A unique tasting of Kosherwine.com exclusive wines – nice options that range outside of my QPR because of their small production
As always, I am happy to taste wines that are sent to me or that I buy, I do not normally call them out, per se, unless they are at a tasting, like with Royal, IDS, M&M, and others. This is one of those examples, where Kosherwine.com (KW) sent me 24 wines to taste. I have also added some that I bought, exclusive to KW, the Slight of Hand, and Doubleback wines. There were also, the Harkham wines that KW started to bring in, I also bought those, but I just have not had the time to taste those yet. I remember well my time in Australia when I was one of the first people to post about the incredible Harkham Azziza Shiraz! WOW! So much fun! Even more enjoyable was hanging out with Richie at the tasting in L.A., I truly hope KW will start to import the Semillon as well soon!
Kosherwine.com’s Exclusive wines
I have spoken about exclusive wines, exclusive wine clubs, and the sort in the past. While I have no issue with them, per se, they do tend to drive up pricing. They do not drive up the price because the exclusive merchant makes a bigger cut, the prices go up because of smaller production and exclusivity.
When you make lots of small wine runs or work with small producers that are OK with exclusivity, it tends to lead to higher prices because of how the product is made. Whether it is wineries in Israel like Shiran, Ghito, Mia Luce, or Slight of Hand from Washington State. They are all small wineries with small productions or one-off runs and that leads to higher prices.
In the end, the way I define QPR (Quality to Price Ratio), still revolves around price! So, whether the price is higher because of small production, single runs, or exclusivity, the end goal for QPR is to get a wine that meets the quality and the price of its competitors.
You will see some nice wines below, wines that I would drink, but given the pricing, I could not put the QPR WINNER tag on them. Nonetheless, if you remove the exclusive thing and just stick to the fact that these are a bunch of wines that are nice to well, Israeli reds, the tasting was fun! In the end, that is what matters.
Top Scoring wines
If I was a betting man, and I am not, I would wager that most people will find the Ghito whites to be highly enjoyable. I only had two of them to taste the Uphaz and the Soreqa, but I may well get some other 2021 whites to try.
The Mia Luce white was also quite enjoyable, along with the Yaacov Oryah Chardonnay.
For red wines, the Doublback was quite nice, it had green notes that threw me but overall a very nice wine.
Seven 90 or 90+ scored wines
There were also seven 90 or 90+ scored wines. These included another Ghito white, the Shiran Chardonnay, Mia Luce Syrah, a pair of Domaine Herzberg red blends, along with a Sheldrake sweet wine, and the 2019 Slight of Hand Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Magic.
Overall not a bad lineup of good wines, the prices, as described above keep the QPR scores lower than I would have liked. Still, there are options here for those that want to try new wines, new blends, or unique stories. In the end, KW has done its homework, I hope that as they work on the overall product line, they can maybe also work with their partners to get the prices down.
My sincerest thanks to Dovid Riven for sharing their wonderful wines with me. The wines are listed in the order I tasted them. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:
2021 Festa d’Estate Pinot Grigio, Provinicia di Pavia (M) – Score: 87 (QPR: EVEN)
The nose of this wine is correct with green grass, straw, quince, yellow apple, and herbs. The mouth of this medium-bodied wine feels stunted, less vibrant than it should be, the apple is bruised, the pear is browning, the fruit is not crisp, and a bit sweet, and there is good acidity, but it is just not refreshing, with some citrus, and herb. The finish is long, balanced, and with good acidity. Drink now. (tasted March 2023) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 12%)
2021 Shiran Winery Chardonnay, Gush Etzion – Score: 90 (QPR: EVEN)
The nose of this wine is the best part of this wine with some muted fruit, not as crisp as I would hope, apple blossom, muddled red apple, muddled pear, and flint. The mouth of this medium-bodied wine feels all over the place, it has acidity but feels hollow in the middle, with red apple, pear, some citrus, and flint. The finish is long, not as refreshing as it should be as the muddled fruit detracts from the overall effect. Drink now. (tasted March 2023) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 13%)
2020 Yaffo Image White, Judean Hills – Score: 88 (QPR: EVEN)
