Another round of QPR (Quality to Price ratio) Hits and Misses
It has been a few months since my last QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) post and 10 or more people have been emailing me about the EPIC 2019 terra di Seta Chianti, that I said, I had to pump out another post ASAP!
Thankfully, no matter how garbage and pain I subject myself to, we are still blessed with quite a few wonderful QPR wines out there. This post includes superstars like Elvi Wines’s new 2017 Clos Mesorah and many others. It goes to show that when wineries reasonably price wines, even 70 dollar wines can be a QPR winner!
We have quite a lovely set of QPR WINNERS:
- 2017 Elvi Wines Clos Mesorah
- 2019 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico
- 2019 Cantina del Redi Pleos Toscana Sangiovese
- 2019 Capcanes Peraj Ha’abib Pinot Noir
- 2019 Chateau D’Arveyres Bordeaux Superieur
- 2016 Chateau La Clare Grand Vin de Bordeaux
- 2018 Vieux Chateau Chambeau Reserve
- 2018 Hagafen Cabernet Franc
- 2018 Hagafen Cabernet Sauvignon
- 2019 Hagafen Riesling, Off-Dry
There were also a few wines that are a slight step behind with a GREAT or GOOD QPR score:
- 2016 La Chenaie du Bourdieu Grand Vin de Bordeaux
- 2018 Secret des Chevaliers Grand Reserve
- 2020 Bartenura Prosecco Rose
- 2019 Golan Heights Winery Riesling
- 2020 Sheldrake Point Gewurztraminer
- 2020 Unorthodox Sauvignon Blanc
- 2016 Hagafen Merlot, Prix, Reserve
- 2016 Hagafen Cabernet Sauvignon, Prix, Reserve, MJT
- 2018 Hagafen Merlot
There are a few wines that got a QPR Score of EVEN – meaning expensive or average:
- 2019 Hajdu Montepulciano – a nice wine but very expensive
- 2019 Domaine du Castel Petit Castel – nice enough but very expensive
- 2019 Golan Heights Winery Pinot Noir, Gilgal (Gamla) – not interesting but cheap
- 2020 Gendraud Patrice Chablis – nice enough and expensive
- 2020 Vitkin Israeli Journey
2020 Gush Etzion Sauvignon Blanc
2020 Domaine De Panquelaine Coteaux Du Giennois
2020 Bat Shlomo Sauvignon Blanc – OK or even nice enough but expensive
The others are essentially either OK wines that are too expensive, duds or total failures:
- 2016 Hagafen Pinot Noir, Prix, Reserve
- 2017 Chateau de By, Grand Vin de Bordeaux
- 2019 Hajdu Grenache
- 2019 Hagafen Don Ernesto’s Ah-Ha!
- 2016 Hagafen Melange, Prix, Reserve
- 2017 Herzog Quartet
- 2019 Flam Classico
- 2019 Twin Suns Pinot Noir
- 2019 Vanita Nero d’Avola
- 2018 Tabor Eco, Red
- 2017 Segal Cabernet Sauvignon, Dishon
- 2016 Tabor Merlot, Adama
- 2017 Tabor Shiraz, Adama
- 2018 Matar Stratus
- 2018 Matar Cumulus
- 2018 Celler de Capcanes Peraj Ha’abib (Mevushal version)
- 2020 Shiran Chardonnay
- 2017 Hagafen Chardonnay, Prix
- 2018 Tabor Eco, White
- 2019 Covenant Lavan Chardonnay
- 2020 Domaine De Panquelaine Sancerre
- 2018 Pascal Bouchard Chablis, Le Classique
- 2018 Binyamina Chardonnay, The Chosen
- 2019 Chateau le Petit Chaban
- 2019 Chateau Mayne Guyon Grand Vin
- 2019 Covenant Cabernet Sauvignon
Some things that made me stand up and take notice (AKA QPR WINNERS):
The first BIG takeaway for me, was that Hagafen Wine Cellars is back, at least in regards to red wine! I was there to taste some wines with Gabriel Geller and I was impressed by the 2016 and 2018 red wines. There were some misses as well but overall, 2 QPR WINNERS and 3 QPR GOOD to GREAT scores – that is good stuff!!! There is also the very nice, but expensive, 2018 Hagafen Sauvignon Blanc, Prix. It is really fun and while it is oak-driven, it is a nice wine and it just needs some time.
Terra di Seta Continues to CRUSH it! Two more EPIC wines at QPR WINNER status, we need a super QPR WINNER status! Fear not I am joking. Anyway, the 2019 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico is beautiful, more elegant than previous vintages, but without the sheer power of the 2018 vintage. The 2016 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico, Riserva, is a sheer powerhouse, but one that is far more accessible than previous vintages, this may well be the best in some time!
Royal has another Italian QPR WINNER with the 2019 Cantina del Redi Pleos Toscana Sangiovese, yes another Sangiovese, and no, it is not better than the TDS and it is a bit more expensive, and it is not Mevushal, so I am not sure how it fits into the Royal portfolio puzzle, but hey, that is not my job to worry about!
The 2019 Capcanes Pinot Noir is on point a very nice wine – the 2019 vintage, from all over the world, has given us a bounty of choices for Pinot Noir!
