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A lineup of Kosher Cabernet Sauvignon from around the world

2001 Yarden El Rom, 2008 Yarden El Rom, 2005 Chateau MalarticThis past weekend my friends came over and we enjoyed some lovely Cabernet Sauvignon together, five were mine and two were brought by the guests. When you talk about Cabernet Sauvignon inevitably there are folks who love it and some who hate it. It is the grand-daddy of the noble grapes, it is the wine that has the history and stuffing to last and cellar for many years.

Cabernet will always be the classic and default red grape that most wine drinker will reach for. Why? Because it is well-known and consistent. I state this because if you buy a Cabernet Sauvignon from Hagafen Winery, Herzog Cellars, or many Israeli wineries, you may find ones you love and some you hate, but they are similar in nature. They are either green with classic graphite and green notes, or maybe they are black and red with other classic flavors. Since the start of kosher wines, all the wineries have started with the noble grapes; Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Pinot Noir. Some have done better with them and some have done a so-so job. Hagafen excels with their Cabernet Sauvignon that are sourced from the Napa Valley. Herzog, has been doing a really lovely job with their Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. Israel, was dominated by Yarden in the past, but since 2008, they have lost their way and as I have stated before, this is not by accident – this is on purpose. Personally, I was irate when tasting two of Yarden’s masterpieces – the 2001 and 2008 Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon, El Rom. They were so impressive and of course they were two of the best vintages and Shmita wines as well, but since the 2008 vintage they have purposely turned their great fruit into pure date juice! I am so saddened by their actions, but my only option now is to look elsewhere and so I have with Flam Winery, Adir Winery, Recanati Winery, Castel Winery, Tabor Winery Limited EditionFrench wines, and California wines. The French and Castel are not producing pure Cabernet Sauvignon wines, but that is OK! They are wines which have a majority of Cabernet and are of the ilk of the left bank wines of France – which are classically Cabernet based wines. Just looking at California Wineries, I would be hard pressed to not find everything I am looking for in a Cabernet Sauvignon.

Covenant Winery has been crushing it for the past 11 years when it comes to their epic Cabernet Sauvignon, and do not forget their Lot 70 Cabernet Sauvignon – which started in 2008 and has been getting better and better each year!

Herzog Winery has also been killing it in terms of Cabernet Sauvignon – involving a huge range of options. Starting at their incredibly well priced and QPR Baron Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon from Paso Robles, which has really been showing great potential from 2012 and on. The next price range is the Weinstock Cellar Select Cabernet that is really nice, and one that we had this shabbos. It started off slow, but with time, it filled out and was quite nice. After that there are the new range of Variations that are both very nice and well – thought provoking, which is exactly what Herzog is looking for. After them there is the ever consistent and reliable Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon Special Reserve from Alexander Valley. This wine is rarely off kilter and the 2013 is so on that it is very impressive. From there the prices start to rise and there is a large selection of options. There is the very consistent and impressive Chalk Hill Special Edition Cabernet Sauvignon. Then there is the never miss and beyond consistent Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon starring from the INSANE 2006 Tokalon masterpiece. Since then they have been hitting home run after home run, a truly impressive run given that each and every year – the vineyard is different! The Clone 6 have been hit or miss, but always enjoyable none the less. Finally, there have been the very special and unique Herzog XII line, which started with 2007 barrels aged for 6 years and then with a follow on 2010 vintage.

To be fair, I forgot about the B.R. Cohn wines from 2008, 2011, and 2013 in my last California wine post, but they do make OK wines. Sadly, the price is just too high for the wine quality. Read the rest of this entry

Kosher wine and food madness – New York style

2004 Ella Valley RR, 2007 Carmel Shitaz Kayoumi Single Vineyard, 2007 Ella Valley Cab Vineyard Choice, 2005 Yatir Cabernet Sauvignon, 2003 Malartic LagraviereBack In March I had the opportunity to spend some time in NYC and hang with some friends. It was three days of wine tasting in foodie heaven and I wanted to post about the wines and the food, because some of it was just spectacular! It all started on a Monday night after the very average City Winery event, I made my way to SB and DF’s home and continued the wine tasting there. Sadly, I seemed to have misplaced my notes for two of the wines; namely the 2007 Ella Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Vineyard Choice and the 2004 Ella Valley RR, Vineyard’s Choice. The RR, if I remember correctly was all over the place and on the other side already in puppy heaven. The 2007 VC Cab was rocking, with rich layers and lovely barnyard, but for some reason I do not have the notes, no idea why! Of what I do remember the 2007 Cab VC was very old world in style with barnyard and lovely dirt and mushroom notes, with blackberry and plum, lovely! The 2007 Carmel Kayoumi Shiraz started off OK, but went all over the place quickly and went into blackcurrant madness and lost all balance, sadly. The 2004 Castel C was DOA, not fun at all. In the end, the first night was ruled by the epic 2007 Hagafen Late disgorged Brut and the 2007 Ella Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Vineyard Choice.

