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A wonderful day spent with Gabriel and Yael Geller

On another recent business trip, I spent a day with Gabriel and Yael Geller. My many thanks to my friends for hosting me for the day. The food was awesome, smoked ribs, and roasted chuck, and a game of blind tastings that was really wonderful. The wines we tasted blind were mostly 100% HORRIBLE but the last one we enjoyed was why I just stated that it was wonderful, because GG was so kind to pour a bottle of the 2002 Smith Haute Lafite a wine I had not tasted till that moment. It was beyond wonderful – thanks so much, buddy!!!

We also took a tour around Teaneck, NJ’s Kosher takeout establishments and they were all horrible. Sorry. There was nothing good to report here. However, the wine shop where we bought a vast number of horrible wines was very nice. The wine shop is called Filler’up. The owner is called Mendy Mark and he was very kind and helpful in finding all the new wines that I have not yet tasted. Sadly, 95% of those wines were horrible but that is not Mendy’s fault there is far too much horrible plonk in the Kosher wine world.

So, if you are in the Teaneck area definitely swing by Filler’up they have a great selection and the staff is very nice. However, do not buy takeout food from around there that stuff is really bad.

Ok, thankfully, the takeout food was just a test of the quick food in the area, not really food we had that evening. If I had an image of the smoked ribs it would have been the post’s featured image, the animal was black bark heaven, with loads of spice and smoke. Do not forget breakfast and lunch before that which was also beautifully served and with such panache, my many thanks again!

I bought a bunch of wines and they were all duds other than one very nice French Mevushal wine that came in a 375ml format, but it also comes in 750ml format, but it is not available at any of the common shops that I can buy from. If someone finds it at a place that ships and does not charge an arm and leg, please tell me, more on the best of the tasting below, other than, of course, the EPIC 2002 Chateau Smith Haute Lafite.

GG did a blind tasting and they were all bad to horrible, again, other than the 2002 SHL. To be fair, I did not take long notes for wines that were undrinkable. I have listed the blind and non-blind tasted wines below in different sections. Many thanks to Gabriel and Yael Geller for hosting me and for sharing his time, wonderful culinary feats, home, and wines with me. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

2018 Route Victor Cabernet Sauvignon, California – Score: NA
The nose on this wine is bulk in nature, candied fruit, cherry, and cheap. The mouth on this wine is cheap, far too acidic, and a lack of body, cherry, acid, and vegetables. Move on

2016 Padre Bendicho, Yecla – Score: NA
This wine is a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Mourvedre. This wine is 100% PURE date juice, in all the glorious ways it can be! Read the rest of this entry

The latest crop of Kosher QPR wines and some losers

It has not been long since I last posted a new list of QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) Kosher wines. But I am always looking for more winners, and I am sure some of these will be on the QPR wine list of 2019.

To me, Terra di Seta continues to prove that Italian wines can go mano-a-mano with the rest of the kosher wine world. They continue to excel in delivering QPR wines and they continue to prove that you can create impressive to great wines for less than 40 dollars. I have yet to taste the 2015 Terra di Seta Riserva and sadly I was not a fan of the ALWAYS QPR worthy 2017 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico. The 2017 Elvi Rioja Semi, another perennial QPR winner was not my cup of tea but the 2018 vintage is ripe wine, Mevushal, but still nice and QPR winner.

Another of those QPR superstars, in the sparkling wine world, is, of course, the Yarden Winery. Gamla is their second label behind the Yarden label, but when it comes to bubbly, the Gamla label is always well accepted. Of course, the stupid spat between Yarden Winery and Royal Wine means that we have a single wine called Gamla in Israel and Gilgal here. Why? Because these two wine businesses cannot make nice long enough to come to their senses and figure out a way to be civil with each other. I am so surprised that this is still going on today. The Gamla label, a wine made by originally by Carmel in Israel for this label in the USA, and now who knows who makes it, either way, it is not a wine worthy of this bickering, but sadly, here we are.
Now, back to the wine, I wrote about the new Gilgal Brut back in January, and the wine has moved beyond its insane acid lemon trip and it is now rounding out a bit, with some added complexity and richness.

Domaine Netofa was always on my QPR list, but sadly that was just for Israel, but thankfully Royal and Kosherwine.com have combined to bring the entire line back to the USA! I hear it is going well so get on these before they disappear!

Now, I also wanted to add a list of losers as people have been asking me what I thought of some of the newer wines and here is my response, so I have a QPR list and a NOT so QPR list.

