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My top 25 kosher wines of 2020 including Wine of the Year, Winery of the Year, and the 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 92 or higher. Also, there are a few lower scoring wines here because of their uniqueness or really good QPR.

We are returning with the “wine of the year”, “best wine of the year” along with categories I added last year, “Winery of the Year”, “Best White wine of the year”. Wine of the year goes to a wine that distinguished itself in ways that are beyond the normal. It needs to be a wine that is easily available, incredible in style and flavor, and it needs to be reasonable in price. It may be the QPR wine of the year or sometimes it will be a wine that so distinguished itself for other reasons. The wines of the year are a type of wine that is severely unappreciated, though ones that have had a crazy renaissance, over the past two years. The Best Wine of the year goes to a wine well worthy of the title.

This past year, I think I am pretty sure about my state on kosher wine overall. In the past, I had not yet tasted the pape Clement or other such wines. However, over the past year, those have been covered, and they were a serious letdown. As stated in the article, I truly believe the entire kosher production of the Megrez wines, following the EPIC 2014 vintage of the Pape Clement and others, to be below quality and seriously overpriced, and without value in every category, which is a true shame. The 2015 reds are all poor quality and the whites are not much better, in 2015 and 2016. The 2016 Pape Clement, while better, is a total ripoff for what it is. As I will talk about in my year in review post, 2014 will come out as the best vintage for the past decade in France. That is a hotly debated subject, but IMHO, in the world of kosher wine, there were FAR more best wine options in the 2014 vintage than any other vintage in the past decade. That may not be the case for non-kosher wines, but news flash, I do not drink non-kosher wines, or even taste them, and further this blog is about kosher wines. The 2018 vintage may well have some serious “best wine of the year” candidates, but sadly, not all of those wines are here and I could not travel to France to taste them all, as I do commonly.

There are also interesting wines below the wines of the year, think of them as runner-up wines of the year. There will be no rose wines on the list this year. If last year, I thought the roses were pure junk, this year, you can add another nail in the coffin of rose wines, IMHO. Thankfully, the task of culling the bounty of great wines to come to these top wines was more a task of removing then adding. We are blessed with a bounty of good wines – just not like a few years ago when that bounty included many 95 and 95+ scoring wines.

The supreme bounty comes from the fact that Royal released the 2018 French wines a bit early! Throw in the incredible number of kosher European wines that are coming to the USA and being sold in Europe and this was truly a year of bounty for European kosher wines.

Now, separately, I love red wines, but white wines – done correctly, are a whole other story! Sadly, in regards to whites, we had no new wines from Germany, still. Thankfully, we have some awesome new entries, from the 2017 and 2018 Dampt Freres Chablis, both Grand Cru and Premier Cru, and the new 2019 Meursault!

The wines on the list this year are all available here in the USA, in Europe, and a few can be found in Israel, as well.

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 2020 kosher wine of the year – is a return to its greatness – the 2018 Elvi Wines EL26

Elvi EL26 is back! Back to the glory days and I have stocked up and sadly, it will sell out quickly, if it is not already sold out! Get a move on, there was not a huge production of this beauty!

So, why did EL26 win? Simple, it is a great wine, and then throw in its WINNER price, and this wine punches at two levels, at the same time! You can read more about this fantastic wine here, in my post about it. Enjoy!

2018 Elvi Wines EL26, Elite, Priorat – Score: 93 (QPR: WINNER)
This wine is a blend of 80% Garnacha (Grenache) and 20% Carignan. This wine is pure heaven, dirt, smoke, roasted animal, saline, mineral, juicy tart red, and blue fruit, with incredible precision and fruit focus – Bravo!
The nose on this wine is pure fun, showing tart red fruit, incredible fresh loam, and dirt, hints of mushroom, licorice, roasted animal, a whiff of oak, sage, rosemary, with dirt, and green notes. This wine is currently far more Bordeaux in style than that of a Spanish Priorat! The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is not overly extracted, but it is well extracted, with good mouth and fruit texture, with incredible acid, good fruit focus, showing dark cherry, plum, ripe and tart raspberry, strawberry, oak, vanilla, and garrigue, with green notes, and lovely mouth-draping tannin. The finish is long, green, yet ripe, with great control and precision, with lovely graphite, more roasted meat, scraping minerality, saline, rich smoking tobacco, and smoke, lots of char and smoke. Bravo! With time the wine opens more and shows its riper side, still very controlled, but the fun red and blue fruit become a bit fuller and richer in the mouth – quite an impressive wine! Drink from 2026 until 2036. (tasted December 2020)

