I just returned from a long and wonderful trip to Israel where I visited a total of 36 wineries in less than three weeks. To be fair, I was set to visit more, but let us just say that a family member, who will go nameless, slowed me down just a wee bit – LOL!!! All the same, it was great visiting the wineries, meeting the wine makers and owners, and getting a far deeper feel for all things wine in the land of Israel!
Yes, I brought back many bottles, and I had friends and family who helped me schlep in even more bottles. In all some 30+ bottles or so made it back to the diaspora, and I will be enjoying them in due time. Many of them are NOT available here in America and some were just too good to pass up on.
So, let us start with the facts – there are five wine regions in the land of Israel, and I visited wineries in all of them. According to Yossie’s Israel winery page that is a mash up of Google maps and his winery data, there are some 70+ kosher wineries. The kosher wineries are bunched up in the Judean Hills, Shomron, Samson, and the Galilee. There are wineries in the other wine region; the Negev, but other than Yatir, which is really the southern tip of the Judean Hills, there is no winery that I wanted to visit in the Negev (dessert – southern wine region of Israel).
I started my wine adventure in the north and went to every kosher winery that would let me visit. One of the first things I realized about wineries in Israel is that it is a business. To me, wine and wineries are like candy and big candy store. To top it off – they are kosher and in a land I love. So, when I visit a winery, I want to know everything about it and why it exists. Others see me as a pain or as a lack of dollars and cents and as such, are not so receptive to my interests. That is fair, and as such, if I was received well I will state it and if not, or I got to taste a single wine or less, I will simply state what I tasted and move on.
The first day, I dropped my stuff off at friends in the north and drove up to Tabor Winery. Tabor Winery ha recently been bought up by the Coca-Cola company of Israel, and as such has seen a fair amount of investment in both vineyards and winery facilities. They have some of the coolest high-tech gear out there, though a few others do rival them, including Yarden (which I did not visit this time), Yatir Winery (visited and loved it!), Shiloh Winery, and of course Carmel and Binyamina (because their size allows for more toys). I was really shocked there and then by the cold blue fruit that exists if you look for it. By cold blue fruit I mean that wines (Syrah, Malbec, Cabernet – YES CAB, Petite Verdot, and Petite Sirah) exhibit blueberry, boysenberry, and other blue colored fruit when controlled in a cold enough climate. They had some lovely wines there, though no WOW wines (wines that get an A- to A or higher score). Still, a very nice and wonderful winery well worth the visit, if you can handle the drive all the way up there.
Now before you laugh at one winery in a day, driving north from Jerusalem, even with highway 6, is a large haul and in the pouring rain, I rest my case. While driving my way up there – I noticed another aspect that I have not spoken about in the past – Israeli drivers. I think it was my nephew who brought this to my attention; they drive cars like they have no tomorrow, without hesitation, and without fear – almost like war. Drivers in Israel are more than happy to pass you going uphill, on a curve, in the pouring rain! In no way was this a singular or rare occurrence! If you drive in Israel and you blink or hesitate, you may well find yourself forced onto the other side of oncoming traffic by a public transit bus! I am not kidding – and in a not so hospitable location to boot! My point is, if you wish to drive in Israel, and to get to all the wineries in and about Israel, a car is required (or a tour guide), my best advice is pray a lot, and be very careful. Also, get full coverage on your rental car. Read the rest of this entry
This past Jewish Holiday press left me away from home for much of the time – whether at friends or family and that enabled me to enjoy many a wine, some that I bought, some that I enjoyed at other people’s homes, and some that I enjoyed or did not enjoy at synagogue.
The Jewish holidays following the high holidays – are meant to be ones filled with joy, food, and wine, yet I happen to always be separated from the very people who really understand my madness. Do not get me wrong I love my family – but they really are not oenophiles – and that leaves me at a major disadvantage – when my main objective is to drink and enjoy as much wine as possible in a very short period of time! Sure, they sip at the glass and are happy to drink it – but the joyous side of the High Holidays to Sukkot religious gauntlet is meant to be a relief valve, a way to thank the lord for all the good and for another year to do his bidding. So, how do Jews celebrate? Why with prayer, food, and wine of course. I know I am a bit over the top when it comes to wine and food – but I crave the interactions with others around the table, a table filled with joy and food, and also some wine chatter.
