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My top 25 kosher wines of 2017 including wine of the year and best wine of the year awards

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 best wines I tasted this year – they are at the bottom.

This year I am adding the “wine of the year”, and “best wine of the year”. Wine of the year will go to a wine that distinguished itself in ways that are beyond the normal. It needs to be a wine that is easily available, incredible in style and flavor, and it needs to be reasonable in price. It may be the QPR wine of the year or sometimes it will be a wine that so distinguished itself for other reasons. This year, it is not the QPR King of 2017, that went to the 2016 Chateau Des Riganes. No, this year “the wine of the year” is indeed a QPR superstar, but not the king, it is the 2014 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Reserve, Alexander Valley. The best wine of the year, well that was easy, it is the 2015 Chateau Leoville Poyferre. So, yes, that means that the top wines of the year are both made by Royal wines, such is life, and I could care less for the most part.

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

The supreme bounty comes from the fact that Royal released the 2014 and 2015 French Grand Vin wines within the same year! The 2014 vintage wines were released in 2017 and the 2015 wines were released (in France in 2017 as well)! 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 all we had this year that were exceptional, were epic Rieslings from Germany (Von Hovel) and the fantastic sweet wines from Sauterne and Yaacov Oryah. But dry white wines from elsewhere in the world was sadly lacking. There were a few exceptions, and they were all Chardonnays, but to me, the winner in that story (dry white wine that was not a German Riesling), was the 2015 Herzog Chardonnay, Reserve, Russian River. It does not rate in the wine of the year list, but it is in the interesting wines below. The new Chablis is also nice, as is the Shirah Whites.

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 2017 kosher wine of the year!

This one was a no-brainer to me. The 2014 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Reserve, Alexander Valley is a crazily affordable wine that got rave reviews from me and from the press. Congratulations to Herzog Winery and Royal Wines.

2014 Herzog Cabernet SauvignonSpecial Reserve, Alexander Valley – Score: 92 to 93 (QPR Superstar)
Lovely nose, impressive elegant and old world nose, peaking with a blackcurrant showing blackberry and lovely smoke and tar. The mouth is old world, wow, give me a break, in ways the wine is crazy better than the Warneke (Special Edition), but with years the Warneke will pass it. The mouth on this medium body, is great layered and rich, green, spicy, and rich with concentration, with sweet oak and sweet dill galore, with green notes, loads of foliage, showing dried strawberry, ripe raspberry, black forest berry, all wrapped in mouth coating and drying tannin, with earth and spice. The finish is long, and richly green, with nice spicy notes, leather and scraping mineral, showing bright and ripe fruit that is impressive, elegant, rich, and layered, with licorice, graphite, and forest floor that lingers long. Bravo!! Drink from 2020 till 2030.

The 2017 best kosher wine of the year!

This one was really tough. First of all, the one I chose is not available yet for purchase in the USA. Also, in terms of score, it did not beat out the Von Hovel Rieslings of 2014 or the 2014 Tour Blanche Sauternes, or the 2015 Chateau Giscours, or the 2014 Chateau Smith Haute Lafite. In the end – for its sheer awesomeness it beat out a very crowded field. In the end, the winner of the BEST kosher wine of 2017 goes to the 2015 Chateau Leoville Poyferre, and it deserves the crown – bravo!!

2015 Chateau Leoville Poyferre – Score: 95
This wine was very close to what we tasted from the barrel. The nose on this wine is rich and black, with floral hints, smoke, mineral, and really pushed for now, but incredible and redolent with a perfume of ripe fruit, chocolate, and green notes. The mouth is rich and layered with an incredible finesse of perfection, richly extracted and incredible with rich mineral and saline that is so perfectly hedonistic it is impressive, with chocolate heaven, showing earth, loam, finesse, and elegance beyond explanation, showing soft yet focused with a tight-mouthfeel, with rich raspberry, blackberry, ripe plum, all focused and concentrated with perfection. The finish is long and rich and paired with an acid and mineral that is never-ending, almost ripe and tart at the same time, with draping tannin, graphite, and charcoal with expressive and focus. Drink from 2022 to 2040.