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2019 Jean-Philippe Marchand Burgundies and new Domaine Roses Camille vintages

UPDATED: I added the 2016 Clos Lavaud wine note below. Great WINNER!

Last week I had the chance to taste through the new kosher 2019 Jean-Philippe Marchand red and white Burgundies. Yes, you heard me correctly, white and red! There is a new white Burgundy from Meursault, we have not had one since 2004 and sadly, that wine is long dead. However, we did have a lovely Meursault, in 2014, with Pierre Miodownick, and that wine was really fun! There were Pinot Noir Burgundies from 2019, along with a few Bourdeaux wines as well, from both Taieb and Domaine Roses Camille.

I will keep this to a minimum, a simple post about the wines I tasted. If you want more on Taieb Wines – read the family history here. However, before I fast-forward to the notes please understand the enormity of what is going on here – kosher white wine has finally arrived, with this new 2019 Meursault, the 2018 Chateau Gazin Rocquencourt Blanc, the 2019 Chateau Gazin Rocquencourt, Blanc (not yet released), and the 2019 Chateau Malartic, Blanc! We have finally hit the escape velocity from the kosher wine world’s sole fascination with Cabernet Sauvignon!

The 2019 Pinot Noirs were from Jean-Philippe Marchand. I loved the 2017 Jean-Philippe Pinot Noirs, wines I bought and purchased already. IMHO, the 2019 vintage is far more reminiscent of what is expected from a Burgundy. The 2019 wines are lither than the 2017s were. They show more floral characteristics than their 2017 brethren. Overall, I was highly impressed. Beware, sadly there is no Lescure for 2018, 2019, or 2020 – SO SAD!

The Bordeaux wines came from both Taieb and Domaine Roses Camille, and I think they all showed very well with a WINNER and some very solid options as well! Much to all of this should be soon available with Andrew Breskin and Liquid Kosher, so keep a lookout for these wines from him. They will, of course, also be available in France from Taieb’s website, and Domaine Roses Camille’s European distribution, which I do not know much about. Though, I am sure the usual websites and stores in Paris and Belgium will have the wines.

NOTE: I need to taste the 2016 Clos Lavaud, Lalande de Pomerol again before I can post my final score on it. I added the Clos Lavaud below. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

The 2019 Jean-Philippe Marchand Burgundies

2019 Jean-Philippe Marchand Meursault– Score: 93 (QPR: EVEN)
The nose on this wine is lovely, it is a closed to start, with lovely sweet oak, yellow apple, with lovely candied pear, cardamom, with hints of lemon, spice, and herbs, wow! The waxy and oily approach to this wine is unique.  With time the wine opens and WOW, the nose explodes with sweet toasted oak, toasted almonds, hazelnuts, and more floral notes, honeysuckle, honey, lemon/lime, melon, and lovely herbaceous notes. The mouth on this full-bodied wine is lovely, layered, rich, with sweet oak, Meyer lemon, apple tart, sweet fig, creme brulee, honey, crazy acidity, lovely mouth-coating tannin, smoke, crazy minerality, and lovely flint, rock, and smoked duck, with brioche, lemon/lime, and sweet yellow plum. The finish is long, sweet, tart, ripe, and well-balanced, with flint and toast. PLEASE, many of you will be motivated to drink this up as it is an awesome wine, but control yourselves please, this wine needs time! Drink from 2023 until 2028, maybe longer. (tasted Jan 2021)

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Sadly, simple kosher red wines are uninteresting and have poor QPR scores, for the most part

So, ask me what is the weakest wine category in the kosher wine market? The answer is simple, the simple red wine. Simple red wine is defined here in my QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) post as a red wine that would not last four years. In other words, a wine made to enjoy upon release and hold for a year or two max.

