ready for, as most needed to go to work the next day, the intimate setting and cosmopolitan mix of people truly added to the entire evening.
With the well-deserved forward now handled, it is only fair to throw the light unto the culinary genius of the evening – Chef Yitzchok Bernstein. Mr. Bernstein is mostly self-taught, but has also received formal training in Bread Baking at French Culinary Institute. He also studied pastry and advanced bread baking at SFBI. (san francisco bakers institute), and has been working in and around restaurants, since the age of 14. Food is a truly passionate thing to Mr. Bernstein; you can see his persona expressed clearly in his food and in his open and warm demeanor. Throughout the evening the dishes were harmonious, balanced, tempered, but never losing focus and always packing more than enough bite, texture, and complexity to grab and keep your attention, until magically there was yet another unending course to partake from. Each course built on the past one, adding layers and nuances that were not lost to the foodies that ensconced the close-knit twin table setting.
The other resident genius at the event was Jonathan Hajdu (firstname.lastname@example.org), the associate wine maker at Covenant Winery, and is also the wine maker for wines from the Brobdingnagian and Besomim wine labels. The Brobdingnagian/Besomim winery is located in Napa CA. Hajdu wines was started in 2007, by owner and winemaker Jonathan Hajdu. Hajdu produces small lot artisan wines, with a focus on Rhone varietals under the Brobdignagian, and Besomim labels, though the newer wines are veering all over to where Hajdu can find the highest quality grapes. The Brobdignagian name is derived from Jonathan Swift’s giants, in Gulliver’s Travels, and attests to the winemakers’ proclivity towards intense and powerfully flavored wines. Wine produced under the Besomim label, is a blend of varietals with a focus on complex aromatics. These limited production wines are available directly from the winery. Read the rest of this entry
To start please excuse the obvious play on C. W. Lewis titles, as my ode to the wonderful Olympics that have just completed in Great Britain, and for Britain’s handling and medaling throughout the Olympic extravaganza. While, the games were closing down in London, a few of us were gathering for what can only be called the regal revelry in San Diego! No, we were not reveling over the medal haul of the United States or for anything related with the Olympics. Rather, it was a chance date that allowed the four of us to get down to San Diego and enjoy the insane hospitality of Andrew, the purveyor and manager of Liquid Kosher.
I arrived first and was treated to a glass of Pommery Champagne which was light with a beautiful mousse and notes that remind one of a summer orchard filled with perfume of apple, ripe lemon creme, along with a ribbon of peach and spice. This is not mevushal and it belongs side by side my other favorite sparkler, the Drappier that is mevushal. Well, as I was enjoying the atmosphere and Champagne the regal gastronomic revelry began! I could not believe the effort that both Andrew and his wife went through for the three or four guests that appeared. The haute cuisine, that was impeccably implemented, would have made Gordon Ramsay blush! The gourmet menu consisted of seven courses and each one was better, if that was possible, than the next! I started on the Toast of Caramelized Apple and Tarragon, which was a beautiful example of what one can do with bread, butter, and a few herbs! The baguette was toasted with butter and herbs and then topped with caramelized Pink Lady apple and tarragon! What a treat, as the caramelized pink ladies released their liquid gold and flavored the brioche with a mix of sweetness and bright acidity making for a well-balanced treat! The herb and cheese that topped the fruit brought with it salty earthiness that brought together the entire flavor profile. Read the rest of this entry
As stated in the previous posting on this lovely event, there were many wines to taste and there was no way I could post all the wine notes in a single posting. Here is my follow-up posting on the wines tasted at the event, including the wines that I loved and did not love.
The wine notes are listed in the order that I tasted them:
2010 Domaine Netofa – White – Score: B++
The nose on this light gold colored wine shows clean and lovely nose of green apple, peach, grapefruit, kiwi, light quince, and rich/nice loamy dirt and mineral. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is rich and balanced with nice minerality, along with nice bright fruit that mingles well in the mouth. The finish is long and spicy with nice quince, tart green apple, grapefruit, and green tea.