I wanted to keep this simple, so the wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

2017 Domaine Netofa, Red – Score: 91 (QPR Superstar)
This wine is now exclusively imported by Kosherwine.com and I hope they are selling well. This has really stabilized now. It is a bit fruity still, but it also has some nice old-school style and swagger. The nose on this wine is nice and smoky, with great control and roasted animal. The fruit is blue and black and lovely. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is layered and with nice blueberry, blackcurrant, great acid, and great control showing earth, raspberry, root beer, that give way to spice, vanilla, and loads of dirt. The finish is ribbons of mineral, charcoal, graphite and bitter coffee, Solid!! Drink by 2021.

2017 Domaine Netofa Latour, White – Score: 91 to 92 (QPR)
Crazy Oak nose with yellow pear and apple, quince and rich saline with hay and dry herb. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is crazy good, layered, extracted and richly round, but tart, and saline bomb, with lovely tension and rich herb, and lovely sweet spices and sweet Oak. The finish off long, green, with vanilla, herb, and mint, and lemongrass, with tart lemon curd and spices. Drink by 2023.

2017 Domaine Netofa Latour, Red – Score: 91 (QPR)
The 2017 vintage is less austere than 2016, it is more accessible now and will still hold. The nose on this wine is really nice with rich black currant, blackberry, and blue notes that give way to smoke, Oak, toasty notes, and lovely tar. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is super tart and really bright, with great acid, blackberry, blueberry, black currant, with garrigue, sweet but well-balanced note, with mouth-coating elegance and layers of concentrated fruit and earthy notes, with chocolate and sweet spices. The finish is long, bright, tobacco, mineral, pencil shavings, with tar, and root beer. Lovely! Drink now until 2022. (To be released soon I think)

2016 Domaine Netofa Latour, Red – Score: 92 (Crazy QPR)
This wine is a blend of 65% Syrah and 35% Mourvedre. The nose on this wine is lovely, ripe and balanced, with sweet oak, blueberry, boysenberry, with bright fruit, and loads of dirt. This wine is really still very young, showing great potential, with incredible tannin, great acid, rich layers of blue and black fruit with great aging potential, loads of chocolate and rich spice, dark fruit, and herb, all wrapped in a plush yet elegant mouthfeel. The finish is less green than past vintages, showing a more ripe fruit profile, but still clearly balanced, with foliage, tobacco, mint, and sweet spices and herbs. Bravo!! Drink from 2020 till 2024.

2018 Ramon Cardova Albarino, Rias Baixas – Score: 92 (QPR Superstar)
The 2018 vintage of this Albarino, in its second vintage, shows less tropical and ripe than the first vintage, 2017. This bottle also had the thermal active label, and it shows up when the bottle is at the proper drinking temperature. My only REAL and serious complaint is the cork, why would Royal waste the money and my money of a real cork? Use a Diam or any other amalgamated cork, like almost everyone else is. I really hope I do not hit a bad cork for the wines I have.
The nose on this wine is better than the 2017 vintage, Lovely nose of rich mineral, with loads of straw, with which salinity, and lovely peach and dry pear, with honeysuckle, gooseberry, along with green notes galore. Lovely! The mouth on this lovely green and acid-driven wine, has a more oily mouthfeel than the 2017 vintage, showing rich salinity, green olives, with lovely dry quince, green apples, more peach, green apple, but also with lovely lime and grapefruit, no sense of guava or melon-like on the 2017 vintage, with a tinge of orange notes. The overall mouth is lovely and it comes at you in layers. The finish is long, green, with gooseberry, tart fruit, with an incredible freshness, and orange pith, slate, rock, and incredible acidity lingering long. Incredible!! Bravo!! Drink until 2022. Read the rest of this entry

My recent visit with Yaacov Oryah and the white and orange wine factory

Anyone who has enjoyed an old white wine from Yaacov Oryah’s mind and hands can understand my choice of title. As long as you were not born in this century, of course (OMG, do not bring up the abomination that was the remake).

Yaacov Oryah has had many wineries that he has worked for, made wines for others, and/or consulted with. The official list that I know of is Asif Winery, Midbar Winery, Yaakov Oryah, Ella Valley, and now Psagot, where he is the head winemaker.

For the longest time, as long as I have known the man when we first met at Midar Winery in 2013, I have been struck by his passion, drive, and single-mindedness in creating great white wines in Israel.

Yes, Mr. Oryah can make fine red wines, like the 2011 Yaacov Oryah Iberian Dream, Gran Reserva, and Reserva, the Claro wines he makes for a restaurant called Claro, and others. Still, what I really crave and admire are the white and orange wines.

I have already spoken at length about Mr. Oryah here so I will concentrate on the 2019 releases. Also, if you think that the names of Yaacov Oryah wines are a bit whimsical, then good for you! You are starting to get a glimpse into the operation that is Yaacov Oryah Winery, a blend of whimsical genius, alchemy, great winemaking, and downright unique color all wrapped into a unique lineup of wines that define Mr. Oryah himself.