The sad fact is that there are hundreds of wines in this category and they are all poor quality wines. Remember, QPR scores are not controlled by me at all, but rather by the market forces and prices the market forces on the wines. So, a wine that I score a 91 (which is 100% subjective and up to me), like the 2019 Chateau Riganes or the 2018 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Lineage cannot be given a QPR score by what I feel in my gut, or I think.

The QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) score of BAD/POOR/EVEN/GOOD/GREAT (WINNER) is defined by the wine’s category, in combination with the price of the wine compared against the price of its peers in that category. So, once you realize the Chateau Riganes is a simple red wine and that its price is 14 dollars, on average, and then you compare it against the other wines in this category, you quickly realize it has a GREAT QPR score and is a QPR WINNER. The median price for wines in the simple red wine category goes from 13 dollars to as high as 60 dollars and the wine scores go from 58 up to 91. Essentially an abysmal wine category with 100+ wines I have tasted recently and all but 22 of them score below a 90, with just six WINNERS (though some of those are just in France/Europe). So, the Riganes, with a score of 91 for 14 dollars, again on average, shows this wine is below the median price of its peers (20 dollars) and above the median score of its peers (87). So, for 14 dollars, you can get a simple red wine that is better than the vast majority of other red wines in the same category and for cheaper – the very definition of a GREAT/WINNER QPR wine.

If there was ONE take away from the work I have been doing into QPR, that I guess I did not see coming until I did all the work and wrote it all down into a spreadsheet, would be that wines that have a long drinking window also get higher scores and cost more, on average. All that sounds logical but it was not until I wrote it all up that it was glaringly obvious! The high-end kosher wine category’s median wine score is 92! Again, that makes sense as I would not give a wine like the 2017 Raziel a long drinking window. Mind you that wine may well be “alive” in ten years but it would not be a wine I would think about drinking at that time. The ripeness on it would be so overwhelming that it would turn me off more at that time than it does now. That can also be said for the 2016 Chateau Leydet-Valentin, Saint-Emilion, Grand Cru. It will be around for more than almost ANY simple red wine will live, but it will not be enjoyable, to me. So, the drinking window is very short, which places it into a simple red wine category.

It is an interesting byproduct of choosing the vector to compare wines against each other, outside of price, of course. I will keep an eye on it, but for now, the wine category vector that I think gets me the “best” sample size, per wine category option, is the drinking window. This means we will have strange outliers on both sides for sure.

Trying other categories, like wine region or varietal or style will not work – they are not apple to apple. By using the wine’s drinking window we get far more evenly distributed sample sizes and variation in the actual wines.

Finally, many wines are NOT on this list, BECAUSE, this list is of wines that drink NOW to soon. For instance, the 2018 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico, is a GREAT wine and is a QPR WINNER, but it is not on this list. It is not on the next list I will publish either (mid-level red wines). It is on the long aging red wines. It is sub 20 dollars and is a wine everyone should stock up on. Same for the 2015 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico, Riserva, and the 2015 Assai. That is why the price is not the arbiter for what defines a good QPR wine, nor is it based upon a winery, country, region, varietal, and style.

Sadly, the takeaway here is that this wine category is not very interesting. Still, there are a couple of options and six WINNERS, overall, spread across countries, so I guess we should be thankful for that, at least. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

2019 Chateau Les Riganes (M) – Score: 91 (QPR: WINNER)
YES!!! The curse is broken! The odd year 2019 vintage is good! Finally! The nose on this wine is fun dirt, earth, bramble, green notes, followed by fun red and black fruit, all coming together into an intoxicating aroma. This is not a top-flight wine, but it is, once again, a very good QPR wine and a sure WINNER.
The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is not layered, but it has enough complexity and elegance to make this work, with a good attack of dark red fruit, with dark currant, dark cherry, hints of blackberry, followed by loads of dirt, mineral, graphite, and a very nice mouth-draping tannin structure, with fun dirt, loam, and loads of foliage. The finish is long, green, and red, with lovely graphite, draping tannin, green olives, and green notes lingering long with tobacco, oregano, and Tarragon. Bravo! Drink until 2024.