After that, it was off to bed, as we had a long day ahead. I woke up pretty much on time the next day, and we were off to see a wine store in the area, where I picked up a few bottles for the next few nights festivities and then it was back to the house to enjoy bubbly and some insane meat along with two wicked red wines; the 2005 Yatir Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2003 Malartic Lagraviere, Pessac-Leognan. Both were insane, but the Malartic is an entirely different world wine, with filthy layers of fruit, tannin, and barnyard – madness!!! Still, the 2005 Yatir Cabernet (their first varietal cab) was really impressive and had no flaws.

The next day I jumped on a bus and made my way to Brooklyn where I hung out with friends of ours, and for dinner I made my way to YC’s house, where a crazy dinner was being setup. By the time I arrived, YC and YB were going mano-a-mano, side by side, with varying types beef tartare, and rib roasts, while YB handled the burgers exclusively. Humorously, looking back at the dinner it really turned out to be an entire night of uncooked fish and beef tartare – really! When I arrived I was famished so we ordered in a LOT of Sushi for the guests who were already arriving, while the two cavemen “prepared” the meat, there really was no cooking going on here! Once we had inhaled the sushi (or most of it) and were accepting of a time-out, I ripped through a few of the white and bubbly wines described below, for note purposes only (they were not that enjoyable) and then we were ready for the serious food, cooked or not! On a total aside, the sushi came from an establishment called Five day sushi! Now, I am not into marketing, seriously, but who the heck came up with that name?? Do you think anyone who looks at that name, would care that fish were created on the fifth day of creation?? NOT ME!! All people looking at that name, for the most part, will think they sell sushi that is five days old, how safe or appetizing do they think that sounds?? With that said, the sushi was great, albeit the horrific name.

The meat evening started with two courses – one made each by YC and YB – of beef tartare, YC’s was more Dijon mustardy and spice, while YB’s had smoked tongue rilletes, oil, and lots of herb – if I remember correctly. From there they went to rib eye two ways, which was essentially raw meat with a  slight sear – LOL!!! Actually, YB brought this sick looking chunk of meat and that went on the girl for about 30 seconds, maybe a drop more! The inside was still moving and blue while the outside was well seared, as I said raw meat night! Next, there were burgers, of which I cannot remember, but again it was well seared raw beef patties, really beef tartare but in a ufo shape! Finally, YC brought out a huge chunk of rib eye meat (AKA roast) and I grabbed the bone, and finally there was actual cooked meat! However, to be honest, by then I was cooked, I was not spitting much and the raw meat was fermenting in my stomach and I was out for the count.

While the food was lovely, and equally beautiful to look at, the true stars of the evening were the wines. I started with a bottle of Rambam Prosecco, which was drinkable, I spat that one! The next was another white wine, a bottle of 2012 Giersberger Riesling, and it was nice enough, clearly the best of the lineup they bring to the US, but a B+ at best. Next we moved to the 2007 Yarden Pinot Noir, and while it is nice, it is nowhere near the epic 2008 PN. The 2007 was a solid B+ wine that is in drink up mode. Next was the 2012 Hajdu Cabernet Franc, which is a lovely wine, but it is starting to show a bit more ripe than I remember last, and while it is not flawed it did not show well that night. That was followed by two wines that are clearly lightning rods for me. I posted before about the two new Lewis Pasco wines, and while they are clearly ripe, some do not think they are over the top. To me, they have power but they are unbalanced and not wines I would stock up on. The 2012 – project #1 is going sweet, so watch out. The Liquidity 2012 is sadly over the top, and when I had it in 2013, from barrel, at sommelier it was beautiful. When I had it in 2014, from bottle, at sommelier – I posted that I thought they were over the top. I wanted to get a bottle here in the USA and get a chance to sit down with them and taste them over a dinner or more, and sadly after doing so, my opinion of them is worse than it was in Israel. Yes, I am in the minority, and I have no issue with that. I find them rich and extracted and unctuous, but also too ripe, unbalanced, and date like. I understand this will not be accepted well by many, but these are my notes, for my tracking, and do with them as you see fit. Read the rest of this entry

OTBN (Open That Bottle Night) 2015 – wine galore and kosher Beef Bourguignon, what a party it was!