Orange wine factory

Mr. Oryah keeps saying that the white wines on the market today are a stripped down version of what a white wine should be. Sure, Europe has superstar white wines that can last decades, but that requires unique soil, fruit, terroir, and of course, history. In Israel, where the only thing that really sells well is date juice, that kind of wine is a dream. Still, Mr. Oryah thinks that he can create wines that are still quite unique indeed.

I have had the 2009 Midbar Semillon, and though the tasting in 2016 did not show well, that wine continues to blow me away in tasting after tasting. A Semillon that is 10 years old, and may now finally be reaching its limits. It is not a white wine covered in oak makeup, it is a wine that is pure and truly professional. It is what Mr. Oryah thinks can be done in Israel with white varietals. Yet, each and every year he makes more and more crazy wines. Each one is a data point for a growing list of wines that he sees as potential suitors for the wines he dreams of building.

Until he creates the perfect wine, the wines and data points he is building along the way, are getting better and better. The map and path he is building are not pointing towards another mass produced winery. The data points point towards a more precise and surgically built winery. Where plots or even rows of vines may well define the data point for his dream wine.

Factory of the future

When I heard that Mr. Oryah was creating 10 Orange wines (only 9 are publically available, the other is for a restaurant), four white wines (the varietal Semillon is for a later date), and one rose wine, I thought – I need to taste these!

So, Avi Davidowitz of Kosher Wine Unfiltered, and I made our way to the only real place to taste wine in Jerusalem, the Red and White Wine Bar. Yes, I have spoken about Mark and the bar before. It is still kitty-corner from the beautiful Mamilla hotel (8 Shlomo HaMelech Street at the corner of Yanai Street). Mark is still the ever present and mindful host, and while we tasted through 20+ wines, Mark was there with us through every wine, with food, heady music, with an uncanny ability to feel the room and timing throughout it all. I really feel horrible that I never had the time to go back to the bar and hang with Mark for an evening and watch him ply his trade, teaching the world about the world of Kosher Wine while serving great food and playing really fun music. Hopefully, next time!

I have spoken about orange wines in the past. Orange wine is simply the process of leaving white grapes to ferment on their skins, like red wine. To Mr. Oryah it is the truest expression of a white varietal and one that Israel can use now to create great white wines, while it searches for more data points on the path for Israel’s white varietals of the future. He calls the wine line Alpha Omega (AO) because it is greek for A to Z, to represent that this wine has it all, skin, pulp, and seed, not juice white juice, like most white wines are made.

The skins add more than just a bit of color, they add a huge amount of natural phenolics, along with tannin (yes tannin in white wine), and then it adds a few extracurricular notes, that some could find challenging. Notes that are defined as nuts and other aspects of reduction or oxidation. The point though is that the Alpha Omega line is a showcase of control and experimentation. Many of the wines show the proper and incredible next step beyond white wines we all know. The rich and layered complexity that skins add without some of the extracurricular notes. Some of the wines show those notes and many will find them wonderful, like myself, but in all, it is a show of control, experimentation, and more dots on the plot to a richer future. Read the rest of this entry

Blue Smoke dinner and the London KFWE 2019, posh events in a growing kosher wine and food market

As I said to me old and new found friends in London, I will miss the people, I will miss their kindness and their civility, but they can keep the weather and their inability to drive on the correct side of the road!

Drive-on-the-left-kent-1b.jpg

Well anyway, back to wine and food! As stated in my previous post, this was the first year I tried going to more than two KFWE events around the world. I arrived in Paris on Monday, Went to the Bokobsa Sieva tasting, and then on Tuesday, I took the train to London. I arrived in the afternoon and I then got a short rest before heading to a crazy dinner at Andrew Krausz’s house, the master chef of BlueSmoke.

I first met Andrew, and his sidekick, Mordechai, on the hilltop of Four Gates Winery, some 20 months ago! The wines we enjoyed there are listed here. But beyond the wines, one quickly got a sense for the Jewish community of Hendon, London. I must say, I still have nightmares from the dump of a hotel that we stayed at in Golders Green, a large Jewish community kitty-corner to Hendon. Hendon reminds me of everything that is great about London. The people are really nice, the community is tightknit, and they are a bit more aware of the outside world than say Golders Green. That said, I have heard wonderful things about the Golders Green community, I just need to exercise the nightmares of my past. Anyway, enough of my nightmare! The next time you need a nice hotel in Hendon area, Pillar Hotel! Solid, kept up nicely, kosher, and the folks are really nice.

