My top 30 kosher wines of 2019 including wine of the year, Winery 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.
We are returning with the “wine of the year”, and “best wine of the year” while adding in a new category called “Winery of the Year”, and another new category, the best White 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. The wines of the year are a type of wine that is severely unappreciated, though ones that have had a crazy renaissance, over the past two years. The Best Wine of the year goes to a wine well worthy of the title, especially with its 2016 vintage.
This past year, I think I am pretty sure about my statement. In the past, I had not yet tasted the pape Clement or other such wines. However, over the past year, those have been covered, and they were a serious letdown. As stated in the article, I truly believe the entire kosher production of the Megrez wines, following the EPIC 2014 vintage of the Pape Clement and others, to be below quality and seriously overpriced and without value in every category, which is a true shame. The 2015 reds are all poor quality and the whites are not much better, in 2015 and 2016. The 2016 Pape Clement, while better, is a total ripoff for what it is.
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, it was, by far, the worst kosher Rose vintage. Thankfully, the task of culling the bounty of great wines to come to these top wines was really more a task of removing then adding. I may have stated the obvious in my last post, about the state of kosher wine in general, and not all of it was very good. Still, as I stated, we are blessed with more QPR wines and more top wines, while the core pool of wines, which are horribly poor, continue to grow larger and larger.
The supreme bounty comes from the fact that Royal released the 2017 French 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’s Orange and white Wines to come to the rescue. Throw in Vitkin’s good work, and more great work by Royal Europe, including the new Gazin Blanc, and others, and you have quite a crop of fun white wines!
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 2019 kosher wines of the year – we have a four-way TIE all from Yarden!
Yes! You have read it correctly, the wines of the year come from Golan Heights Winery (AKA Yarden Winery), the 4th largest date juice producer in the entire world! The top date juice honor belongs to Barkan Winery, but I digress.
So, why is Yarden here, because albeit’s deep desire to throw away years of work creating very nice wines, at a reasonable price, with its wines from the early 2000s and before, it still makes the best kosher sparkling wines, and it is time that it receives its due.
As I stated in my year in review, the kosher wine public has finally awoken to the joy of sparkling wine! Last week I told a friend I popped a sparkler for Shabbat lunch and he replied in a sarcastic tone, “Oh only a sparkler”, like that was a crazy thing to do. I replied that the Gamla (AKA Gilgal) Brut costs less than most white wines do! Why not pop one with lunch on Shabbat??? Others tell me, yes there is more a public appreciation for Sparkling wines, but it is a different wine category. I do not agree! Sure, sparkling wine has bubbles, so yeah, it is different. However, that is EXACTLY what is wrong here, Sparkling wine is just white or rose wine with bubbles. Who cares? When it is well made, it is a wine like any other wine.
A couple days ago, Josh Rynderman, “The California Kid“, and Chana, “The Joburg Girl”, came by and we tasted this year’s new wines. As, I stated in last year’s post, doing this dual-hemisphere winemaking is a real drag on life. Besides the crazy flying, you never really feel at home, where is home? I could never find myself living that kind of life, but Josh and Chana both find joy in this life and wine – one underpinned by the art of winemaking and the passion that drives it.
2019 vintage in Northern California
This vintage Josh tried some brand new varietals for him and honestly, a new varietal for the kosher wine world, from what I know anyway. There is the 2019 Falanghina, which to me is the only kosher wine from that varietal. It is a crazy acid bomb and two days later it is still an acid bomb, though the mouth rounds out well underneath that bed of acidity.
Besides that, the Viognier has returned, but it is an oaked version this time. I am crazy for white wines, and Viognier has been a passion, but the oaked ones, while nice in their oaky peach perfume, lacked what Josh got out of last year’s oak-free Viognier. Who knows, maybe this will come around, but for me, while this wine is absolutely solid, it is a slight step back from last year’s yumminess.
Finally, there are two new oaked wines as well. The blend called The Joburg Girl, which is a nod to Chana, and it is a really fun wine. The oak does not take over and the acidity really shines. The final one is the Pinot Gris, which was macerated for a few days. Now, this is not an Orange wine, though it does show some of the nuttiness and sherry-like notes, far in the background, that you find in the longer macerated wines, like Yaacov Oryah’s masterpieces. For those that fear that kind of wine, I stress, the note is far in the background, and I pick it up having cut my teeth now, on a few years of enjoying Oryahs wines. It is perfectly balanced and one that you will truly enjoy.
If you look at the image below you can see the impact of oak and extended maceration on the wines. The lightest color belongs to the Falanghina, which was unoaked and had little to no maceration. The next one, the Viognier in 2019 had oak aging, while the next two, in degrees, had both oak aging and extended maceration, on account of the Pinot Gris is a large part of The Joburg Girl. It is truly fascinating to see the color progression on such young wines. Read the rest of this entry