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Kosher Sparkling wines for the end of 2020 – WINNERS from Drappier and Yarden

With 2020 coming to a close, I am posting the top sparkling wines, but to be clear, I drink sparkling wine all year round! We have been blessed recently with Yarden selling their Gilgal Sparkling wine for under 20 dollars a bottle! Honestly, there is no better deal out there and that is why they were the wines of the year last year! Yarden continues to impress with their 2014 entries and they are the sparkling wine producers to beat, for anyone entering this market.

How is Sparkling wine made?

There are many options – but the vast majority of sparkling wines fall into three categories:

  • Le Méthode Champenoise (Méthode Traditionnelle)
  • Methode Ancestrale
  • The Charmat Method

Le Méthode Champenoise (Méthode Traditionnelle)

So, what is Champagne and how do we get all those cool bubbles? Well, it all starts with a grape of some sort, in most cases, Chardonnay, but we will get back to the other varietals further down. For now, like all wine on planet earth, Champagne starts with a grape. It is picked (often early to lower alcohol and increase acidity), then crushed, pressed, and allowed/encouraged to go through primary fermentation, exactly like all white wines on planet earth. At this point, most houses ferment the base wine in metal tanks or barrels. Some still use wood, but they are the minority.

Of course, like much of France (Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne), especially in Champagne, the wine can be chaptalized after racking, until an 11% ABV. Now before the heat waves that have covered much of this earth (call it what you wish), Bordeaux and Champagne prayed to hit their desired mark of ABV, and therefore they used to add sugar to bring up the ripeness on their fruit. Nowadays, Champagne is picking earlier and earlier, and Chaptalization is not a common thing anymore, as mother nature is taking care of the fruit’s ripeness all on her own!

Once the wine has been fermented the next question arises, should they let the base wine go through a wine’s second natural fermentation called Malolactic Fermentation? Most allow the fermentation to take place and require it, a fact that is easy nowadays with controlled winery environments, though some do not like it at all. Finally, the barrels/tanks are blended or in the rare case, kept aside as a Vintage Champagne, meaning the base wine used in it, is sourced from one vintage and not a blend of a few vintages.

So, at this point what we have is base wine, and while it may be an OK wine, it is far from what the final product will be like. Most base wines are nice enough, but it would be like licking on a lemon, these wines are highly acidic, and not normally well balanced at that point.

The next step is to bottle the wine, with yeast and basic rock sugar, which causes a second fermentation. The actual amount of the two added ingredients is a house secret. The wines are closed with a simple beer bottle cap. You will notice that ALL wines made in this manner have a lip around the top of the bottle, where the cap is attached to. Again, if the year is exceptional then the wine becomes vintage champagne and is aged for at least three years. If the vintage is normal then the bottle’s content is a blend of a few vintages and is aged for at least one and a half years.

All the while during this second fermentation process, the wine is aged and the wine becomes more complex from the yeast. The yeast breaks down as it eats the rock sugar, adding the effervescence, and while the yeast breaks down, it adds a lovely mouthfeel and rich complexity. This process is known as autolysis, releasing molecules that are slowly transformed as they interact with those in the wine.

The process is a dual transformational process. First, the yeasts are broken down, but if that occurred in a 100% hermetically sealed environment, we would have SERIOUS issues, like HS (Hydrogen Sulfide) and mercaptan (think nasty rotten eggs). Oxygen is a two-edged sword, with too much a wine oxidizes, and with too little, you get HS and nasty foul egg smell. So, the cap that covers the Champagne bottles as they rest for 18 months to 3 years in these cool racks, actually allow for a certain amount of oxygen to flow through, the caps are not hermetic seals. The special stoppers, AKA caps, allow the wine to mature on the lees, with a very slow feed of oxygen coming through, thereby allowing the wine to mature at a rate that is best for it. You can mature them quicker, with a different cap, but you would lose the value of a wine sitting long on the lees.

According to Wikipediathe effects of autolysis on wine contribute to a creamy mouthfeel that may make a wine seem to have a fuller body. The release of enzymes inhibits oxidation which improves some of the aging potentials of the wine. The mannoproteins improve the overall stability of the proteins in the wine by reducing the number of tartrates that are precipitated out. They may also bind with the tannins in the wine to reduce the perception of bitterness or astringency in the wine. The increased production of amino acids leads to the development of several flavors associated with premium Champagne including aromas of biscuits or bread dough, nuttiness, and acacia. As the wine ages further, more complex notes may develop from the effects of autolysis.

Finally, it is at this stage, after the bottles have matured their proper time, based upon their label (blend or Vintage), we get to the final stage of Champagne, remuage (or “riddling” in English) and Dosage. To get rid of the lees (the dead yeast cells and other particulates), the bottles are hand or machine manipulated to convince the lees to move towards the cap. Then the neck of the bottle is frozen, and the cap is removed, the lees come flying out in a frozen format, and then the bottle is recapped with the famous champagne cork, but not before it is dosed with more sugar. This very last step is the reason for this post, but let’s leave that till further down in the post, for now, let’s talk varietals and color/style.

Color/style and Varietals

So, we have covered the how part of Champagne (well almost more on Dosage below), and now we need to talk color and grapes. The base grapes for Champagne are Pinot Meunier, and Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay. There are very few houses that also use Arbane, Petit Meslier, Pinot blanc, Pinot Gris. Champagne, like the rest of France’s wine industry, is controlled by the AOC (appellation d’origine contrôlée).

So, for Blanc de Blancs Chardonnay, which is white from white, Chardonnay is the only grape allowed. Meaning, that the juice from Chardonnay is 100% of a BdB Champagne, or in rare occasions from Pinot blanc (such as La Bolorée from Cedric Bouchard).

For Blanc de Noirs, the Champagne is made from either Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier, or a blend of the two. Finally, for Rose Champagne, it can be a blend of the three grapes.

Late Disgorgement

This has been all the rave recently, LD or Late Disgorgement. All this means is that the house or winery (outside of Champagne) kept the bottles capped for a longer time. So the 2007 Yarden Blanc de Blancs was sold in 2014 or so. It is a lovely wine and recently Yarden released a 2007 LD Yarden  Blanc de Blancs. It is the same wine, just held longer in capped format (another 4 years or so), and then recently they disgorged the wine, more on that below, and put in the dosage and the Champagne style cork and released it now. Essentially, for all intent and purpose, Yarden aged the Sparkling wine 4 more years and released it later on. The interesting thing will be to taste the two wines (the LD and normal 2007 Yarden BdB and see how 4 extra years of lying on lees helped/hindered/or did nothing). I will be doing that soon enough.

Read the rest of this entry

The first Rose QPR WINNER, along with two other QPR Winners, and even more roses and whites from 2019, and a few Sparkling wines as well!

Sorry, it has been so long before I have posted here, but I am back and lets start with a few good wines and well, the rest of the 2019 wines white and rose wines that I could find.

QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) is the non-qualitative score I have been giving to wines recently. In my last update to QPR, a week after I posted the QPR revised methodology, I defined the QPR score of WINNER. A QPR score of WINNER is defined as a wine that scores a qualitative score of 91 or more, a score I define as a wine I would buy happily while also being a wine that is cheaper than the respective median wine category.

This week we have a mix of 27 wines 10 whites and 14 roses, and 3 Sparkling wines. One of the whites I have already posted about, a winner of the QPR GREAT score, the 2018 Domaine Netofa, White. The wine is a bit hit and miss and I wanted to update folks about it.

However, the absolute clear QPR WINNER of this week’s post is the FIRST 2019 Rose that gains the QPR WINNER title! Bravo!!! The wine is the 2019 Carmel Rose, Appellation. There were two other Sauvignon Blanc WINNERS, the 2019 Goose Bay Sauvignon Blanc (being released soon), and the 2019 Hagafen Sauvignon Blanc (Just released). 2019 white wine WINNERS are ALL Sauvignon Blanc and I am stocked!

The 2019 Teperberg Rose, Essence is another wine that got close to WINNER status, yet sadly, it did not, as the price is too high. This is a wine that should sell for less, like so many others from Isarel, yet that is just not the case.