Recanati-Special-Reserve-2006This past weekend was the 16th anniversary of OTBN (Open That Bottle Night), and what a party we had. I originally posted that we would get to the nine bottles of wine, well we did but not those nine! Benyo brought over a bottle of the famous 2003 Syrah and a friend brought over a bottle of his own concoction, and so the Ella Valley and Katrzin will have to wait for another week.

Kiddish was made over my friend’s Quail Hill Cabernet Franc, which was super smooth and fruity. After that we had some awesome whole wheat Challah, that my wife makes, and then on to some very nice olive and bean soup. The soup never ceases to amaze me, I love how the kalamata olives dominate the flavor profile, while the beans add the heft and body to the dish, really fun.

Wine wise, things started off with a bang! The 2006 RSR was my last bottle – but this wine has another two to three years left in the tank easily! WOW! What a great wine that is. The layers are rich, dense, almost fleshy with rich mineral and earth – truly extraordinary! The 07 Yatir Shiraz was nice, but it really showed its colors the next day. The Netofa Latour red, was insane, a lovely black and blue wine – so old world in style that it was shocking that it was made in Israel.

At this point we brought out the Beef Bourguignon, which if you follow the official recipe is not very kosher at all 🙂 Now, to be fair, the original video of the recipe did not call for bacon at all, instead she browned the meat in olive oil, in the video above. Still, the book has the bacon and so it has become the “law”. Since, our Jewish law does not allow for either bacon or the butter (no milk and meat), I was stuck with modifying the recipe to my liking. Instead of bacon I used Meal-mart Beef Fry and instead of butter and flour to thicken, I used chicken fat and flour. In the end, it was definitely not the fat free or healthy diet food of the 20th century, but we did serve a lot of wine with it – so if the 60 minutes episode about the French Paradox has any truth, we will all be alive to write about it! Read the rest of this entry

My top 25 kosher wines of 2014

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

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

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

The wine notes follow below:

Wines of Spain

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

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

A shabbos spent at Four Gates with friends

A few weeks ago, I spent Shabbos with some friends, GG and Mendel from Israel and New York respectively, at Benyo’s house, home of the Four Gates Winery, in the hills of Santa Cruz, CA. It was, as always, one of those nights that are hard to forget, but took me time to get down on “paper”. We enjoyed so many great wines and food that I laugh at it now. We brought over the meat and a few bottles, and Benyo took acre of the rest, including accommodations, awesome food, and a non stop supply of crazy wine!

Friday night started off with a blast where we enjoyed many dishes, in classic Benyo style. It consisted of Pisces, followed by salad after salad, after awesome salad, and some crazy meat made by the chef – Mendel.

Much of what occurred happened in a daze, and to be honest the notes are shorter, because my memory of them were shorter. That said, I guess I can sum it up this way – what happened at Benyo’s stays at benyos! So, other than the meats, cholent, awesome food and wine – the rest is all a haze, so here is what I remember best of those wines! I hope u enjoy!

Wine Notes follow below:

Domaine de la Perdrix Cotes du Roussillon ­ – Score: B
The wine is a blend of 50% Grenache Blanc and 50% Macabeu. The wine was oxidized and honeyed with quince and peach and not much else. Interesting for such an old mevushal wine.

2007 Four Gates Chardonnay – ­ Score: A-
The nose on this gold colored wine is rich with smokey notes, bright fruit, and pineapple. The mouth is rich and layered with sweet notes, oriental spices, cedar sweet, white peach, and apple cobbler. The finish is long and spicy with green notes, white flowers, and quince.