So I was faced with the classic dilemma of a lone wine fanatic attempting to enjoy wine amongst those who find wine to be a tool rather than a purpose. Do I buy and enjoy by myself an expensive bottle of wine and drink half at night and the other half the next day – and continue this through the meals – or should I dial it back a touch because, it is just myself and the expensive wine does not always taste as good the next day?
Like all things – I decided the best rule of thumb in these situations is to do both! I bought some good wine and some nicer wine, but no crazy wines, which in hindsight was a great idea, as I really got sick and could not enjoy them anyway. The first night we drank a bottle of 2010 Galil Mountain Winery Barbera, which I wrote up about on a previous post about QPR, and it was OK, but not a QPR winner. We also tried a bottle of 2010 Joseph Mellot Sancerre. Sancerre white is the archetype Sauvignon Blanc for many. Many believe that Sancerre best defines the truest form of Sauvignon Blanc. However, some are now pointing to New Zealand and California for what they have done with the grape. Unfortunately, while the classic Sancerre is meant to be bone dry, with intense fruit expressions and mineral to boot, this bottle was so-so at best. It lacked the bone gnawing dry palate that I crave in a Sancerre, balanced perfectly with nice bright fruit and good acidity. Instead, this Sancerre was green, tart, and without fresh fruit, making it for a very passable wine to quaff, but not much more.
On an aside, there is a growing demand out there for truly bone gnawing dry wine with fresh fruit and bright acidity. The closest I have found to that is another kosher Sancerre from Bokobsa, but the 2007 vintage is slowly dying. The need exists, but the answer unfortunately is lacking for now. Please do not get me wrong there are MANY lovely kosher Sauvignon Blanc wines on the market – but they all have varying degrees of residual sugar, making them feel flabby, which to many is as annoying as nails against a chalkboard. Read the rest of this entry
I have been off the blog for a bit of time because of a mix of things – but I have still been on the sauce and I have had the chance to enjoy some nice wines and some real duds as well. One of the clear themes I have found in this time off and while I have been on the road – is that wine is a complex concept for many when faced with a wall of options. The many times that I was in a kosher wine store or kosher wine section on my travels, I watched many a person just become befuddled by the options that faced them. The good news is that there is TONS of kosher wine options now for the mass kosher market. The problem is that many of those options are poor – for those with a slightly advanced palate and/or desire for the good things in life. The bad news is that they cost a lot and there are fewer and fewer QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) wines in the kosher wine market. For example, while I think that the baseline Herzog wines are fine, they are not QPR winners, because they lack quality. The response I normally hear to that comment is one of two: they taste fine to me or you get what you pay for. Lets break those two down:
Not everyone is a wine snob like me and I am fine with that – but there is still a grade that most can agree on and while the baseline Herzog wines are fine wines – they are not quality wines. The Herzog reserve wines are quality wines to me – but they are more expensive. When I talk with people in the industry, both on the sale side and the wine production side, they comment that it is hard to make a kosher wine that is also reasonably priced. Clearly the high costs of the grapes, production, and all things California make it costly, but this is not a problem in the world of non-kosher wines. Take a gander at the plethora of California options that the Wine Enthusiast scored highly. Clearly the lack of QPR kosher California wines is not tied to the high cost of living in California. Whatever the reason, it is sad to see, but there are other regions where kosher QPR does live well. Another revelation from my time in the aisles, was that some decide on what they will buy based upon the very purpose for why it is being bought. An average wine is quality enough for a guest to a house that sees grape juice and wine as one the same, while a Yarden Katzrin may not be quality enough for one visiting the house of a wine maker or boss. Of course those may be extremes in each direction, but while I stood in the aisle and helped folks find kosher wine – the criteria continued to revolve around – price, purpose, flavor, pairing, and then quality – if ever.
Another interesting criteria that I have heard about – though one that I did not notice or hear when standing in the aisle, is the love affair with wine consumers and labels! It is something that I find myself doing when buying beer – and it is a criteria that some consumers use when faced with the all daunting task of buying wine from a wall of options.
My take away from these experiences, was the continued affirmation that while I believe I am on the pursuit of wine knowledge and experiences, the vast majority see the beverage as a tool or condiment to their own pursuits. This is much the same realization that hit me while I gained knowledge in the world of computers. While I found breaking down and rebuilding of computers to be an honest and well paying pursuit others saw the very kernel of my self-satisfaction as nothing more than madness, as computers were simply a tool to simplify their own pursuits. Surely, this is not a revelation to many – but it is a fact that needs to be repeated to those that drink from the cup of wine plenty. To remind us all – that we are not the norm, and while wineries and wine makers may find solace in what we write and preach – they realize (and so should we) that we are not the saviors or upholders of the common winery – that would be the folks looking blankly in the wine aisle.
