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My top kosher 25 wines of 2016

wall of wineWell, I have posted my year in review, and now I wanted to get to my top wines for 2016. Please beware that I know I missed many wines and that this list does not include wines that I have tasted that are not available on the open market.

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 an A- to A 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 ebst wines I tasted this year – they are at the bottom.

On an aside, there continues to be a whole mess of madness around wines notes and scores, even the Jewish Week weighed in on the matter. So, let me explain this really simply – go look at some of my recent blog posts – they talk about some nice enough wines, but wines I would not specifically buy. They have all the nice words and such, which were all true and to the point. But without the final value score, I can tell you a Cabernet is full bodied with good fruit and spice – and you may say cool I want that – but then I would say well, yeah but it was not complex or layered. You could try to reason that out of the words I wrote, because the words complex and layered are missing. However, the simple fact that it was scored a B+ or whatever, would have told you that it is not always a wine worth going after (unless it is the Terrenal or such where it gets a QPR moniker).

My point being that wine notes – without a proper context (AKA a real score) – is like looking at a wedding hall through a slit in the window. Sure you can “see” the hall, but are you really sure you want to get married there? I never scored wines to tell people to listen to my score. I score wines to set the context and to always read the notes to see if that sort of wine works for you!

I posted this about my scores – and what they mean, so I hope these are useful to you. OK, enough of the darn score rant for the day, back to the matters at hand, being wines of the year. The list is long – get over it. It is a list of wines that I would buy, have bought, and will buy again – simple enough I hope. I hope you enjoy!

2014 Elvi Wines EL 26 – Score: A- to A
This wine is a blend of 45% Carignan, 35% Grenache, and 20% Syrah. This wine is showing far more accessible than previous vintages. The 2014 vintage in Spain makes fro wines that are easily approachable now and yet has the power to last a long time. The nose on this wine is fruit forward with dark candied raspberry, blackberry, and spiced boysenberry, with root beer and earth, showing spice, anise, and cranberry. The mouth is beautiful and controlled, with great mouth coating tannin, sheer elegance, with great sweet and focused fruit, lovely extraction, showing ripe and tart strawberry, raspberry, and boysenberry all mixed together into a compote, with black fruit and earth. The finish is ridiculous, some of the best of the evening, with sweet fruit and ripe structure, yet balanced and focused, with coffee, leather, and sweet spices, nutmeg, and mineral galore, with scraping graphite, BRAVO!!

2014 Capcanes Peraj Habib – Score A- to A
This wine is a blend of 45% Grenache, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 20% Carignan. This wine is showing far more accessible than previous vintages. The 2014 vintage in Spain makes fro wines that are easily approachable now and yet has the power to last a long time. The nose on this wine shows nicely, with chocolate and oak, along with crazy red fruit, roasted animal, toast, graphite, and lovely smoke, with floral notes galore. What a lovely wine, full bodied with great extraction, ripping acid and great crazy tannin that gives way to blueberry, blackberry, lovely cherry, and insane fruit focus that is backed by intense graphite, and mineral, scraping mineral, with mouth drying tannin all coming together into a far more accessible wine than any year before. The wine is really young but accessible, with insane fruit and mineral all coming together. The finish is long and epic, with leather, and rich extraction lingering with coffee and sweet spices coming together beautifully. Bravo!

2013 Covenant Cabernet Sauvignon, Solomon lot 70 – Score: A- to A
Really lovely but pushed nose, with ripe black fruit, tar galore, with garrigue, earth, and rich blackberry. The mouth on this full bodied wine is rich and extracted, showing an impressive attack with rich focus of blueberry, intense gripping tannin, spicy oak, sweet dill galore, with massive almost tactile mouth showing black fruit focus, with impressive inky structure that gives way to black and blue fruit. The finish is long and spicy, with green notes, foliage, good dirt, all wrapped with dark chocolate, leather, tobacco heaven, more green notes, and rich Asian spices.

2014 Elvi Clos Mesorah – Score: A- to A
This wines a blend of 50% Grenache, 35% Carignan from vines that are 105 years old, and 15% Syrah. Wow what a California Syrah nose, with intense root beer, watermelon, crazy how this smells like Shirah Syrah, with blueberry, and boysenberry, and spiced plum punch. The mouth on this full bodied wine wow, the mouth is full bodied, extracted, and crazy rich, with layers of extraction and concentrated fruit, showing searing tannin, ripping acid, that gives way to black and blue fruit, blackberry, plum, with crazy chocolate and coffee coming together to show mouth drying tannin, with earth, spice, cloves, black pepper, and spicy, with heady spice and blue fruit. The finish is long and spicy, with sweet spice and fruit that gives way to chocolate, roasted meat, and graphite. Really impressive wine bravo!

2010 ELvi Wines Rioja Reserva – Score: A- to A
Wow what a glass of umami, pure hedonism, bravo! The nose on this wine is pure joy, with root beer, blueberry, roasted meat, black pepper, mushroom, dirt, smoke, and toast. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is far more accessible than the 09, with sweet fruit, earth, dirt, sweet blue fruit, crazy candied and juicy blue fruit, that gives way to cherry, candied and spiced raspberry, with mouth coating and drying tannin, rich juicy and concentrated fruit, with insane focus and attack. The finish is long and juicy, with sweet fruit, nutmeg, sweet baking spices, milk chocolate, smoke, and crazy spices, anise and licorice. Bravo!