Blue Smoke and Andrew Krausz

Take a quick read of this article to get a sense of Andrew and the work he puts into Blue Smoke and the joy people are getting from it. The dinner at Andrew’s was insane, to say the least, and there were many winemakers there that we would be seeing again the following evening at London’s KFWE! The courses were highlighted by cured more than smoked but streaked with bits of smoke throughout. The dinner started with gravlax and pickled beetroot. The pickled beetroot was straight crack! It was infused for 6 months! I hope this starts to give an understanding to the participants of the level of effort that was made to put this event together. The care and love for the task at hand by Andrew and his family! Yes, the family, were incredible! They have to live with the madness that fed people like me. From what I could tell, they are happy travelers on the road of food madness that is paved by Blue Smoke, but I am sure the 25 or so people invading their home on a weeknight, and the days and weeks of preparations leading up to that day, may not have been a path so easily traveled. Also, please understand that we would see Andrew for a few seconds as he explained the dish and then he disappeared into the same black hole from which he miraculously reappeared from over and over again. That black hole, the cavernous sized kitchen, was packed with humanity and hands coordinated by Andrew to push out 25 dishes over and over again throughout the evening. Read the rest of this entry

2019 Bokobsa Sieva Wine tasting just outside of Paris

So, let’s start from the beginning. As I posted here, about the coming wine events of 2019, there were many options for you to get out and taste great wines almost across the globe. Well, recently, as you know well I have been focusing more on Europe, so I was in Paris later last year again to taste the new 2016 Bordeaux, and now I wanted to return to Bokobsa’s tasting, which is not officially part of the KFWE franchise. Avi Davidowitz, of kosher wine unfiltered, did every KFWE this year, Tel Aviv on the 4th of February, London on the 6th of February, and then on to NYC and L.A. I decided that I did not need to go to Sommelier this year and instead just focused on Bokobsa’s tasting which was on the same day as the KFWE Tel Aviv in Israel.

As I return home, Paris and London KFWE, NYC KFWE, and L.A.’s KFWE are in the rearview mirror. I will be posting on them separately, so I start with Bokobsa Paris.

To start the Bokobsa Tasting, from the company known in France as Sieva, happened in Paris (well not exactly Paris, more on the very outskirts of Paris to be exact) on Monday, Feb 4th, on the stunning grounds of the Pavillon des Princes in the 16th district. I arrived early and after taking a bunch of pictures I just relaxed and waited for the event to start. One of the issues from the tasting in past years was the wine glasses, but this year, Bokobsa had lovely glasses to truly appreciate the wines.

The ambiance and space were both far improved from the previous location, which was the basement of the Intercontinental Hotel in Paris. The table layout was far improved, it was truly a lovely event. The food was a bit mediocre, with it being essentially cold food, like Sushi and elegant salads on crackers, though they had warm chicken further along into the event.

The wines and the setting were the clear stars of the event, and with the lovely glasses, the wines did shine. My main issue with that some of the wines were the old and not showing well, which degrades the very purpose of a show/tasting like this. For example, they poured a 2013 Covenant Sauvignon Blanc and a myriad of older roses that were far over the hill and not showing well. Though at the same time, they poured some lovely Covenant Cabernet Sauvignon and Lavan, along with many of the top Royal Wines from France and Spain, and the new Champagne from Rothschild. There were a few older vintages of the French Royal wines that I do not remember now that were out of place, but they were still showing well. Read the rest of this entry

Four Gates Winery’s January 2019 new releases

Disclaimer – do not blame me for posting this AFTER Benyo sold his wines. That was not MY choice. I was asked to wait on my post until after the sale of the wines this year. Also, Four gates Winery and Benyamin Cantz (which are one the same), never saw or knew my notes until I posted them today.

As you all know, I am a huge fan of Four Gates Winery, and yes he 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 shows 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 from the Monte Bello Ridge vineyard. The other wines, that he creates from other sources, are sometimes wonderful, like the 2014 Four Gates Petit Sirah that I enjoyed over the past Shabbat. It has lasting power. Others, while lovely on release may well not be the everlasting kind of Four Gates wines.

The new wines

This year we have the 2016 Syrah and the 2016 Petit Sirah, along with the classics. There is a new off-dry 2017 Rishona, along with an Ayala 2017 Chardonnay, and the always constant, and epic 2017 Four Gates Chardonnay.

The rest of the wines are the normal suspects, but this year’s crop, like last years, is really impressive. You have a 2014 Four Gates Merlot, 2014 Four Gates Merlot, M.S.C., the 2014 Four Gates Cabernet Sauvignon, Monte Bello Ridge, Betchart Vineyard, and the 2014 Four Gates Frere Robaire.

