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A wine tasting of some great and sadly poor to uninspired 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018 kosher French wines with Nathan Grandjean

When I last left off on the story of my trip to France, I had just ended an epic tasting of the new 2017 wines from Royal Wines. I then jumped on a train, and I was once again joined by Avi Davidowitz from the Kosher Wine Unfiltered blog, and we made our way to Strasbourg for a tasting of Alsace wines and other wines that are not made by Royal. It included some new 2016, 2017, and 2018 wines, but once again it mostly involved French wines from the 2014 and 2015 vintage.

2018 French wines to the rescue

Now, I need to get on my soapbox for two major topics, the first is how AWESOME the 2018 vintage is showing right now. At this tasting and again with Yoni Taieb of Taieb Wines, the 2018 vintage shows itself incredibly well wit the simple entry-level wines of Bordeaux. It takes them from tinny and boring wines to rich and well-balanced wines, that sell for 8 euros or less! This is something that we will never get in the USA! Sadly, the only wine that comes close to this is the 2018 Chateau Les Riganes, Bordeaux and maybe the 2018 Chateau Genlaire, Bordeaux Superieur, but I think this wine will be above the 10 dollar price of the Chateau Les Riganes.

On the trip to France, two things came up often, when I was speaking French with the natives, something I was not able to do as much with Avi around, as Avi still needs to learn French! One, and this really shocked me, was how common French folk think California is dangerous when I would tell them where I am from, because of all the media of the horrific shootings we have had in our state. Besides that, the Jews I spoke to, especially the ones who drink kosher wine, complain bitterly about the cost of French wines! The more I look at this issue the more it makes me wonder, why are the wines so expensive? Yes, there is a cost for kosher supervision, but that cost does not explain the double or triple pricing of the non-kosher cost. That question is even more exaggerated in France, where there is no three-legged-stool in regards to wine distribution. Yes, France has Negociants, but for the lower level wines that is a practice that is going the way of the dodo bird.

The truth is that what is needed are reasonably priced wines. Avi Davidowitz, on his Kosher Wine Unfiltered blog scores wines partially based upon price. I do not agree for many reasons, which we discussed over our trip, but it does NOT diminish the overarching issue which is 100% true, kosher wine prices have gotten 100% OUT OF CONTROL. Sorry, this is insane and before someone tells me it is the Chateau’s fault for having such high En Primeur pricing, the kosher wine prices are shockingly higher. This really needs to be rebooted, IMHO, but sadly, it will stay the same until we get into a serious crunch or glut, whichever occurs first. Yes, we are blessed with some QPR wines, and I always post about them, but overall, the grand cru wines are getting out of control.

That is why I am so happy with the 2018 simple wines from Bordeaux. Sadly they will not come to the USA under those prices, but for those in France, there are serious options.

2015 and 2016 Magrez wines are a total failure, IMHO

Last year, I wrote that this post was coming, but I had to taste the 2015 and 2016 Pape Clement first before I could make my feelings clear. At this point, I have tasted the 2015 Magrez reds 5 times and the 2016 whites 2 times. I am 100% comfortable with saying they have all taken a seriously far step backward from the epic 2014 vintage. The 2014 Magrez were world-class wines and wines I have bought happily. However, I can not say the same for any of the 2015 or 2016 kosher Magrez wines I have tasted to date. I was very disappointed when I tasted the kosher 2015 Pape Clement, and I was shocked by the results of the 2015 Tour Carnet, Fombrouge, and others. The 2016 Pape Clement is better than the 2015 vintage, but it is not worth the bottle it is in. The whites have all also lost a few serious steps from the 2014 vintage. Personally, I will not be buying any of the 2015 or 2016 Magrez wines I tasted, other than the Pape Clement wines I tasted that I bought En Primeur.

Now, with that aside, I can clearly state that the wines are not undrinkable, they are not date juice, they are not unprofessionally made, they are simply boring, lackluster, and flat, with little to grab your attention. They are simply not wines worthy of the price or their names, sadly, they are what they are.