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Four Gates Winery – the newest wines for 2017

In case you have all been sleeping under a rock for the past 10 years – you all know my deep love for all things Four Gates. Last year was a great year for Four Gates Wine, and this year is no different. Once again, I have been asked about prices, and I am seriously not sure why this is being directed towards me. Sure, I am his friend, but prices are not my decision. Four Gates makes a tiny amount of wine and it is his business what he charges for them.

With that business out-of-the-way, let’s get to the wines for this years release. This year there is a new varietal, a Petite Sirah and there is a return of a Zinfandel, and there is a re-release of the 2013 Syrah and the 2013 Chardonnay. The Syrah, Petite Sirah, and Zinfandel, are not his grapes of course, as Four Gates vineyards is made up of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc.

The Cabernet Franc from this year’s release, also a 2013, comes from his aforementioned vines. It is a vastly different wine than the 2013 Cabernet Franc that he released last year, that was made from grapes sourced from the Monte Bello Ridge area. The Monte Bello Ridge CF was pure mineral and less fruit. This 2013 Cabernet Franc is a return of the classic Four Gates Cabernet Franc, rich in its floral and fruit notes.

There are two 2013 Merlot, and sadly I only have notes on the MSC, but from what I remember the non – MSC is lovely. The notes follow below, in the order they appear on his website:

2013 Four Gates Merlot, M.S.C – Score: A- to A
I really love this wine, it shows really old style notes, showing mushroom, earth, with bright red and black fruit mingling into pure hedonism. The mouth on this beautiful and elegant wine is layered and concentrated with ripe blackberry, plum, and rich earth, mushroom, and forest floor, with green notes, and old world structure and mineral, with new world fruit, all wrapped in mouth draping tannin and green notes. The finish is long and green, with earth, menthol, coffee grinds, and roasted herb.

2013 Four Gates Cabernet Franc – Score: A- to A
It is back!! The Franc is classic, with lovely floral and feminine notes, showing rose, floral notes, with green notes, earth, raspberry, and red fruit. The mouth on this medium to full-bodied wine is lovely, old world, and expressive, with ripping acid, wrapped in lovely mouth coating tannin, showing red fruit, with black currant, rich earth, lovely garrigue, earth, and green foliage abounds, all with epic focus and bright fruit. The finish is long and green with spice, mint, lovely saline, graphite, mineral galore, with coffee notes and roasted herb. BRAVO!

2013 Four Gates Syrah – Score: A-
In the past year, little has changed in this wine. One word does correctly define this wine – FILTHY!!! The wine opens slowly – but once it does, the wine opens to a crazy redolence of blue fruit, followed by squid ink, licorice, sweet oak, intense black fruit, mushroom, and wondrous spice. The mouth on this full-bodied wine is layered and extracted to the max with intense black and blue fruit, blueberry, blackberry, blackcurrant, followed by lovely barnyard, crazy earth, mineral, graphite, rich extraction, dense concentration of fruit and mineral, and great acid. The finish is long and spicy, with cinnamon, all spice, root beer, and hints of asian spice, and roasted animal, and miso! BRAVO!

2014 Four Gates Zinfandel – Score: A-
This is a fun wine, a lovely classic California Zin, with blue notes galore, raspberry, currants, followed by bright fruit, and earth. The mouth on this full-bodied is really fun, full throttle California, showing lovely acid, zesty fruity juicy wine, with fun blueberry, blackberry, and zesty fruit, wrapped in a nice cloak of tannin and zesty spice. The finish is long and spicy with cloves, cracked black pepper, and nice spice. Nice!

2015 Four Gates Pinot Noir – Score: A-
This wine reminds me of the Cali Pinot Noirs to start, rather than the older world style of Benyo’s wines, to start. The nose on this wine is ripe and sweet, with sweet cherry notes, raspberry coulis, and baking spices. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is ripe and round, with good fruit structure, nice earth, dirt, and good sweet spices, that are wrapped in lovely searing tannins to start, but give way eventually to mouth coating tannins that integrate slowly. The finish is long and both tart and spicy, with great tobacco, earth, dill, and menthol that lift the ripe fruit and give it elegance and complexity.

2014 Four Gates Petite Sirah – Score: A-
The nose on this wine is dark and brooding, with hints of blue notes, followed by blackberry, plum, earth, and good mineral focus, with time the nose is redolent with blue notes, black fruit, and root beer. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is fun, it is slightly rustic in style to start, but that passes and turns more elegant, with mouth drying and coating tannin, giving way to a lovely inky structure, that is backed by lovely blueberry, boysenberry jam, balanced well with mineral and tobacco, with dark chocolate, and luscious tart and juicy strawberry, all wrapped in sweet oak. The finish is long and tart, with good sweet fruit focus, nice mineral, graphite, great tart fruit structure linger long, with tart boysenberry sorbet, and bright fruit lingering long. Nice!!

2013 Four Gates Chardonnay – Score: A-
The nose on this lovely gold colored wine screams of sweet oak, with honey notes, peach, apricot, guava, mad butterscotch, and creamy sweet notes. The mouth on this full bodied beast is rich, opulent, and viscous with layers of brioche, followed by rich summer fruit, quince, pineapple, grapefruit, lemon/citrus notes, creamy notes, vanilla, and lovely crème fraîche. The finish is long and creamy with lingering oak, great spice, nutmeg, cloves, mad intense acid, and overall balance from the oak and fruit. This is clearly Benyo’s first heavy oaked Chard, but give this wine time to settle out and round out. With time it will show the trademark creamy, buttery notes that make his wines so appealing.