2010 Binyamina Chardonnay, Reserve, Unoaked – Score: B
This wine did not show nearly as well as its 2009 sibling, the wine was flat without much to grab your attention. The nose on this straw colored wine has apple, lemon, nice mineral, bright acid, and melon. The mouth is somewhat plush and the finish has citrus to round out the wine.
2010 Binyamina Chardonnay, Reserve – Score: B+
This wine did not show nearly as well as its 2009 sibling, though not as bad as its unoaked twin. The nose on this dark straw colored wine has light oak, brioche, lemon, nice spice, light creme, and honey. The mouth is round with spice, summer fruit, and oak influence.
2011 Tulip White Tulip – Score: B++
This wine is a blend of 70% Gewurztraminer and 30% Sauvignon Blanc with the sweet and floral notes of the Gewurztraminer showing nicely with honey and guava, while the green apple and bright lemon notes from the Sauvignon Blanc blend together in a unique manner. The nose on this straw colored wine hits you with mineral, light honey, bright lemon, green apple, and guava. The mouth is nice and honeyed with light petrol, and citrus. The finish is long with both sweet lemon creme and bright lemon at the same time, along with fig, and tart notes. This is a great wine that would go well with fish or sushi.
I will keep this one short, as I want to get to my top wines of the year post. However, my wife and I spent the first part of Saturday night prepping, breaking down, and rolling 60 sushi rolls filled with Hamachi, Salmon, Tuna, and julienned vegetables. All I will say is that there was little to none of it left before the evening was over.
We enjoyed some lovely still and sparkling wines, along with some very not so great wines as well. The wine notes are iffy, as I was not taking serious notes, except for one wine that was the clear winner of the evening.
The wine notes follow below:
NV Yarden Brut – Score: B+ to B++
The first interesting thing to note about this sparkler is that it was produced in 2001 and not produced again, so we are talking about a 10 to 11 year old wine made from equal parts Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The nose on this straw to pink colored wine is rich with citrus notes, peach, tart green apples, fresh flowers, and brioche. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is effervescent with a lovely mousse of many small bubbles, creamy and delicate attack of tart green apple, citrus, and acid backbone that is definitely not dead in any way. The finish is long, creamy, and moussy with brioche, toast, tart apples and lemony goodness. Fun stuff that works great with sushi.
2007 Segal Rechasim Dishon Cabernet Sauvignon – Score: A–
The nose on this black colored wine is super rich with rich cedar, tobacco, cassis, rich ripe plum, licorice, raspberry, and chocolate. The mouth on this rich and medium bodied wine is mouth coating with lovely tannin, raspberry, rich ripe plum, cassis, integrated tannin, and cedar. The mid palate is rich and lovely with good acid, tobacco, cassis, chocolate, tobacco, and cedar. The finish is long and rich with sweet cedar, tobacco, cassis, ripe plum, chocolate, and tobacco. This is a rich and concentrated wine that has just enough to grab your attention but is also a bit played out with its not so unique flavor profile. Still a fun and rich wine that has two or so years left in its legs.
Baron Herzog Brut Champagne – Score: B-
Sorry this wine did not make the mental cut for me – the flavors do not meld in any way that makes sense to me.
2006 Rotheberg Cellars Pinotage – Score: N/A
DOA, OK but really not that interesting.
Kosher European Wines, Hagafen Wine, Kosher Meat Lasagna, White Bean and Kalamata Soup, Vegetable Kugel
This past weekend we had a bunch of friends over to the house and we were so happy to celebrate the good health and recovery of a dear friend of the family who honored us by coming on over for the meal. It is starting to feel a bit chilly around here, so we thought it would be great to try some lovely White Bean and Kalamta Olive Soup. The link to the recipe was the best I could find on the web. The one I use is from Mollie Katzen’s cookbook, which I have no right to place on my blog, please buy her book she is a genius!
The soup is simple to make, and I follow her recipe to the tee, short of adding in a wee bit more wine than her recipe calls for. Personally, that is the ultimate compliment, using someone’s exact recipe, with little or no change, because it is perfect as it is.