Prices and Quantities

I have heard it over and over again. That I and others caused Benyo to raise his prices. First of all that is a flat-out lie. I never asked for higher prices, but when asked 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 tell you that the prices will go, even is I beg for lower prices. Read the rest of this entry

Top QPR Kosher wine winners of 2018

I continue to lament the lack of QPR wines. This past year, saw us with a better list of wines overall, but they are not actually QPR. I mean that 2018 saw fewer top wines and more wines at the next level down, but even those wines were not reasonably priced.

Take for example the lovely 2016 Montviel, it is a superstar wine, but it is not a pure QPR, given its 50+ dollar price. While the 100+ dollar wines abound, the 95+ score wines are nowhere to be found this past year.

So, I thought I would list the most recent QPR wines I have enjoyed over the past year. I wanted to catch up with wines I only had recently and with ones that are finally here in the USA.

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 until recently, they were not available on the internet. Thankfully, Kosherwine.com has gotten the Elvi wines back, but Netofa wines are still not available here in the USA.

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 nose or flavor. Many of these wines will scratch the itch while the beasts’ lie and settle.

This year, the list came to a total of 20 names, which is a large number, but then again, the number of options has grown.

Finally, some of these wines are hard to find and they may have different siblings – but they are worth the effort. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

QPR KINGs of 2018

The wines of the year, from my top 25 wines of 2018, are also the QPR kings of 2018.

2016 Chateau Larcis Jaumat, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru – Score: 92 (Crazy QPR)
This wine starts off open and then closes so tight like an oil drum, this thing is nuts. The wine is made of 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc, a classic right bank wine from Saint-Emilion. The nose on this wine is really bright, ripe, and intense, with rich intensity, mushroom, earth, but so much redolence, the nose is far more open than the mouth, showing rich blackberry, dark plum, and rich vanilla, followed by herb, mint, rosemary, and green notes galore. The mouth on this medium to full-bodied wine is crazy rich, it does at times remind me of Benyo’s Merlots with a fair amount of blackcurrant thrown in, which is never found on Benyo wines, but the mad acid, rich mouthfeel, closed tight fruit structure has me reminded often of a Four Gates wine, with intense notes, they scream because of the acid, that gives way to rich tannin structure that is searing and yet inviting, with rich cranberry, cherry, and crazy earth, that will give way to mushroom and forest floor with time. The finish is long, really long, lingering, and intense, with gripping tannin, acid, tobacco galore, mounds of blackcurrant, vanilla, herb, foliage, and green notes, that give way to a gripping mouthfeel that will crush anything, with tar, menthol, and more earth. OMG, this Benyo in France! Wow!! Drink from 2021 to 2030.

2015 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico – Score: 92 (Crazy QPR)
The nose on this wine is ripe, at first, the wine starts off with heat, but that blows off, but it is also well balanced, with lovely earth, mineral, dirt, with dark cherry, coffee, and lovely dark fruit. The mouth on this medium to full-bodied wine is beautiful, complex, well layered, with rich concentration, nice extraction, all balanced and plush, with rich blackberry, currant, lovely mouth draping tannin, with lovely foliage, and some nice earthy and fruit bite. With time, it shows its ripeness, but also intense minerality, saline, graphite galore, and lovely tannin structure. The finish is long, green, and ripe but balanced, with lovely acid, great texture, that gives way to more coffee, graphite, scarping mineral, and light almond bitterness on the long finish. Bravo!! Drink 2019 to 2023.

QPR top 19 Winners (in no particular order)

2016 Elvi Herenza Semi (blue label) – Score: 90 (mevushal) (QPR)
Lovely nose with great spice and lovely oak and with dark fruit, tart and refreshing while also being elegant. Really nice attack and really tart and tannic but accessible with great tart red fruit, classical in style with spice, green notes, and nice acid that gives way to coffee and nice cherry and tart and zesty currant. The finish is long and tart with great foliage, tart fruit, and earth. Bravo! Drink by 2020. (Available here in the USA, France, Israel, and other locations)

2015 Chateau du Grand Barrail, White – Score: 91 (Crazy QPR)
The nose on this wine shows smoke, flint, with lovely dry fruit, showing rich honeysuckle, white flowers, with honeyed apples, and lovely Asian pears. The mouth on this medium bodied wine shows riper fruit than the nose, showing more sweet fruit, with sweet melon, with a richer mouthfeel than I would expect, with rich acidity that shows a bit further in the mouth, with intense honeydew, melon, and lovely grapefruit, and Meyer lemon. The finish is long, truly searing with acid, and rich with more honeyed fruit, and lovely citrus fruit. Bravo! Drink now till 2023. (This is sadly only available in France)