The 2019 Herzog Rose, Pinot Noir, Tasting Room Reserve was a lovely wine for me. The weight and the acidity and the refreshingness of it really made it quite a fun wine indeed!

I continue to stand by my opinion that 2019 is one of the very WORST vintages for white and rose wines in the last 10 years for Israeli wines. I continue to dream of the 2013/2014 vintage for Israeli whites. Some of the very best Israeli whites came from the 2013/2014 vintages. Yes, I have not had as many of the 2019 whites and roses from Israel, as I would normally have had by now, sadly, the current circumstances do not let me do that. There are many roses still in France and Israel that I have not had, but of the ones I have had from Israel so far, I am fine with my statement.

Roses have continued to disappoint. We finally have a QPR WINNER for Rose, from Israel, but the vast majority of them this year have been an absolute letdown. There are now 8 QPR winners in whites (plus two in this post, and one from this post), it is clear as day to me that white wines are the way to go this summer.

Probably the saddest and maybe controversial wine note in this post is my score of the 2019 Chateau Les Riganes Blanc. What can I say, I did not love the wine. I LOVED the 2018 vintage! That wine had it all! The 2019 is just not as good and that is life sadly. I was really hoping for a repeat, like the 2019 Goose Bay Sauvignon did.

Finally, Royal has just released THREE newly disgorged Drappier Champagne! In this post I give you the score – it is AWESOME, I hope to taste the other two soon!

The wine note follows below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:

2019 Hajdu Rose – Score: 90+ (QPR: EVEN)
The 2019 Rose market has been so weak, it is nice to see Jonathan Hajdu and the Shirah brothers picking up the slack with their 2019 Roses, even if the QPR score is not as good as I would have wished for.
The nose on this wine is classic Cali rose notes, bright, sweet, ripe, yet well-balanced notes of blueberry, yes blue fruit, followed, by pomegranate, with raspberry, and sweet plum notes, this sounds riper/sweeter than I like, but it is more tart fruit than it is ripe fruit. The mouth on this medium-bodied plus rose is really fun, truly tart, refreshing, with great acidity, along with balanced sweet fruit, of blue fruit, tart strawberry, raspberry, grapefruit, sweet/tart collage of nice plum, strawberry, sweet and tart strawberry, and really tart red peach. The finish is long, sweet, tart, with nice mineral, body, freshness, and refreshing qualities that are truly a lovely summer wine – Bravo!

2019 Shirah Rose – Score: 90 (QPR: GOOD)
This is a nice wine, and with my new QPR scoring even though it is more expensive than the median price for rose wine, it garner’s a quality score that is in the 2nd quintile, so the math says the QPR score is GOOD.
This rose is a blend of Grenache, Nebbiolo, Cabernet Franc, and Aglianico, using the Saignee method. The nose on this wine shows nice notes of peach, sweet and juicy strawberries and creme, along with cranberry, cotton candy, and vanilla, with a touch of heat, and rhubarb. The mouth on this light to medium-bodied wine is well balanced, with good enough acidity, showing little in complexity, but this is not a pure fruit bomb, it has acidity and pith to bring the wine around, with sweet notes of grapefruit and pomelo, with hints of orange, sweet orange pith, and flint. Drink now.

2019 Teperberg Rose, Essence – Score: 91 (QPR: GOOD)
This is a nice wine, and with my new QPR scoring even though it is more expensive than the median price for rose wine, it garner’s a quality score that is in the 2nd quintile, so the math says the QPR score is GOOD.
This is the best of the three roses with Grenache and Barbera. This wine is a blend of 45% Grenache Noir, 35% Mourvedre, and 20% Barbera. The nose on this wine is fruity, it has clear sweet notes of candied strawberry, and lychee, with bright melon, gooseberry, and passion fruit, with hints of white flowers. The mouth on this wine is a REAl winner, lovely acidity, the acid hits you like a ton of bricks up front, though the finish, at this point, is a bit shallow, with clear and lovely notes of strawberries, rhubarb, loads of gooseberry, pink grapefruit, and lovely overall refreshing mouthfeel and a bright and easy-going freshness that has enough complexity for me to make this the best Israeli rose by far, that I have tasted this year. With time, the finish fills out and then you get lovely rocks, slate, saline, and more tart and bright red fruit, with flowers, and crazy lemon/lime lifesavers lingering long on the bright and floral finish. BRAVO!!!

2019 Five Stones Rose, D vs G – Score: 86 (QPR: BAD)
This is a wine that is just good enough, but with my new QPR scoring it is one quintile more expensive than the median rose price and it is not as good as the median score so that is why this wine gets a BAD on the QPR score.
The nose on this wine is fruity, too fruity for me, the fruit needs to be there, but when it is so obvious it feels like overkill, The wine is a blend of 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. While I liked the 2019 white D vs G, the rose is not interesting to me.The nose on this wine is fruity, showing clear sweet notes of candied plum, red fruit, and too much heat for me, at 13% ABV. The mouth on this light to medium-bodied wine is flat, not showing a lot, really lacking, there is a nice hit of acidity, but then it falls apart in the middle and disappears at the finish. The mouth is just acid and crazy fruity fruit, with candied and overly ripe strawberry, grapefruit, and melon, bummer. There is some refreshing notes if you like fruity wines to this extent. Drink now!

2019 Herzog Rose, Pinot Noir, Tasting Room Reserve – Score: 91 (QPR: GOOD)
This is truly a lovely wine but it is a bit more expensive than the Median. With my new QPR scoring, it is one quintile higher in price than the Median, however, it scores in the 2nd quintile, so that makes it a GOOD QPR score.
I have liked this version of their rose lineup for a long time now, yes it has oak, and yes it is a fuller-bodied wine, but it is also very enjoyable!The nose on this wine is classical in its rose styling, with lovely dark strawberry notes, with lovely red fruit, and peach, with citrus, and sweet cedar. The mouth on this full-bodied rose, yes I wrote that is actually quite fun, the acidity is lovely, maybe their best acid showing in this wine so far, with crazy Kirche cherry, tart grapefruit, plum, and sweet notes of cedar, followed by saline, gooseberry acidity, and very tart pomegranate. The mouthfeel is tart, juicy, with great weight, but yes so very refreshing! The finish is long, tart, with lovely acidity, with sweet watermelon, hints of candied fruit, but really impressive precision with the acidity and refreshingness. Bravo!!! Drink now.

2019 Chateau Sainte Marguerite Rose – Score: 87 (QPR: POOR)
Sadly, this wine is right on the Median line for quality and it is more expensive than the median price, so this lands it as a POOR QPR wine.
Lovely nose with classic leanings for a Provence rose, showing lovely mineral, rosehip, citrus, gooseberry, classic ripe and juicy strawberry, and red fruit, but I am shocked by the ripeness/sweetness of the fruit on the nose and mouth. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is ripe, and while there is a load of pith, it lacks the acidity to make this work, it has crazy pith and hints of tannin, the mouth shows sweet peach, apricot, guava, and strawberry, with lemon, and yet more pith. That is about it, mineral-wise it is loaded, but the lack of acid is really surprising, IMHO. In regards to my refreshing scale, this one is low, now acidity and the pith is more aggressive than it is balancing. Drink now.