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

Partial Four Gates Frere Robaire Vertical

Over Succoth, we enjoyed a dinner by friends, and Benyo of Four Gates Winery was kind enough to bring over a partial vertical of Frere Robaire. The wine was first released in 2006, when it was a blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Cabernet. It then went on a 4-year hiatus, when it was released again, but this time it was majority Cabernet Sauvignon from the Monte Bello Ridge vineyard, and fleshed out with a bit of Merlot. From then, it has been released in 2011, 2012, and will be released in the 2013 vintage as well. The 2006 is mostly Cabernet Franc, but the percentages change with the years, based on what best works together. The 2010 was mostly Cabernet Sauvignon. The 2011 and the 2012 are mostly Merlot in makeup, with differing amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon. They all have 1% of Cabernet Franc. The wine gets its name from Benyamin Cantz’s brother – Robert.

We tasted them all, other than the original 2006, and what I can say is that they taste far different from when you first open them, in comparison to when they have been given time to really show their potential. Originally, we thought the best wine was the 2011, followed by the 2010, and then the 2012, with the 2013 being the least favorite of the four. Of course, this is all in comparison to each other. The wines have changed little from release, even the 2010. You can find my notes for the 2010 and 2011 here. The 2012 was reviewed earlier this year, and the 2013 is not yet released – and truly far too young to appreciate, so it makes sense that the wine has really not yet come together to see its true potential.

The Frere Robaire is a blend made to truly live up Aristotle’s axiom; “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” In many ways, I find it reaches that lofty goal, because the sums are made up of wonderful parts, but the whole is another world. What I love about these wines are that they are new-world, but they have so many components that are more old-world than new-world.

The 2012 is a great example of this. Once the wine is given time to open and really show its inner sense, what comes out is an old-world soul, much akin to a 2005 Chateau Malartic. The wine shows its minerality, rich essence, and focus, but also richness from its dark fruit. Really impressive.

The wine notes can be found below – enjoy!

2010 Four Gates Frere Robaire – Score: A-
The wine gets its name from Benyamin Cantz’s brother – Robert, but the name does bring a smile to my mind when I think of the other meanings. The wine is a blend of 93% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Merlot, and 1% Cabernet Franc. This wine is still too young to be enjoyed out of the bottle. If you must drink this wine at this point, it can use a good decanting for a few hours.
Once the wine is open, the nose shows a redolence of menthol, eucalyptus, mint, blackberry, ripe cherry, garrigue, with lovely spice, mushroom, hints of barnyard, green notes galore, and foliage.  The mouth on this full bodied wine is rich and layered with intense and epic menthol, showing lovely layers and complexity, it is lush and expressive, with rich extraction, lovely ripe black and red fruit, currant, raspberry, and great spice, cloves, and herb. The finish is long, green and spicy, with classic Four Gates acid balance, chocolate, leather, tar, roasted herb, and black fruit. Bravo! Best enjoyed 2017 – 2022

2011 Four Gates Frere Robaire – Score: A- to A
The wine gets its name from Benyamin Cantz’s brother – Robert, but the name does bring a smile to my mind when I think of the other meanings. The wine is a blend of 72% Merlot, 27% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 1% Cabernet Franc. This wine is still too young to be enjoyed out of the bottle. If you must drink this wine at this point, it can use a good decanting for a few hours.
Once the wine is open, it shows a nose of red fruit, with a dollop of dark plum, with ripe raspberry, strawberry, rich spice,and green notes. This is sheer elegance in comparison to the 2010, with insane layers of ripe but very fruit, with red fruit the gives way to blackberry, dark cherry, mushroom, forest floor, nice herb, and Oriental spice. The finish is long and herbal with chocolate, leather, tar, followed by more mouth coating tannin, dill, with butterscotch lingering. Bravo!! Best enjoyed 2018 – 2024

2012 Four Gates Frere Robaire – Score: A- to A
The wine gets its name from Benyamin Cantz’s brother – Robert, but the name does bring a smile to my mind when I think of the other meanings. The wine is a blend of 66% Merlot, 33% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 1% Cabernet Franc. This wine is still too young to be enjoyed out of the bottle. If you must drink this wine at this point, it can use a good decanting for a few hours.

Once the wine is open, it shows a nose green, with ripe red fruit, herb, garrigue, followed by tar, earth, rich loam, with nice spice and black fruit in the background. The mouth on this full bodied wine is sheer and utter elegance, layered and rich, with spice, mushroom, green notes, lightly extracted, showing beautiful control, with a focus that is perfectly balanced between fruit, mineral, and terroir, one that makes me think of French wines, Chateau Malartic coming to mind. The finish is long and elegant, with blackberry, mouth draping tannin, rich green foliage, tar, mushroom, and earth, giving way to chocolate, red and black fruit, showing elegance and focus with years left in the tank. Drink 2019 – 2026

Assorted wine notes from two dinners with friends

2015-contessa-annalisa-collection-minutolo-gavi-di-gavi-goose-bay-sauvignon-blanc-2013-landsman-pinot-noir-narrow-bridge-la-fenetre-2010-shirah-coalition-2010-cha%cc%82teau-trigant-2011-tura-m

Over the past few weeks, we have had a couple of Friday night dinners and as such, I wanted to catch up quickly with just the wine notes. Three of the wines were brought by friends, while the rest were mine. All of them are from California, and they are highlighted below in that manner.