2016 Koenig Riesling, Alsace – Score: 92 (mevushal) (Crazy QPR)
The nose on this wine is lovely, showing ripe peach, apricot, with great grapefruit, followed by petrol funk, lovely honeysuckle, more floral notes, and nice mineral. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is an acid bomb, and thank god, we really needed a dry, well priced, acid bomb, with petrol notes, and this one is mevushal to boot! The mouth is dripping with acid, followed by rich lanolin, with a nice weight, followed by sweet guava notes and tart Asian pear, impressive. The finish is long, tart, crazy acid, with wax, petrol, honeyed fruit, and more sweet notes lingering long! Bravo!!!! Drink by 2020. (Available in the USA and France)

2017 Ramon Cardova Albarino, Rias Baixas – Score: 91 (QPR)
Lovely nose of rich mineral, with loads of straw, with which salinity, and lovely peach and dry apricot, with honeysuckle, lemongrass, with green notes galore. Lovely! The mouth on this lovely green and acid-driven wine, showing rich salinity, green olives, with lovely dry quince, green apples, but also with lovely lime and grapefruit, with a bit of sweet fruit of guava and rich acid that comes at you in layers. The finish is long and green, with gooseberry, passion fruit, and lovely round and tart with freshness and orange pith, and incredible acidity lingering long. Drink until 2021.

Interesting note on this wine, there is a thermosensitive logo on the label that shows ONLY when the wine is at the correct temperature, on the bottom right-hand corner of the front white label. This is a lovely wine and one that is worth the effort to enjoy at the correct temp. Cool! (Available here in the USA, France, and other locations)

Read the rest of this entry

My top 25 kosher wines of 2018 including wine of the year and best wine 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 93 or higher. Also, there are a few lower scoring wines here because of their uniqueness or really good QPR. I also included some of the best wines I tasted this year – they are at the bottom.

We are returning with the “wine of the year”, and “best wine of the year”. Wine of the year will go 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. This year, it is one of the QPR Kings of 2018. Yes, last year, we had a single QPR King, this year, there are a few. Why? Because as I will discuss in my year in review, 2018 was about having more solid wines than having GREAT wines. Sure there is a clear Best wine of the year, which is revealed below, but 2018 will be remembered for having MANY very enjoyable wines, rather than a few GREAt wines.

Also, yes, the Wine of the year and the Best wine of the year, both made by Royal wines, such is life, and I could care less for the most part.

Again, the list is missing wines I have yet to taste, like the 2015/2016 Chateau Pape Clement, which I am sure would have been on this list if I had tasted them. 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 – blame that on the poor crop or rose wines overall, they did not even crack the interesting list. Also, this year, we were given a bounty of top wines and finding the list this year was really a task of removing then adding.

The supreme bounty comes from the fact that Royal released the 2015 and 2016 French Grand Vin 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. Thankfully, we had Domaine Netofa and Yaccov Oryah Wines to come to the rescue. On top of that, we had another EPIC year for 2016 Herzog Chardonnay, Reserve, Russian River. This year, quite deservedly, it cracked the top 25 wines of the year! The new Chablis is also nice, but the winner in the “very close” section has to be the 2016 Koenig Riesling – Bravo guys!

Some of these wines are available in the USA, some only in Europe, and a few only available in Israel.

Finally, some of these wines are hard to find and they may have different siblings – but they are worth the effort. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

The 2018 kosher wine of the year – we have a TIE!

This one was a NOT a no-brainer to me this year. It was really hard. I wanted to give it to the 2016 Chateau Larcis Jaumat, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru, straight up, but it is already sold out, between me and Gabriel Geller, we sold that wine out in no time. So, instead, we will share the winner with the almost impossible to find, aforementioned Larcis Jaumat, along with another from Europe, the 2015 Cantina Terra di Seta Chianti Classico, which is also QPR superstar as well! Congratulations to Cantina Terra di Seta and Royal Wines, and to Chateau Larcis Jaumat, along with an elevated nod of the chapeau to Menahem Israelievitch for finding and curating this wonderful QPR winery tucked into a corner of Saint-Emilion! Bravo!

2016 Chateau Larcis Jaumat, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru – Score: 92 (Crazy QPR)
This wine starts off open and then closes so tight like an oil drum, this thing is nuts. The wine is made of 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc, a classic right bank wine from Saint-Emilion. The nose on this wine is really bright, ripe, and intense, with rich intensity, mushroom, earth, but so much redolence, the nose is far more open than the mouth, showing rich blackberry, dark plum, and rich vanilla, followed by herb, mint, rosemary, and green notes galore. The mouth on this medium to full-bodied wine is crazy rich, it does at times remind me of Benyo’s Merlots with a fair amount of blackcurrant thrown in, which is never found on Benyo wines, but the mad acid, rich mouthfeel, closed tight fruit structure has me reminded often of a Four Gates wine, with intense notes, they scream because of the acid, that gives way to rich tannin structure that is searing and yet inviting, with rich cranberry, cherry, and crazy earth, that will give way to mushroom and forest floor with time. The finish is long, really long, lingering, and intense, with gripping tannin, acid, tobacco galore, mounds of blackcurrant, vanilla, herb, foliage, and green notes, that give way to a gripping mouthfeel that will crush anything, with tar, menthol, and more earth. OMG, this Benyo in France! Wow!! Drink from 2021 to 2030.