We then cooked up meat lasagna. I have modified the lasagna many times, as I am constantly looking for the perfect lasagna that is not too dry or too runny. I think I have finally done that! This past week the lasagna was killer, very tasty, and it was solid without being the least bit dry. The recipe is a change from another cookbook I use, but I have modified this one to not worry about sharing it. Also, I wrote a lot about the process, so the recipe looks long, but I am just adding in my years of struggle with these recipes to make sure you do not. Overall a pretty easy recipe:
Meat Lasagna Recipe: (Makes two pans of lasagna)
2 Tbsp. Oil
2 chopped onions
5 garlic cloves smashed (or just use the frozen garlic)
2 lb. of ground meat
1 sliced green pepper
1 sliced orange or yellow pepper
3 28 oz. cans of crushed tomatoes
2 15 oz. cans of tomato sauce
12 oz. of red wine (more acid and tannin the better)
4 to 5 Tbsp. parsley
2 tsp. sugar
3 tsp. of basil
salt and pepper to taste
16 oz. (18 pieces) of dry lasagna noodle (normal pasta that needs to be cooked)
1 LARGE eggplant sliced 1/2 inch thick
In a large Dutch oven or tall walled pan, heat up the oil until shimmering and then throw in the chopped onions and cook them till they are close to being browned. Then throw in the crushed garlic and as soon as it starts to smell garlicky, throw in the ground meat. Be careful never to burn the garlic, as that is nasty! Move around the meat and make sure it nice and browned. Now throw in the sliced peppers and lets cook until tender. Then throw in the crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, red wine, herbs, salt and pepper. Now mix the pot around a fair amount until the wine color disappears and the tomato color is bright. Keep cooking the sauce until it reduces by 20% or until the sauce looks nice and thick. This step is VERY important, so do not skimp on this, it takes time but you will be generously rewarded.
At this point, bring a very large pot of water to boil and then place the lasagna noodles and cook them 1 to 2 minutes before al dente. We do this because we want them to finish in the oven. NEVER TRY the already cooked or NOT cooked pasta – it does not work. Cook the pasta and you will get the lovely texture that is not available any other way. Once cooked, pour out all the water, and put in some cold water in the pot to keep the pasta from drying up. Read the rest of this entry
2005 Baron Herzog Zinfandel, 2006 Goose Bay Chardonnay, N.V. Herzog Selection Blanc De Blanc Brut Champagne, 2005 Hagafen Napa Zinfandel, 2003 Barkan Cabernet Sauvignon Superieur, Baked Gefilte Fish Loaf, Pot Roast, Roasted Orange Peel Veal
This past Saturday night saw us partying with friends and family for the second night of Rosh Hashanah. The meal started with the requisite tradition called simanim. Simanim are a play on words and are a very basic Jewish tradition of using word play to bring out symbolism and actual changes or good tidings. Our friends brought over two of the simanim, and we took care of the rest. The simanim are a yearly rite of passage, and one of my favorite Jewish traditions. Many of the recipes have been changed to protect the innocent. My ancestral recipes call for 4 basic ingredients, oil, oil, oil, and some vegetable or fruit and one cooking style – frying. We decided that this tradition was awesome, but that it needed to be toned down such that it could be enjoyed for years to come, and not just for the few where we are vertical. So it called for some baking and less oil. We ordered the symbolic food in the order of Sephardic Jewry, and here they are:
- Dates or Figs (Tamar in Hebrew)
- The symbolism here is that God should end our enemies
- Broad Beans coated with a mixture of olive oil, cumin, and garlic (Rubya in Aramaic)
- The symbolism here is that God should increase our merits
- Leeks – prepared masterfully by our friends, sautéed in oil and spiced Italian (Karti in Aramaic)
- The symbolism here is that God should cut down our enemies
- Creamed Spinach – prepared masterfully by our friends, creamed with soy yogurt (Salka in Aramaic)
- The symbolism here is that God should remove our enemies
- Sweet Butternut Squash – sliced butternut squash, sprayed with oil and covered with honey, then baked in an oven set to 400 degrees (Kra in Aramaic)
- The symbolism here is that God should tear up our evil decrees and read before him our merits
- Pomegranate seeds (Rimon in Hebrew)
- The symbolism here is that our mitzvot (observance of the Jewish laws) be as plentiful as the pomegranate seeds
- Sweet apples dipped in honey
- The symbolism here is that God should grant us a New Year as sweet as honey
- Fish head – Rock Cod head baked at 350 degrees.