My many thanks to AG and LG, we will miss you both as you move to the east coast, and thanks for sharing the 2 with us – a lovely wine! Also, thanks to NB and AB for sharing the 2013 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Variations four, very nice wine. Finally, thanks to Benyo for bringing the only 2013 Pinot Noir that I had yet to taste from California, the 2013 Narrow Bridge Pinot Noir. It is made by Joshua Klapper, who also makes the kosher 2013 La Fenetre Pinot Noir, which we also opened side by side the Narrow Bridge. They are both made in Santa Maria, CA and are handled by the Weiss brothers and Rabbi Hillel. While both 2013 Pinot Noir (the La Fenetre and the Narrow Bridge) were nice, and almost identical twins, sharing commonalities like sourced fruit and winemaker, the Narrow Bridge surprised me! I thought it showed more acid and accentuated the green notes more than the fruitier La Fenetre. Sadly, the 2006 Falesco Montiano was corked, made me cry!

I also tasted two wines from the new 2015 Contessa Annalisa Collection, which are being sold on Kosherwine.com. They are the 2015 Contessa Annalisa Collection Gavi di Gavi and the 2015 Contessa Annalisa Collection Minutolo. These two wines are both a first in the kosher wine market. They are nice wines but lacked a true character that I craved, though air helped them a bit.

Well, there you go, I will be posting soon on a bunch of French wines, but for now, these wine notes will have to do. My many thanks to friends who shared our table with us.

The wine notes follow below:

2010 Shirah Coalition – Score: A-
I have said this before – we need the I LOVE Button for some of these special wines, and this one is in that camp, the first Coalition and wow what a GREAT wine still!!

This wine is a blend of 45% Touriga Nacional, 30% Syrah, and 25% Petit Verdot. The crazy part is that after 6 years this wine has changed and not at all. The wine has changed from its early days when the finish was shallow. But it has changed little in the past 4 years. The unique qualities of the Touriga come screaming in the nose with another crazy Shirah special blend. Once again, the red, white and blue nose of Shirah wines come from this unique and crazy blend! The label’s unique styling, styled after the constitution – is perfect for a wine whose essence is red, white, and blue.
The nose starts off with ripe and screaming blueberry, boysenberry, followed by loamy earth, herb, dirt, peach, apricot, pomegranate, lychee, and citrus fruit. The mouth on this medium+ bodied wine is layered with extracted red, white, black, and blue fruit, black cherry, plum, raspberry, peach, ripe apricot jam, rich tannin, boysenberry, watermelon, root beer, and lovely oak. The finish is balanced and rich with great acid, more tannins on the rise, more white and red fruit, chocolate, insane and crazy spices, nutmeg, cloves, black pepper, and so much more that it could fill a spice cabinet, finishing off with freshly baked raspberry jam pie. WOW BRAVO!!!

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The state of aged carignan wine from Israel and many others

2015 Don Ernesto Clarinet, 2012 Hagafen Cabernet Franc, 2012 Matar Petit Verdot, 2010 2012 Bro.Deux, 2005 Four Gates Syrah, 2012 Trio Carignan, 2012 Mia Luce Carignan, 2012 Recanati Carignan, 2007 Gush Etzion Blessed Valley, 2012 Shirah Whites

I have been offline for a month because of many reasons – the chief among them being that we were away for a trip through South Dakota and Montana. South Dakota was a bore, but Montana and Glacier National park are impressive, worth the insane drive.

Now on to wine, before I left we had a dinner with friends and I opened the remnants of what I had in the world of kosher Carignan (yeah there is a new one from Hajdu, I know). As of now, there really is just four main wineries in Israel making good to great Carignan. The list in order of ageability by far is Mia Luce, followed by Trio, then Recanati, and finally Jezreel Winery. Now before, you scream at me, yes, Recanati makes a lovely Carignan – but after three years it is date juice. Many of my friends love them, date and all, good for them! To me and the folks at the table that night – it was the least drunken wine of the night! The Mia Luce was slow to come around – but it was lovely. The Trio was epic from the start till the last drop. Yotam Sharon was the winemaker at Trio till 2013 and the wines he made during his short time there are indeed impressive.

The Jezreel Carignan is nice, but not in the same league as the first three – but once the Recanati turns to date juice, it is indeed better. We tasted the three Carignan from 2012 and yes – the Recanati is not fun any longer, neither was the 2011 Mia Luce (but that was a one vintage issue for Kobi). The saddest part of all of this to me is that Mia Luce is no longer making Carignan wines. The 2012 was the last available Carignan on the market. The 2013 was pre sold and by 2014 – he has gone to Syrah. Trio is now in another winemaker’s hand and it is not the same quality – maybe that will improve. The Recanati, as I have said turns too quickly – the 2009, 2010, the 11, and the 12 are all date juice. Great quality wines – structure wise, professional in nature, but still – they turn too quickly.