The nose of this wine feels muted with more muddled apple and pear, peach, some smoke, and flint. The mouth of this medium-bodied wine is balanced, it feels almost refreshing, with good acidity, but the fruit is where things take a step back, the muddled peach, pear, and apple, are nice enough, but what I want is crisp and refreshingly tart fruit and I feel this is a bit lacking there. The finish is long, balanced, and fruity, with pith, flint, and some smoke. Drink now. (tasted March 2023) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 12%)
2020 Mia Luce Blanc, Galilee – Score: 91 (QPR: EVEN)
The 2020 vintage in Israel was tough, this wine has fresh fruit, the issue is there is very little of it, which is shocking for me to say about an Israeli wine! The nose of this wine is fresh and bright with tart green apples, flint, hay, funk, tart pink quince, and peach. The mouth of this medium-plus-bodied wine has a lovely weight, even a bit elegant, with refreshing and fresh fruit, and lovely acidity, I wish there was more fruit, with peach, yellow apple, quince, nice funk, and lovely flint. The finish is long, refreshing, and almost oily, with nice acidity, and some elegance. Drink by 2024. (tasted March 2023) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 12%)
2021 Yaacov Oryah Chardonnay, Singe Vineyard, Yaacov’s Playground, Judean Hills – Score: 91(QPR: EVEN)
This wine is a bit closed to start it needs a few hours to fully open up. The nose of this wine is fresh and refreshing with good apple, pear, grapefruit, citrus blossom, a hint of wood, and tart pink quince. The mouth of this medium-bodied wine has lovely acidity, with a lovely mouthfeel, good citrus, quince, lemon/lime, and a nice mouthfeel, crème Fraiche, sweet oak, and nicely refreshing! The finish is long, tart, and refreshing with loads of citrus, oak, and sweet spices lingering long. Drink until 2026. (tasted March 2023) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 12%)
Another round of QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) Hits and Misses, Seven QPR WINNERS – August 2022
OK, with all the Paris wine notes posted, the latest roses posted, and Herzog’s wonderful wines, I am finally at the finish line. This last batch of notes catches me up just in time before the next round of wines shows up. As usual, my QPR posts are a hodgepodge of wines but thankfully we have some nice QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) wines.
QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) Wines
It has been two months since my last QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) post and many people have been emailing me about some unique wines I have tasted and some lovely wines that are worth writing about.
Thankfully, no matter how much garbage and pain I subject myself to, we are still blessed with quite a few wonderful QPR wines out there. This post includes some nice wines and some OK wines with the usual majority of uninteresting to bad wines.
The story of 2021 Israel whites and roses is very unfortunate, it started with a bang. Matar and a couple of others showed very well. Sadly, after that, every other white and rose wine from Israel was not as impressive. They all show middling work and product, very disappointing indeed. Thankfully, this round has three Israeli WINNERS and two from the 2021 vintage. There is an 8th WINNER here but it is here for documentation purposes and not for advice on what to buy, as it is not available anymore. That being the 2012 Chateau Serilhan.
We have a nice list of QPR WINNERS:
- 2012 Chateau Serilhan Cru Bourgeois, Saint-Estephe (Posted as I have never posted this yet, strange)
- 2021 O’Dwyers Creek Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough – A perennial WINNER
- 2021 Castel La Vie Blanc Du Castel, Judean Hills – Finally a 100% Sauvignon Blanc and it is lovely!
- 2021 Sheldrake Point Riesling, Dry, Finger Lakes, NY – A lovely 2nd vintage
- 2021 Sheldrake Point Gewurztraminer, Finger Lakes, NY – Another lovely 2nd vintage as well
- 2021 Golan Heights Winery, Yarden Sauvignon Blanc, Galilee – A nice wine
- 2019 Netofa Latour, Red, Galilee
- 2020 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico, Chianti Classico – Perenial winner
There were also a few wines that are a slight step behind with a GREAT or GOOD QPR score:
- 2021 Cape Jewel Chenin Blanc, Reserve Collection – one of two wines that shocked me as I expected PAIN
- 2021 Unorthodox Sauvignon Blanc, Paarl – the 2nd shocking wine in this tasting
- 2020 Dalton Sauvignon Blanc, Reserve, Galilee
- 2021 Golan Heights Winery Sauvignon Blanc, Gilgal – not as good as his bigger brother
- 2021 O’Dwyers Creek Chardonnay, Marlborough
- 2021 Capcanes Peraj Petita, Montsant – one of the best Petita since 2015, still not a WINNER like in 2015
There are a few wines that got a QPR Score of EVEN – meaning expensive or average:
- 2021 Vitkin Israeli Journey, White, Israel
- 2021 Gush Etzion Gewürztraminer, Judean Hills
- 2021 Yaffo White, Judean Hills
- 2019 Ramon Cardova Rioja, Rioja
- 2020 Capcanes Peraj Ha’abib, Montsant – nothing interesting but better than previous vintages
- 2020 Domaine du Castel Lavie, Rouge du Castel, Jerusalem Hills
- 2016 Vitkin Cabernet Franc, Galilee – Drink up!
