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2013 Kosher Food and Wine Experience (KFWE) lived up to all its billing

For years I have always sported a purple colored beaming grin when I finish my tasting at the IFWF (International Food and Wine Festival) in LA, which hid my grumbling stomach’s discontent. Like I have documented for years, I never get to eat at the events, even as the entire food court mocks me, attempting to pull me into their warm, delicious, and very present embrace, with their wafting and intoxicating aromas. Still, I stand strong and I taste through the night until my teeth are purple and my stomach is close to rioting on the lack of food. Truth be told, I am not that good at taking notes when eating – the flavors of the food cover up and belie the flavors and aromas of the glass that beckons me closer with its “come hither” look and aromas. So every year, after the event I go to dinner at Jeff’s Sausage (down the street from the new location of the IFWF). Which is sheer madness of course, here I have half the Pavilion at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza, filled with food from one of the best kosher restaurants in the world – Tierra Sur Restaurant, and I pass on that for the spicy and homely fare of Jeff’s Sausage. In no way is this a slight to the joy of Jeff Rohatiner’s cookery and food. Rather, it has been my conscious tradeoff, throughout my many year experience at IFWF to drink through as much of the world-class wine I can before my taste-buds shutdown, rather than give them to the food court, no matter how wonderful it is.

This year was a massive shift for me, gone was the purple grin and my mutinous stomach, as I visited and added the New York KFWE to my travel dates. To say the KFWE was different than the IFWF would be an extreme understatement, the IFWF has close to 1000 people at the show, while the KFWE has closer to 2000 people. Further the event hall at Pier 60 is some 2 to 3 times larger than the Pavilion tent at the Hyatt Regency. Also, there were many options for lunch and dinner from the myriad of NY restaurants that all share half the hall, all clamoring to share their wonderful fare with great fanfare. The Pier 60 overlooks the Marina and Harbor and many folks were outside braving the cold to grab a smoke, but at least they had some comfort of looking at the marina and its waterfront.

To really appreciate the event you had to come to it with a game plan, and there were many guests who had a few of their own. The event started at Noon for those in the trade, a new thing that the KFWE started last year and something that the IFWF has been doing from the start (though initially with a smaller trade time). The trade event was crowded but there could not have been more than a thousand folks there, so access to wine was not a problem in any way. The event hall can easily handle 1000 people, it is a bit more complicated when the number swells to two thousand people, but still there was no pushing or shoving going on even at the end of the public tasting, when the number of guests was at its maximum. But I digress; the trade tasting allowed me to focus solely on wine and the winemakers, which was great. Read the rest of this entry

2012 Herzog International Wine Festival – part two of wine notes

As stated in the previous posting on this lovely event, there were many wines to taste and there was no way I could post all the wine notes in a single posting. Here is my follow-up posting on the wines tasted at the event, including the wines that I loved and did not love.

The wine notes are listed in the order that I tasted them:

2010 Domaine Netofa – White – Score: B++
The nose on this light gold colored wine shows clean and lovely nose of green apple, peach, grapefruit, kiwi, light quince, and rich/nice loamy dirt and mineral. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is rich and balanced with nice minerality, along with nice bright fruit that mingles well in the mouth. The finish is long and spicy with nice quince, tart green apple, grapefruit, and green tea.

2010 Binyamina Chardonnay, Reserve, Unoaked – Score: B
This wine did not show nearly as well as its 2009 sibling, the wine was flat without much to grab your attention. The nose on this straw colored wine has apple, lemon, nice mineral, bright acid, and melon. The mouth is somewhat plush and the finish has citrus to round out the wine.

2010 Binyamina Chardonnay, Reserve – Score: B+
This wine did not show nearly as well as its 2009 sibling, though not as bad as its unoaked twin. The nose on this dark straw colored wine has light oak, brioche, lemon, nice spice, light creme, and honey. The mouth is round with spice, summer fruit, and oak influence.

2011 Tulip White Tulip – Score: B++
This wine is a blend of 70% Gewurztraminer and 30% Sauvignon Blanc with the sweet and floral notes of the Gewurztraminer showing nicely with honey and guava, while the green apple and bright lemon notes from the Sauvignon Blanc blend together in a unique manner. The nose on this straw colored wine hits you with mineral, light honey, bright lemon, green apple, and guava. The mouth is nice and honeyed with light petrol, and citrus. The finish is long with both sweet lemon creme and bright lemon at the same time, along with fig, and tart notes. This is a great wine that would go well with fish or sushi.

Read the rest of this entry

Kosher wine tasting at the Cask in LA featuring Celler de Capcanes and Shiloh Winery Wines

This past week my friend and I drove down to Los Angeles, CA to taste kosher wines at the 2012 Herzog International Food and Wine Festival (IFWF). The night before the IFWF we called The Cask, a new wine store on Pico, in Los Angeles, and they said they were having a wine tasting. I guess in my life, you can never taste too much wine! Though to get to the Cask, I had to drive for 1 hour to go 4 miles! My goodness, LA is really a nasty place to drive around during rush hour!

The Cask is not the first wine store in LA, but it is the first kosher-only wine store in Los Angeles, catering to the Jewish crowd that geographically surrounds it from all sides. There have been kosher wine stores before in LA, but a store that sells only kosher wine does take serious courage in this economy.

The Cask, the brain child of Michael Bernstein and Sivan Vardi (Sivan has since moved on), opened quietly, and just in time for Passover 2011. It had its red carpet grand opening in June 2011, with a real red carpet for people to show off their love for wine and haute couture. Interestingly, while neither partner has been part of the retail wine business before, the event I was at was well attended and went off without any hitch, from what I could see.

The front of the store, looks like any other wine store you may find yourself in on an early Friday afternoon looking for some wine to go with you cholent and roast chicken. However, the layout is still quite nice and the prices are competitive, from the quick check that I did Thursday night. However, the website is the weakest link. It is missing the social touch that is sorely needed to be competitive in this market, something that Sivan seemed to be doing before she left in September of last year. The prices are not on the site and the daily deals still show a wine from last September.

Clearly, the Cask is not trying to copy or do battle with some dude in his basement who cobbles up a kosher online wine store. Rather the Cask is all about the local touch of a high-end store where you taste and experience the wine with winemakers or wine professionals. Sure, maybe LA doesn’t need another place to go and buy kosher wine, though the Cask fills that admirably. What LA craves is the ability to walk into an establishment that has 200 or more wines and not be bewildered by the selection. The hope of the store is to educate the kosher drinking public about the hundreds of options available, and let them decide which wines best suit their palate or cuisine. 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.

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