2019 Carmel Rose, Appellation – Score: 91 (QPR: WINNER)
This wine is in the 2nd quintile of quality scoring and it is RIGHT on the median price line, so this wine SHOULD get a score of GREAT for QPR. However, it is ALSO the ONLY rose from the 2019 vintage, so far, that scored at least a 91, and that has a price that is at or below the median price line, so this wine gets the coveted score of WINNER for QPR. Bravo!!!
This wine is a blend of 65% Marselan and 35% Grenache. The nose on this wine is really fun, truly Provence in style, with loads of mineral, red forest berry, yellow flower, rosehip, citrus galore, and passion fruit. This is a fun and funky wine, I like how the Israeli Rhone varietals, used ina rose style wine, get funky in the right ways, with a lovely core of screaming acid, followed by luscious and tart strawberry, raspberry, currants, loads of rosehip, floral notes, with mineral, dirt, and crazy fun and refreshing acidity,  it may well be the best rose from Israel. The finish is crazy long, refreshing, with saline, slate galore, and pith to round out the attack. On the refreshing scale, this one is off the charts, showing the best so far maybe for 2019! Bravo!!! Drink Now

2019 Binyamina Rose, Grenache Barbera, Reserve – Score: 75 (QPR: NA)
This wine is a blend of 90% Grenache and 10% Barbera. Let us start off by the fact that those two varietals do not belong together, at least not by any territory. In regards to this rose, it is up for debate. The nose on this wine is funky, and no, not like the funky aromas, I mean the aromas are all over the place, with sweet fruit, yet tart, with dark aromas, and also peach-like aromas, there is no clear approach of style here. Like I said, up for debate.
The nose on this wine is sweet, almost like it has some RS, with peach and apricot notes, followed by raspberry, and very ripe and maybe too-ripe strawberry, with floral notes, and almost a peach perfume. Ok, this mouth is not for me, sorry, the nose is maybe debatable, but this is really unbalanced, and the RS is really off-putting, throw on the oak, and goodbye. The mouth on this wine is unbalanced, it is really all over the place like a kindergarten kid hopped up on adrenaline and Adderall. Sure there is some fruit, loads of RS, and much of the nose’s fruit, along with Pineapple, and guava, essentially, not a wine for me, though the acid is OK. Drink now.

2019 Yatir Rose, Judean Hills – Score: 84 (QPR: BAD)
This is a wine that is honestly not even good enough, so with my new QPR scoring it is one quintile more expensive than the median rose price and it is not as good as the median score so that is why this wine gets a BAD on the QPR score.
This wine is a blend of 53% tempranillo and 47% Mourvedre. This wine does not work for me, sorry, first it has sweet, I mean really sweet notes, even if it comes in at 12.5% ABV, this wine is ripe! The nose on this wine is ripe, with over the top and fruit-forward notes of blackberry, raspberry, and mulberry, with nice floral notes. The mouth is OK with the acid, but right after the acid front, the mouth behind it is sweet, unbalanced, with currant, mulberry, and black fruit, that is really not put together. The finish is ripe and it does not work. Drink Now.

2019 1848 Rose, 2nd Generation – Score: 78 (QPR: NA)
This is the 2nd blend of Grenache and Barbera of the tasting and the third from Israel, with the lovely Tepperberg also using that blend. This one is a blend of 85% Grenach and 15% Barbera.The nose on this wine is far more put together than the Binyamina but not nearly as good as the Teperberg. The nose shows notes of mineral, red forest berry, and floral notes, the noes is less expressive than I would have liked. The mouth though is highly expressive and once again, this blend reminds me of a hopped kindergarten child, it is a mess. It has more acidity than the Binyamina and a bit of funk, the acid is really intense, but wow, this is all over the place and no, it is not refreshing. It is a hard pass.

2019 Pacifica Rose – Score: 89 (QPR: GREAT)
This is a nice enough wine, but with my new QPR scoring it is still is not as expensive as the median and its score is also above the median, so it is a GREAT QPR, though not a wine I would run after. Still, for the heady prices of rose today, this is a solid buy if you like this kind of wine.
This may well be the highest scoring off-dry rose I have ever scored. The nose on this wine is sweet and IMHO it is the PERFECT sleeper agent rose to get people to like roses, it is super bright, well balanced, and respectful to both sides of the fence here.
The nose on this wine is ripe, and sweet, with nice pineapple, guava, and red fruit, followed by tart gooseberry, and lovely floral notes. The mouthfeel on this medium to full-bodied wine is lifted by the RS and sweetness, but it has crazy good acidity and the fruit and winemaking style respects the concept of rose, with lovely sweetness, followed by much of the fruit in the nose, along with crazy pineapple again, passion fruit, and intense grapefruit, and pith. The finish is long, sweet, and well done with sweet pomelo, and its citrus pith lingering long. Nice!

2019 Tulip White Franc – Score: 75 (QPR: NA)
I know, this is not an official rose, I get it, blanc de noir, I get it, but it looks rose, so in the rose list it goes, but sadly, rose or white, this wine misses the mark. Look at the 2019 Pacifica, which is off-dry but hits the mark well. This one is semi-sweet/off-dry, who cares, it is just off.
This wine is a blend of 60% Cabernet Franc and 40% Sauvignon Blanc. This wine tastes like they tried to pair sweet Cabernet Franc fruit with dry Sauvignon Blanc fruit, and for me, it is once again a crazed kindergarten child running all over the place. No focus and no approach. The nose on this wine shows intense fruity and sweet aromas with pineapple, guava, and gooseberry in the background, followed by flint, and pear. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is indeed all over, with sweet and tart fruit trying to meld together, but all I get is the sweet pear and apple with the pineapple fighting horribly with tart gooseberry and apple. Sorry, this one does not work.

2019 Dalton Rose, Alma Coral – Score: 86 (QPR: EVEN)
This wine is below the Median line for quality and it is below the median price, so this lands an EVEN QPR score.
The nose on this wine is nice enough with red and white fruit, showing some citrus, with floral notes, and hay. The mouth on this wine is boring, with no acid, a little fruit, and some mineral. Bummer. Drink now.

2019 Jerusalem Hills Rose – Score: NA (Mevushal) (QPR: NA)
This wine is a rose from Cabernet Sauvignon. The nose on this wine is sweet and cooked rosehip, followed by cooked strawberry, sweet cherry, and candied and sweet fruit galore. This wine may win the award for the worst rose from 2019, it is pure evil, there is nothing but cooked cherry compote and residual sugar sweetness. There is some acidity, but the wine is painful.

2019 Hagafen Don Ernesto Beret Rose – Score: 89 (QPR: POOR)
While this wine is nice enough it is two quintiles higher in price than the median and as such even with a quality score higher than the median the price pulls it down to a POOR QPR score.
This wine is a rose of Syrah. The nose on this wine is lovely, showing bright yet ripe fruit, with good strawberry, somewhat dull pear, melon, and jasmine flowers, with compote of rhubarb. The mouth on this medium-bodied rose has a nice weight and enough acidity, but again I wish it had more, with a lovely pith and sweet fruit mouthfeel, that is still refreshing with jasmine, strawberry/raspberry compote, followed by candied grapefruit, and tart melon. The finish is long, sweet, with red fruit, dried flower petals, and rosehip, and sweet red fruit. Nice. Drink Now.

White Wines

2019 Hagafen Sauvignon Blanc – Score: 91 (QPR: WINNER)
It was awesome tasting this side-by-side the 2019 O’Dwyers Creek Sauvignon Blanc – they are REALY close, with the O’Dwyers Creek winning by a nose. This is tropical but so well balanced! Another white wine WINNER for the 2019 vintage!
The nose on this lovely Sauvignon Blanc is crazy tropical and almost over the top, but still well controlled, and really fun, with lovely notes of gooseberry, pineapple, intense and aromatic passion fruit, and lovely smoke/slate, wow, fun! The mouth on this wine is equally enjoyable and refreshing, with nice acidity, wish it had a drop more, with nice fruit of passion fruit, grapefruit, tart melon, and rich saline, with gooseberry, and slate/flint. The finish is long, green with lemongrass, ginger, and overall fun and refreshing approach. Nice!!! Drink now.

2019 Hagafen Riesling, Lake County, Robledo Ranch – Score: 89 (QPR: POOR)
Sadly, this wine is right on the Median line for quality and it is more expensive than the median price, so this lands it as a POOR QPR wine.
The nose on this slightly off-dry Riesling is too young to get those lovely petrol notes. Petrol takes a good year to really evolve in the bottle. The nose on this lovely wine is sweet, but very bright, with bubblegum, watermelon, with tiny hints of mineral and petrol, followed by lovely honeysuckle, lemon, lemongrass, with lovely melon, hints of pineapple, and rich saline. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is screaming for more acidity, but it is still nice, with lovely sweet notes of pineapple, sweet guava, honeysuckle, honeydew melon, and more watermelon in the background, with sweet pomelo, and nice salinity. A nice wine with a good saline/tart citrus finish but a bit simple and uni-dimensional. Drink now until 2023.