- The symbolism here is that in this New year we should be at the head of the class and not at the tail
We always joke that we should try to bring out a head of a lamb instead of a fish head and freak out everyone there. It would be totally epic, but while it is the preferred manner of implementing the head symbolism, it would fly in the face of “behaving”.
After the fish head was eaten, we moved on to our patented baked herb fish loaf, which we sliced into three-quarter inch servings, and served with the accompanying baked onions, and guacamole. We paired the dish with a 2006 Goose Bay Chardonnay and followed it with an N.V. Herzog Selection Blanc De Blanc Brut Champagne. The Chardonnay was solid as good as I remember it from the last time I had. The Champagne was a logical alcoholic beverage to share with the guys, but the deliver was flawed – maybe literally. I am not sure, but the wine was clearly flat, fruitless, and acidic. It’s only saving grace were the few bubbles that we left in the bottle, quite a shame.
The fish was followed by a menu of; Veal with orange peel and stuffed with mushroom and onions, Shoulder pot roast with festive vegetables on the side, spinach Soufflé/kugel, and fresh vegetable salad. The festive vegetables were cooked with the roast, but at different stages of course. The shoulder roast was initially seared on all sides and nicely caramelized and then removed. Diced onions and garlic were then placed in the hot dutch oven and were caramelized until nice and brown. The meat was returned to the pot, along with half a bottle of wine. After the meat and wine turned into a nice piece of meat, the potatoes and carrots were added. Twenty minutes later peas and green beans were added and cooked for a few minutes and then all of this was poured into a shallow pan to cool off and sleep overnight in the chill chest. After some 24 hours, the meat was removed and sliced, and then placed back in the pan with all of the juice and vegetables, where it would lie until it was warmed up the next day.
To pair with the meats and vegetables we started with a 2005 Herzog Zinfandel – which was a failure, and pulled quickly from the table, but not before it was inflicted upon one of my guests – AHH! It was followed by a 2005 Hagafen Zinfandel, which was not much better out of the bottle, but after many hours of airing, and long after the guys left the house, it became quite nice actually. It was a shame as by now three bottles had fallen to the way side, and thankfully, I had a lovely bottle already opened and airing nicely. This was the 2003 Barkan Cabernet Sauvignon Superieur, as I told the crowd that night, it was at its peak (the last time we had it, it was not nearly as good). While it was now soft, it was still plush and lush with fruit and the wood and tannins had integrated quite nicely into an impressive presentation of wood, mouth coating tannins, rich fruit, tobacco smoke, and some really nice chocolate.
Two out of five wines, is not a record I am proud of, but the food was solid, and the two wines were enjoyable. What can I say, you win some and you lose some. If you grade the evening on the bottle hit count, clearly a subpar performance. If however, you grade the evening based upon on the friends around the table, the Holy Day that it was, the camaraderie, and food, I think it was downright awesome. We will always strive to make it better though – next time 🙂
The wine notes follow below (in the order they were consumed):
2006 Goose Bay Chardonnay – Score: B+
I must say that this chardonnay is not your run of the mill chard. The fruit on this chardonnay is almost perfumed because of its intensity and the wine is nicely balanced. The nose on this bright straw colored wine is perfumed with rich peach and tropical fruit. The mouth on this medium bodied wine carried the perfumed qualities from the nose along with apple, peach, and lemon. The mid palate is acidic with a touch of minerals. The finish is long with a hint of oak and more tropical fruit acidity. The oak helps to round out the mouth, while the acidity helps to brace the fruit defined mouth. The oak is showing more now and the fruit is slightly fading with the acidity still bracing. Based on my conversation with the wine maker; Philip Jones, the wines never lack from acidity, so this wine will last another year, but start drinking up.
