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Tasting of kosher wines from Italy and Italian varietals

This past week the gang gathered at Josh Rynderman house, many thanks to MR for hosting us! I brought a few bottles of Italian wine, and so did others, while some brought non-Italian wines, and in the end, we made it into the wine event I have been waiting to have – as it was time to get down and write up my Italian wines.

It is no new revelation, that my palate has moved more old-world in style. Yes, I still enjoy Four Gates wines (which have moved new-world in style over the past few years), along with Herzog wines, Hajdu wines, mostly white Hagafen wines, and yes, Shirah wines as well (even if they think I do not love their wines). However, I was never a huge fan of Italian wines, even if in the non-kosher world, they make TONS of old-world style wines. Sadly, the issue is that there were few to none that impressed me other than the Falesco wines from 2005 and 2006 and the 2010 Moncheiro. However, recently, things are changing. First is the release of wines from Terra di Seta that I really like, (the original all-kosher winery in Tuscany). Next, is the fact that Hajdu is releasing lovely wines made from Italian varietals. Finally, there is a new all-kosher winery from Tuscany, Cantina Giuliano, who released three new wines, along with the 2014 Chianti he had last year. The 2015 Chianti from Cantina Giuliano is for sale in Europe, but it is not yet available in the USA.

Let me start with answering questions people will have before I start with this article. This may offend some, but hey, what can I do. No, there was no Bartenura wines, why? Simple, I am not a fan. What about Borgo Reale wines and Cantina Gabriela? Well, I like the two top line Borgo wines, the Brunello and Barolo, but the Borgo Reale Barolo pales in comparison to the Paulo Manzone Tenuta Moncheiro Barolo 2010, even though it sells for the same amount of money. The 2010 vintage in Barolo was one of the best in a long time, I would love to try the Paulo Manzone Tenuta Moncheiro Barolo 2010 again in a few years, like 5 or so. We did not taste these three wines at the tasting, but I have added the notes of the Paulo Manzone Tenuta Moncheiro Barolo 2010 below. Sadly, I cannot find my notes for the two Borgo wines I liked.

A bit of background on Italy’s four wine classifications: 

(1) Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) – This classification denotes the highest quality recognition for Italian wines. There are only 20 or so wines meriting this classification. (2) Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) – This is the same classification as the French wine classification, Appellation d’Origine Controlee (AOC). Wines that fall under the DOC classification must be made in specified, governmentally defined zones, in accordance with particular regulations intended to preserve the wine’s character.  There are some 300 or so wines in this classification. (3) Indicazione di Geografica Tipica (IGT) – These table wines are often ubiquitous wines, grown in specific geographical growing regions. (4) Vino Da Tavola (VdT) – This designates wines that reside firmly on the “low end” of the totem pole. Comprised of Italian table wines, these products must meet the sole criteria of being produced somewhere in Italy.  Read the rest of this entry

2010 HaSod Carmenere and 2008 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico

On the week of March 21, 2012, we enjoyed some both a simple and a nice wine. The first one was a simple wine from the Ha Sod label. The story behind Ha Sod, is a story of economics in the kosher wine world. There are many wonderful wines in the expensive price class ($30 and higher), and some decent wines in the middle price class ($10 to $30). The real problem has been finding good kosher wines in the cheap wine class.

To meet those needs Welner Wines has really come on strong to own this zip code. However, since then, Herzog Cellars and the Yarden Winery have both moved down into this price range with their own labels and wines. Yarden released the Ha Sod label in 2009 with both a Carmenere and Cabernet Sauvignon. We liked the 2009 Ha Sod Cabernet but were not as enthralled with this Carmenere. According to Wikipedia, Carmenere is a member of the Cabernet family of grapes, the name “Carménère” originates from the French word for crimson (carmine), which refers to the brilliant crimson color of the autumn foliage prior to leaf-fall. It was considered part of the original six red grapes of Bordeaux, France, but since then it is almost impossible to find in Bordeaux. However, the grape did not disappear, as Chile is now the world’s leading grower of this grape. The grape adds deep color but it lacks deep flavor and concentration.