So, IMHO Carignan is in a perilous state if you like them aged. Otherwise, continue to enjoy the Recanati Carignan and drink it within two years – three at most. The 2014 Recanati Carignan is epic, sadly the 2015 (shmita) is not as good, and not one I would invest in.

YG reminded me correctly, that I had forgotten the 2013 Capcanes La Flor Del Flor Samso, which is 100% Carignan. It is not from Israel, and I was talking about Israel alone, but sure it is good to remind people that the capcanes is epic, and is a better option than the rest but it is also almost double the price, though the price on the Recanati Carignan has gone up a bunch as well, in the past few years – which is very sad. Also, there is the epic 2013 Elvi Clos Mesorah which is 50% Carignan. Also a top-tier wine. I have added the two scores below to be complete.

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Elk’s fantastic Northern California birthday party

2012 Dalton Semillon, Elkosh Vineyard, 2011 Hajdu Proprietary Red, Howell Mountain Napa Valley, 2013 Four gates SyrahMy friend EH was in the area and it was also his birthday, so a bunch of winemakers were so kind to grace my home for Elk and they all came bearing gifts, that were enjoyed by all. Sadly, as much as I want to extol about the epic wines we enjoyed, I cannot do that as many of the wines are not yet released, and I was sworn to secrecy until their official grand unveiling.

I did not even plan the whole thing, that was all Elk, all I did was supply a place, some wines and food. The rest was handled by Elk, and as a host I did even less, as Josh Rynderman, handled all the food prep on the grill. All I really did was make Risotto, and help opening some of the wines.

After that, it was really all the winemakers who made the party what it was. They gathered to wish Elk a happy birthday and have a good time tasting great Cali wines! I was the only one who added in a few Israeli wines, but they were well accepted – overall. Still, given the set of Cali wines that were poured (both unreleased and released) – they crushed the Israeli wines by far.

Sadly, I did not get any pictures, and I barely got the notes down before they were either finished or taken home by the folks at the party.

So, I will keep this short and sweet – these are the notes for the wines we can talk about. Also, my many thanks to Gabriel Weiss from Shirah Winery, Jonathan Hajdu from Hajdu Winery, and Benyo from Four Gates Winery for sharing wines with the attendees. Finally thanks to Josh Rynderman for manning the grill.

The wine notes follow with what I can talk about:

2013 Shirah Syrah Santa Barbara County – Score: A- (and a bit)
The last two times I had this wine it was showing far more old school than now. The wine is showing more Cali than in the past and while it still has the saline and dirt, the riper Cali notes are starting to show through.
The nose on this wine is lovely, with earth, dirt, loam, mineral, along with rich roasted animal, blackcurrant, root beer, charcoal, and sweet spice. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is all about the dirt and mineral, along with sweet fruit, layered with insane sweet peach, plum, blueberry, boysenberry, with more sweet spices, nutmeg, and allspice. The finish is long with chocolate, leather, cinnamon, and watermelon. LOVELY!

2011 Tabor Merlot Adama, Bazelet – Score: B+ to A-
GG said this wine was turning fast, and while I did not have a bad bottle, I could see that after a day the wine was really too ripe. To me this wine has a year left and then it is over – so drink up!!
The wine is riper than the 2010, which to me was a masterpiece indeed. The 2011 is riper and more fruity, but it is not a date bomb or anything like the stuff I dislike and rail against. 2011 was a very cold year, and wineries had to leave the fruit on the vine longer, making for a wine that could be seen as out of balance. Still, the ripeness does calm with time, and earthy notes do show with dark fruit and spice. This is still a solid QPR wine and for 18 or so dollars it is a no brainer.
The nose on this wine is rich with dark fruit, blackberry, loamy dirt, mineral, and more barnyard than in the past. The mouth on this medium bodied wine shows rich acid, nice tannin and good fruit structure with nice extraction, graphite, black fruit, raspberry, currant, and sweet oak, with tobacco taking front stage now. The finish is long and earthy, with roasted herb, fresh coffee, tobacco, more green notes, green tea, graphite and more barnyard lingering. Showing better!

2015 Shirah Rose – Score: A- (plus)
75% Grenache and 25% Tannat. Lovely floral notes, cotton candy, and rich cherry. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is classic Shirah wine, with candied cherry, candied raspberry, and cherry 7up, with rich intense notes, great acid, rich currant, mineral, and great dried fruit. The finish is long and lasting with lovely dried quince, dried grapefruit, and great acid and herb. Bravo!!!

2015 Shirah Vintage Whites – Score: A- (plus)
Another classic hit from the Weiss brothers, this time the Shirah Whites, is really Shirah Vintage White, as it is 100% Viognier! What an intoxicating nose, ripe and juicy peach, honeysuckle, white flower, dried honeydew melon, and rich spices. The mouth on this full-bodied wine is viscous and rich, layered with awesome white pepper, spice, cloves, but showcasing its ripe summer stone fruit, with apricot and peach giving way to dried Asian Pear and green tea. The finish is long and spicy with bitter almond notes, along with orange, pith, and lovely spices. BRAVO!!

2011 Mia Luce Rosso – Score: B+ to A-
I had this wine at the winery and it was far too pushed. This wine after two hours of air is better, with nice nose of brett, barnyard, and lovely dirt. The mouth on this medium bodied wine shows lovely earth, blackberry, dirt, coating the mouth with rich mineral, earth, rich sweet oak, and too much sweet notes. The finish is long and spicy, with cloves, searing acid and tannin, with green notes, foliage, tobacco, dried meat, and lovely dirt. Nice!