Rest of the top 25 kosher wines of 2017

2015 Chateau Grand Puy Ducasse – Score: 94
This wine was very close to what we tasted from the barrel. What a nose, this wine is mostly Cabernet Sauvignon and a drop of merlot. This nose is green and red and really mineral focused with dark but red fruit focused, showing lovely elegance, dirt, and herb. The mouth is medium bodied with rich extraction, rich currant, red fruit, with dirt in the background, wrapped in rich and searcing tannin mouthfeel, with roasted herb, and rich tobacco that is backed by elegance and control, blackberry, plum, that gives way to dark chocolate epic control, foliage, and oregano that lingers long with graphite, pencil shavings, and rich leather. Drink from 2024 to 2034

2015 Chateau Giscours – Score: 95
This wine was very close to what we tasted from the barrel. The nose on this lovely wine is super dry, with more of a classic Bordeaux nose, less ripe than some of the previous wines, with the ever classic blueberry notes of Giscours, with black and red fruit galore backed by roasted herb, rich mineral, and lovely saline. The mouth is rich, incredible, massive, full-bodied and incredibly extracted with rich saline, with layers of unstoppable concentrated fruit, with blackberry, raspberry, with blueberry, rich spice, mushroom, and herb. The finish is never ending with green notes, roasted herb, incredible drying tannin, with a deep fruit base followed by the mineral, black fruit, earth, graphite, and rich spice, cloves, and dark chocolate. BRAVO! Drink from 2023 to 2035

2015 Chateau Lascombes – Score: 94.
WOW, how this wine changed from when we tasted it in the barrel. This wine is a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 46% Merlot, and 3 to 4% Petit Verdot. It is the flagship wine of Chateau Lascombes. The nose on this wine is even crazier than the Chevalier, showing more umami and soy sauce if that is possible, with incredible finesse, showing massive power, but great mineral and concentration, with black and red fruit, foliage galore with tar and roasted animal. The mouth is full bodied and incredible with the same style as the Chevalier, but with more finesse, mouth coating soft tannin that is extracted with blue fruit, earth, rich concentration, with more saline and power, yet showing incredible precision that is coating and impressive. The finish is long and lovely, with saline, mineral, tobacco, refined dark chocolate, and rich mushroom. Incredible! Drink from 2022 to 2032. Read the rest of this entry

Four Gates Winery’s January 2018 new releases

As you all know, I am a huge fan of Four Gates Winery, and yes he is a dear friend. So, as is my custom, as many ask me what wines I like of the new releases, here are my notes on the new wines.

I have written many times about Four Gates Winery and its winemaker/Vigneron Benyamin Cantz. Read the post and all the subsequent posts about Four Gates wine releases, especially this post of Four Gates – that truly describes the lore of Four Gates Winery.

Other than maybe Yarden and Yatir (which are off my buying lists – other than their whites and bubblies), very few if any release wines later than Four Gates. This year is a re-release of the 2014 Petite Sirah and 2014 Zinfandel in a blended format called – MPSZ. Of course, it includes the 2014 Mourvedre, which is also being released a single varietal under the Ayala label.

Another wine this year under the Ayala label is the NV Chardonnay, it is a nice wine that did not go through malolactic fermentation, so while it has creamy notes, the rich butter and butterscotch notes of previous chardonnays will not be found here.

The rest of the wines are the normal suspects, but this year’s crop, like last years, is really impressive. You have a 2014 Four Gates Pinot Noir, an NV Four Gates Cabernet Franc (a blend of the 2014 & 2015 vintages), the 2013 Four Gates Merlot, La Rochelle, the 2013 Four Gates Cabernet Sauvignon, Monte Bello Ridge, Betchart Vineyard, and the 2013 Four Gates Frere Robaire.