I miss Weingut Von Hovel and the Gefen-Hashalom wines

Two years ago Nathan Grandjean and I made a run for Von Hovel, and I wanted to do that again year after year, and maybe even Nik Weis. Sadly, they told me there were no new wines for 2017 or 2018, and now I just heard there was none made in 2019 either. 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 2020.

Wine Tasting at Nathan Grandjean

After last year’s solid tasting with Nathan Grandjean, I had tasted all of the 2015 French wines that I know of. The 2016/2017/2018 wines are slowly being released, from producers other than Royal. Kosher Wine International, the producers for all the Magrez wines, has now fully released the 2015 wines. Two days after this tasting we would be tasting Taieb wines, but we wanted to taste the 2017 Domaine Lescure Pommard, so that was on the list.

After last year’s tasting of a few Magrez 2015 wines and my other tastings of them at two wine events, I wanted the chance to taste them YET AGAIN, with both of the Pape Clement and the new 2016 Clos Haut-Peyraguey, Sauternes. So, I had Nathan get all the 2015 and 2016 Magrez wines that are available and we tasted them over two days. Thankfully, we also had a couple of wonderful wines and some duds.

Finally, we tasted all of Nathan Grandjean’s Les Vins de Vienne wines from both the 2017 vintage and the 2018 whites. He had some tank samples of the 2018 reds, but honestly, they were not ready for me to write proper notes on. Read the rest of this entry

My top 25 kosher wines of 2014

Well, 2014 has come and gone and my top wines of the past year were too many to limit to 10. Now these wines comprise a list of wines I enjoyed over the year. Some were released in 2014 and many were released a long time ago. Either way these are wines that made an impression upon me and that is the only characteristic that I used to define this list.

Some of these wines may not score a solid A, but they deserve to be here because of their trail blazing characteristics Take for instance – the 2012 Recanati Marselan. It is the only kosher Marselan and it is very good. The 2013 Yarden Sauvignon Blanc, one of the best whites to come out of Israel along with the 2012 Tzora Shoresh White, a wine that I believe is better than the 2013 Shoresh white, were both on my list last year, so they are not on it this year. The 2013 Tzora Shoresh is on this year’s list and if you have not gotten any – you are making a huge mistake. I had both in 2014, and even though I liked the 2012 a bit more, the 2013 is an epic white wine, in its own right. The best rose, hands down, was the 2013 Hajdu Pinot Gris rose. It is tied for best ever kosher rose with the 2012 Shirah rose, but that was already enjoyed in 2013. The next white wine was the epic 2013 Dalton Viognier, a wine that is worthy, once again, of the Dalton reserve label. It beats the 2012 hands down, and reclaims the title as the best kosher Viognier that is available in the US or Israel. There may be a French Viognier that is available there, but I do not know of them. The final non red wine was the 1996 Four Gates Chardonnay, which while never released officially, it was an awesome wine indeed! I tasted while tasting an entire vertical of all of Benyamin’s Chardonnay wines and this was the best of the bunch. Many others were solid A- and maybe a bit more wines, but the 1996 was a A- to A wine that was truly epic.

The rest of the wines are red, and there are many special wines there including the fantastic 2012 Recanati wild Carignan and Syrah/Viognier wines. BRAVO! There were many more French wines, but they will have to fall till next year, when I get a chance to sit down and enjoy them over a long meal. The 2012 Chateau Giscours, the 2012 Pavillon de Leoville Poyferré, and the 2012 Roches de Yon Figeac are lovely wines and may well get on the list next year. In the end, California, France, and Spain continue to be my sweet spot. There are a few exceptional wines from Israel, like the epic and insane 2000 Yarden Katzrin and others. Along with current releases from Tzora Winery, Recanati Winery, and Yatir Winery. In the end, Israel will improve by having 2009, 2010, and 2011 in their rear view mirror, all the while enjoying the new 2012, 2013, and from what I hear 2014 vintages.