2013 Shirah Tannat – Score: A- (and a bit)
This wine needs time to open, maybe two hours. The nose on this wine is lovely, with rich fruit, yes it has notes of raisin, but get past it, the nose is all it is, with blackberry, cherry, and dark cassis. The mouth on this full-bodied wine is crazy, yes ripe, but rich, with layers of dark fruit, blackcurrant, rich intense graphite, charcoal, with layers of chocolate and herb, and nice spices. The finish is long and earthy, deep mineral, dirt, hints of forest, with chocolate, leather, and lovely spice. BRAVO!!!

2013 Four Gates Syrah – Score: A- (and more)
One word does correctly define this wine – FILTHY!!! The nose on this ink black colored wine is filled with blue fruit, followed by squid ink, licorice, sweet oak, intense black fruit, and wondrous spice. The mouth on this full-bodied wine is layered and extracted to the max with intense black and blue fruit, blueberry, blackberry, black currant, followed by lovely barnyard, crazy earth, mineral, graphite, rich extraction, dense concentration of fruit and mineral, and great acid. The finish is long and spicy, with cinnamon, all spice, root beer, and hints of asian spice, and roasted animal, and miso! BRAVO!!! Read the rest of this entry

Another Mostly Cabernet Sauvignon Friday night with friends

Three weeks ago friends came by for a shabbat as they were visiting the area for a doctor’s conference. The most entertaining part of the shabbat (food wise) was JP’s dietary requirements. The good news was these requirements were not a full group requirement (three total in the posse), but rather a diet need of just JP. The group was fantastic, and the table dynamic was really quite interesting. One of the other guests at the table, who was also hosting the group for lunch the next day, thanked me for introducing the group to them, so yeah they are ok folks.

The interesting fact about JP is that not only is this man vegan (100%), but he is also gluten free. Those two requirements combine to make quite a potent 1-2 punch! Still we worked it out! Once again I went with two pots of trusted Sausage Stew, one with sausage and one sans the sausage! To pump up the Umami flavors I pan fried portobello mushrooms and Tempeh, separately that is. Overall the food approach worked well I think, but the wines were the real winner of the evening – it was a dinner of beautiful Cabernet Sauvignon dominant wines along with a couple of outliers.

The last dinner we had with guests was also a Cabernet night, but we still had more wines we wanted to try. So, JP was very kind to bring a fantastic wine – a bottle of the 2007 Domaine du Castel Grand Vin, what a wine! It was velvet in a bottle, with still gripping tannins, but mouth coating and plush with layers of complexity and secondary notes coming into form.

Before I rant on my epic fail wine, the two 2007 wines were both brought by guests and they are insane wines. The 2007 Domaine du Castel Grand Vin is pure heaven. The 2007 Covenant Cabernet Sauvignon is lovely, really special – but a step behind the Castel GV.

Now on to my rant, the entire night was a home run (at least wine wise), except for my one EPIC fail! You see I trusted people who told me that a wine was really good, and having had an earlier vintage of this wine, I assumed this they were correct. Well, what can I say, I wasted a TON of money of wines that are really not that special at all (with clear date leanings). Look, I know I am a bit more old world in nature than some, but when the entire table, JP, JR, Benyo, and others just say NO (think the upcoming elections), the wine was barely touched, all I can say is EPIC FAIL! The wine was the 2008 Falesco Marciliano Umbria IGT, which pales horribly in comparison to its younger sibling the 2006 Falesco Marciliano Umbria IGT, which I had in NYC last year. The wine is NOT flawed structure wise, but it is overripe, parker-ized, and pushed so hard that it shows. Interestingly, I was given a bottle of the same wine, from a different channel (hand imported it from France to Israel and then home). It will be interesting to see if the issue is the wine or the import/storage manner of the wines I bought – before I got my hands on them.

The outcome of this unfortunate purchase, is a new and I hope fruitful direction I will use in wine buying going forward. I WILL NEVER BUY A WINE I HAVE NOT TASTED. PERIOD! It does not matter if the wine will sell out, nor does it matter if my closest wine confidant says it is good, DO NOT CARE! I have had too many large losses, this past 12 months, from using my old approach, to continue using it any longer. Last year alone I spent countless dollars on promises of my friends and wine aficionados, BAD MOVE! The only person who knows what I like, is me, and therefore, I am happy to have less good wine than more bad wine. Read the rest of this entry

Four Gates Winery – the newest wines for 2016

2012 Four Gates Cabernet SauvignonIn case you have all been sleeping under a rock for the past 5 years – you all know my deep love for all things Four Gates. Last year was an OK year for Four Gates Wine, but this year – may well be his best of all time. Now, I have got way too many emails and posts on FB asking me about the wines and the prices, that have gone up a bit. So, I thought I would post this article earlier than I would have to get people the information they have asked for.

The prices are a bit higher, but to be honest that is none of my business. Four Gates makes a tiny amount of wine and it is his business what he charges for it. That said, the Pinot is one of the best out there – with exception to maybe the 2012 Masada Pinot Noir – which is more expensive. Same goes for the new Cabernet Franc. The 2013 Cabernet Franc that Benyo is selling on his website is NOT from his vineyard, but rather from a vineyard on the Monte Bello Ridge area, close to the vineyard from where he sources his Cabernet Sauvignon that he is selling as well.