1997 Four Gates Chardonnay – ­ Score: A­ and more
The nose is lovely and citrusy, with sweet oak and oriental spice. The mouth is more polished and elegant, with lovely fruit strcuture, almost oily with a very creamy texture, all balanced impeccably with great acid, guava, pineapple, white apples, great sweet fruit and fig. The finish is long with lovely fruit, hints of butterscotch, tart grapefruit, citrus, rich summer fruit, all nicely layered with spice. This was a lovely wine, one of the best 1996/1997 Chardonnay from Benyo that I have ever had. Clearly it is at its peak and drink now – BRAVO! Read the rest of this entry

Yarden El Rom shined along with a Tabor Adama II and a 25 year old sparkling wine

As I stated here, I was going to open a few wines that I was really looking forward to enjoying for too long. The list included a perennial winner, the 2001 El Rom Cabernet Sauvignon and a pair of Yarden wines, including a very hyped wine; the 2007 ROM. In the end, the ROM was OK at best, the 2004 El Rom was super overripe and so sad, as the structure of the wine was so impressive that it felt like a true loss. The dark horse that ran away from the rest of the pack was the 2008 Tabor Adama II, which was a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot.

That said, the most exciting wine we had Friday night was the Four Gates Sparkling wine from some 20+ years ago! The wine bottle “label” had disintegrated, and the beer cap top was mostly rusted off. The awesome thing about it was that the sparkling wine was insanely sparkly! The bubbles were hopping, the fruit was rich, and the acid was insane!

My wine notes follow – looking forward to this week’s wines!

Four Gates Blanc de Blancs Sparkling Wine – Score: A- (A for pure excitement and hedonism)
The wine was some 20+ years old and was rich in acid, bubbles, and pure hedonistic joy. The nose on this light gold colored wine was hopping with rich dried quince, straw, dried grass, green apple, and herb. The mouth on this medium bodied wine hits you in layers of rich small bubble mousse, followed by dried fruits, brioche, and yeast. The finish is long and lively with insane acid, citrus, and more yeast lingering long – BRAVO MY MAN!!!!!

2001 Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon, El Rom – Score: A
What a wine, what a lovely wine this is! The nose starts off a bit funky and with time shows barnyard and some reduction, but blessedly that blows off to show a nose of rich and expressive mineral, spice, black and red fruit, green notes, and lovely leafy tobacco. The mouth on this full bodied wine is rich, layered, expressive, with insane fruit structure, silky rich tannin that linger insanely long, along with rich earthy notes, graphite, and layers of concentrated blackberry, cassis, and currant all coming together into a symphony of fruit, tannin, and mineral. The finish is long and earthy, with rich mineral, spice, oak, and tobacco that lingers long with leather, chocolate, and earth finishing the long rise. BRAVO!!!!

2008 Tabor Adama II – Score: A- (and more)
This is a lovely wine and one worth seeking out! The wine is a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Petite Sirah, 10% Cabernet Franc, and 10% Merlot. The wine is rich and layered but like blends, comes at you in different ways as it opens and shows itself to you in the glass.

The nose on this wine starts with classic Cabernet style notes, graphite, black fruit, and earth to start, with time it opens to show blue fruit and root beer. The mouth on this full bodied wine needs time, a long time, like a few hours to really open and show its true potential. The mouth on this medium to bodied wine is truly rich and layered with lovely and rich tannin that lingers, with extracted fruit and boysenberry, blackberry, plum , and spicy oak that mingle in a way that is truly intoxicating. The finish is long with sweet licorice, great balancing acid, nutmeg, sweet spices, watermelon, and tannin that coats with hints of leather. BRAVO!!!

2004 Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon, El Rom – Score: B+ to A-
When I first opened the bottle it was so sweet and over the top that I thought it was oxidized. However, as the wine opened, it started to come together and show rich structure and layers of fruit that are truly impressive.
The nose on this sweet wine shows rich expression of extracted fruit, blackberry, dried and candied fruit, rich dirt, and graphite. The mouth on this full bodied wine is so over the top that it is humorous, with layers of concentrated sweet fruit, mouth coating and richly integrated tannins, along with sweet cassis, plum, and dark cherry, all wrapped within sweet sandalwood and spice. The finish is long and spicy with richly upholstered leather, chocolate, tobacco, and sweet tannins that ride the long and luxurious finish.