2019 Hajdu Vermentino – Score: 90 (QPR: EVEN)
The nose on this wine is fun, it takes a bit to open, but with time, say an hour, the nose is really fun, showing notes of orange, orange blossom, daffodil, with lovely citrus, ginger, and hints of nectarines. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is really fun, with good acidity, showing a slight miss in the mid-palate, that is covered up by the nice acid profile, with a nice almost oily texture, with orange, pink grapefruit, lime, and sweet yellow apple. The finish is long, really tart and green, with lovely acidity, slate, mineral, and more sweet fruit notes. Very nice! A shockingly good balance for a 14.5% ABV white wine!

2018 Goose Bay Chardonnay – Score: 88 (Mevushal) (QPR: POOR)
Sadly, this wine is right on the Median line for price and it has a lower quality score, so this lands it as a POOR QPR wine.
The nose on this wine is clearly showing its oak at this point, with a nice toasty approach, followed by lovely yellow apples, melon, and nice oak spices. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is nice e enough but it is too simple, it has a nice weight, but the overall package is lacking, with a very simple focus, but nice enough, with more apple, quince, creme brulee, and a bit of the creamy notes one gets from oaked Chardonnay. The finish is sadly short, it is hidden behind the nice acidity of this wine, but that is not enough to make up for the short length. Drink by 2021.

2019 Psagot Viognier, M Series – Score: 83 (Mevushal) (QPR: BAD)
This is a wine that is just not good enough, and with my new QPR scoring it is one quintile more expensive than the median price and it is not as good as the median score so that is why this wine gets a BAD on the QPR score.
This wine has real potential, sadly this was cooked and it feels it. The nose on this wine starts off nice, but within a minute of opening the bottle, it has that slightly extra-fruity note that is not from the fruit. The nose on this wine is a nice Viognier, showing really tart and well-controlled peach, apricot, perfumed jasmine, and loads of yellow flowers and honeysuckle. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is nice, excepting for that ripe fruit that sticks out from this lean and sleek profile, with an annoying spike of ripe honeysuckle, followed by peach, apricot, and honeyed and sweet mango, with nice grapefruit, and an overall sweet mouthfeel. The finish is long, green, in a way, yet sweet, with pomelo and citrus, along with apple, slate, and absurd pith on the long finish. Drink now.

2019 Chateau Les Riganes Blanc – Score: 86 (Mevushal) (QPR: EVEN)
This wine is below the Median line for quality and it is below the median price, so this lands an EVEN QPR score.
I was hoping for another home run from this chateau, and sadly this vintage lacks the acid of 2018. The nose on this wine is lovely but closed with orange pith, orange notes, apple, and orange blossom, ginger, with mineral in the background. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is nice but flat, with no acid, what it has instead is a load of pith and mineral, followed by gooseberry, straw, mineral, and more floral notes, with orange, nectarines, and more pith. Drink until 2023.

2019 Goose Bay Sauvignon Blanc – Score: 91 (Mevushal) (QPR: WINNER)
This wine is in the 2nd quintile of quality scoring and it is well below the median price line, so this wine SHOULD get a score of GREAT for QPR. However, it is ALSO the another Sauvignon Blanc from the 2019 vintage that scored at least a 91, and that has a price that is at or below the median price line, so this wine gets the coveted score of WINNER for QPR. TWO years in a row for Goose Bay Sauvignon Blanc! Bravo!!
The nose is closed and does not show the classic creaming notes, right now the notes are subdued but they are present, with time the wine really opens up, with cat pee, gooseberry, straw, grass, mineral, and Asian pear. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine needs a few minutes and with time it shows a far more restrained version but still quite enjoyable, with intense acidity, followed by loads of pith, straw, cut grass, mineral, dirt, and lovely orange, nectarines, citrus, Asian pear, and lemongrass. The finish is long, green, with passion fruit, more gooseberry, and mineral galore, straw, pith, slate, and flint. Bravo! With time the fruit will come out from under the pith and straw haze. Drink until 2023.

2019 Recanati Yasmin, White – Score: 87 (Mevushal) (QPR: EVEN)
This wine is below the Median line for quality and it is below the median price, so this lands an EVEN QPR score.
This wine is a blend of Chardonnay and 40% Sauvignon Blanc. The wine is all over the place with the Chardonnay being so sweet that it takes over and really makes this wine unfun. The mouth and nose are too all over the place. Not fun, but the Sauvignon Blanc is nice and tart with good gooseberry and straw, but the sweet Chardonnay fruit showing apple, pineapple, and nectarines make the wine a bit of a mess. Drink now.

2019 Recanati Sauvignon Blanc – Score: 86 (QPR: EVEN)
This wine is below the Median line for quality and it is below the median price, so this lands an EVEN QPR score.
This wine is overall boring, with no complexity, but it ha enough acid and fruit to make it a bit interesting. The nose is really not interesting, but the mouth has acid, some good fruit of citrus, lemon, orange, and gooseberry, make it a bit interesting. Drink now.

2017 Pascal Bouchard Chablis, Le Classique – Score: 88 (Mevushal) (QPR: BAD)
This is a wine that is good enough, but with my new QPR scoring it is two quintile more expensive than the median price and it is not as good as the median score so that is why this wine gets a BAD on the QPR score.
The nose on this wine is nice enough, showing notes of smoke, green notes, green apple, quince, lemongrass, and pear. The mouth on this light to medium-bodied wine is nice enough, but the fruit is less focussed, though the acid is nice, with orange pith, orange notes, and the mineral of saline and slate, is nice. Drink until 2024.

2018 Domaine Netofa White – Score: 90 to 91 (QPR: GREAT)
I keep trying to figure out this wine and I think I finally understand it – this wine has crazy bottle variation, plain and simple. Some bottles, like the one I am greatly enjoying now, is ROCK solid and an easy 91. Then I can have a bottle that is tropical and lacking all the acidity I love. If you look at the past posts, this is what I have written:
The good version looks like this – it is evolving in a great way, showing even more hay and plum. The nose on this wine shows a lovely nose of straight-up hay, mineral, and fruit, with apple and quince galore, and lovely fruit and blossom. The mouth on this wine is crazy good, with a clear ripe backbone, yet steely tart and bright with crazy saline and herb, with mineral galore, with crazy apple, and rich quince, with an incredible tension between the ripeness and the tart/dry fruit and minerality. The finish is long and green, with slate, more hay, and lovely freshness and minerality! Bravo! Drink by 2021.
The bad version looks like this – at this point, the nose on this wine has moved past the mineral and into pure tropical notes, with apple and quince galore, and lovely fruit and blossom. The mouth on this wine has lost a step, with a clear ripe backbone, and the steely backbone is barely keeping it afloat, nice quince, with what used to be an incredible tension between the ripeness and the tart/dry fruit and minerality. The finish is long and green, with slate, more ripeness than I would desire, and minerality! Drink up!
What can I say, this is hit and miss. When it is a hit the wine is so good, showing great minerality, saline, hay, straw, and yellow plum, with citrus and quince. So, here is wishing you a good one!

Sparkling Wines

NV Drappier Brut Nature – Score: 92 (Mevushal) (QPR: GOOD)
This wine is a Brut nature, and as such, it does not have the added fruit or liquor as other Champagnes have. This shows extremely clearly in the notes. This is a clean, austere, grown-up approach to Champagne while having a downside as well, which is these do NOT last long. This wine has a disgorgement date of June 2020, meaning this wine is crazy fresh. Look at the bottom of the bottle – below one of the labels (back or front) and you will see a date etched into the bottle.
The nose on this wine is EXACTLY that, crazy fresh with lovely green and yellow apple notes, followed by bright citrus, lemongrass, waxy notes, and of course, loads of yeast. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is dry, rich, and super focused, with incredible saline, quince, and yellow grapefruit notes, intense acidity, with loads of graphite, and hints of tannin, with an incredibly focused small bubble mousse, that comes at you in layers and lingers forever. The finish is so long, so tart, with more mineral, dirt, saline, graphite, and quince/apple/citrus lingering long – Bravo!!! Drink until June 2021. You know my feeling about Brut Nature wines, they are NOT for holding, drink them NOW!