The notes speak for themselves. These are the wines I liked, there are two other wines that will be sold, but I am not a fan of them, I am sure others will be. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

NV Ayala Chardonnay – Score: 90
Lovely nose of ripe melon, lovely lemon curd, with green and yellow apple, and spice galore. The mouth on this lovely medium to full-bodied wine is nice and richly acidic, with a creamy mouth, showing lovely green notes, sweet dill, with butter notes, lovely sweet and ripe fruit, and lovely sweet spices. The finish is tart, refreshing, lively, with acid madness, showing a style of sweet and tart fruit, and nice complexity. Drink by 2025

2014 Four Gates MPSZ – Score: 91
This wine is a blend of Mourvedre, Petit Sirah, and Zinfandel. This is a fun classic Cali wine, floral, sweet, spices galore, with sweet oak, and lovely red and blue fruit. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is fun with raspberry, plum, ripe juicy strawberry, blueberry, all wrapped in nice tannin, with nice mineral, spice, and zesty fruit. The finish is long and rich, with sweet notes, black olives, and cinnamon. Drink by 2021

2014 Four Gates Pinot Noir – Score: 92 to 93
This nose is a classic Four Gates Pinot, with chicken cherry cola, sweet raspberry, lovely spices, menthol, herb, and rich spice. The mouth on this full bodied wine is rich, layered, elegant, lovely, with green notes, lovely foliage, sweet oak, with sweet cherry, raspberry galore, and crazy Benyo acid, with smoke, vanilla, hints of mushroom (which will show more with age), earth, and loam. The finish is long and green, richly acidic, menthol galore, herb, coffee, loads of tart red fruit, and more smoke. Bravo!!! Drink from 2019 to 2027

NV Four Gates Cabernet Franc – Score: 93
This is a blend of 2014 and 2015 vintages. This wine is a classic Benyo special, what a wine, this is crazy fun, what a rich floral, raspberry nose, with violets, rich tart fruit, with cherry, chocolate, mushroom, and foliage galore. The mouth on this full-bodied wine is really fun, rich, layered, with a real mouthfeel that gives way to mushroom, rich tilled earth, with red fruit, plum, raspberry, vanilla, and lovely focus, that gives way to great acid and sweet forest floor. The finish is long and green, with bell pepper, foliage, with vanilla, leather, and heather. Bravo!!! Drink 2020 to 2027

2013 Four Gates Merlot, La Rochelle – Score: 94
The nose on this wine is plum heaven, with crazy truffle, mushroom, and rich tart raspberry, followed by black fruit, and rich dirt. The mouth on this full bodied wine is crazy, rich, layered, with layer after layer of concentrated fruit, nice extraction, and intense acidic, with tannin galore, perfectly balanced, with sweet red raspberry, plum, sweet currant, black forest berry, and dark cherry. The finish is long and green, with foliage, mushroom, vanilla, sweet oak, spice, with menthol, mineral, graphite, sweet red fruit, and acid plays well together. Bravo!! Drink from 2020 to 2030.

2013 Four Gates Cabernet Sauvignon, Monte Bello Ridge, Betchart Vineyard – Score: 94
Lovely nose of earth, dirt, green notes, caraway seeds, coffee grinds, with black fruit hiding behind good bright notes, and mineral. The mouth on this full bodied wine, is rich and layered, showing lovely extraction, rich blackberry, blackcurrant, with impressive fruit structure, showing elegance and attack, with great focus and spice, spicy oak wrapped in earth and mouth coating and expressive tannin, with so much tar that it feels like road work in the mouth, and green notes galore. The finish is long and green with focus and power, showing dark chocolate, foliage, with scraping mineral, graphite, and mounds of earth lingering long. BRAVO! Drink from 2021 to 2031.

2013 Four Gates Frere Robaire – Score: 94
Another stunning wine, come on, this wine will and always reminds me of Chateau Malartic, and depending on how long you age it, the Malartic vintage compares well. The nose on this wine is lovely, as it opens, it is ripe to start with loads of fruit, mounds of finesse, and sweet oak, with rich mineral, herb, black fruit, with a bit of red in the background, and lovely graphite, and spice. The mouth on this full bodied wine is ripe and opens slowly with rich layers upon layers of sweet fruit, followed by earth, tilled loam, with green notes galore, sweet blackberry, plum, with concentration and rich extraction that gives way to layers of mouth coating tannin, vanilla, and spice. The finish is long and earthy, with foliage, green notes, anise, earth, leather, rich sweet milk chocolate, mushroom, and loads of forest floor. Drink from 2021 to 2030.