- 2018 Vitkin Carignan, Judean Hills – Drink up!
The others are essentially either OK wines that are too expensive, duds, or total failures:
- 2016 Vitkin Shorashim, Israel – a nice enough wine but the price is crazy
- 2020 Flam Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, Galilee
- 2020 De La Rosa Taryag Gruner Veltliner, Burgenland
- 2020 De La Rosa Chai 18 White Welsch Riesling, Burgenland
- 2021 Unorthodox Chenin Blanc, Coastal Region
- 2021 J. De Villebois Pouilly Fume, Loire Valley – so sad after last year’s lovely vintage
- 2021 Odem Mountain Chardonnay, Volcanic, Galilee
- 2016 Laufer Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Reserve, California – ripe oak juice
- 2021 Golan Heights Winery Mount Hermon White, Galilee
Some things that made me stand up and take notice (AKA QPR WINNERS):
The real WINNER here, from the entire list, is the 2012 Chateau Serilhan Cru Bourgeois, Saint-Estephe (posted as I have never posted this yet, for some strange reason), but of the available wines that would be the 2021 O’Dwyers Creek Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough. The 2020 O’Dwyers Creek Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough ran out very quickly, I guess that there was not much available or made, as it was right at the start of COVID! The crazy story of how it all came together.
So happy to see Castel finally dropped the Gewurztraminer from their La Vie Blanc Du Castel the solo Sauvignon Blanc is lovely!
Talking about Gewurztraminer, the 2021 Sheldrake Point Riesling and Gewurztraminer from the Finger Lakes shows one can make lovely and reasonably priced wines from the Finger lakes. Bravo Ari!
Nice to see a Yarden wine on this list again, other than the LOVELY sparkling wines, the 2021 Golan Heights Winery, Yarden Sauvignon Blanc hit on all marks.
The last two wines are red and while I loved the 2019 Netofa Latour, Red at the start, it seemed to fall off a bit and that is unfortunate. Finally the 2020 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico, Chianti Classico is not as good as the 2019 vintage but still a solid wine.
Other wines of note (AKA QPR GREAT or GOOD):
The fascinating wines from this list were the South African wines, the 2021 Cape Jewel Chenin Blanc, Reserve Collection, and the 2021 Unorthodox Sauvignon Blanc, Paarl. I had zero expectations for these wines, so they were a nice find.
The rest are just good enough wines, mostly well priced but not interesting to drink.
Wines that are either good but too expensive or average (AKA EVEN):
This list is also boring, the only real wine to call out, is the 2020 Capcanes Peraj Ha’abib, Montsant, nothing interesting but better than previous vintages. The same for the Peraj Petita in the category above.
The rest of the wines are not interesting to me and are on this list because of either quality or price.
Wines that are either OK but far too expensive or bad wines (AKA POOR/BAD):
Like on previous versions of these lists there will always be a nice scoring wine that is so expensive it falls into this QPR list. That would be the 2016 Vitkin Shorashim, Israel – a nice enough wine but the price is crazy.
There are also, many duds to losers and I will just leave you to peruse the names and scores down below.
Overall another nice list of QPR WINNERS and some GREAT options as well. I can always look at these kinds of lists and say there are only 7 or 8 wines I would want to buy from this entire list, but that would be a defeatist attitude. The correct way to classify this list is we have 7 or 8 more wines available to us and in the end, as I have stated many times now, I cannot buy all the WINNER wines even if I wanted to. There are just too many good wines out there and that is what we should be focused on!
The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:
Older Wines that I have not posted (or revising):
2012 Chateau Serilhan Cru Bourgeois, Saint-Estephe – Score: 93+ (QPR: WINNER)
This wine is a blend of 57% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 8% Cabernet Franc, The nose of this wine is lovely, deeply mineral-driven, with intense rock, graphite, charcoal, ripe black fruit, balancing tart raspberry, red plum, sweet spices, and sweet oak.