The Terra di Seta was very nice, and just as enjoyable as the last two times we had it. The Chianti started off closed, but over time it opened to a lovely and enjoyable Chianti, and stays one of the best Kosher Chianti wines out there. Also, Terra di Seta is the ONLY completely kosher winery in Tuscany.

The wine notes follow below:

2010 Ha Sod Carmenere – Score: B
This is a new vantage for the HaSod label, which is a wine made in Chile by the Yarden Wine Company. They started this in 2009 because they needed a wine that could compete in the higher quality low priced wine market. Carmenere is a grape that does not make wine that is rich, deep, or powerful, however it makes for perfectly fine average and above average wine. The wine starts off with raspberry, plum, cranberry, and a distinct floral attack. The mouth is soft and medium in body with sour cherry, blackcurrant, integrated tannin, and a round mouth that makes for a very food friendly wine. The finish is long and spicy with nice herb, earth notes, black pepper, and vanilla. Read the rest of this entry

Family, Gotham Wine Extravaganza, Restaurants, a Wedding, and some lovely wines

This past weekend I spent time with some family in NY, as I was attending the 8th Annual Gotham Wine Extravaganza, which I MUST say was the best one so far. Both the VIP tasting, and the wines and ambiance at the normal tasting, were really fun and enjoyable. Kudos to Costas and the entire Gotham staff. On another aside, I helped to open bottles this year, which was really cool, because it will probably be the one and ONLY time I get to open a 2007 Yarden Rom bottle, at 170 bucks a pop, it is a safe bet that I had my onetime fun in the sun!

My entire time spent in NY was just lovely, and spending a lovely shabbos with my family and then going to a wedding of friends of ours on Sunday capped it off. All in all a great trip that was punctuated by a rather large number of dud restaurants in the larger NY metropolitan area. The only really good “restaurant” was a pizza place, that made a lovely whole wheat and vegetable pizza, but the fries and onion rings were deplorable.

So that is my quick recap of the past few days. The wines I enjoyed over shabbos were quite nice and highly enjoyable.

The wines notes follow below in the order that they were consumed:

2008 Terra Di Seta Chianti Classico – Score: B++ to A-
The nose on this dark garnet colored wine is hopping with rich espresso coffee, nice dirt, raspberry, cranberry, and cherry. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is rich and silky with more espresso, ripe raspberry, dark cherry, and lovely tannin. The mid palate is balanced with dirt, acid, tart fruit, oak, and tannin. The finish is long with nice red fruit, acid, tart raspberry, cherry, and espresso. On a side note, this is a wine made by the only full time kosher winery in Italy!

2009 Bravdo Coupage (40% Cabernet Franc, 33% Shiraz and 27% Cabernet – Score: A- to A
In case you are wondering what a Coupage is? It is loosely translated from the French as “cutting”, which is another way of saying a blend. The nose on this dark garnet to black colored wine is exploding with spicy black pepper, crushed herbs and green notes, dark black fruit, blackberry, black cherry, plum, cedar, slight floral nose, more cedar, mineral, and tar. The mouth on this massive full-bodied wine has yet to even start to settle down, the tannins and extraction are intense and nothing has yet melded to give the wine what is expected, a rich full mouth. For now, the wine is massive, intense, inky and showing its extracted structure with blackberry, black cherry, plum, and huge tannin. The mid palate is rich and oaky with raisin, black fruit, cedar, balancing acid, tannin, and vanilla. The finish is super long and super spicy, with cedar, vanilla, spice, blackberry, cassis, tannin, raisin, tar, more extraction, leather and vanilla. This is an exciting wine to keep your eye out for and one that will do well to wait to be enjoyed. Also, kudos to Happy Hearts for importing this wine and not jacking the price up upon realizing what a crazy winner this wine is and will be for some years to come!!!

2008 Elvi Wines Herenza, Rioja, Crianza – Score: A-
The nose on this dark garnet to black colored wine is rich an oaky with chocolate, dark cherry, bright mineral, cedar, raspberry, cranberry, and rich espresso coffee. The mouth on this full-bodied wine is rich and expressive with raspberry, integrating tannin, cranberry, mineral, and bright fruit. The mid palate is balanced with acid, coffee, chocolate, and vanilla. The finish is super long, spicy, and rich with dark cherry, spice, vanilla, coffee, and chocolate. Rich mouth of chocolate, coffee, dark cherry, and coffee linger long after this wine is gone, which is quite quick!