2017 Hagafen Rose, Brut – Score: 87 (Mevushal) (QPR: POOR)
The nose on this wine is very inviting with tart cherry, ripe strawberry, with some heat on the nose, loads of rosehip, and rhubarb. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is tart and refreshing but it has no complexity and is uni-dimensional in nature, with tart fruit, rhubarb, fine mousse bubble attack, and nice mineral. The finish is long and fruity, with mineral, hints of tannin, and loads of bubbles and acidity on the long refreshing finish. A very nice quaff. Drink until 2024.

2015 Hagafen Brut Cuvee, Reserve, Prix – Score: 89 (Mevushal) (QPR: POOR)
70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay, late disgorged recently. The nose on this wine has a lovely aroma of baked rhubarb pie, balanced well with citrus, earth, dirt, and lovely smoke, followed by minerals, strawberry, and some oxidized notes. The mouth on this medium-bodied bubbly starts off with a shot of mushroom, oxidized fruit, followed by lovely strawberry, and then some lovely citrus, tart raspberry, baked apple, and pear pie, and some more rhubarb, with a  lovely small bubble, nice focus. Nice. The finish is long, tart, green and red, and loaded with smoke and almonds. Drink now.

Tasting of Royal’s 2017 and some 2018 French wines in France

This is my third year tasting wines with Menahem Israelievitch in Paris and it is the first one that is not related to my visit to Bordeaux three years ago, almost to the date of this tasting (give or take two weeks). Three years ago, I was given the opportunity to taste many of the 2015 and 2016 wines from the barrel at each of the wineries in Bordeaux.

The 2014 vintage to me, was crazy fun because it is less ripe than the 2015 or 2016 vintages. They were also FAR cheaper. Then you had the 2015 wines which were more expensive and far riper than the 2014 vintage. This 2016 vintage is the best of both worlds, but it comes at a crazy high price. I warned you at that time, during the epic post of my visit to Bordeaux with Mr. Israelievitch, that you better start saving your money, sadly nothing has changed about that. The REAL shocker price-wise of the 2016 vintage was Chateau Malartic, which rose to almost 150 or more a bottle! That was close to double the 2014 vintage.

In a previous post about the most recent French wines (at that time in 2017) that were arriving on the market – I already spoke about pricing and supply, so there is no need to talk that over again in this post.

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While the 2015 and 2016 vintages were ripe, the 2017 vintage is not like that at all. The 2017 vintage in Bordeaux, though this is a massive simplification and generalization of the 2017 vintage, was overall less ripe than the 2015/16 vintages and maybe even in some cases a drop less than the 2014 vintage. The 2017 vintage flowered early and then the frost came, which killed off a fair amount of the fruit from the vines (Grapevines are self-pollinating and as such the flowers are an all-or-nothing situation in regards to yield). Quality itself is not affected by the early frost which froze the flowers, while the rest of the season was mostly OK, except for the late rains that diluted some of the acidity, again this is an overall generalization, with varying degrees of difference between the Chateaus.

The Mevushal push, from Royal wines, is continuing for the USA labels. More wines are being made Mevushal and while I wonder if this is good overall for myself, it makes sense for Royal wines, which in the end, I guess is what matters to them. Will this be an issue? In the past, I have found that the mevushal work of Mr. Israelievitch is top-notch, and really just ages the wine rather than ruining it.

The Mevushal wines from France for the 2017 vintage will be, the 2017 Barons Edmond et Benjamin de Rothschild, Haut-Medoc, 2017 Chateau Greysac, 2017 Chateau Chateau de Parsac, 2017 Les Lauriers, Des Domaines Edmond de Rothschild, 2017 Chateau Le Crock, 2017 Cuvee Hautes Terres, Chateau Fourcas Dupre, along with the whites wines, the 2018 Bourgogne Les Truffieres, Chardonnay, the 2018 Les Marronniers, Chablis,  and the 2018 Chateau Les Riganes, Blanc.

Now does mevushal impede the long-term viability of aging in regards to the wine? Well, that too is not something that we have scientific proof on. I have tasted a mevushal 1999 Herzog Special Edition and it was aging beautifully! So, would I buy the mevushal versions of the wines I tasted below – absolutely! Would I age them? Yes, I would hold them for slightly fewer years.

Other than the mevushal aspect, there are no differences between the European version of the wines and the USA version of the wines. While that sounds obvious, I am just stating it here. The wines will be shipped now and the temperature issues that clearly affected Israel’s wines of old, have not been a factor here.

Tasting in Paris

I landed in Paris, got showered and the such, and then made my way to lunch with Menahem Israelievitch. This year I was not alone in my tasting, I was joined by Avi Davidowitz from the Kosher Wine Unfiltered blog. After lunch, we went to a lovely home to do the tasting. The wines were all laid out in the order for the tasting, and one by one we went through the 30 wines. There was one missing wine, the 2018 Chateau Genlaire, Bordeaux Superieur and two of the wines were bad, I did taste them later in the week and they are listed here as if I tasted them at the tasting.

My many thanks to Menahem Israelievitch for going out of his way to help me to taste all the current French wines from Royal Wines before they were publicly released. The labels on the pictures may not all have a kosher symbol, but that was because they rushed some of the bottles to Mr. Israelievitch before they were properly labeled with supervision symbols attached. My many thanks to Mr. Israelievitch, Royal Europe, and Royal Wines for making this tasting possible in the first place, and secondly, for taking the time to taste the wines with me.

The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

2018 Les Marronniers Chablis – Score: 93 (QPR madness) (Mevushal)
This wine is made with native yeasts and as little manipulation as possible. The nose on this wine is beautiful with orange blossom, yellow apple, and rosehip, with lemon curd, and yeasty and creamy notes. This is so much better than the 2016 or 2017 vintage, this is so much fun! The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is crazy fun, intense acidity, incredible salinity, piercing, almost painful, with lovely layers of lemon, grapefruit, with quince, and pie crust, with Anjou pear, and quince. The finish is long, crazy long, almost oily, mostly creamy, with baked pear and apple, cinnamon, nutmeg, and loads of mineral, with slate, rock, and saline. Bravo!! Drink until 2023 maybe 2024.

2018 Les Marronniers Chablis, Premier Cru, Cote de Jouan – Score: 92 to 93 (QPR)
The nose on this wine is closed, but it shows lovely notes of mineral, slate, blossom water, and loads of citrus, with apple, and smoke. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is rich, layered, and impressive, with a rich oily mouthfeel, showing a lovely weight, with yellow apple, tart citrus, Asian Pear, and beautiful acidity that is well integrated with a strong mineral core, showing Orange pith, with tart citrus and slate and yellow plum, with saline, and more earth and hints of nectarines and orange. Lovely! Drink from 2020 to 2024 may be longer. Read the rest of this entry

Kosher Zero Dosage, Brut Nature, Non-Dose Champagnes are all the rage but they are short on life

I have spoken about Champagne wines in the past, whether they are made in the AOC of Champagne or elsewhere in the world, with different names, like Cava from Sapin, or Sparkling wine in the USA and Israel.

Naming rights

A quick aside please do not use Champagne unless you mean it! Champagne is wine made in the AOC of Champagne, which is a region of France. It is kind of like asking for the Kleenex when actually they are passing you generic tissues. Or asking someone to Xerox that article, when you mean, copy or photocopy it.

Now, of course, people from Champagne would blanch at that comparison, but sorry, trademark laws are what France is using to mandate the term Champagne be used ONLY for wines from Champagne, so it is LITERALLY the examples I gave.

Impressively France has been waging this war for centuries now. According to Wikipedia: Sparkling wines are produced worldwide, but many legal structures reserve the word Champagne exclusively for sparkling wines from the Champagne region, made in accordance with Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne regulations. In the European Union and many other countries the name Champagne is legally protected by the Madrid system under an 1891 treaty, which reserved it for the sparkling wine produced in the eponymous region and adhering to the standards defined for it as an appellation d’origine contrôlée; the protection was reaffirmed in the Treaty of Versailles after World War I. Similar legal protection has been adopted by over 70 countries. Most recently Australia,[16] Chile, Brazil, Canada, and China passed laws or signed agreements with Europe that limit the use of the term “Champagne” to only those products produced in the Champagne region. The United States bans the use from all new U.S.-produced wines.[17] Only those that had the approval to use the term on labels before 2006 may continue to use it and only when it is accompanied by the wine’s actual origin (e.g., “California”).[17] The majority of US-produced sparkling wines do not use the term Champagne on their labels,[18] and some states, such as Oregon,[19] ban producers in their states from using the term.