2007 Yarden ROM – Score: B+
This was a very tough call. Cellar Tracker asks if I liked the wine, yes I did, but not for anywhere near the price. The score is the score, irrelevant of the price, but man – this was a hyped wine for no reason, IMO.
The nose on this classic Israeli blend wine, Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah, is lovely in the nose with rich motes of blueberry, black cherry, cassis, graphite, dirt, and crushed herb. The mouth is where things let you down, with nice fruit, but no oomph, not enough acid or graphite or mineral to hold up the show, with good fruit structure, sweet sweet cedar, and mouth coating tannin. The mouth is rich and layered, but not complex which is what is really missing. The finish is long and rich with more sweet and candied fruit, spice, leather, chocolate, and tobacco.

My wonderful blueberry haze Shabbos

This past weekend I was hanging with EL and MT, those same two of Napa wine adventure fame. It was a true insane blast, and the wine intake was so intense that I had to name this post appropriately. The blueberry reference is an ode to the sheer number of wines we had that were seriously showing blue fruit.

When I think of hospitality so many names come to mind including ER, Mrs. L, Shaindy and Chaim, and now I am happy to add EL and MT to the wonderful list of people who think of others above themselves. I came this shabbos to NY to hang with family and go to two wine events. The two wine events sandwiched a Shabbos so I asked EL if he could handle a madman like me for a weekend! He graciously accepted and now the Shabbos is in the history books and may well go down in annals of mankind as one of the craziest Shabbos that I have had the opportunity to enjoy (though my first Benyo Shabbaton is up there too with the Shirah Boys).

The Friday started with me opening the bottle of Tavel, which while deeply aromatic was a slight letdown with a light and almost lifeless mouth. Still, it had the acid to keep up; this was all while we learned some Yoshua before heading to minyan. El lives in a large Jewish community and the number of synagogues within a square mile of his house, rival the number of museums in all of NY City! Still, we were blessedly spared the walks to those hallowed halls. Why? Think August in Las Vegas and add 90% humidity and you get the picture – AKA felt like walking through swap land – without the swamp!

So, where did we go, well that is the funny thing, if there are tons of options for free standing synagogues in this section of New York, there may well be more options of home bound synagogues! Indeed, people have synagogues in their basements, living rooms, and just about any section of their home that their wives can tolerate (more on that in a bit).

Friday night started in the library room of a beautiful home, 5 doors down from EL’s house. Mincha started at 8 PM and we were done with Mincha and Maariv at 8:45 PM. Heck, where I live, we could still be davening Mincha in 45 minutes! We went home, and even walking the length of 5 homes made you feel like you wanted to jump into a shower ASAP! What heat! Anyway, dinner started with a bottle of 2012 Lueria Gewurztraminer. A lovely wine that was cold and bracing, with enough residual sugar in it to make both EL and his wife happy! From there we moved to two Roses that accompanied a plethora of sushi! Awesome idea, really, clean tasting sushi is a great idea on a hot summer day! The sushi was solid as was CL’s SICK challah that was greatly enjoyed with dips and soup. The Tavel was OK, as said above but the Agur rocked it for me and it was mostly drunk by me as well.

After that we moved to the main course, which was roasted chicken and some incredible Rib Roast! EL begged me to taste some before Shabbos and I knew at that point that this chunk of meat was going to slay it on Shabbos! The roast has something for everyone, it was rare inside and medium rare on the edges. It was herbed to perfection and was so juicy that it screamed to be eaten some more – WOW what a real treat!

At this point I must point out that we had already decanted two wines for the dinner, the newly released 2011 Vignobles David Reserve GS wine and the 2012 Hajdu Cabernet Franc (will probably be blended – but a distinct barrel sample for now). It was at this point that the family bailed and left EL and I to slowly enjoy the two bottles/carafes of wine. That was until Mark came over with two more wines in tow. The wines were the famous 2007 Brobdignagian/Brobdingnagian Syrah – a blockbuster wine we have enjoyed twice, and a 1999 Hagafen Syrah! The wine is a richly layered, concentrated beast that has zero desire to calm down or back-off its no holds barred structure that makes one truly stand up and take notice. Some find it too much, but for me it is a wine created by an unbridled mad genius, with eyes wide open – what a wine! When I saw the hagafen Syrah at Mark’s house before Shabbos I thought there was no way that the wine was drinkable. It turns out that the Syrah was Hagafen’s first and a wine that has truly stood the test of time. Read the rest of this entry

Some of the best Kosher Cabernet Sauvignon and delicious Sausage Stew

This past weekend my friends and family shared some lovely Cabernet Sauvignon and some great food. When you talk about Cabernet Sauvignon inevitably there are folks who love it and some who hate it. It is the grand-daddy of the noble grapes, it is the wine that has the history and stuffing to last and cellar for many years.