Prices are not what I get involved in, I am very adamant that wineries work to lower their prices – to make good kosher wine more accessible to the kosher consumer, but in Four Gates case – I guess it is up to you to decide what you want to buy.

Now to the wines, the Petite Verdot is the last one that will be made from that vineyard, so if you liked the 2010 PV – which was OFF the charts, the 2013 is almost as good, but with time it may be better. Also, being it is the last – get some while it is available.

Finally, as I said before, the Cabernet Franc is a new wine for Four Gates – as this is a new vineyard and while he did get some in 2015 (none in 2014), it was so small that it was blended into the Cabernet from ridge. The 2015 vintage overall is really small all around California, so do not expect too much from any of the vendors – though I think Covenant did well. So, in my opinion those would be the three MUST buys of the list.

After that, in terms of the rest of the wines, the Chard is very oaked – like crazy! But I had it twice and each time I let it sit for a day and after that it was one of the best Chardonnays I have had in a long time. Rich, fruity, but supple, with great butter and butterscotch, and so viscous that it really made me take notice.

The two Merlot are very nice as is the Cabernet Sauvignon. The Frere Robaire is crazy as always – the blend of Cab. Merlot, and CF really does make for an epic Bordeaux-like wine. Finally, the Syrah is very unique and the last for a few years, hopefully benyo can get more this year. The wine is very dirty, mushroom, and almost barnyard – very unique. It will make for a Syrah that is different than many have had in the past.

So, there you have it – the wine notes follow below:

2012 Four Gates Merlot – Score: A- (and much more)
This is yet another lovely classic Four Gates Merlot nose with raspberry and plum, with lovely briery, garrigue, and juicy fruit berry. The mouth on this full bodied wine is lovely with sweet cedar, crazy sweet dill, with layers of concentrated black fruit, blackberry, dark plum, all balanced with searing acid, sweet fruit notes, hints of coconut, and sweet herb. The finish is long and inky with rich black fruit, chocolate, leather, intense sweet tobacco, black fig, and black and red jam. BRAVO!!

2012 Four Gates Merlot, MSC – Score: A- (and much more)
Another lovely classic Four Gates wine nose with rich black fruit, with elegance and restraint. The mouth on this med to full bodied wine is another example of sheer elegance, with layer of concentrated juicy blackberry jam, mouth coating tannin, currant, green herb, bell pepper, with hints of sweet cedar, sweet basil, and dill, with sweet milk chocolate, and cocoa. The finish is long and black, with rich layers of licorice, more sweet herb, and lovely green notes backed by black plum, and sweet spices. LOVELY!

2013 Four Gates Cabernet Franc, Monte Bello Ridge – Score: A- to A
The nose on this lovely wine is ripping with rich tart and black fruit, along with mounds of dry dirt, loam, and earth, followed by incredible mineral, graphite and #2 pencil. The mouth on this full bodied wine is rich, layered, and complex, and comes at you first with rich roasted herb along with lovely blackberry, tart raspberry, dark plum, with green notes, bell pepper, and lovely foliage, all wrapped in mouth drying tannin, mad acid, garrigue, and black currant. The finish is long and refreshing, with a huge backbone, along with tart, full, and rich fruit, followed with leather, leafy tobacco, sweet dill, more green notes, licorice, along with saline and salt lick, and lovely pith. A very unique and special wine worth finding!

2012 Four Gates Cabernet Sauvignon, Monte Bello Ridge – Score: A- (and much more)
This is a far more restrained wine than the Merlot wines – less fruit on the nose with jammy red fruit, raspberry jam, vegetal notes, and spice. The mouth on this full bodied wine is inky perfect the perfect balance between the Merlot wines, plush and rich, nicely extracted but controlled, with a bit less dill, with lovely sweet tannin, balanced nicely with searing acid, black plum, sweet herb, mounds of ripe cassis, blackberry, sweet fruit jam, mouth coating and drying tannin, and blackcurrant, with great finesse and control. The finish is long with great balance, sweet chocolate, sweet basil, lovely earth, mineral, graphite, and sweet tobacco. BRAVO!!

2012 Frere Robaire, Bordeaux Blend – Score: A- (and much more)
This is another wine with a far more red nose profile, showing redder fruit, with plum and raspberry, ripe candied cherry, and cassis in the background. The mouth on this full bodied wine is rich and perfect with layers of dark fruit, sweet herb, and insane tart and ripe fruit, all balanced with layers of concentration and control. The mouth is layered and rich with an inky fruit structure that gives way to sweet oak, blackberry, and sweet herb. The finish is long and tart with nice tannin and dirt, showing well with dark chocolate, and sweet herb. Very Nice!

2013 Four Gates Petit Verdot – Score: A-
The nose on this wine is earthy, dirty, toasty, and mushroom, with tart red fruit lurking, and with time shows floral notes. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is rich with intense sweet dill, sweet plum, and toasty and smokey notes, with roasted animal, and heavy rich sweet tannin, that gives way to more dirt and sweet spices and intense and crazy acid. The finish is long and mineral with a rich fruit structure showing blackberry, crazy tobacco, and vegetal notes, with dark chocolate, and roasted toasty notes.