The mouth of this medium-plus bodied wine is rich, layered, and well-balanced with great acidity, freshly tilled earth, mineral, smoke, hints of barnyard, mushroom, and truffle, followed by ripe blackberry, plum, dark tart raspberry, smoke, and beautiful fresh wine approach – bravo!
The finish is long, dark, green, ripe, but well balanced, with smoke, tobacco, dark chocolate, and lovely mushroom, with tertiary notes soon approaching. This wine was opened too early, such is life, still very lovely and a wine I would open again in 4 years. Drink until 2029. (tasted July 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 13%)
2012 Chateau Cheval Brun, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru – Score: 91+ (QPR: GOOD)
This wine is a blend of 85% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% Cabernet Franc.
The nose of this wine is another giant Brett bomb, with crazy mushrooms, rich green notes, earth, red fruit, smoke, and nice tar. The mouth of this wine is layered, ripe, and lovely, with nice elegance, showing blackberry, raspberry, mineral galore, graphite, earth, mushroom, and forest floor, The wine’s extraction has calmed down but the Brett and barnyard are in full gear.
The finish is long and earthy, with mushroom, barnyard notes, rich tobacco, and tar. Bravo! Drink till 2025, maybe longer. (tasted July 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 13%)
Kosher Orange wines from California and Israel, QPR WINNERS
I made this a QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) wine category and in many ways I regret it. What I did here was to create a situation where the only competition that exists is the next vintage! Essentially, if you want Orange wine or extended-maceration white wine, you want Yaacov Oryah wines. Not complicated at all. There are a few more out there and they are WINNERS, like the Shirah Orange Wine, and Binyamina Wines made one. Sadly, the Binyamina is sold out here in the USA, but the Shirah is for sale on their site and it is a WINNER! Get some! Kos Yeshuos made one, but in such tiny quantity that it was not for sale. Yaacov Oryah Orange wines are here in the USA and are sold by Andrew Breskin (AKA Liquid Kosher) – check them out!
I have spoken about Orange wine before, mostly when writing about Yaacov Oryah wines. 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 grape 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.
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 orange (AKA extended-maceration white) wines are trying to expose more of the white wine than we get from the press and age/bottle style of white wines. Many of the orange 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.
When I tasted through the 2019 Yaacov Oryah wines I saw two things that were not as evident in previous vintages. First, the 2019 vintage, for Israel, was HORRIBLE! Yes, I have stated this over and over, but it affected everyone. Second, this was the best showing of a varietal, in regards to Orange wine, then I have ever had. The Viognier, was Viognier, even after the extended -maceration. Same with the Chardonnay and onwards.
Overall, I found the Orange wines to be quite enjoyable. I am posting the 2018 and 2019 vintages of Yaacov Oryah wines, along with the other two Orange wines I had this year. The issue I have revolves around the QPR part of this. There are essentially many Oryah wines and a few others, this is EXACTLY what I was trying to avoid, and now I ran head into it with Orange wines. I stated the logic around the QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) wine categories as trying to find the grouping logic that gave me the largest sample set. Well, I FAILED horribly with this one. Also, the QPR scoring only works for the USA, Oryah wines are imported by Andrew Breskin’s Liquid Kosher. They are of course sold in Israel, but I do not have solid pricing there and that is too complicated. So, yeah, #FAIL, learned from this mistake. Going forward, this category will fall into the Ageable white wines (a post I need to get done as well) and the simple white wines.
PSA: This subject is very debated, but I find that Orange wines show best when cold. The heat on the wines shows as they warm to room temperature, so BEWARE!
The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:
2018 Yaacov Oryah The Anthology of Spice, Alpha Omega – Score: 93 (QPR: WINNER)
This wine is a blend of 50% Gewurztraminer, 40% Chardonnay, and 10% Roussanne. The 50% Gewurztraminer found here is the fruit that I spoke about above, fruit that was going to be wasted for just being itself, heady and spicy. As an Homage of an Homage, yeah more play on play on words, the wine talks to the original AO of old, while also staking this epic spicy fruit to two sturdy partners that add so much, while letting the Gewurtztraminer by itself, without being offensive.