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Latest releases from Andrew Breskin and Liquid Kosher

I have had to travel to San Diego for business this year and thankfully on one of those trips I was able to connect with Andrew and hangout. Mr. Breskin is the founder of Liquid Kosher a wine curator and importer for a wide array of kosher wines, from French wines (like the famous Domaine Rose Camille to Israeli favorites). Andrew invited over a group of wine lovers and made a feast for the eyes and stomach with a wonderful array of food and wines, beautifully presented. It was great to hang with Andrew, which I normally get to do only once a year at KFWE Los Angeles.

Andrew has been the goto guy for access to French wines that are not imported into the United States by Royal or the other larger kosher wine importers. Andrew has brought us Burdungdies like Domaine Chantal Lescure, Domaine d’Ardhuy, along with the famous Domaine Roses Camille, which have been top scorers for many years now.

I had a few of these wines in France last year and they did not show as well as the last two times I have had them here in the USA. Maybe it was a bad wine in France, who knows. I recently tasted the current crop of wines from Liquid kosher and I found them to be lovely wines, which are almost ready now and which will also last for many more years.

One of the most exciting new arrivals into Breskin’s portfolio are the wines from Yaacov Oryah. I am so happy to see them here in the USA, I did not know that Andrew had imported them until he poured a couple of them at the dinner that night. I, of course, placed an order for them that week. Yaacov Oryah’s wines are beyond unique and they are wines that are lovely now but also have time to evolve.

To me, the shocker of the group is the 2015 Clos Lavaud – Lalande de Pomerol. To call a 45 dollar wine a QPR is a bit of a stretch, but to me, it is a no-brainer QPR wine. It is wonderful and a wine that you should stock up on for the price and the quality.

Many thanks to Andrew Breskin and his wife for hosting us and for sharing his time, home, and wines with us. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

2014 Chateau Marquisat De Binet, Cuvee Abel – Score: 91
This wine is 100% Merlot. The nose on this wine is black, with loads of vanilla, with black and red fruit notes followed by lovely garrigue, green foliage, with nice mineral, sage, bright cranberry, and a mound of roasted herbs. The mouth on this medium to full-bodied wine is gripping, with mouth-coating/drying tannin, that gives way to screaming acid and lovely blackcurrant, plum, rich blackberry, with loads of tart and juicy raspberry, cranberry, and lovely loam, graphite, all wrapped in an elegant and gripping mouthfeel. The finish is crazy, with more gripping tannin, rich tart and juicy red and black fruit, more lovely green notes, foliage, with mushroom, and herb, with licorice and coffee lingering long. Nice! Drink until 2021.

2014 Echo de Roses Camille, Pomerol – Score: 92
The nose on this wine is not as fruit-forward as what I had last year in France, showing a nose of lovely red and black fruit, mint, and Oregano galore, tar, with forest floor, and earth. The mouth on this medium to full-bodied wine is lovely, showing a mouth that is lovely with core acidity, rich and layered, elegant and expressive fruit, blackberry, cranberry, tart pomegranate, and lovely tart and juicy red fruit of tart cherry, well balanced with freshly tilled loam that is wrapped in a mouth-coating tannin structure and layers of riper fruit that show with time and air, with salinity, more tactile tannin, and loads of mineral. The finish is long, red, green, and filled with mushroom, loam, tilled earth, and forest floor, with tobacco, and milk chocolate. Nice! Drink from 2020 until 2026.