Cabernet will always be the classic and default red grape that most wine drinker will reach for. Why? Because it is well know and consistent. I state this because if you buy a Cabernet Sauvignon from Hagafen Winery, Herzog Cellars, or many Israeli wineries, you may find ones you love and some you hate, but they are similar in nature. They are either green with classic graphite and green notes, or maybe they are black and red with other classic flavors, but they are not going to be massive failures or unfortunate wines. Since the start of kosher wines, all the wineries have started with the noble grapes; Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Pinot Noir. Some have done better with them and some have done a so-so job. Hagafen excels with their Cabernet Sauvignon that are sourced from the Napa Valley. Herzog, has been doing a really lovely job with their Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. Israel, of course has been doing a lovely job with their Cabernet Sauvignon, especially by Yarden Winery, Bravdo Winery, Recanati Winery, Castel Winery, and others. However, recently two wineries have been selling Cabernet Sauvignon as well. Four Gates Winery first released a 2005 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, a few years ago and it sold out quickly. Since then Four Gates has once again released a Cabernet Sauvignon, but this time from the Betchart Vineyard on Monte Bello Ridge in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Another and even more Cabernet focused winery – is Covenant Winery, which makes killer Napa Cabernet. They started with the 2003 vintage and has been releasing Cabernet in two or three different formats since then.

The saying, all good wine starts in the vineyard is true, but the real saying should be, the price of wines starts in the vineyard! If you own the vines like say, Hagafen or many of the wineries in Israel, than you have a chance to control the quality and the price of the wines. However, if you buy the grapes from growers, than you are at the mercy of their cost structure and what the market can bear. Sure, many wineries get into long-term contracts that assure them consistent pricing and hopefully, some control of how the vines are managed. However, as the contracts come to a close, the pricing will increase, which places pressure on the winery’s ability to keep its margin’s alive. Read the rest of this entry

Winemakers Dinner with Jeff Morgan, Benyamin Cantz, and John Herzog, and some nice wines

This past week we had the extreme honor of having the company of Jeff Morgan, from Covenant Winery, Benyamin Cantz from Four Gates Winery, and John Herzog, the west coast manager for Royal Wines. The evening was filled with lively conversation around and about food and wine. The varied points of conversation moved about like a weather vane in a hurricane, all of it thoroughly enjoyable and informational, to say the least.

We started the meal off with Kiddush on a glass of 2007 Dalton Viognier Reserve, Wild Yeast. It was as good as I remembered it, from the last time I tasted it at the 2010 Gotham Wine Extravaganza. It was rich and smooth with lovely acidity and bright summer fruits that were wrapped in a bee’s nest of honey, caramel, all gathered from flowers that abound in the area (metaphorically of course). That was followed by some Challah that the Rabbis’ wife made, which was nice, but I did miss my wife’s whole wheat Challah, no slight of course intended.

The courses started with some smoked wild salmon and some smoked farmed salmon, along with black olives, and hummus. The Dalton Viognier easily stood up to the hummus and smoked salmon and was quickly laid to waste (again metaphorically).

The next course was my sweet and sour brisket, brown Basmati rice, and a fresh green salad. To pair with the meat, I opened two bottles, and I wish I had opened them both earlier. The first was the 2001 Capcanes Peeraj Ha’bib, which I had opened a few hours before, and was thoroughly enjoyable, but was time to drink up, and I think was helped by opening it, to allow it to hit its potential. The second wine I opened was the 2001 Yarden El Rom, which is lovely, but needs time to air out and open. We quickly made waste of these as well, but I wish I had opened the El Rom earlier, to allow it to show its best characteristics. Finally with desert we enjoyed some Tzuba Port that I brought back from Israel.

Jeff of course was super generous and brought over some of his trademark wines, as did Benyamin, but we never got a chance to enjoy them, I hope we can rectify that problem soon!

Again, I want to thank all our guests for making the evening as memorable as it could be, and I hope we get another chance to do it all over again, in the not too distant future. The wine notes are below:

2001 Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon El Rom – Score: A
The notes on this wine have not changed drastically, the tannin is still kicking, the mouth equally as rich, and the heat has dissipated. This is one of the best wines I have tasted from Israel. The wine is still a bit closed, so an hour or two of air time would be of great help! 