The wine notes follow below:

Wines of Spain

2012 Capcanes Peraj Habib (Crazy QPR) – Score: A- to A
Before I talk about this epic wine, I must sadly say that one of the wines that was on my list last year – the 2012 Capcanes Carignan – never made it into its own bottle. Sadly, it was not deemed worthy of a leading role. Thankfully, it found its place here, in this fantastic 2012 Peraj Habib! The wine blend for 2012 is not far off from 2011, consisting of 40% Grenache, 30% Carignan, and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, sourced from very old vines.

The nose on this dark and impenetrable purple colored wine is redolent with roasted animal, intense black fruit, and mounds of dirt and mineral. The mouth on this full bodied wine hits you with an intensely inky structure, filled with layers of of rich concentrated fruit, ripe freshly squeezed black berries, cassis, plum, along with tart fruit, spice, and mouth coating tannins that may well make some people think that this is the best Capcanes Peraj Habib ever made. The finish is long and purely mineral based to start, like sucking on a salt and graphite stick, as it recedes, you sense the incredible balancing acid, which is then immediately replaced with richly roasted coffee, sweet and herbal spices, more black fruit, a sense of animal fats, leather, hints of tobacco, and finally followed by bitter notes on the long finish. BRAVO!!!! Read the rest of this entry

Shirah, Four Gates, and a French wine for Shabbos Passover

2010 Shirah CoalitionTruly Passover Shabbos was a two fold event, the chance to taste through my Shirah wines that I had been yearning to get to and the chance to taste a barrel sample of wine sent to me by Andrew of Liquid Kosher (a high-end kosher wine merchant). Andrew warned me that I needed to air the puppy out so indeed, I opened it Friday morning and it was still kicking Saturday night.

As, I already documented here, about all things Shirah, I was talking with Gabriel before Passover and we agreed that we would both open Shirah wines over Passover. To me, it was time to see if the Coalition, which I thought was severely lacking in the finish and mouth, had come around. Humorously, there are some that think my article on Shirah wines was a cheerleader post – but such is life, I really did feel passionately about the Weiss Brothers and I really do like their wines. We tasted through four of the Shirah wines that I had around, the two coalitions, from 2010 and 2011 and the 2008 10-2 punch and the 2010 Counterpunch. All four of the wines were truly unique, but the winner of the four was the 1-2 punch and the 2010 Coalition – the very wines, I though was truly lacking – how funny life can be sometimes.

Benyo came over for the Shabbos and brought over two oldie but goodies – 1996 Four Gates Merlot and 1996 Four Gates Chardonnay. Now, as you all know Four Gates Winery was “officially” founded in 1997, but that dos not mean he did not make wine in 1996 – actually he made a fair amount of wine in 1996, and all of his friends and family were the beneficiary of his abundant kindness! To me, the wines rival the 1997, 2003, and 2006 vintages. Though his best wines so far are still the 2012 releases (year wise – not vintage). Anyway, the 1996 Chardonnay was so good and clean and ripe, the real shocker was the color – pure light gold color, like a 2006 or a 2012 Chardonnay! Quite impressive as always – his older 1996 Chardonnay wines are truly unique. I did not take notes – sorry, but this one was not the soft, honeyed, caramelized Chardonnay that I come to expect from his stash of 1996 Chardonnays. This was bright and expressive – really like its color! Blind, I would have thought it was a 2000 or 2010 wine!

After that we enjoyed a march of red wines, one after the other, each one unique in their own right, with really no duds or holes, it was a really fun night. Friends brought over some wines, but none of them made the table, as I really wanted to taste through the Shirah wines, the Frenchie, and one Israeli wine. They brought over a Peeraj Habib – nothing to slouch over AT ALL, but I was single minded on my plan, and I did ask forgiveness afterwards. Read the rest of this entry

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