2012 Domaine Roses Camille, Pomerol – Score: 93 to 94
Sheer elegance in a glass, this wine is almost there but still not ready. The nose is rich and earthy, with now loads of mushrooms, followed by red and green fruit, with hints of black in the background, with loads of sweet and ripe fruit, sweet dill, cedar, and rich dirt and deep fruit. The mouth on this full-bodied wine is riper than I would have wished for, but it is beautifully layered with incredibly concentrated dark fruit, with lovely extraction, showing candied strawberry, along with nice dirt, spice, more cedar, and rich layers of green foliage and ripe and juicy cassis, black cherry – that gives way to mineral, pencil, and great focus all underpinned by some nice acid, but I would have loved more acid, the other two wines that I tasted beside the big brother showed more acidity, and more mineral, all wrapped in elegant and mouth-draping tannin that is plush and elegant. The finish is long and green, with sweet notes of juicy and tart fruit, with more great acid, cocoa, tar, charcoal, and tobacco, wrapped in leather and spice. Bravo! Drink from 2020 till 2029. 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)

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Assorted wine notes from two dinners with friends

2015-contessa-annalisa-collection-minutolo-gavi-di-gavi-goose-bay-sauvignon-blanc-2013-landsman-pinot-noir-narrow-bridge-la-fenetre-2010-shirah-coalition-2010-cha%cc%82teau-trigant-2011-tura-m

Over the past few weeks, we have had a couple of Friday night dinners and as such, I wanted to catch up quickly with just the wine notes. Three of the wines were brought by friends, while the rest were mine. All of them are from California, and they are highlighted below in that manner.

My many thanks to AG and LG, we will miss you both as you move to the east coast, and thanks for sharing the 2 with us – a lovely wine! Also, thanks to NB and AB for sharing the 2013 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Variations four, very nice wine. Finally, thanks to Benyo for bringing the only 2013 Pinot Noir that I had yet to taste from California, the 2013 Narrow Bridge Pinot Noir. It is made by Joshua Klapper, who also makes the kosher 2013 La Fenetre Pinot Noir, which we also opened side by side the Narrow Bridge. They are both made in Santa Maria, CA and are handled by the Weiss brothers and Rabbi Hillel. While both 2013 Pinot Noir (the La Fenetre and the Narrow Bridge) were nice, and almost identical twins, sharing commonalities like sourced fruit and winemaker, the Narrow Bridge surprised me! I thought it showed more acid and accentuated the green notes more than the fruitier La Fenetre. Sadly, the 2006 Falesco Montiano was corked, made me cry!

I also tasted two wines from the new 2015 Contessa Annalisa Collection, which are being sold on Kosherwine.com. They are the 2015 Contessa Annalisa Collection Gavi di Gavi and the 2015 Contessa Annalisa Collection Minutolo. These two wines are both a first in the kosher wine market. They are nice wines but lacked a true character that I craved, though air helped them a bit.

Well, there you go, I will be posting soon on a bunch of French wines, but for now, these wine notes will have to do. My many thanks to friends who shared our table with us.

The wine notes follow below:

2010 Shirah Coalition – Score: A-
I have said this before – we need the I LOVE Button for some of these special wines, and this one is in that camp, the first Coalition and wow what a GREAT wine still!!

This wine is a blend of 45% Touriga Nacional, 30% Syrah, and 25% Petit Verdot. The crazy part is that after 6 years this wine has changed and not at all. The wine has changed from its early days when the finish was shallow. But it has changed little in the past 4 years. The unique qualities of the Touriga come screaming in the nose with another crazy Shirah special blend. Once again, the red, white and blue nose of Shirah wines come from this unique and crazy blend! The label’s unique styling, styled after the constitution – is perfect for a wine whose essence is red, white, and blue.
The nose starts off with ripe and screaming blueberry, boysenberry, followed by loamy earth, herb, dirt, peach, apricot, pomegranate, lychee, and citrus fruit. The mouth on this medium+ bodied wine is layered with extracted red, white, black, and blue fruit, black cherry, plum, raspberry, peach, ripe apricot jam, rich tannin, boysenberry, watermelon, root beer, and lovely oak. The finish is balanced and rich with great acid, more tannins on the rise, more white and red fruit, chocolate, insane and crazy spices, nutmeg, cloves, black pepper, and so much more that it could fill a spice cabinet, finishing off with freshly baked raspberry jam pie. WOW BRAVO!!!

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