2015 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico – Score: 92
The nose on this wine is ripe, at first, the wine starts off with heat, but that blows off, but it is also well balanced, with lovely earth, mineral, dirt, with dark cherry, coffee, and lovely dark fruit. The mouth on this medium to full-bodied wine is beautiful, complex, well layered, with rich concentration, nice extraction, all balanced and plush, with rich blackberry, currant, lovely mouth draping tannin, with lovely foliage, and some nice earthy and fruit bite. With time, it shows its ripeness, but also intense minerality, saline, graphite galore, and lovely tannin structure. The finish is long, green, and ripe but balanced, with lovely acid, great texture, that gives way to more coffee, graphite, scarping mineral, and light almond bitterness on the long finish. Bravo!! Drink 2019 to 2023.

The 2018 best kosher wine of the year!

This one was really tough. First of all, the one I chose is not available yet for purchase in the USA. Also, in terms of score, it did not beat out the 2016 Chateau Giscours, 2016 Chateau Lascombes, 2016 Chateau Du Tertre, Margaux, 2016 Chateau Montviel, or 2014 Chateau Tour Seran, Medoc (NOT Mevushal), or the 2014 Chateau Cantenac Brown, which I somehow missed from last year’s top wines. In the end – for its sheer awesomeness it beat out a very crowded field. In the end, the winner of the BEST kosher wine of 2018 goes to the 2016 Chateau Malartic, and it deserves the crown – bravo!!

2016 Chateau Malartic Lagraviere, Pessac-Leognan, Grand Cru Classe – Score: 94
The 2016 Malartic-Lagraviere is a blend of 53% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc and 3% Petit Verdot (at least in the non-kosher version). Wow, the nose is really ripe, not what I expect from a Malartic, but still lovely, with chocolate, black fruit, earth, and lovely hints of umami, with sweet oak, earth, and sweet blue fruit. The mouth on this full bodied wine is rich, layered, and concentrated with nice control, expressive, with blackberry, blueberry, and what a change, Malartic with blueberry! Showing more raspberry, earth, and rich fruit, with a truly incredible plushness, that gives way to a rich mouth coating tannin that drapes and lifts the mouth, showing a precision, and an incredible professional touch, with plush fruit, loam, and lovely saline. The finish is long, and plush, with more blue, green, and red fruit, with leather, and power that belies its youth, a wine that will push long into its life, with tannin, licorice, and graphite/mineral that lingers long, Bravo!! Drink from 2025 until 2035. Read the rest of this entry

A wine tasting of some incredible 2015 and 2016 kosher French wines with Nathan Grandjean

When I last left off on the story of my trip to Israel and Europe, I had just ended an epic tasting of the new 2016 wines from Royal Wines. I then jumped on a train and came to Strasbourg for a tasting of Alsace wines and other wines that are not made by Royal. It included some new 2016 and 2017 wines but it mostly involved French wines from the 2014 and 2015 vintage.

Last year we made a run for Von Hovel, and I wanted to do that again this year, and maybe even Nik Weis. Sadly, they told me there were no new wines for 2017 or 2018. I am really so sad, those wineries have so much potential, but I guess Gefen Hashalom (“Vine of Peace”) felt they had too much inventory already. I am really not sure what they have that is not sold? All the Nik Weis wines are sold, from what I know, Gary got the rest of the 2016 wines. Von Hovel did not make any wines after the 2015 vintage, and they have nothing left either. I really hope they make wines in 2019.

After last year’s epic tasting with Nathan Grandjean, I had tasted all of the 2014 French wines that I know of. The 2015 wines are slowly being released, from producers other than Royal. Kosher Wine International, the producers for all the Magrez wines, has now just released the 2015 wines. Rose Camille is slowly releasing the 2014 wines now. Bokobsa has released many of the 2016 wines, along with Taieb, though Taieb has not officially released the 2016 Pommard from Lescure yet.