Finally, there are more French QPR WINNERS, like the 2019 Chateau D’Arveyres Bordeaux Superieur. The previous vintages were bad to horrible, but this one returns to its old form. The 2016 Chateau La Clare, Grand Vin de Bordeaux also is very nice, it continues its theme of well-priced Bordeaux wine for a reasonable price, and it is Mevushal. I would happily drink this or 2015 at a restaurant – no questions asked. Finally, the 2018 Vieux Chateau Chambeau Reserve is a nice wine for the price, though it is harder to find, it may be worth the effort.
Other wines worth of note (AKA QPR GREAT or GOOD):
I am happy to say there are other solid wines – and many are European. I found some of these at NYC stores (not online) and others online.
The 2016 La Chenaie du Bourdieu Grand Vin de Bordeaux, is not a new wine for me, I had it at Taieb in 2019 and I was happy to see it here in the USA. Another nice wine was a new one for me, the 2018 Secret des Chevaliers Grand Reserve, a simple enough wine but at the price, it has a SOLID QPR.
I was shocked to finally find a Prosecco I could taste without physically making me ill. I have had a few in the past, but this one is the best of the bunch, for now. I am talking about the 2020 Bartenura Prosecco Rose, solid if this is your kind of wine. For me, there is no better QPR WINNER or bubbly, for the price, than the Yarden and Gilgal (AKA Gamla) wines.
Talking about Yarden, the 2019 Golan Heights Winery Riesling is nice, not my cup of tea, but for those with a sweeter tooth than mine – BUY THIS or the Pacifica Riesling.
The same can be said for the 2020 Sheldrake Point Gewurztraminer. I liked the 2020 Sheldrake Point Riesling and scored it a WINNER, the Gewurztraminer is not as good, but that is fine, this is another wine made for those with a sweeter tooth.
The shocker for me, in my previous tastings at home, was the 2020 Unorthodox Sauvignon Blanc! Look, I have had their wines for years, and they have all made me unhappy. This is, honestly, the first Unorthodox wines, of any sort, that I have liked. Solid deal.
The rest of the good to great QPR wines are all Cali. There were three more wines from 2016 and 2018 at Hagafen that I liked but not as much as the ones above. The 2016 Hagafen Merlot, Prix, Reserve, 2016 Hagafen Cabernet Sauvignon, Prix, Reserve, MJT, and 2018 Hagafen Merlot, are nice enough wines. They lack complexity and tug to make me more interested.
Wines that are either good but too expensive or average (AKA EVEN):
The only wine I wanted to highlight is the 2019 Hajdu Montepulciano. It is a lovely wine that while I enjoyed it is just too expensive for the value.
Wines that are either OK but far too expensive or bad wines (AKA BAD):
I wanted to highlight the 2019 Covenant Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2019 Covenant Chardonnay, Lavan. They are nice enough wines but not like the days of old, and expensive. The same idea can be said for the 2017 Hagafen Chardonnay, Prix.
There are also, many duds to losers and I will just leave you to peruse the names and scores down below.
The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:
2017 Elvi Wines Clos Mesorah – Score: 94 (QPR: WINNER)
This is a super elegant, floral, and feminine wine, bravo!! The nose on this wine is beautiful, showing floral notes of violet, white flowers, with blueberry, black fruit, smoke, roasted duck, earth, and loads of smoke, dirt, and loam. The mouth on this full-bodied wine is so elegant, layered, concentrated, earthy, fruity, smoky, and richly extracted, with boysenberry, blackberry, dark cherry, plum, smoke, earth, loam, and lovely sweet cedar, with green notes, sweet tobacco, sweet basil, and lovely acid. The finish is long, green, with draping elegant tannin, sweet smoking tobacco, dark chocolate, white pepper, and anise. Bravo!! Drink from 2025 until 2035. (tasted April 2021)
2019 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico – Score: 92+ (QPR: WINNER)
The nose on this wine is lovely, with ripe notes, which is classic for a Chianti so young, with classic notes of burnt rubber, balsamic vinegar, rich smoke, incredible mineral, dark red fruit, menthol, and roasted animal, with loads of roasted herbs. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is lovely, richly extracted ripe, and layered, with incredible acidity, this has to be the highest acid we have ever tasted on Terra di Seta wines, the body is lighter than previous vintages, with incredibly ripe fruit, at the start, but the crazy acidity makes it work, with dark plum, rich ripe cherry, menthol galore, with incredible minerality, showing saline, rocks, charcoal, with light tannins, showing beautiful mouthfeel but after a short time the mouthfeel goes thin and the fruit-focus is gone, this is a strange wine indeed! The finish is a bit short, with lovely smoke, mineral, dark chocolate-covered espresso, with more dried herbs, oregano, and dried mint. Drink by 2027. I am surprised by this wine, I will need to see where this goes, for now, I like it, and I will buy more, but it may not be for long holding.