This is not a pineapple juice wine, this wine is more about the Gewurztraminer’s spice, with control, floral notes, blossoms galore, with rosehip, and jasmine-like notes, with apple, and earth. The mouth on this wine is beautifully tannic, great structure, showing a crazy fruit/spiced/mineral structure, with smoke, funk, with crazy layers upon layers of the spices, tannin, with rich extraction, with even more tannin structure than the previous wines, showing spice, nutmeg, cloves, crazy allspice, and floral notes, that give way to roasted herb notes, dry hay, straw, and green/yellow apple lingering long with melon, more grass, lemon, and spice galore lingering long. WOW!! Drink by 2025. (tasted May 2019)
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
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!
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
Domaine Netofa Winery – March and November 2018
As always, I am super late on posting notes, and this post is no different. This past year, I have been really busy, and while I am thankful for that fact, it has put a crimp on my wine posts. Well, now I have been freed up a bit, and I am catching up on lost time.
In March 2018, I visited with Mr. Miodownick and on my latest trip in November, I had no time to get up north. So, I got all the current wines from Pyup and tasted them as part of the two blind tastings. Domaine Netofa is a winery I have posted about often and maybe the most posted about winery on my blog, besides Tzora Vineyards, that kind of tells you what I think about those two wineries. Pierre Miodownick is the head winemaker at this winery, as he has been since the winery’s inaugural 2009 vintage.
Thankfully, the winery is still one of the last bastions of normalcy, when it comes to white and red wines in Israel, along with a few others. Sadly, at the blind tasting, the 2017 Domaine Chenin Blanc was corked, but my notes for it from the March tasting can be found here. The 2016 red wines were a bit of a mixed bag, with some of them showing more ripeness, even for Netofa. The 2017 roses were fun, but they are all sold out already, and that is good, as 2017 roses should not be around anymore. The 2017 white Latour seemed to feel lacking in the blind tasting, though it was still elegant.
Sadly, the availability of these wines continues to be an issue here in the USA. I really wish Netofa could find an importer already and get us some fun Israeli red and white wines to enjoy here in the USA. Until then, you need to go to Israel to buy and enjoy them.
My many thanks to Mr. Miodownick and the winery for letting me come by and enjoy the wines with him, even if this post is many months late! The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:
2017 Domaine Netofa Chenin Blanc – Score: 91
Really lovely wine, showing hints of oak which does not exist in this wine, along with lovely flint, peach, dry straw, and yellow pear, with mineral. The mouth is really lovely with nice bracing acid, followed by tart grapefruit, citrus, quince, and great mineral. The finish is crazy fun, with intense pith, spice galore, and lovely herb, slate, and pith. Lovely! Drink by 2020. (Sadly this is only available in Israel).
2017 Domaine Netofa Tel Qasser, White – Score: 91 to 92 (tasted blind in November)
Lovely wine, sadly I knew what it is, lovely Roussanne, showing earth, mineral, rich brightness, with loads of heather, lovely floral notes, with straw, yellow plum, and apple. The mouth on this full-bodied wine is layered, rich, and nicely extracted, showing rich oily structure, with layers of green apple, quince, lovely richness, with mineral, grass, straw, and lovely acidity showing long with flowers, and rich lemongrass. Lovely!! Drink until 2022. (Sadly this is only available in Israel). Read the rest of this entry
Yaacov Oryah Winery – latest wines
Having just posted my take on where Israel’s wines are at this point, especially in regards to red wines, there is still a silver lining, the white wines from top Israeli wine producers. Those include Vitkin, Domaine du Netofa, Capsouto, Covenant Winery Israel, Tzora Winery, and of course Yaacov Oryah’s not so well known masterpieces of white wines.
You can read my last post on Yaacov Oryah and his wines here. I visited Israel for a short trip, but I was sure to contact Yaacov and he was very kind to make time to meet once again at the lovely Red and White Wine Bar of Jerusalem. The bartender is the owner, sommelier, coffee bean roaster, and the cheesemonger – Mark Arnold Jam.
The wine bar is one of those few bars that is very particular about what wines are served on their menu. They have top flight wines from Castel, Flam, Gvaot, Adir, Psagot, Matar, and Yaacov Oryah. Of course, not everyone is on the same page as I am, so they have wines from other Israeli wineries, but the majority are wines I would drink! They also have great food, his menu consists of omelets, cheese, and butter (from Naomi Farm in the Golan), great bread, fresh pasta, and fish dishes. However, do not forget the great dessert options as well!