Sadly, people use Champagne interchangeably with sparkling wine, much akin to Kleenex and Xerox, and no matter the efforts of France and the education around the name, folks like Korbel still use the label, Korbel Champagne of California.

Méthode Champenoise

So, what is Champagne and how do we get all those cool bubbles? Well, it all starts with a grape of some sort, in most cases, Chardonnay, but we will get back to the other varietals further down. For now, like all wine on planet earth, Champagne starts with a grape. It is picked (often early to lower alcohol and increase acidity), then crushed, pressed, and allowed/encouraged to go through primary fermentation, exactly like all white wines on planet earth. At this point, most houses ferment the base wine in metal tanks or barrels. Some still use wood, but they are the minority.

Of course, like much of France (Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne), especially in Champagne, the wine can be chaptalized after racking, until an 11% ABV. Now before the heat waves that have covered much of this earth (call it what you wish), Bordeaux and Champagne prayed to hit their desired mark of ABV, and therefore they used to add sugar to bring up the ripeness on their fruit. Nowadays, Champagne is picking earlier and earlier, and Chaptalization is not a common thing anymore, as mother nature is taking care of the fruit’s ripeness all on her own!

Once the wine has been fermented the next question arises, should they let the base wine go through a wine’s second natural fermentation called Malolactic Fermentation? Most allow the fermentation to take place and require it, a fact that is easy nowadays with controlled winery environments, though some do not like it at all. Finally, the barrels/tanks are blended or in the rare case, kept aside as a Vintage Champagne, meaning the base wine used in it, is sourced from one vintage and not a blend of a few vintages.

So, at this point what we have is base wine, and while it may be an OK wine, it is far from what the final product will be like. Most base wines are nice enough, but it would be like licking on a lemon, these wines are highly acidic, and not normally well balanced at that point.

The next step is to bottle the wine, with yeast and basic rock sugar, which causes a second fermentation. The actual amount of the two added ingredients is a house secret. The wines are closed with a simple beer bottle cap. You will notice that ALL wines made in this manner have a lip around the top of the bottle, where the cap is attached to. Again, if the year is exceptional than the wine becomes vintage champagne and is aged for at least three years. If the vintage is normal than the bottle’s content is a blend of a few vintages and is aged for at least one and a half years.

All the while during this second fermentation process, the wine is aged and the wine becomes more complex from the yeast. The yeast breaks down as it eats the rock sugar, adding the effervescence, and while the yeast breaks down, it adds a lovely mouthfeel and rich complexity. This process is known as autolysis, releasing molecules that are slowly transformed as they interact with those in the wine. Read the rest of this entry

My top 25 kosher wines of 2018 including wine of the year and best wine of the year awards

Like last year, I wanted to make this post short and sweet – so the criteria are simple I could care less about price, color, or where it was made. All that matters is that it is/was available this year sometime to the public at large and that I tasted it in a reliable environment, not just at a tasting, and that it was scored a 93 or higher. Also, there are a few lower scoring wines here because of their uniqueness or really good QPR. I also included some of the best wines I tasted this year – they are at the bottom.

We are returning with the “wine of the year”, and “best wine of the year”. Wine of the year will go to a wine that distinguished itself in ways that are beyond the normal. It needs to be a wine that is easily available, incredible in style and flavor, and it needs to be reasonable in price. It may be the QPR wine of the year or sometimes it will be a wine that so distinguished itself for other reasons. This year, it is one of the QPR Kings of 2018. Yes, last year, we had a single QPR King, this year, there are a few. Why? Because as I will discuss in my year in review, 2018 was about having more solid wines than having GREAT wines. Sure there is a clear Best wine of the year, which is revealed below, but 2018 will be remembered for having MANY very enjoyable wines, rather than a few GREAt wines.

Also, yes, the Wine of the year and the Best wine of the year, both made by Royal wines, such is life, and I could care less for the most part.

Again, the list is missing wines I have yet to taste, like the 2015/2016 Chateau Pape Clement, which I am sure would have been on this list if I had tasted them. There are also interesting wines below the wines of the year, think of them as runner-up wines of the year. There will be no rose wines on the list this year – blame that on the poor crop or rose wines overall, they did not even crack the interesting list. Also, this year, we were given a bounty of top wines and finding the list this year was really a task of removing then adding.

The supreme bounty comes from the fact that Royal released the 2015 and 2016 French Grand Vin wines a bit early! Throw in the incredible number of kosher European wines that are coming to the USA and being sold in Europe and this was truly a year of bounty for European kosher wines.

Now, separately, I love red wines, but white wines – done correctly, are a whole other story! Sadly, in regards to whites, we had no new wines from Germany. Thankfully, we had Domaine Netofa and Yaccov Oryah Wines to come to the rescue. On top of that, we had another EPIC year for 2016 Herzog Chardonnay, Reserve, Russian River. This year, quite deservedly, it cracked the top 25 wines of the year! The new Chablis is also nice, but the winner in the “very close” section has to be the 2016 Koenig Riesling – Bravo guys!

Some of these wines are available in the USA, some only in Europe, and a few only available in Israel.

Finally, some of these wines are hard to find and they may have different siblings – but they are worth the effort. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

The 2018 kosher wine of the year – we have a TIE!

This one was a NOT a no-brainer to me this year. It was really hard. I wanted to give it to the 2016 Chateau Larcis Jaumat, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru, straight up, but it is already sold out, between me and Gabriel Geller, we sold that wine out in no time. So, instead, we will share the winner with the almost impossible to find, aforementioned Larcis Jaumat, along with another from Europe, the 2015 Cantina Terra di Seta Chianti Classico, which is also QPR superstar as well! Congratulations to Cantina Terra di Seta and Royal Wines, and to Chateau Larcis Jaumat, along with an elevated nod of the chapeau to Menahem Israelievitch for finding and curating this wonderful QPR winery tucked into a corner of Saint-Emilion! Bravo!

2016 Chateau Larcis Jaumat, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru – Score: 92 (Crazy QPR)
This wine starts off open and then closes so tight like an oil drum, this thing is nuts. The wine is made of 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc, a classic right bank wine from Saint-Emilion. The nose on this wine is really bright, ripe, and intense, with rich intensity, mushroom, earth, but so much redolence, the nose is far more open than the mouth, showing rich blackberry, dark plum, and rich vanilla, followed by herb, mint, rosemary, and green notes galore. The mouth on this medium to full-bodied wine is crazy rich, it does at times remind me of Benyo’s Merlots with a fair amount of blackcurrant thrown in, which is never found on Benyo wines, but the mad acid, rich mouthfeel, closed tight fruit structure has me reminded often of a Four Gates wine, with intense notes, they scream because of the acid, that gives way to rich tannin structure that is searing and yet inviting, with rich cranberry, cherry, and crazy earth, that will give way to mushroom and forest floor with time. The finish is long, really long, lingering, and intense, with gripping tannin, acid, tobacco galore, mounds of blackcurrant, vanilla, herb, foliage, and green notes, that give way to a gripping mouthfeel that will crush anything, with tar, menthol, and more earth. OMG, this Benyo in France! Wow!! Drink from 2021 to 2030.

2015 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico – Score: 92
The nose on this wine is ripe, at first, the wine starts off with heat, but that blows off, but it is also well balanced, with lovely earth, mineral, dirt, with dark cherry, coffee, and lovely dark fruit. The mouth on this medium to full-bodied wine is beautiful, complex, well layered, with rich concentration, nice extraction, all balanced and plush, with rich blackberry, currant, lovely mouth draping tannin, with lovely foliage, and some nice earthy and fruit bite. With time, it shows its ripeness, but also intense minerality, saline, graphite galore, and lovely tannin structure. The finish is long, green, and ripe but balanced, with lovely acid, great texture, that gives way to more coffee, graphite, scarping mineral, and light almond bitterness on the long finish. Bravo!! Drink 2019 to 2023.

The 2018 best kosher wine of the year!