OK, so that was the notes after opening the bottle and tasting. The next day – the wine evolved into the classic wine we all take for granted! Now the nose is intoxicating, the ripeness has calmed down greatly, as I expected, but now the nose is dominated by lovely dried porcini mushrooms, dense fruit, menthol, smoke, roasted duck, and soya sauce galore, wow what a nose!! The mouth has evolved beautifully, and while the tannins are still gentler than in previous vintages the wine is lush, plush, and mouth-filling, the hole or shortness is gone, and now it is everything I want in a wine, though the weight has not filled out and I think this is just a lighter wine but the tannins are draping and mouth-filling, elegance is clear and the wine is lovely. This is a wine that can be enjoyed earlier than previous vintages, the minerality on this one is off the charts! 2018 is richer and fuller, while 2019 is more elegant, simply stated. Bravo!! Drink from 2022 until 2029, if you want it now, decant for 5 hours or take a glass, close it and enjoy it the next day. (tasted April 2021)
2019 Cantina del Redi Pleos Toscana Sangiovese – Score: 91+ (QPR: WINNER)
The nose on this wine is classic, dirty, earthy, smoky, with controlled ripe fruit, nice structure and loads of earth, lovely floral notes of rose and violet, and dark fruit in the background. The mouth on this medium to full-bodied wine is ripe, and concentrated with nice extraction, showing nice acidity, rich fruit-focus, with black plum, strawberry, dark raspberry, hints of blackberry, with an intense acid and mineral core, showing richness, with layers of fruit, dirt, earth, charcoal, rosehip, mouth-draping tannin, and lovely structure. The finish is long, dark, with hints of green, mushroom, red and dark fruit, tannin, more floral notes, and earth lingering long, with coffee, and leather. Nice!! Drink until 2026. (tasted March 2021)
The latest crop of Kosher QPR wines and some losers
It has not been long since I last posted a new list of QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) Kosher wines. But I am always looking for more winners, and I am sure some of these will be on the QPR wine list of 2019.
To me, Terra di Seta continues to prove that Italian wines can go mano-a-mano with the rest of the kosher wine world. They continue to excel in delivering QPR wines and they continue to prove that you can create impressive to great wines for less than 40 dollars. I have yet to taste the 2015 Terra di Seta Riserva and sadly I was not a fan of the ALWAYS QPR worthy 2017 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico. The 2017 Elvi Rioja Semi, another perennial QPR winner was not my cup of tea but the 2018 vintage is a ripe wine, Mevushal, but still nice and QPR winner.
Another of those QPR superstars, in the sparkling wine world, is, of course, the Yarden Winery. Gamla is their second label behind the Yarden label, but when it comes to bubbly, the Gamla label is always well accepted. Of course, the stupid spat between Yarden Winery and Royal Wine means that we have a single wine called Gamla in Israel and Gilgal here. Why? Because these two wine businesses cannot make nice long enough to come to their senses and figure out a way to be civil with each other. I am so surprised that this is still going on today. The Gamla label, a wine made by originally by Carmel in Israel for this label in the USA, and now who knows who makes it, either way, it is not a wine worthy of this bickering, but sadly, here we are.
Now, back to the wine, I wrote about the new Gilgal Brut back in January, and the wine has moved beyond its insane acid lemon trip and it is now rounding out a bit, with some added complexity and richness.
Domaine Netofa was always on my QPR list, but sadly that was just for Israel, but thankfully Royal and Kosherwine.com have combined to bring the entire line back to the USA! I hear it is going well so get on these before they disappear!
Now, I also wanted to add a list of losers as people have been asking me what I thought of some of the newer wines and here is my response, so I have a QPR list and a NOT so QPR list.
I wanted to keep this simple, so the wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:
2017 Domaine Netofa, Red – Score: 91 (QPR Superstar)
This wine is now exclusively imported by Kosherwine.com and I hope they are selling well. This has really stabilized now. It is a bit fruity still, but it also has some nice old-school style and swagger. The nose on this wine is nice and smoky, with great control and roasted animal. The fruit is blue and black and lovely. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is layered and with nice blueberry, blackcurrant, great acid, and great control showing earth, raspberry, root beer, that give way to spice, vanilla, and loads of dirt. The finish is ribbons of mineral, charcoal, graphite and bitter coffee, Solid!! Drink by 2021.
2017 Domaine Netofa Latour, White – Score: 91 to 92 (QPR)
Crazy Oak nose with yellow pear and apple, quince and rich saline with hay and dry herb. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is crazy good, layered, extracted and richly round, but tart, and saline bomb, with lovely tension and rich herb, and lovely sweet spices and sweet Oak. The finish off long, green, with vanilla, herb, and mint, and lemongrass, with tart lemon curd and spices. Drink by 2023.
2017 Domaine Netofa Latour, Red – Score: 91 (QPR)
The 2017 vintage is less austere than 2016, it is more accessible now and will still hold. The nose on this wine is really nice with rich black currant, blackberry, and blue notes that give way to smoke, Oak, toasty notes, and lovely tar. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is super tart and really bright, with great acid, blackberry, blueberry, black currant, with garrigue, sweet but well-balanced note, with mouth-coating elegance and layers of concentrated fruit and earthy notes, with chocolate and sweet spices. The finish is long, bright, tobacco, mineral, pencil shavings, with tar, and root beer. Lovely! Drink now until 2022. (To be released soon I think)
2016 Domaine Netofa Latour, Red – Score: 92 (Crazy QPR)
This wine is a blend of 65% Syrah and 35% Mourvedre. The nose on this wine is lovely, ripe and balanced, with sweet oak, blueberry, boysenberry, with bright fruit, and loads of dirt. This wine is really still very young, showing great potential, with incredible tannin, great acid, rich layers of blue and black fruit with great aging potential, loads of chocolate and rich spice, dark fruit, and herb, all wrapped in a plush yet elegant mouthfeel. The finish is less green than past vintages, showing a more ripe fruit profile, but still clearly balanced, with foliage, tobacco, mint, and sweet spices and herbs. Bravo!! Drink from 2020 till 2024.
2018 Ramon Cardova Albarino, Rias Baixas – Score: 92 (QPR Superstar)
The 2018 vintage of this Albarino, in its second vintage, shows less tropical and ripe than the first vintage, 2017. This bottle also had the thermal active label, and it shows up when the bottle is at the proper drinking temperature. My only REAL and serious complaint is the cork, why would Royal waste the money and my money of a real cork? Use a Diam or any other amalgamated cork, like almost everyone else is. I really hope I do not hit a bad cork for the wines I have.