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!

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

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.

My top kosher 25 wines of 2015

wall of wineWell, I have posted my year in review, and now I wanted to get to my top wines for 2015. 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 – like older Covenant Wines and the sort.

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- or higher. Anything less would not be on my list.

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!

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 did not differentiate by another other criteria or aspect – if it was solid (A- or higher) it made the list. I hope you enjoy!

2013 Elvi Wines Clos Mesorah – Score: A- to A
This is the flagship wine of Elvi Wines (though the Herenza Reserva may have a word to say about that) and it is a blend of 50% Carignan, 30% Grenache, and 20% Syrah. Elvi Wines makes 7K of these bottles. The wine was sourced from vines that are 20 to 100 years of age. The nose on this wine is insane and intoxicating with aromas of watermelon, root beer, ripe boysenberry, blueberry, along with chocolate and black fruit. The mouth on this full bodied wine hits you with layers of concentrated fruit, with an attack of blue and black fruit, balanced perfectly, showing great elegance, along with mad mineral, graphite, slate, rich and freshly tilled earth, along with deeply concentrated black fruit. The wine is the perfect example of elegance and balance with ripe fruit that flows into a plush mouth made from mouth coating tannin and rich fruit structure. This is truly a wine speaks for itself. The finish is long and intense, showing rich roasted animal, lovely mushroom, and floral notes. With time, the wine shows mad barnyard, mushroom, and even more loamy dirt. Bravo!!!

2010 Elvi Wines Herenza Rioja Reserva – Score: A- to A
There are only 4K of these bottles made and each one is a true gift! The wine is closed and slow to open, but with time and a fair amount of decanting, the nose shows of mad soy sauce (like the 2009 Herenza Reserva), chocolate, richly tilled earth, loam, along with crazy mushroom and mad mineral. This wine is the epitome of umami, showing intense layers of umami with white summer fruit, cranberry, craisins, blackberry, pomegranate, and tart cherry in the background with mounds of earth. The finish is intensely long and dirt filled, with  dark chocolate, licorice, blueberry and red fruit. BRAVO!!!!

2012 Chateau Haut Condisas, Medoc – Score: A- (and much more)
The 2011 was very nice, but the 2012 a slight step up. The nose on this wine is rich and redolent with lovely dirt, dark black fruit, barnyard, earth, and mushroom. The mouth on this full bodied wine is rich, ripe, and in your face with nice chocolate, mad toast, mouth drying tannin, all wrapped in crazy acid, but bigger and riper than the 2011, almost Israeli in nature, but classically French controlled, with blackberry, raspberry, plum, with mineral and graphite. The finish is long and dirty, with hits of herb, along with layers of concentrated fruit, more mad mineral/earth/dirt/mushroom with dried raspberry, and rich garrigue. WOW! BRAVO!

2010 Chateau Fourcas Dupre, Listric – Medoc – Score: A- (and more) (CRAZY QPR)
This wine is on the list for its insane value and its goto ability above all wines from France for the price! The 2010 was a nice wine – but the 2012 is even better! The nose on this wine is lovely with rich dirt, cherry, crazy tart and juicy raspberry, followed by more dirt and mineral galore. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is lovely and still young but give it time, the acid is impressive along with nice spice, mouth coating tannin that is gripping along with lovely blackberry, cassis in the background, along with crazy mushroom, and layers of fruit and earth and forest floor that come at you and do not give up. The finish is long, with insane acid and more mouth drying tannin, more earth, dirt, tart lingering fruit, and lovely mineral/graphite. The fruit and mineral lingers long – BRAVO!!!! Read the rest of this entry

Three kosher red wines that hit the spot!