Baked Gefilte Fish Loaf, Sweet and Sour Brisket, Roasted Root Vegetables, Castello di Cesare Bianco Lazio Toscana, Chateau Graveyron-Carrere Bordeaux, Galil Cabernet, Borgo Reale Chianti Classico, Kadesh Barnea Gilad, Tierra Salvaje Chardonnay

The first night of Passover found us with friends and we had the usual four cups of wine ritual, that makes Passover a wonderful precursor for Alcoholics Anonymous Meetings 🙂  The wines are listed below in the order that they were drunk, also we had quite a few folks, so please do not think I actually need to attend some AA meetings.

Once the first two cups were drunk we started in on the Matzoh (we only use shemurah matzoh), Maror (our custom is to use endives, because they are so easy to clean), and then the meal.  Mind you I am really happy with how the meal came out.  We started with hard boiled eggs with salt water poured over it.  There are many people who are starting to make this simple dish Haute Cuisine, but that is so broken.  The reason for the boiled egg is to remind us of the temple’s destruction and how we used to have a Passover Sacrifice, which is oxymoronic.

The meal started with a new dish for us and a major hit on the table – Baked Gefilte Fish Loaf.  A friend of ours was kind enough to share the recipe, and I hope she does not mind me sharing it with all of you.  It is crazy simple to boot!

Herb Encrusted baked Fish Loaf Recipe
1 loaf of Gefilte Fish
1 onion slices into thin rings
3-4 tsp of a mixture of any Italian Herbs you want (we used Oregano, Parsley, Thyme, and Savory)
2 tbsp of oil
Garlic Powder, Paprika, and Black Pepper

Mix the spices and oil in a bowl and drop the sliced onions into the herb mixture and mix around to coat the onions well.  Next drop the loaf into a baking pan and coat it with the garlic, paprika, and pepper.  Then drop the onions on top and cook covered for 30 minutes in a 350 degree oven.  Then flip the loaf, remove cover and bake until the pan is dry and onions are crispy.

We made three loafs at a time, by simply tripling the recipe and using a large baking pan.  The fish was a hit as were the onions.  The thing that was awesome was that the fish was permeated with a really cool herb and garlic flavor, not just flavored on top – really cool.  We of course served it cold with a nice cold eggplant salad.  We make our own, but it is available in small plastic containers at the supermarket as well.

The fish and eggplant went well with the Castello di Cesare and the Tierra Salvaje Chardonnay.  After the fish appetizer, we moved on to the main course of Sweet and Sour Brisket and roasted root vegetables.  I have described it a few times before, but put simply I braise a whole brisket and ONLY a whole brisket.  I have no idea how anyone can braise any other version of a brisket, really.  Without the top layer of fat to keep the meat moist, it would turn into shoe leather, which I have been forced to eat from time to time.

My World Famous Whole Brisket Recipe
10 white onions sliced thinly and browned in batches
1 10 or more pound whole brisket
1 can of whole berry cranberry
1 cup of ketchup
20 or more garlic cloves
1 bottle of a nice Cabernet or full bodied Merlot

So Anyway, place the browned onions in the bottom of a large roasting pan.  Then take a whole brisket and rub it with garlic powder, black pepper, and tons of paprika on both sides.  Next take the cloves and puncture the top of the meat (fat side up) and place a clove in each whole – make sure to NOT puncture the meat all the way through.  Finally, place the meat fat side up into the roasting pan, and pour the cranberry and ketchup mixture on the meat and then pour the bottle over the mixture.  The liquid should NOT cover more than half of the meat – if it does stop and add no more liquid of any kind.  I need to stress this, as the meat exudes tons of liquid and the fat melts on top of that.  Anymore and you will have a mess and worse a boiled chunk of meat, which is NOT what is meant by braising meat.  Finally roast the meat for 4 or so hours.  After it finishes cooking, let it cool over night and then slice it the next day and rebraise before serving for at least another two hours.