The nose on this wine is better than the 2017 vintage, Lovely nose of rich mineral, with loads of straw, with which salinity, and lovely peach and dry pear, with honeysuckle, gooseberry, along with green notes galore. Lovely! The mouth on this lovely green and acid-driven wine, has a more oily mouthfeel than the 2017 vintage, showing rich salinity, green olives, with lovely dry quince, green apples, more peach, green apple, but also with lovely lime and grapefruit, no sense of guava or melon-like on the 2017 vintage, with a tinge of orange notes. The overall mouth is lovely and it comes at you in layers. The finish is long, green, with gooseberry, tart fruit, with an incredible freshness, and orange pith, slate, rock, and incredible acidity lingering long. Incredible!! Bravo!! Drink until 2022. Read the rest of this entry
Four solid red wines from Bordeaux, Italy, and California, with two QPR
The good news wine parade continues with four more solid QPR red wines. This time they are from Bordeaux, Chianti, and California. The last post had a bunch of obscure white varietals, check it out if you missed that one. This post’s varietals are some of the most well knows red varietals on planet earth, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sangiovese, and the less famous Petit Verdot.
Well, there you have it. The top QPR of the four wines is sadly sold out already in the USA, the 2016 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico. Some stores will probably still have bottles of it. The other QPR wine is the 2014 Chateau Leroy-Beauval and it should be widely available on the east coast at a reasonable price. The other two wines are nice enough but given the prices, I cannot give them the QPR moniker.
The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:
2014 Chateau Leroy-Beauval – Score: 90+ (QPR)
Another QPR winner from M & M Importers. This is a well-made wine, a wine that out of the box is lovely, but with time opens to a really fun wine indeed. The nose on this wine shows a bit of age though it has legs on it, with dark to black currant, cherry, smoke, tar, and nicely tilled earth, with garrigue, and herbs. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is nice, a bit ripe, with more of the notes from the nose, with plum, dark cherry, nice smoke, mushroom, loads of graphite and roasted herbs, mint, oregano, and nice sweet tobacco, all wrapped in sweet mouth-coating tannin and an overall nice balance. The finish is long, green, and ripe, with more sweet herbs, blackcurrant, sweet dill, and black fruit, lingering long with mineral and green notes. Drink by 2021.
2016 Chateau Hauteville, Saint-Estephe – Score: 91
This wine is a blend of 50% Merlot and 50% Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine starts off really chunky and green, but with time, the wine turns smoother and rounder with lovely tannin and extraction. In previous vintages this wine was OK, but nothing great, this vintage is truly another step up and makes it a 90+ wine. This wine needs a good 6 to 8 hours in an open bottle or maybe 5 hours in a decanter. After the wine fully opens the nose on this wine is redolent with dark cherry, black fruit, followed by lovely loam, earth, with green notes galore, tobacco, foliage, and hints of the forest floor. The mouth on this medium to full-bodied wine is rich, layered, and extracted with good complexity, showing nice earth, blackberry, cassis, with loads of mineral, graphite, tar, all balanced well with mouth draping tannin, great acidity, and rich saline. The finish is long, green, earthy, and black, with raspberry notes on the finish, with more tobacco, mineral, and earth. Bravo! Drink from 2021 until 2027.
2016 Shirah Bro-Deux, Red – Score: 89
The nose on this wine is ripe, the ABV says 13.7, but wow, this is a candied ripe wine. The more I sit with it, the more I realize that the sweetness I am perceiving is not fruit sweetness or ripeness but rather oak, the oak is so pervasive that it adds a sweetness to it that makes it unbalanced.
The nose on this wine shows bright and yet ripe, with sweet and candied black and red fruit, followed by a Cali-style juicy Cherry candy, that is wrapped in mint, oregano, and some smoke. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is layered, ripe, and sweet, with ripe blackberry, plum, and hints of strawberry, that give way to layers of oak and tannin that linger long, with sweet notes of blue fruit in the background, all wrapped in sweet oak, and herbs. The finish is long, sweet, green, and herbaceous, with sweet Tobacco, and mineral lingering long, with sweet fruit. Nice. Drink by 2023.
2016 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico – Score: 92 (QPR)
The nose on this wine is pure joy, as always, it starts off a bit sweet, do not worry, all is fine. The nose is filled with classic Chianti notes, of dark cherry, raspberry, loads of herb, followed by smoke, roasted herb, and white pepper. The mouth on this medium to full-bodied wine is packed with layers of concentrated fruit, loads of baby fat that will relax with time, the layers of fruit gives way to black plum, saline, black olives, with lovely loam, tilled earth, and rich mushroom, that gives way to mouth coating and still searing tannin, lovely acid, so classic to Chianti, and incredible unctuousness, that is balanced well with more roasted herb, oregano, mint, and garrigue galore, green dill, and a big fat Cuban cigar. Bravo!! Drink until 2025.