2013 Four Gates Pinot Noir – Score: A- (and much more)
The nose on this lovely wine starts with a hit of alcohol, but that blows off quickly to show the classic Benyo Chica cherry cola, followed by rich tilled earth, nice crunchy herb, and rich sweet spice. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is rich and bold and it needs time to come together, with classic cherry, raspberry, dark currant, along with intense acid, and lovely garrigue with impressive fruit structure that is packed with toasty oak, rich tannin, along with layers of fruit, graphite, mineral, and more dirt. The finish is long and vanilla, with great structure and tobacco, with sweet slices, cinnamon, and crushed herb. BRAVO!

2013 Four Gates Syrah – Score: A- (and much more)
One word does correctly define this wine – FILTHY!!! The wine opens slowly – but once it does, the wine opens to a crazy redolence of blue fruit, followed by squid ink, licorice, sweet oak, intense black fruit, mushroom, and wondrous spice. The mouth on this full bodied wine is layered and extracted to the max with intense black and blue fruit, blueberry, blackberry, blackcurrant, followed by lovely barnyard, crazy earth, mineral, graphite, rich extraction, dense concentration of fruit and mineral, and great acid. The finish is long and spicy, with cinnamon, all spice, root beer, and hints of asian spice, and roasted animal, and miso! BRAVO!!!

2013 Four Gates Chardonnay – Score: A-
The nose on this lovely gold colored wine screams of sweet oak, with honey notes, peach, apricot, guava, mad butterscotch, and creamy sweet notes. The mouth on this full bodied beast is rich, opulent, and viscous with layers of brioche, followed by rich summer fruit, quince, pineapple, grapefruit, lemon/citrus notes, creamy notes, vanilla, and lovely crème fraîche. The finish is long and creamy with lingering oak, great spice, nutmeg, cloves, mad intense acid, and overall balance from the oak and fruit. This is clearly Benyo’s first heavy oaked Chard, but give this wine time to settle out and round out. With time it will show the trademark creamy, buttery notes that make his wines so appealing.

A nice cross-section of kosher Cabernet Franc and QPR Merlot wines

2011 Chateau RoyaumontThis past weekend we had many guests over and we enjoyed a lovely cross-section of kosher Cabernet Franc and Merlot wines. Most of them were from Cali – but we had a nice Israeli wine in there as well. The real winner of the blind tasting was the 2011 Ella Valley Cabernet Franc, but I liked the 2011 Four Gates Cabernet Franc more because of the acid. It was clear that certain wines were better appreciated for the depth and power they had, more in your face and full bodied wines.

Many have spoken about the demise of Merlot and the rise of Pinot Noir from what is now called the “Sideways Effect.” Miles (the movie’s protagonist) proclaims his hatred for Merlot and his love affair for Pinot Noir, in the movie Sideways. While this has been confirmed by many trusted sources, what has been glossed over is the hammer blow that Miles delivered to Cabernet Franc. In the very same movie, Miles is poured a glass of Cabernet Franc, he smells it, sips it, and ceremoniously pours out the glass into the spit bucket, while dropping an anvil on all Cab Franc fans, as he states “”I’ve learned never to expect greatness from a cab franc, and this is no exception”. “Ouch!” This is the exact kind of snobbery and lack of appreciation for the varietal’s unique qualities, mentioned earlier, that has kept the masses away from Cabernet Franc. In the end of the movie, we find Miles drinking his vaulted and prized bottle of 1962 Cheval Blanc, which is composed of 66% Cab Franc, 33% Merlot, and 1% Malbec!  We do hope that the irony is not lost on you, as it was certainly not lost on the producers!

Ask a winery why they do not sell Cabernet Franc, and they will start by disparaging it as a blending grape, and then add that it is not a noble variety. What’s so funny is that the vaulted Cabernet Sauvignon – the archetype noble grape, is actually a cross between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc – go figure! You see, perception (and a lack of marketing) is reality, and while many have complained that Cabernet Franc is a thin and green flavored wine, that has more to do with the vintner’s and vineyard manager’s incompetence than it has to do with the grape. Cab Franc needs a fair amount of heat to bring it to its true potential, but too much heat, and it gets toasted. Poor viticulture is the grape’s Achilles Heel. Still, the wine’s olfactory charm and bright fruity composition makes it a clear contrast from today’s fat and fruit forward wines. Sure, you find wineries styling the poor Cabernet Franc grape into a Cabernet Sauvignon by suffocating it in oak and tannins. However, the wine’s true beauty lies in its clean lines, bright red fruit, and it’s crazy floral/fruity nose, that may be accompanied by some bell pepper, which causes many a wine critic to turn up their noses to this wonderful wine.

Even further is that many a winery, including one from the tasting will say that they would rather have a Cabernet Franc that lacks green notes than one that shows it. Why? Because truly Cabernet Franc started as a grape grown in France, and in a region that does not get very warm, namely Bordeaux and the Loire Valley. Napa and Israel, however, does get warm, and some in Napa would like their wines to taste along the lines of their preferences, namely less green notes. Green notes normally arise from the lack of ripeness, think of vegetal notes you sometimes taste in fruit when the fruit is less than ripe. As the fruit ripeness, the Pyrazines within the grapes are killed off by the sunlight and ripe flavors appear. I love green notes in Cabernet Franc and am not turned off by them, in my opinion of course.

Wines from Shabbat

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