I have yet to taste the new 2016 Lescure Pommard. I have a couple of bottles and will post soon. I have also not yet tasted the 2015 Pape Clement, I have a few bottles to get to soon. I have not yet tasted the 2015 Haut Condissas, but that is not in the USA yet, or if it is, it is not for sale as Royal still has the 2014 vintage to sell. I have tasted all of the Magrez wines, other than the Pape, and I will post those on a subsequent post (buzz killer – they are not that great). Nathan and I did taste two of them, and yeah, they are OK, nothing great. They are far too ripe for me to be happy. I would stick with Royal’s options any day before them.

If you are interested in these wines, they are mostly wines that are here or will be here eventually. If you cannot find them or do not want to wait, Nathan Grandjean has them for sale on his website: www.yavine.fr (I DO NOT work for wine stores, never have and never will. I get no kickback or payment for this). I state this here only as information. It also seems that kosherwine.com will hopefully have some of these as well.

We tasting these wines twice, once in the evening and once more the next day. This did help some of the wines to open, but most of the wines were either unchanged or some were worse off. I posted here scores from Koenig wines and from Giersberger, as we had visited them both earlier in the day and took some of the wines with us to taste again, the notes here are the best of those wines.

My many thanks to Nathan, and his family (for putting up with us). The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

Bordeaux whites and one Swiss White

Let me make this 100% clear if the notes are not obvious enough. The 2015 Magrez Fombrauge Blanc, is a HUGE letdown. The 2014 vintage is a home run, in comparison. The clear overall winner here is the Barrail white – like WOW, crazy wine for the price, sadly it is still only available in France, come on Kosherwine.com, get moving already!

2015 Chateau du Grand Barrail, White – Score: 91 (Crazy QPR)
The nose on this wine shows smoke, flint, with lovely dry fruit, showing rich honeysuckle, white flowers, with honeyed apples, and lovely Asian pears. The mouth on this medium bodied wine shows riper fruit than the nose, showing more sweet fruit, with sweet melon, with a richer mouthfeel than I would expect, with rich acidity that shows a bit further in the mouth, with intense honeydew, melon, and lovely grapefruit, and Meyer lemon. The finish is long, truly searing with acid, and rich with more honeyed fruit, and lovely citrus fruit. Bravo! Drink now till 2023. (This is sadly only available in France)

Read the rest of this entry

The good and the ugly state of kosher wine in South Africa and Chicago

Well, we are back home, thank God for that! I really enjoyed my time in South Africa (Cape Town, Johannesburg, and then Kruger), but while the Jews of South Africa are truly wonderful, the life there is less than so.

In case South Africa is a new thing to you, let me start with the simple fact that there are 54 or 55 countries in the African continent! South Africa may well be the most Southern of them, but it is just ONE country in Africa and only one country of many in what is called Southern Africa.

In the end, the trip was marred by things being stolen from our luggage and the overall sense of hope but desolation that seems to be a default in Johannesburg and in many of the shantytowns (AKA townships) that are scattered throughout South Africa.

The clear separation of the haves and have-nots was tough to see. Not because I am in ANY WAY blind to it here in our country, but more because it is as in your face as it is in places like India or China.

Though what made us happy was the reason we came to South Africa, to dance at the wedding of Josh And Chana, and it was a really lovely event indeed! I have written a few times now about Josh Rynderman, a good friend, and a wonderful up and coming, kosher winemaker.

Aside from the wine at the wedding (the 2017 Backsberg Chardonnay and the NV Backsberg Sparkling wine), I can honestly say that the wines of South Africa are not fit for print! Throw on to that the selection they do have of kosher wines, outside of what is made in South Africa and well yeah, there was no real option for Shabbat – total failure!

I walked into three different places and the wine selection was horrible in all of them. Mostly a combination of ancient and poorly stored undrinkable Israeli wines and some newer South African wines that are really not fun at all.

State of Jews in South Africa

Although the Jewish community peaked in the 1970s (at around 120,000[1]), about 70,000 mostly nominally Orthodox, remain in South Africa. A proportion is secular, or have converted to Christianity. Despite low intermarriage rates (around 7%),[1] approximately 1,800 Jews emigrate every year, mainly to IsraelAustraliaCanada and the United States. The Jewish community in South Africa is currently the largest in Africa, and, although shrinking due to emigration, it remains one of the most nominally Orthodox communities in the world, although there is a significantly growing Progressive community, especially in Cape Town. The current Orthodox Chief RabbiWarren Goldstein (2008), has been widely credited for initiating a “Bill of Responsibilities” which the government has incorporated in the national school curriculum. The Chief Rabbi has also pushed for community-run projects to combat crime in the country.

The community has become more observant and in Johannesburg, the largest center of Jewish life with 66,000 Jews, there is a high number and density of kosher restaurants and religious centers.

Having spent a Shabbat in Johannesburg, and many days in Cape Town, I can attest to the words taken from the history of Jews in South Africa – Wikipedia post. Read the rest of this entry

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