Flam Winery latest releases
As I have been posting so far, I enjoyed my last trip to Israel and Europe, and this will be the last post about Israeli wineries for this trip anyway! Last we left off, I was talking about – Tzora Vineyards Winery. However, that was the third winery that we visited that day – the third of the four wineries that make up the Judean Hills quartet, three of which are kosher. We visited all three of the kosher wines from the Judean Hills Quartet on that Friday, and in this post, I will cover the first of those three that we visited that day – that one being Flam Winery. This will be my last post from my trip to Israel, the next ones will be about my epic tasting in France and Riesling wines from Mosel. Also, a side note, the winery that brings us the wonderful Rieslings and Sylvaner – Nik Weiss, is a sister winery to Flam Winery. Actually, Gilad brought out a bottle of the 2015 Nik Weiss Riesling and we told him that we had issues initially with the wine, but now understand that these wines take years to come around (flavor and fruit characteristic wise) and that he should save his next bottle for a few years from now.
Judean Hills Quartet
I have already posted here about my appreciation for the Judean Hills quartet, I think what they are doing is great and is the correct way to go after the gaping sinkhole in what some would call Israeli wine education. They happen to also be some of the best wineries in Israel, which is a blessing. Who would want Yarden pushing their date juice and declaring this is the future of Israel’s wine revolution?? Instead, you have wineries like Domaine du Castel Winery, Flam Winery, and Tzora Vineyards, along with a winery I wish I could enjoy, though sadly it is not kosher – Sphera Winery – run by Doron Rav Hon, who made some of the best Chardonnays and Pinot Noir in Israel when he was in Ella Valley – those were great days!!
If you look at the four wineries in the quartet, three of them have used Judean Hills grapes since the very beginning, Domaine du Castel Winery, Tzora Vineyards, and Sephora Winery. Both Castel and Tzora built their name and reputation and essence upon the terroir of the Judean Hills. Flam has always been using Judean Hills fruit in its wines, but the reserve wines have been sourced from the Upper Galilee (Ben Zimra and Dishon). That is changing now, the winery has planted 100 dunams on the beautiful slopes near Ein Kerem and the first wine from the Judean Hills is the 2015 Merlot Reserve.
Once they complete the move from the Galilee to the Judean Hills for their reserve wines as well, the majority of its red wines will be sourced from the Judean Hills. At this time, the Rose, Blanc, and Classico are all sourced from the Judean Hills, with the most of the reserve wines being sourced from the Upper Galilee.
We were a large group that descended upon the winery, AO, JK, and his wife, OM, MB, and myself. We had the chance to taste through the current wines plus the not yet released but already bottled 2013 Flam Noble – the winery’s flagship wine. We were met by both Gilad and Golan Flam, and later for a bit by Israel as well. Golan, the winemaker, and Gilad who runs the winery were very kind to meet with us as was visible from the previous posts of this trip, it was harvest time, and Golan had to run to tend to the grapes. We did get a chance to watch some of the winemaking activities and then it was off to taste the currently released wines.
The wines once again show the professionalism and passion that is Flam Winery. As the first post I ever wrote about the winery shows, this is a family run winery and that focuses as much of its efforts in the vineyards as they do in the winery itself.
My thanks to Gilad, Golan, and Israel Flam, and the winery for a wonderful tasting. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:
2016 Flam Blanc – Score: B+
This wine tasted better than the last time we had it, with tart and crisp fruit, showing nice pith, lovely grapefruit, and green apple galore. The mouth is crisp and alive and tart with good balance and nice fruit and good spice, but lacks anything to grab you. The finish is long and rich and crisp, very refreshing.
2015 Flam Classico – Score: B+
The wine shows a bit too much oak now, nice enough, but a bit too much oak with crazy chocolate and elegance with more of the reserve fruit going into the Classico in 2015. The nose shows herb sweet dill, and good earth, and red fruit. The mouth is medium bodied and dark cherry, rich roasted herb, nice round and spicy with great sweet but controlled fruit and menthol and green notes abound. The extra syrah is showing with hints of blue notes but really nice with foliage and tobacco galore, but lacking complexity of previous vintages and a bit too much oak.
2015 Flam Merlot, Reserve – Score: A-
This is the first vintage being sourced from the Judean hills. The nose on this wine shows a very rich oaky nose with red fruit and green notes. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is rich and layered but lacking the acid, but really impressed by what the be vineyards will bring. The mouth shows mouth coating tannin with elegance, dark raspberry, with hints of dark currant, mineral, foliage, dirt, and loam galore, with great potential. The finish is long and elegant with chocolate, tobacco, and ripe fruit lingers long.
2015 Flam Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve – Score: B+
Nice nose of bright mineral, rich earth and really ripe fruit. The mouth is ripe and plush with green notes and really accessible showing nice tannin and plush blackberry and foliage. The finish is long and green and soft with mineral and tobacco and loam.
2015 Flam Syrah, Reserve – Score: A-
The nose on this wine shows lovely blue and black fruit, with perfumed boysenberry, with less herb and more floral and blue fruit instead. The mouth is rich and full bodied and really accessible with a plush and a bit less pushed than the other two reserve wines, with nice extraction, good sweet fruit, controlled with green notes again and foliage that is wrapped in plush but firm tannin and great spice. The finish is long and sweet and really impressive with leather galore and tobacco that is backed by tar and roasted animal.
2013 Flam Noble – Score: A-
Really lovely old world nose with nice mineral, rich black and elegant fruit with great roasted herb. The mouth is full bodied, plush, not overly tannic with nice elegance and good complexity that is ripe and round and yet balanced with chocolate and nice graphite and mineral. The finish is long and green with tobacco, sweet dill, rich extraction that shows searing tannin that lingers and ripe black fruit with juicy tart raspberry, and fun blue notes in the background, with ripe fruit lingering long.