The roasted vegetables were pretty simple; toss whatever vegetables you want to roast in a deep pan with oil, garlic, paprika, and cumin.  Roast until just puncture soft by a fork.

The wine notes follow below:

2001 Four Gates Merlot M.S.C. – Score: A
The color of this wine is a beautiful deep garnet. The nose on this wine has strong aromas of blackberry, dark plum, cranberry, eucalyptus, and oak. The mouth on this full bodied wine is layered and complex. The mouth is full with blackberry, plum, and raspberry and then layers in mint. The mid palate adds core acidity, eucalyptus and lovely integrated tannins. The finish is long and satisfying with black fruit, chocolate, and vanilla. A wonderful wine – it is at its peak if not a bit over the other side – drink up!!

2005 Kadesh Barnea Gilad (Undisclosed mixture of Merlot/Petit Verdot/Syrah) – Score: B+
The nose on this garnet-brown colored classic Cote’ de Rhone wine blend, is heavy in earth, cranberry, cassis, and oak.  The mouth on this balanced medium to full bodied wine follows the nose with cranberry, cassis, and earth.  The mid palate is jammy with red fruit, acidity, and nice oak.  The finish is smooth, balanced, and long with red fruit and oak.  The clear winner of the night, and just as good as when I tasted it in NY.

2002 Chateau Graveyron-Carrere Bordeaux – Score: B
The nose on this ruby/light garnet colored wine was the best part of this wine, with pencil shavings, blackberry, mineral, and oak.  The mouth on this astringent medium bodied wine was unbalanced and really not there.  The fruit was there, but overpowered by the mineral and musty French flavors.  The mid palate had a nice acid core, but the finish was what threw the wine into a tizzy.  It needed a ton of air, and even after all that, it was the least appreciated bottle of the night.

2007 Galil Mountain Winery Cabernet – Score: B
The nose on this dark ruby colored wine was also the best feature of this wine, it had lovely notes of blackberry, raspberry, and spice.  The mouth on this medium bodies wine was also off and astringent.  It may have been the bottle, or the fact that it was shipped to me recently.  I will be taste wine again in the future and will repost.  The fruit did show, but was overpowered by the acidity and astringency.

2007 Castello di Cesare Bianco Lazio Toscana – Score: B
The nose on this straw colored wine is super crisp with citrus, apple, peach, and lychee.  The mouth on this light bodied wine is extra dry, with citrus and green flavors.  The mouth is not as crisp and sharp as the nose is and is a letdown, almost flat.  The mid palate is citrus with a nice but not so long finish.  A bit brighter and fresher than what we tasted in NY.

2008 Tierra Salvaje Chardonnay Estate Bottled – Score: B+
This wine is controversial to say the least.  Many people on the table hated it while I really liked it.  This is not a democracy; it is more like a benevolent dictatorship.  Still, it is important to tell readers that many hated this wine, and that it may not ring true with you.  So on to the notes:

The nose on this brilliant golden colored wine with green halos is almost sweet with clear vegetal leanings, bright acidity, spice, green apples, pear, and lychee.  The mouth on this medium bodied wine is not sweet at all; rather it is almost bone dry, which is funny given its sweet nose.  The mouth is semi rich with green apples, flowers, and dry tea flavors.  The mid palate is acidic and dry.  The finish is medium long with more apples and nice acidity.  This is not a big or complex wine, but a nice dry change of pace and a quite nice quaffing wine, especially given its dirt cheap price.

2007 Borgo Reale Chianti Classico Vespertino – Score: B+
I must start by stating that this wine needs air like Frankenstein needs a new marketing agent!  It was the second worst bottle of the night, but I truly felt all it needed was air.  Sure enough 24 HOURS later, it was really yummy and tasty.  The wine had opened and now the ruby colored wine has a nose filled with cherry, raspberry, and cranberry, along with a nice dollop of chocolate.  The mouth of this medium bodied wine follows the nose with more of the same fruit, in a soft mouth that you feel throughout.   The mid palate is still bright with acidity, and the finish is long with more bright fruit and chocolate.  A really nice showing, it just needs a TON of air or time.

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