The overall feel of the bar is old school, but equally current, with a bartender that understands food, service, and wine are all intertwined into a single vision that is focused on people first, wine and food second. The bartender is the owner, sommelier, coffee bean roaster, the cheesemonger – Mark Arnold Jam. If you ever get the chance to sit down for an hour in this lovely place you will quickly find that his last name equates well to his musical tastes. Mark gets the vision and he is a one-man show that weaves poetry, music, an old school vibe, and great food and wine knowledge into the ideal renaissance man at your service!
When we arrived for the tasting, I was joined by OU, AD, JK, and NA, along with Arnold and of course Yaacov Oryah. We were there to taste the wines he released recently for 2018. Yaacov’s white wines are pure joy, he gets what works, for people like me, and for others as well. The wines are always enjoyable, well made, balanced, and really rich and layered. The only con to the wines may be the price, but hey greatness comes at a cost.
Yaacov is currently the head winemaker at Psagot Winery and he also makes wines under his own label and some special wines just for restaurants around Israel. His winery is proof that Israel can make great wines. It is further proof, that for now, Israel may well be better served to concentrate on white wines than red ones. The 2017 Yaacov Oryah Silent Hunter, to me, is the best white wine I have tasted this entire year. Better than the 2017 Jean-Pierre Bailly Pouilly-Fume, Sauvignon Blanc, or the other top white wines from 2017. There is no denying it, Semillion in the hands of Yaacov, is like lead in the hands of an Alchemist. The other white and orange wines he made this past year are also quite impressive. Truly a tour de force – Bravo!!!
My many thanks to Yaacov Oryah for allowing me to taste all the current wines and to Mark for letting us spend some time in his lovely wine bar! The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:
2017 Yaacov Oryah Light from Darkness (אור מאופל in Hebrew) – Score: 91 to 92
This wine is a blend of Grenache, Cinsault, Mourvedre, Tempranillo. This is a classic Blanc du Noir using beautiful Rhone Valley grapes.
The nose on this wine shows beautiful and crazy aromatics, with great notes of tart lemon, yellow Apple, with straw, mineral, and lemongrass. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is joy, showing great acid and a tactile mouthful with screaming tart peach, fun and tart lime, with screaming grapefruit, tart, and juicy nectarines, and mineral galore. The finish is long, green, and joyous with more citrus, rich salinity, slate, and rock. Bravo! Drink until 2020.
2017 Yaacov Oryah Silent Hunter (הצייד השקט in Hebrew) – Score: 92 to 93
From what I have tasted so far, this may well be the best white wine of 2017 from Israel, and maybe around the world, though I have others still to taste from Cali and France. This wine is a blend of 60% Semillon and 40% Chenin Blanc. This wine’s name is a nod to Hunter Valley in Australia, and its ability to create Semillion based wines that last forever.
The nose on this wine is a crazy flint bomb, with dry quince, sweet and spicy ginger, rich saline, and paraffin, with rich yellow plum, apple, lemongrass, honeydew, honeysuckle, followed by rich floral notes, and rich mineral. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is an oily texture with rich fruit, showing lovely mineral, with a mouthfeel of rich earth, straw, and crazy grapefruit with lemongrass and rich pear, all balanced by an acidity that is off the charts. The finish is long, mineral-driven, with more floral and green notes, with incredible acid, dry quince, and floral notes lingering long. Bravo!! Drink by 2030.
2017 Yaacov Oryah Chenin Blanc, Alpha Omega – Score: 91
Another vintage and another Orange wine from Yaacov. In 2017 he made one orange wine. In 2018, he will be making 10 of them!!!
The nose on this wine is almost pure funk! Really funky, nutty and really floral with straw, mad honeysuckle, and rich sweet nectarines, with crazy yellow plum. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is lovely and intense with an oily and crazy mouthfeel, that comes at you in layers and hits you with balanced tannins that give this wine an incredible structure, the tannins, and the acid combine to pucker the mouth with funk madness. The middle of the wine shows that lovely nutty characteristic of orange wines, showing with almond and halva, followed by with honeyed fruit and hints of oxidation. The finish is long acidic, and earthy, with green notes, spice, ginger, and lovely almond pith and orange peel that lasts forever. Bravo!!! Drink until 2024.
2016 Yaacov Oryah Alpha Omega – Score: 90
This wine is a blend of Roussanne, Semillon, and Viognier, that sat and fermented for three weeks on the white grape skins.