Vitkin, Tzora, and Flam Winery tastings along with 2015 rosé and whites from Israel
Well, I am back, landing the day before the Shabbat preceding Shavuot. I was there for my Nephew’s wedding and we stopped off in Paris for two days – that post can be read/seen here. From there we jumped on an EasyJet plane and we were in Israel, but those kind of things do not just happen. In hindsight I would use EasyJet again – simply because there really were few other options. The direct flights were these (listed in cost order); Transavia (I wonder if the count sleeps in luggage), EasyJet, Arkia (Israel’s second largest airline), El Al, and Air France. I tried to use miles on AF – but they were crazy high. So, in the end, EasyJet it was.
EasyJet is one of those airlines that will nickel and dime you all the way to and in the plane. But the best plan (since I had no checked luggage), is to pay for seat assignment and then you get a roll on and backpack. I was stressing about my rollon, it was a bit heavy, and I was worried they would nickle me to death. In the end, the dude at the counter was very nice and they took the rollon – asking to check it, which was fine with me. The trip was fine, as there is a lounge in the CDG terminal, and what we really wanted was just a place to be normal in a land of madness.
Once we got to the gate they were boarding us only to leave us in the gateway for a good 25 minutes – no idea why. Once we boarded, I was asleep, which was a blessing. I had lots to watch – but sleep was what I craved. Once I awoke we pretty much landed, with maybe 20 minutes or so before landing anyway. Once we landed we disembarked quickly, and then well – no one was there at security check. There were loads of people backing into the anteroom. It would be another 20+ minutes before folks actually arrived and started to cut through the backlog.
Once we got through our bags were there already and we were off to get our car – or try! Look I like Budget in Israel, they normally treat me well, but this trip was horrible! They made us wait 1 hour or more and then they treated us in classic Israeli style and gave us a car that was smaller than what we ordered/paid for and then told us to leave them alone! Love people like that!
Anyway, we were off and really that is what I cared about – I wanted to be home! After that, I can say that the trip was really about tasting late 2014 released wines and 2015 wines. Before, I get into that – let’s recap the state of 2015. As stated here, this is what happened in 2015 and after tasting some 40+ wines from 2015 – nothing has changed my opinion.
Well after two world-class vintages in 2001 and 2008, 2015 was a huge letdown. The white and rose are for the most OK, and nice. The white and rose wines are not at the level of 2014 (more on that below), but they are very respectable. The 2015 reds on the other hand is an entirely different subject.
A few things going on here – first of all the weather was perfect through August – looking like yet another blockbuster Shmita vintage. Wet winter, tons of rain and no deep freezing, followed by very moderate spring (making for good bud formations). This was followed by temperate highs and nice cool evenings throughout the summer, except for a few spikes here and there, that was all until August! In August nature took a very dark view on Israel – starting with some of the worst highs in the history of Modern Israel, and power consumption that peaked for an entire week that broke record after record. August continued with crazy heat – but it was early September when all hell broke loose. September saw a return of the epic sandstorm – but this time it reached almost biblical proportions in September. Just look at these satellite images – they are crazy!
Overall, the season was not what it was meant to be. The sand storms brought even higher temps, it all unravelled at the end. The funny thing is that – the wineries that pull early, AKA do not produce date juice, were affected far less – like Recanati and Tabor. The ones who pull later or pull from the Galilee – even if they are great wineries – were affected. In some ways it will mean that lower level wines at wineries will have normally better fruit. It will also mean that many wineries will have less of their flagship wines. Of course this is all from what winemakers and wineries have told me so far. Only time will tell to see what really comes out, but agriculturally, it was not a great year. Read the rest of this entry
My wonderful and wine eventful Jerusalem whiteout – Day 1
Two weeks ago I was in Jerusalem and all I can say is that the words, “in God We Trust” cannot have been more fulfilled than on this journey. To start, I had flown into Israel for one of my nephew’s weddings, and a lovely wedding it was, but that is getting ahead of ourselves. I arrived on Tuesday the 10th and while deplaning, I was asked to join in on a group prayer – which initially I was not so interested in, as I had a ton of things to get done in the day. Thank goodness I agreed and while talking with the group at the conclusion of the services, I hear my name being bellowed out! Now, sure I love Israel, and I know people there, but I am not Netanyahu or Gal Gadot, nor do I know anyone who knows Gal Gadot (trying to stay current and yes I know she is a female model – just making sure you are following), so I had no idea why someone was calling out my name!
So, I turn around and lo and behold who is there, Mendel! Now you may not remember Mendel, but he has been canonized on this very virtual pages, here and here (de-boning a duck) – though incorrectly familiarly associated with Elchonon. I state this because it will be with Mendel’s hands that my wine salvation will be realized. He wondered if I remember who he was, and after sharing a few pleasantries, we agreed to keep in touch as he was interested in joining me on my wine escapades, which sounded great to me!
From there we both got our cars and I went off to see my sister in HarNof. That evening I was so exhausted, I tried to order a burger from a place that will go nameless. Two hours later, no burger and my card were charged! To be fair, after much cajoling they did refund my money, which I understand in Israel is requires an act from God to implement, but equilibrium was returned.
The next day, I WhatsApp Mendy and sure enough, he is up and ready – like I was, so I asked if he minded driving and off we went to pursue the wineries around Jerusalem. I must start by saying that I have no issue driving, but as I explained many times in the past, Israeli drivers have no drive control or manners, they are 100% certifiable! Well, I guess either work; “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” or “Fight fire with fire”, and that is exactly what Mendy does so well. The roads were slick with rain, at some points the roads were almost washed out with a literal deluge of rain, making the roads slick and a perfect pairing for hydroplaning. No worries, Mendel is at the wheel! So, our first stop was Castel!