2005 Baron Herzog Zinfandel – Score: B (maybe B-)
Close to undrinkable, at least that was the opinion of many on the table. The boysenberry, and crushed rose petals were over the top and demanded the drinker’s attention, which is a shame. The blackberry, pepper, and oak that lies in the back are nice, but not with that much noise in the foreground and on the lingering finish. The nose is nice with blackberry, boysenberry, rose petals, and oak. The mouth is wrecked with the over the top floral presentation that is followed by enough boysenberry to suffocate a horse. The mid palate is balanced with acidity and oak, but the finish is downhill with more of the same ills. This wine did not improve with time or air. The wine was not corked or spoiled, but clearly either in a real dumb period or highly flawed.
N.V. Herzog Selection Blanc De Blanc Brut Champagne – Score: B-
Not really impressed. The nose was flat and was actually the best part, with toast, almonds, citrus, and a drop of yeast. That was all they wrote about this wine. The table barely drank it. The mouth was filled with nothing – which was the problem. The best thing that could be said was that it had some acidity, but almost no fruit, and the bubbles were almost flat. Man, a mostly flat Champagne! Anyway, a loser and one that should be drunk quickly. Thankfully there were other wines to take this failure off our minds!
2005 Hagafen Napa Zinfandel – Score: A-
WOW! this wine turned face SLOWLY! This opens in a dull mode, this wine is clearly in a dumb state right now. The nose was flat, the mouth was redolent with boysenberry and oak, but no black fruit to be found. However, after a fair amount of time, like a day or so, the wine opened up to show its true self. The tannins popped out of their coma, the mouth filled out, the nose became redolent with chocolate and tons of fun stuff. Please make sure to open this puppy early and try it every few hours, you will see it change in phases – until it reaches its climax, it was a fun experience, but unfortunate for my guests who never had the chance to taste the real Hagafen Zinfandel.
Once awake and free of its dumb and slumbering state – the nose on this purple to black colored wine is black with ripe fruit, blackberry, mounds of chocolate, spice, sweet oak, and vanilla. The mouth on this full bodied wine fills out with mouth coating tannins that are integrating, but still present. The absurd boysenberry flavors have finally faded and the wine shows a rich, black, and full mouth with blackberry, nice tannins, and semi-sweet oak with raisins. The mid palate shows more integrated tannins vanilla, rich and sweet oak, and balanced acidity. The finish is long and supports the wine’s full mouth with more rich oak, vanilla, and bright acid that carries the black fruit, acting like a bow around this lovely package. It is one crazy wine that is clearly in a dumb state and needs a bit more time to pop out of its state.
2003 Barkan Cabernet Sauvignon Superieur – Score: A
They are all gone, and that is about the only thing “bad” I can say about this wine. We drank it at its peak, and for that I am thankful. If you have one or more lying around — drink up and enjoy, it’s time has come and it is now – RIGHT now!
The nose on this almost pure black colored wine explodes with rich sweet oak, blackberry, plum, dates, and a fantastic impression of effervescent Belgian dark chocolate. The mouth on this full bodied wine is like those wonderful large chairs you see in the movies, plush, soft, enveloping, but still ever present and firm – quite a showing. This was the clear winner of the evening. The mouth follows the nose with blackberry and plum. The mid palate delivers a powerful presentation of rich and concentrated sweet oak, integrated but present tannins, and just enough acidity that plays with the enveloping tannins and fruit, almost like an orchestra. The finish is long and wonderful with more black fruit carried by the sweet oak and tannins, tobacco smoke, and a replay of the chocolate. This is not a beast or a wine that has a statement out loud. Rather this is a concentrated and plush wine, with a quiet demeanor rich black fruit, chocolate, tobacco, all wrapped up in a nice oak box. Quite a wine! I am torn in ways, I am sad I have no more, but happy that I tasted it at its peak, and not on its way down.