This past week we had a bunch of wines including two Rose wines in my rose wine post, the Dalton Viognier, Reserve, Wild Yeast, and three red wines that really hit the spot. I wanted the evening to be all about Rose and white, but since the Rose wines did not stand up and the whites were a dud, other than the Viognier and a 1996 Four Gates Chard, which once again blew us all away, we had to fall to the reds. The centerpiece of evening was a killer Moroccan Tajine made with Merguez Sausage and lovely dried fruit. The recipe can be found here.

The joy of Tajine is the sweet, spicy, and tangy flavors you get from the lamb, the spices, and the sweet dried fruit. I had hoped that the whites and rose could stand up to the evening, but as the evening went on it was clear that the rose wines were not cutting it (even with plain old lox) and that the white wines were going to have trouble with the tajine.

Of course, there was a plan B and plan C in place and thankfully, we were able to hit the need with the first one. The three reds were lovely and in perfect drinking order, though the Frere Robaire could have used a bit more air time. The first wine was the 2005 Ella Valley Pinot Noir. It displayed clear funk upon opening and that did drop it from the running to start, but as that started to blow off the wine opened to a beautiful black dominated beauty and was quite the wine. The second wine was the best of the evening, a 2009 Eden Wild Red Bordeaux blend wine. I spoke about Eden Winery in my Rose article, check them out here if you missed it. While the Eden Rose was so-so, the Eden red was killer, with crazy blueberry and boysenberry flavors that really grabbed my attention, along with a great body and structure. The final wine was the 2006 Four Gates Frere Robaire, which was closed to start but was quite nice at the end.

The notes follow below:

2005 Ella Valley Pinot Noir – Score: A-
This wine started off with an unquestionable amount of funk or dirty socks, eventually this blew off or became irrelevant, but that was a rather large amount of time. This wine is in drink-up mode, though the tannins are unwavering and the wine is still a bit tight. Another masterpiece from Doron Rav Hon, the winemaker, and one that will please all those with a desire for a solid Pinot from Israel.

The nose starts off with funk, ripe blackberry, black cherry, dark plum, raspberry, nice loamy dirt, licorice, and beautiful smoky notes. The mouth of this medium to full bodied wine is round, layered and concentrated with nice mouth coating tannin, good cedar, and a perfect balance of green bell pepper and black fruit to grab your attention. The finish is long and spicy with cloves, good mineral notes, and tobacco that goes on forever, and one that has a nice dollop of chocolate and vanilla on the rise. Quite a lovely Pinot and one that should be enjoyed now or in the next couple of months at the most. Read the rest of this entry

Four Gates Winery – a terroir driven kosher winery in the Santa Cruz Mountains

Four Gates Winery welcome sign and road up

I must start this posting by saying, I could not believe that I have waited this long to write an update to my previous postings on the Four Gates Winery. I did post about the time I crashed the Alice Feiring visit to Four Gates, which is almost fully documented in the last chapter of her new book: Naked Wine, more on that when I do my write up on the book. I also posted many wine notes along the way. Still the last real post I did on my friend’s winery is almost 4 years ago! Are you kidding me?

Once again, I was driving up this time to see Benyamin Cantz, the winemaker, vineyard manager, and Numero Uno of Four Gates Winery, in the rolling hills of the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA. It was a beautiful winter day in February that felt like a spring day in Northern California, another lovely reason to live in NorCal. The drive to the winery winds through the twisting roads that crest and wrap around the Santa Cruz Mountains. By the time you arrive at the address of the winery, you will notice a Bruchim Habaim (translated loosely to mean blessed be those who are arriving) sign to the left and a driveway in front of you. As you look at the driveway that will take you to the top of the hill upon which the winery is perched, the thoughts of stairway to heaven cannot help but play in your head! The drive up the hill to the winery used to be a dirt road long ago, and with all the switchbacks and near vertical climbs, it dumbfounds me how Binyamin (and many others who lived on the hilltop) ever drove up and down that mountainside many times a day. Since then, the road has been paved and now by comparison, it feels like a highway. Once you have circumnavigated the circuitous drive to the top, the vineyard will be visible flanking the driveway from both the right and the left. The larger block of vines is on the right, but the Pinot and part of the Chardonnay are on the left. Read the rest of this entry

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