Domaine du Castel
2013 Kosher Food and Wine Experience (KFWE) lived up to all its billing
For years I have always sported a purple colored beaming grin when I finish my tasting at the IFWF (International Food and Wine Festival) in LA, which hid my grumbling stomach’s discontent. Like I have documented for years, I never get to eat at the events, even as the entire food court mocks me, attempting to pull me into their warm, delicious, and very present embrace, with their wafting and intoxicating aromas. Still, I stand strong and I taste through the night until my teeth are purple and my stomach is close to rioting on the lack of food. Truth be told, I am not that good at taking notes when eating – the flavors of the food cover up and belie the flavors and aromas of the glass that beckons me closer with its “come hither” look and aromas. So every year, after the event I go to dinner at Jeff’s Sausage (down the street from the new location of the IFWF). Which is sheer madness of course, here I have half the Pavilion at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza, filled with food from one of the best kosher restaurants in the world – Tierra Sur Restaurant, and I pass on that for the spicy and homely fare of Jeff’s Sausage. In no way is this a slight to the joy of Jeff Rohatiner’s cookery and food. Rather, it has been my conscious tradeoff, throughout my many year experience at IFWF to drink through as much of the world-class wine I can before my taste-buds shutdown, rather than give them to the food court, no matter how wonderful it is.
This year was a massive shift for me, gone was the purple grin and my mutinous stomach, as I visited and added the New York KFWE to my travel dates. To say the KFWE was different than the IFWF would be an extreme understatement, the IFWF has close to 1000 people at the show, while the KFWE has closer to 2000 people. Further the event hall at Pier 60 is some 2 to 3 times larger than the Pavilion tent at the Hyatt Regency. Also, there were many options for lunch and dinner from the myriad of NY restaurants that all share half the hall, all clamoring to share their wonderful fare with great fanfare. The Pier 60 overlooks the Marina and Harbor and many folks were outside braving the cold to grab a smoke, but at least they had some comfort of looking at the marina and its waterfront.
To really appreciate the event you had to come to it with a game plan, and there were many guests who had a few of their own. The event started at Noon for those in the trade, a new thing that the KFWE started last year and something that the IFWF has been doing from the start (though initially with a smaller trade time). The trade event was crowded but there could not have been more than a thousand folks there, so access to wine was not a problem in any way. The event hall can easily handle 1000 people, it is a bit more complicated when the number swells to two thousand people, but still there was no pushing or shoving going on even at the end of the public tasting, when the number of guests was at its maximum. But I digress; the trade tasting allowed me to focus solely on wine and the winemakers, which was great. Read the rest of this entry
Kosher wine blends tasting from around the world
Two weeks ago we enjoyed a lovely meal with friends and family and it was centered around meat lasagna and kosher wine blends from around the world. We had some vegetarians over, so I made lasagna with soy instead of meat, and in the end both pans of food disappeared, so I think it came out OK.
The lasagna dishes used the same recipe as I have here, but one used trader joe’s soy meat and the other used plain old beef chuck ground up.
I am cutting it short today – so this is the wine list and thanks to everyone for coming by and making the meal that it was:
2010 Don Ernesto Clarinet – Score: B+
The nose opens with lovely blueberry, the blend is undocumented but is quite nice for Hagafen’s entry-level wine, along with raspberry, ripe black and blue fruit, along with butterscotch. The mouth has nice toast, chocolate, mouth coating tannin, along with espresso coffee, and black cherry. The finish is long and spicy, with graphite, toast, boysenberry, and more cinnamon.
2009 Karmei Yosef Winery Bravdo Coupage – Score: B+ to A-
The wine is one of my favorites and a wine that needs time to open, but I also think this wine is in a bit of a funk and needs more time to find itself, such is the way of wine – time to time. For now the score is lower than in previous tastings as it was in a funky mood.
The nose on this deep black colored wine is rich with mineral, herbaceous, black cherry, raspberry, and rich plum. The mouth on this full bodied wine is lovely but closed for now, with blackberry, heavy not integrated tannins that coat the mouth, and cedar. The finish is super long and rich with ripe fruit, heavy tannin, lovely vanilla, tobacco, and rich chocolate. Give this wine 6 months and it should start showing its real self.
2006 Elvi Wines Priorat EL26 – Score: A-
I know this wine continues to have its polarizing following, with passionate lovers and haters, given its unique and clearly earthy qualities, I love it. The earth and mineral almost accentuate every flavor in the mouth and add so much complexity to it – that I think the mouth will explode.
This wine is a lovely blend of 35% Grenache, 35% Syrah, and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon. It starts with an aromatic nose of anise, ripe blackberry, black pepper, raspberry, and plum. The mouth is full and concentrated with mouth coating tannin, nice dirt, graphite, black cherry, ripe fruit, with spicy wood all coming together into a nice mouth. Finish is long with spice, mineral, herb, eucalyptus, tobacco, and chocolate. This is a massive and extracted wine with ripe fruit and one that balances well with the oak and spice. Read the rest of this entry
Kosher European Wines, Hagafen Wine, Kosher Meat Lasagna, White Bean and Kalamata Soup, Vegetable Kugel
This past weekend we had a bunch of friends over to the house and we were so happy to celebrate the good health and recovery of a dear friend of the family who honored us by coming on over for the meal. It is starting to feel a bit chilly around here, so we thought it would be great to try some lovely White Bean and Kalamta Olive Soup. The link to the recipe was the best I could find on the web. The one I use is from Mollie Katzen’s cookbook, which I have no right to place on my blog, please buy her book she is a genius!