The nose on this brilliant and deep garnet to black colored wine is filled with heavy layers of blackberry, cassis, raspberry, tobacco, and oak. The mouth on this wine was also a bit slow out of the bottle, but that changed quickly enough. The mouth was complex and multi layered. This is no simple wine, it hits you in waves. The mouth on this full bodied wine is still tannic though the tannins are breaking down and adding even more opulence to this rich and mouth coating wine filled with blackberry, cassis, rich sweet oak. eucalyptus, and almost jam like – but not in a chewy annoying way – more in a rich and cultured manner. The mid palate follows off the first set of layers and is where the structure comes in. The structure is built on tannin, acidity, and lush layers of vegetal flavors. The finish is crazy long and is filled with blackberry, cassis, chocolate, tobacco, rich dirt, slight vegetal notes, and sweet wood. This is really quite a fine wine and one that is not yet peaked at all, though quite enjoyable now as well.

2001 Celler de Capçanes Peraj Ha’abib, Flor de Primavera,Montsant  – Score: A-
Drink up – this wine is lovely but is really at its peak or a drop past it!! The score from previous tasting is a bit lower then the first score we gave this wine, and the same as my second tasting, but not because of tannins. The notes are very much in line with my previous tasting. I recommend opening the bottle 1 hour ahead of time, and NO more than that and enjoying it then. This bottle will not last four hours after opening, so drink now and enjoy.

The nose on this deep black colored wine, with a bit of a brown halo, is popping with blackberry, plum, cassis, sweet cedar, herbs, raspberry, licorice, and tobacco. The mouth on this full bodied and mouth coating wine is now smooth and layered with blackberry, plum, black currant, and cassis. The mid palate is packed with lovely tannins, bright acidity, and concentrated black fruit that comes at you in layers. The finish is super long, spicy, and concentrated with cloves, herbs, blackberry, plum, raspberry, chocolate, tobacco, and sweet cedar. The wine lingers long with cedar, plum, tobacco, rich vanilla, and chocolate.

2007 Dalton Viognier, Reserve – Score: A-
The nose on this light gold orange haloed colored wine is expressive with caramel, honeysuckle, butterscotch, toasty oak, flora, melon, lemon, peach, and apricot, with the honey, toast, lemon, and butterscotch showing itself more expressively over time. The mouth on this rich and full bodied wine is oily, layered, and textured with melon, peach, apricot, citrus, and honeysuckle. The mid palate is still rich and balanced with acid, butterscotch, caramel, oak, and spice. The finish is super long and rich with butterscotch, rich honey, caramel, summer fruit, and melon.

Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon Special Edition, Barkan Cabernet Sauvignon Superieur, Covenant Cabernet Sauvignon, and Yarden El-Rom Cabernet Sauvignon

I have been saving up my Cabernets for a special night with friends.  This past weekend I decided that it was time to open my Cabernets.  So we started the meal with a roasted butternut squash and onion soup.  I made it up myself and I am quite happy with it – though I am constantly tweaking it.  The recipe is quite simple really.  Roast a pair of butternut squash along with some red onions in an oven.  Then sauté onions and carrots in a Dutch oven.  Once they are soft, add in Cinnamon, Cayenne pepper, cumin, garlic, and all spice.  Then throw in the roasted vegetables and puree’ the whole mess.  Cook the soup for 30 or more minutes and then throw in a can of chickpeas for 10 minutes and bingo, you have soup!  We followed the soup up with my Sweet and Sour Brisket, white rice, Roasted Green Bean Salad (From Molie Katzen’s Classic Cooking Cookbook), and a nice sauté of onions, mushrooms, and sweet potatoes.  The soup and the later three worked out great for the vegetarians, while the brisket was just fine for us carnivores.

The evening started with 2 new wines from the Four Gates Winery that were barrel samples and as such I am holding judgment until they are officially released.  Parenthetically, they look to be real winners and ones that may be some of the more oaked Four Gates Wines I have tested yet.  But again, we must wait till they are released.  They were paired with the Roasted Butternut Squash soup – which was a hit and one that I am always pleasantly surprised about.  I had forgotten about it and my wife was the one who suggested it for this evening – a nice choice.