This one was really tough. First of all, the one I chose is not available yet for purchase in the USA. Also, in terms of score, it did not beat out the 2016 Chateau Giscours, 2016 Chateau Lascombes, 2016 Chateau Du Tertre, Margaux, 2016 Chateau Montviel, or 2014 Chateau Tour Seran, Medoc (NOT Mevushal), or the 2014 Chateau Cantenac Brown, which I somehow missed from last year’s top wines. In the end – for its sheer awesomeness it beat out a very crowded field. In the end, the winner of the BEST kosher wine of 2018 goes to the 2016 Chateau Malartic, and it deserves the crown – bravo!!

2016 Chateau Malartic Lagraviere, Pessac-Leognan, Grand Cru Classe – Score: 94
The 2016 Malartic-Lagraviere is a blend of 53% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc and 3% Petit Verdot (at least in the non-kosher version). Wow, the nose is really ripe, not what I expect from a Malartic, but still lovely, with chocolate, black fruit, earth, and lovely hints of umami, with sweet oak, earth, and sweet blue fruit. The mouth on this full bodied wine is rich, layered, and concentrated with nice control, expressive, with blackberry, blueberry, and what a change, Malartic with blueberry! Showing more raspberry, earth, and rich fruit, with a truly incredible plushness, that gives way to a rich mouth coating tannin that drapes and lifts the mouth, showing a precision, and an incredible professional touch, with plush fruit, loam, and lovely saline. The finish is long, and plush, with more blue, green, and red fruit, with leather, and power that belies its youth, a wine that will push long into its life, with tannin, licorice, and graphite/mineral that lingers long, Bravo!! Drink from 2025 until 2035. Read the rest of this entry

Tasting of Royal’s 2016 French wines in France

All 16 of the 2016 and 2017 Royal Wines of Bordeuax - sideways view

As I stated recently in my original post about my most recent trip to Israel, the reds of Israel are really not impressive, but thankfully I ended my trip by going to France to meet with Menahem Israelievitch and taste through all of Royal’s new 2016 and 2017 wines from France in Paris.

2016 Royal Europe French wines

Two years ago, I was given the opportunity to taste many of these wines from the barrel at each of the wineries in Bordeaux. Now, the 2015 wines were a bit more akin to the barrel notes when I tasted through the 2015 wines last year in Paris, but the 2015 wines were already in barrel for a year. However, since the trip was in 2016, the 2016 wines were barely finished fermenting and most had yet to even go through malo, but man even then it was easy to tell that the 2016 vintage was going to be something very special.

The 2014 vintage to me, was crazy fun because it is less ripe than the 2015 or 2016 vintages. They are also FAR cheaper. Then you had the 2015 wines which are more expensive and far riper than the 2014 vintage. This 2016 vintage is the best of both worlds, but it comes at a crazy high price. I warned you during the epic post of my visit to Bordeaux with Mr. Israelievitch, that you better start saving your money, sadly nothing has changed about that. The REAL shocker of the 2016 vintage will be the Chateau Malartic wine, get ready to see that at 170 or more a bottle! That will be close to double the 2014 vintage.

In a previous post about the most recent French wines that were arriving on the market – I already spoke about pricing and supply, so there is no need to talk that over again in this post.

Also, the 2015 vintage may have been ripe to many, but the 2016 right bank wines are even riper. That appears in the right bank because of the Merlot that was super ripe in 2016, but other wines with lots of Merlot also show that way, even on the left bank.

The interesting change this year for these wines is that more of them will be coming to the USA in Mevushal format. Will that be an issue? In the past, I have found that the mevushal work of Mr. Israelievitch is top-notch, and really just ages the wine rather than ruining it.

The Mevushal wines from France for the 2016 vintage will be, the 2016 Barons Edmond et Benjamin de Rothschild, Haut-Medoc, 2017 Chateau Mayne Guyon, 2016 Chateau Greysac, 2016 Chateau 2016 Chateau de Parsac, 2016 Les Lauriers, Des Domaines Edmond de Rothschild, along with the two whites wines, the 2017 Bourgogne Les Truffieres, Chardonnay and the 2017 Les Marronniers, Chablis.

All 16 of the 2016 and 2017 Royal Wines of Bordeuax

Now does mevushal impede the long-term viability of aging in regards to the wine? Well, that too is not something that we have scientific proof on. I have tasted a mevushal 1999 Herzog Special Edition and it was aging beautifully! So, would I buy the mevushal versions of the wines I tasted below – absolutely! Would I age them? Yes, I would hold them for slightly fewer years. The only wine listed below that will be mevushal in the USA and that is NOT mevushal in France is the 2016 Chateau Le Crock. I will post my notes on the mevushal version when it is released here in the USA, they are currently selling the 2015 Chateau Le Crock, so that needs to sell out before the 2016 vintage is released.

Other than the mevushal aspect, there are no differences between the European version of the wines and the USA version of the wines. While that sounds obvious, I am just stating it here. The wines will be shipped now and the temperature issues that clearly affected Israel’s wines of old, have not been a factor here.

Tasting in Paris

I landed in Paris, got showered and the such, and then made my way to lunch with Menahem Israelievitch. After lunch, we went to a lovely home to do the tasting. The wines were all laid out in the order for the tasting, and one by one we went through the 29 wines. The only wine missing wines were the 2016 Les Lauriers, Des Domaines Edmond de Rothschild and the 2016 Chateau Greysac.

My many thanks to Menahem Israelievitch for going out of his way to help me to taste all the current French wines from Royal Wines before they were publicly released. The labels on the pictures may not all have a kosher symbol, but that was because they rushed some of the bottles to Mr. Israelievitch before they were properly labeled with supervision symbols attached. My many thanks to Mr. Israelievitch, Royal Europe, and Royal Wines for making this tasting possible in the first place, and secondly, for making the time to taste the wines with me.

The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

2017 Ramon Cardova Albarino, Rias Baixas – Score: 91
Lovely nose of rich mineral, with loads of straw, with which salinity, and lovely peach and dry apricot, with honeysuckle, lemongrass, with green notes galore. Lovely! The mouth on this lovely green and acid-driven wine, showing rich salinity, green olives, with lovely dry quince, green apples, but also with lovely lime and grapefruit, with a bit of sweet fruit of guava and rich acid that comes at you in layers. The finish is long and green, with gooseberry, passion fruit, and lovely round and tart with freshness and orange pith, and incredible acidity lingering long. Drink until 2021.

Interesting note on this wine, there is a thermosensitive logo on the label that shows ONLY when the wine is at the correct temperature, on the bottom right-hand corner of the front white label. This is a lovely wine and one that is worth the effort to enjoy at the correct temp. Cool!

2017 Chateau Lacaussade Saint Martin, Vignes 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 until 2021. Read the rest of this entry

A birthday party long in the makings

Well, this past weekend I had a long-delayed birthday party at home, with friends and great wines. In honor of my birthday, I made the classic Tunisian Friday night dinner, but without all the classic trimmings; Couscous with boulettes.

This was one of my better couscous for a few reasons. First of all, the axiom – more is better, is truly meant to describe how much chicken you should throw into a chicken soup recipe. Second, I threw in a bunch of onions, zucchini, and ground up – oven roasted – mushrooms into the meatball recipe. Sadly, the makoud was lacking, because I refused to douse it with oil and eggs. The age old Tunisian cooking rule holds very true to makoud, if the dish does not look like an oil spill, you have done it all wrong. In this case, the lack of 12 eggs and an easy hand on the oil made for more of a potato mash than a souffle.

With that, the rest was up to me and Benyo, from Four Gates Winery to handle the rest of the wine duties. ER and HK brought apple cobbler dessert, while SR and JR brought some dessert that was hijacked by Rochel for later consumption. Fear not, they both know the drill, some things that are dessert based, never make it to the table, they are essentially Teruma to the goddess of the house. Read the rest of this entry

Three Merlot wines from Israel, two from France, Pacifica Cabernet, and one killer Herzog Napa Cab

2009 Shiloh Merlot, Secret Reserve, Judean HillsI am really behind on my blog, as I have been busy with a new hobby which is taking up all of my time. Anyway, I wanted to highlight the meal we had two weeks ago which was in honor of my nephew and his beux leaving the area to go east. So in honor of them, I wanted to try a bunch of Israeli Merlot wines. Now, when people think of Israel, Merlot is not first on their mind, mostly because many do not appreciate Merlot, which is done incorrectly tastes bland and benign. That blandness and lack of character, was initially its draw, but over time, it was nuked both by the Sideways effect and by its sheer lack of anything fun. The folks in the know, would blank at Merlot from Israel, given the areas hot climate, which is counterproductive to making good Merlot.