The soup is simple to make, and I follow her recipe to the tee, short of adding in a wee bit more wine than her recipe calls for. Personally, that is the ultimate compliment, using someone’s exact recipe, with little or no change, because it is perfect as it is.
We then cooked up meat lasagna. I have modified the lasagna many times, as I am constantly looking for the perfect lasagna that is not too dry or too runny. I think I have finally done that! This past week the lasagna was killer, very tasty, and it was solid without being the least bit dry. The recipe is a change from another cookbook I use, but I have modified this one to not worry about sharing it. Also, I wrote a lot about the process, so the recipe looks long, but I am just adding in my years of struggle with these recipes to make sure you do not. Overall a pretty easy recipe:
Meat Lasagna Recipe: (Makes two pans of lasagna)
2 Tbsp. Oil
2 chopped onions
5 garlic cloves smashed (or just use the frozen garlic)
2 lb. of ground meat
1 sliced green pepper
1 sliced orange or yellow pepper
3 28 oz. cans of crushed tomatoes
2 15 oz. cans of tomato sauce
12 oz. of red wine (more acid and tannin the better)
4 to 5 Tbsp. parsley
2 tsp. sugar
3 tsp. of basil
salt and pepper to taste
16 oz. (18 pieces) of dry lasagna noodle (normal pasta that needs to be cooked)
1 LARGE eggplant sliced 1/2 inch thick
In a large Dutch oven or tall walled pan, heat up the oil until shimmering and then throw in the chopped onions and cook them till they are close to being browned. Then throw in the crushed garlic and as soon as it starts to smell garlicky, throw in the ground meat. Be careful never to burn the garlic, as that is nasty! Move around the meat and make sure it nice and browned. Now throw in the sliced peppers and lets cook until tender. Then throw in the crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, red wine, herbs, salt and pepper. Now mix the pot around a fair amount until the wine color disappears and the tomato color is bright. Keep cooking the sauce until it reduces by 20% or until the sauce looks nice and thick. This step is VERY important, so do not skimp on this, it takes time but you will be generously rewarded.
At this point, bring a very large pot of water to boil and then place the lasagna noodles and cook them 1 to 2 minutes before al dente. We do this because we want them to finish in the oven. NEVER TRY the already cooked or NOT cooked pasta – it does not work. Cook the pasta and you will get the lovely texture that is not available any other way. Once cooked, pour out all the water, and put in some cold water in the pot to keep the pasta from drying up. Read the rest of this entry
Flam Winery – The venerable European-styled family boutique winery, that is now kosher
Our culture is very quick to exaggerate for the sake of sensationalism and many in the wine industry press or bloggers have never missed a chance to prove it. Still, every so often we get it right! Use the word boutique in conjunction with a winery, and everyone from Mondavi down to your local corner Garagiste, will lay claim to being one. If you then throw in the terms family owned and European styled, believe it or not, you can still find many who are willing to lay claim to them as well. Thankfully, I was able to spend some quality time at a perfect example of exactly what we are talking about, the Flam Winery, in the rustic Judean Hills.
In a previous post concerning Ella Valley Winery, I have already discussed what I believe to be the definition of a boutique winery. In a sentence or more, it means a crazy (in a good way) level of oversight from the mundane to the essential. Of course, my take leaves a large enough space to drive a semi-trailer through, as exemplified in these retorts to my post. With that said, to me Flam Winery exemplifies many of the aspects of what I look for when talking about a boutique winery. Yes, they are smallish, at some 120 thousand bottles a year, along with very tight oversight of their vineyards. Flam leases five vineyards throughout the country, three in the Judean hills area and two in the upper Galilee. The vineyards are leased so that Golan Flam, the head winemaker, can work hand in hand with the vineyard manager, and know that they will both get what they want. The vineyard knows it will be paid on a consistent manner, per acre. While, Golan knows that the vineyard will be managed with quality as the benchmark and not quantity. Also, Golan has the opportunity to work hand on with the vineyard manager to maximize the potential of the grapes, in the direction that he thinks is most beneficial to the vineyard and the winery.
There are a few famous family owned wineries, including Castel Winery in the Judean Hills, and Tulip Winery in the Galilee. Flam Winery, of course is also on the short list of quality family run wineries. Flam Winery, which was started in 1998, is a personification of Golan’s dream to create an Israeli wine estate, focused on premium quality wines. The dream was hatched after graduating from Hebrew University with a bachelor’s degree in agriculture, on a trip through Tuscany, Italy in 1996. While on a fascinating tour amongst the splendid wineries of this enchanting region, Gilad & Golan decided to build a boutique winery in the Land of Israel, which should be surrounded by superb vineyards, and would be the source of the best possible Israeli wines. Golan returned to Italy to get his Master’s degree in Enology, and worked at Carpineto Winery in Tuscany, and in Australia as well. In 1998 Golan returned to Israel to be the wine maker of Flam, and joined forces with his brother Gilad, a successful lawyer and businessman, who runs marketing and Business Development. They recruited their mother, Kami, a successful businesswoman to be the winery’s CFO, and they leaned heavily in the beginning on their father, who was then the head wine maker for Carmel Winery.