Following the soup and Four Gates Wines, we started the procession of Cabernets.  They are listed below in drinking order and paired nicely with the brisket.  The only issue I could say is that this brisket is sweet and sour, and as such, it takes a certain wine to cut through the noise.  Three of the four Cabernets had no problem, but keep that in mind when pairing a sweet and sour dish with a wine.  In hindsight, I would not have served my brisket, but something like a Burgundy Beef (Beef Bourguignon) or a Roast instead.  That said the wines were enjoyed by all, but the majority of the table liked the wines in this order: Covenant, Yarden, Herzog, Barkan.  The Barkan and Herzog had a harder time matching up against the brisket, with the Barkan being the weakest.

The wine notes follow below:

Baron Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Edition, Chalk Hill 2000 – Score: B+
Beware this note is valid ONLY for the first 30 minutes or so after the bottle is opened. Initially the cloudy and brooding garnet colored with an orange halo wine has a nose of chocolate, tobacco, blackberry, and oak. Wild and beautiful. The mouth of this palate coating full bodied wine carries the blackberry, and has cassis. The mid palate is acidic with lovely integrated tannins. The finish is long with oak, acid, more integrated tannins and chocolate. The bad news is that after 30 or 40 minutes the wine loses the chocolate, coffee, blackberry, and turns into a full bodied wine with almost no character – which is a shame. Drink this now and drink as soon as the bottle is opened.

Barkan Cabernet Sauvignon Superieur 2003 – Score: A-
The nose on this blue to purple garnet colored wine was hot initially, but blew off with air. There were aromas of tobacco, black cherry, and blackberry. The mouth of this full bodied wine followed the nose with blackberry, black cherry and mint. The wine is far from smooth and the tannins have still yet to balance nicely into the wine. The mid palate was chock full of tannin and acidity. The finish was medium long with chocolate and oak. Not a really complex wine, though large enough to satisfy many a drinker.

Covenant Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 – Score: A
I have had this wine a few times now and in different settings. Once was a few years ago, soon after release – big mistake. Once was a year ago and with a ton of air time. This time we also gave it air. Well, the results were all over the place. The initial time a few years ago, was way too early. Far too tannic, no life, almost bland. Last year was nice, but still pretty dormant. Finally, this past time, I could see what made Robert Parker and other stand up and take notice.

The nose on this garnet red wine is crazy loaded with cassis, raspberry, and tobacco. The mouth of this full bodied and coating/velvety wine has intense layers of cassis, blackberry and a slight hint of vegetal flavors. The mid palate is where this wine takes off – it is still acidic in nature, which gives it structure, and a fair bit of tannin as well. From there the oak overtakes the palate in a impressive, while not overpowering manner, and flows into a long and complicated finish of fig, tobacco and chocolate. Quite a nice showing and this gives me confidence to wait another year to open my next bottle of this vintage.

Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon El Rom 2001 – Score: A
This is one of the best wines I have tasted from Israel. The nose on this brilliant and deep garnet to black colored wine was a bit hot and simple out of the chute. However, as time progressed the nose turned to heavy layers of blackberry, cassis, tobacco, and oak. The mouth on this wine was also a bit slow out of the bottle, but that changed within an hour. The mouth was complex and multi layered. This is no simple wine, it hits you in waves. The mouth on this full bodied wine is rich and coating with blackberry, eucalyptus, and almost jam like – but not in a chewy annoying way – more in a rich and cultured manner. The mid palate follows off the first set of layers and is where the structure comes in. The structure is built on tannin, acidity, and lush layers of vegetal flavors. The finish is crazy long and is filled with chocolate, tobacco, and sweet wood. This is really quite a fine wine and one that is not yet peaked at all, though quite enjoyable now as well.

Château Le Crock 2002 – Score: B+
The nose on this dark garnet colored wine starts slow. Initially, it is hot with black cherry, blackberry, and oak. As time progresses the nose wakes up and the heat blows off. The nose then changes to a strong aroma of blackberry, chocolate, and coffee – very nice. The mouth is full bodied and very velvety – a truly full bodied and mouth coating experience. The blackberry carries over to the mouth along with some red fruit. The mid palate is still tannic with no heat and a nice spice. The finish is the real flaw – it is not so long but carries the chocolate and leather like qualities – albeit a short distance.

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