The truth is that I have been talking about Merlot from Israel, but Merlot only from the Shomron region, a region that has found a way to harness what Israel has to offer and channel it into lovely and rich Merlot. The Shomron is becoming quite the up and coming wine region, much like the Judean Hills was some ten years ago. Now, Castel, Flam, Tzora, and many other wineries have made the Judean Hills a household name. I think the Shomron will soon follow in its next door neighbors footsteps, and come out from under the shadow of the Jerusalem hills to capture its own claim to fame; namely Merlot!

Merlot, as stated above has many needs, one is climate, two is proper drainage, and three is it needs careful vineyard management to control its vigor, nitrogen levels, and many other intricate issues that make Merlot a finicky grape, though not as maddening as its Sideways replacement Pinot Noir. As a total aside, the Sideways movie to me was far too vulgar and not to my taste, but there is a hidden joke in the movie that many miss. In the movie, the shlubby protagonist, Miles, screams afoul of Merlot and even disses Cabernet Franc, but especially extolls his love for all things Pinot Noir. Why did Miles love Pinot Noir so much, why go to great lengths to get his beloved nectar, well he defined right at the start:

“Um, it’s a hard grape to grow … it’s thin-skinned, temperamental, ripens early … it’s not a survivor like Cabernet, which can just grow anywhere and thrive even when it’s neglected. No, Pinot needs constant care and attention … it can only grow in these really specific, little, tucked- away corners of the world. And only the most patient and nurturing of growers can do it, really. Only somebody who really takes the time to understand Pinot’s potential can then coax it into its fullest expression.”

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Yitzchok Bernstein does it again – a 19 course culinary kosher tour de force

Yitzchok BernsteinA few months ago Heshy Fried, Yitzchok Bernstein’s sous chef and frum-satire blogger, was at the house for a shabbos dinner and he said that Yitzchok Bernstein, was back on the scene. Bernstein is the culinary mastermind behind the epic haute cuisine event that lasted some 27 courses, and which was one of the most often read posts on my blog, in the past year. Bernstein was lurking in NY for a few months – but he returned to Oakland after a short, yet successful, stint at Pomegranate.

The gang unpacking early before the dinner prep 3So, when I heard that Mr. Bernstein was back – we agreed that a dinner was in order. Fried was not sure what the actual cost of a multi-course dinner was, but after a few back and forth discussions with Bernstein we were set. Well, while the dinner was set, the next two hurdles were a bit complicated; finding and arranging with 10 other participants and then locking down a date. Throughout the process, Bernstein was as professional as they come, and responded almost immediately to our correspondences. Getting the final gang together had a few missteps along the way, but while the overall process was a bit long to arrange on my end, the final outcome was an absolute delight, but more on that in a bit.

Surf and Turf Salad- Fried Chicken Skins, Sea Beans, Nasturtium, Pansies, petit onions, root greens, Romaine Puree, Spring Green Pea Gazpacho, Morels, Fiddlehead Ferns, Poached Baby Potatoes, Shaved Chorizo - close upOnce the gang was roughly worked out, we agreed that the date was not going to work until after Passover. So once that was decided the next step was agreeing on a final date – which took a few emails. After that we were set and then came the fun part, deciding the food and wine menu. The dinner does not include wines, which is fine with me as I am picky about my wines, but wow were the dishes impressive! Initially, there was some interest in lamb, but in the end that did not work out, as I am not that in love with lamb. In the end the set of dishes were truly innovative and fascinating and unique – so I am happy we passed on the lamb for the dishes we got instead.

Shortrib Pastrami, Sauerkraut Foam, Deli Rye Gnocchi, Roasted Ramp, Rye CrumbsI laughed so hard throughout the process because initially, the number of courses was set at 12 or so, which was 100% fine. However, throughout the process of setting the menu Mr. Bernstein kept adding courses – it was HILARIOUS, I could not help from laughing whenever I would read the revised menu. It turns out that we were very lucky, Bernstein was trying out some new recipes and we were the beneficiaries of some wicked cool imaginative dishes. To be fair, some worked really well, some were awesome, and some were just 100% off the charts. Read the rest of this entry

Yitzchok Bernstein and Jonathan Hajdu excellent 27 course tour de force

On Sunday night we were blessed to be part of an extremely exclusive 27-course meal, well more like 30 or so – if you count the decadent small dishes after dessert, but who is really counting. The event was put on by the dynamic duo of Chef Yitzchok Bernstein and Brobdingnagian Wine maker Jonathan Hajdu. The event was a fundraiser for Beth Jacob, Oakland’s Orthodox Synagogue – and what an event it was!

When I have tried to explain the event, attempt to verbalize the magnitude of the effort, and the uniqueness of it all, I have so far failed, till now I hope, to transport the listener, or reader, to the mind-blowing state of conscious that we were all leaving within for 6 or so hours – this past Sunday night. The meal was a, 27 or so course, of mind-blowing culinary talent – coming to life in front of us lucky few. Each dish was hand plated with such exacting detail, that not only did each plate fill us gastronomically, but also the visual sumptuousness of each and every plate truly was equally a feast for one’s senses. The funny thing was that the meal started at 24 courses, as I had an early preview of the menu. However, by the time we lived it, it had grown to 27 and could have been 30, if the participants could have kept up with Bernstein. I was more than happy to taste the other two or so courses, but I did not call it a 30 course meal, as they were not formally served to the participants.

The second we entered the home of the host and hostess we knew we were in for a real treat. The house is a lovely sprawling ranch style home, remodeled to as close as possible to the mid-century modernism style of some 60 years ago, while all the while bringing the current century’s modern touches to life in a truly non-obtrusive manner – a real success in my humble opinion. If the home is an extension of the owners, than the simplest way to summarize the hosts is, sleek, modern, highly functional, with an ode to the past and arms open as wide as the glass sliding doors that truly define minimalist architecture and the MCM movement. The openness and warmth that are exuded by the home’s colors and textures truly reflect the host and hostess, and all of us were constantly in awe of their ability to deftly steer the epic culinary adventure to the success that it was. While the event may have stretched a bit longer than some were ready for, as most needed to go to work the next day, the intimate setting and cosmopolitan mix of people truly added to the entire evening.

With the well-deserved forward now handled, it is only fair to throw the light unto the culinary genius of the evening – Chef Yitzchok Bernstein. Mr. Bernstein is mostly self-taught, but has also received formal training in Bread Baking at French Culinary Institute. He also studied pastry and advanced bread baking at SFBI. (san francisco bakers institute), and has been working in and around restaurants, since the age of 14. Food is a truly passionate thing to Mr. Bernstein; you can see his persona expressed clearly in his food and in his open and warm demeanor. Throughout the evening the dishes were harmonious, balanced, tempered, but never losing focus and always packing more than enough bite, texture, and complexity to grab and keep your attention, until magically there was yet another unending course to partake from. Each course built on the past one, adding layers and nuances that were not lost to the foodies that ensconced the close-knit twin table setting.

The other resident genius at the event was Jonathan Hajdu (jonathan@hajduwines.com), the associate wine maker at Covenant Winery, and is also the wine maker for wines from the Brobdingnagian and Besomim wine labels. The Brobdingnagian/Besomim winery is located in Napa CA. Hajdu wines was started in 2007, by owner and winemaker Jonathan Hajdu. Hajdu produces small lot artisan wines, with a focus on Rhone varietals under the Brobdignagian, and Besomim labels, though the newer wines are veering all over to where Hajdu can find the highest quality grapes. The Brobdignagian name is derived from Jonathan Swift’s giants, in Gulliver’s Travels, and attests to the winemakers’ proclivity towards intense and powerfully flavored wines. Wine produced under the Besomim label, is a blend of varietals with a focus on complex aromatics. These limited production wines are available directly from the winery. Read the rest of this entry

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