The nose on this wine is really fun and crazy, with intense richness and lovely fruit, white chocolate, raspberry, with floral notes galore, and rich orange blossom with orange and rich mineral and spice. The mouth on this medium to full-bodied wine is crazy rich, mouth coating, with lovely nectarines, more yellow plum, with intense acidity, showing rich oak and butterscotch, balanced well with mouth-drying tannin, quince, and more floral notes. The finish is long, sweet, and tart with crazy graphite, saline, and tannin that give way to orange fruit, and cloves and sweet spices. Fun! Drink until 2024.
2016 Yaacov Oryah Eye of the Storm (עין הסערה in Hebrew) – Score: 89
This wine is a blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre. The nose on this wine shows lovely blue and black fruit, with a smoke bomb redolence, followed by tar and rich roasted animal fat, with a huge pile of blackcurrants. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is tar driven, with chocolate and tobacco, with a long and balanced wine finish showing a bit of green, with loads of ripe and juicy blueberry, slightly pushed blackberry, and lovely tobacco that lingers long. Nice! A bit too ripe for me, but very well made. Drink until 2023.
Top kosher 2017 white wines from around the world
Ok, let’s start with the obvious, I have been so busy this year that I have had zero time to work on these posts. So, ahead of the High Holiday Crescendo, I wanted to post a quick note about the 2017 vintage and my hopes for a great new year, filled with joy, success, health, and lots of great wine to all.
So far the 2017 vintage has been much akin to the 2016 vintage – last year. The 2017 roses have been a letdown overall, much akin to the 2016 vintage of roses that were a letdown after the epic 2015 vintage. Sure, we have a few rose winners, like the lovely 2017 Les Lauriers de Rothschild Rose, and the nice 2017 Covenant Blue C Rose, and 2017 Netofa Latour Rosado.
Still, the whites have been a real letdown, much akin to what happened in the 2016 vintages. We have not had a GREAT vintage out of Israel since the INSANELY good 2014 vintage.
So, Israel has been a letdown white wine-wise and rose overall these past few years. But there are some winners as usual. I have yet to taste the 2017 Tzora wines. The Netofa whites are lovely, along with the fun and very enjoyable 2017 Covenant Israel Viognier. There is also some nice Dalton Sauvignon Blanc wines.
The true savior is once again, the old-world region. France has a few great whites! Yes, I said whites! Throw in California, and we have enough whites, just not a bounty.
I hope you enjoy these great white wines in your Succah and with your family. Wishing you all a healthy year signed and delivered!
The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:
2017 Chateau Lacaussade Saint-Martin, Vieilles Vignes – Score: 90
The wine is a blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc. This wine is very slow to open, it may need a quick decanting, for an hour or so. The nose is slightly tropical in nature with lovely with melon, guava, and hints of passion fruit to start, over time it recedes to show lemongrass, straw, mineral, grapefruit, citrus, and honeysuckle notes. Just like the nose the mouth also starts off with crazy tropical notes that also recede with time, to show a very different wine. After some time, the mouth on this wine is not complex, but very nice, with rich acidity, showing a good balance of fruit, green apple, heather, tart pear, and mineral. The finish is long, super long, with southern tea, and rich acidity, and lovely pith. Drink by 2021.
2017 Chateau Guiraud ‘G’, Sec – Score: 92
Finally, a French white I can really appreciate! This is really fun, the wine is a blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc, showing notes of pure funk, wax, green notes, with cucumber, mineral, old-world notes, showing honeysuckle, and floral notes, with green apple, quince, lovely straw, and rich minerality. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is fun, with more funk, nice complexity, with rich salinity, followed by rich dry and tart Asian pear, with nice gooseberry, and graphite. The finish is long and green, with lemongrass, stone, rock, with more wax and flint. Bravo! Drink by 2021.
2017 Jean-Pierre Bailly Pouilly-Fume, Sauvignon Blanc – Score: 92
WOW! This wine has quite the nose, screaming with fresh orange blossom, ripe yellow grapefruit, with hints of nectarines, cat pee, and lovely citrus. The mouth on this unoaked Sauvignon Blanc is dry, bone dry, not quite a Sancerre, but impressive, with lovely weight, and great fruit focus with a crazy core of acid that keeps going long after the wine is gone, followed by rich mineral, slate, saline galore, and a lovely core of lie and lemon that mingle well and play with each other. The finish is long, crazy long, with more mineral, floral notes, lovely bitter notes of citrus pith, and just fun, tart citrus that lingers forever. BRAVO!!! Drink till 2021 Read the rest of this entry