Before I left for Israel, I had a bottle of the 2008 Yarden Odem Vineyard Chardonnay. Normally this wine is killer. The 2009 vintage is lovely, the 2007 vintage was closed the last time I enjoyed it, but opened quickly enough and was lovely. Unfortunately, this bottle of the 2008 Yarden Odem Vineyard Chardonnay was clearly in a deep sleep, and one that would not open no matter what I tried. Humorously, when I came back from Israel, some three weeks later, the leftovers of the wine that I stored in the refrigerator, tasted quite nice!
In Israel, we enjoyed many wines for Passover and for other meals. Some of the wines were quite nice while some were just OK. The best two wines we enjoyed were the 2010 Dalton Zinfandel and the 2010 Saslove April. The other wines were fine but none of those were really note worthy. The 2010 Dalton Zinfandel showed far better than when I had it at the Gotham Wine Event. The Tulip White Franc was really nice, though a bit less Cabernet Franc-ish than the 2010 vintage. This is the second time I had the chance to taste April, when I enjoyed it at Sommelier last year, and it continues to impress with its light oak influence (they used staves) and interesting blend.
The only real downer for me was 2011 Galil Rose; it was OK, but nothing to write home about. I was not a huge fan of the Dalton Roses either, but hey I keep trying! I do love the Flam and Catsel Roses. The Tulip Just Cab and Merlot were lovely and continue to improve and show good varietal characteristics. I had the 2010 Galil Wines and they were average at best, which is OK, but again not wines to write home about. My father-in-law and I both enjoyed the bubbly Cabernet. Yes, I said I liked a semi-sweet bubbly Cabernet, because it was actually enjoyable. Sorry, to all the wine snobs out there, but the 2011 Tabor Pnimim (Pearls) sparkler, was enjoyable, unpretentious, and though semi-sweet, not cloyingly so in any way. No, I would not normally, bestow any praise upon a semi sweet Cabernet nor even write about it in a positive manner, as normally Cabernet and sweet do not logically go hand in hand, but Tabor did a good job, so Kudos!
Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to visit any wineries, but I did get a chance to see Gabriel Geller, a man I can happily call an acquaintance, and hopefully one day a friend, that now own a wine store in the heart of Jerusalem, called the Wine Mill. The wine store is located in the Wind Mill right next to the Prima Kings Hotel Jerusalem, and essentially at the corner of King George and Ramban streets. The store is laid out in a quite enjoyable and clutter free manner, with more than enough room for informal gatherings of his clients and customers. When I was there, I picked up some wines that I took home and I also had a chance to talk with both Gabriel and David Rhodes, a wine critic/writer who I have not yet had the chance to write about here in the blog, but a person who has solid wine abilities and who I have had the pleasure to talk with a few times now. The conversation inevitably came around to kosher wine, Israeli Wine, and Daniel Rogov (man I cannot believe it has been 6 months already since his passing), but hey what happens in the Wine Mill stays in the Wine Mill. I did have the chance to taste a lovely bottle of Domaine Ventura Cabernet Franc, but I did not write notes on the wine – sorry. From what I remember, it was very characteristic of Cabernet Franc, with good green notes, lovely ripe red fruit, without the raisin or date flavors, that are so characteristic of Israeli wines. The oak did not overpower though was felt and clearly present, and there was some nice extraction along with tobacco and light leather. An unofficial score would be B+ to A-. Read the rest of this entry
Purim came and went and with it we had the opportunity to taste many a wine. Some of the wines were mevushal and some were not. On the whole, the mevushal wines did the worst, but hey that is not an iron clad rule, as described on my blog of what is kosher wine.
Also a slight disclaimer, it was Purim after all, and I did drink these wines – so the notes many be a bit light or off, but I would not print it if I did not believe it.
Some of these were mine and some were wines that others brought. In the end, we tasted three Pinot Noir, and the other two could not even hold the Four Gate Pinot Noir’s jockstrap. Instead, the Eagle’s Landing and Barkan Classic just stood around and were not even finished – we are talking about purim! With many people coming over to our table for wine – none could finish those bottles.
The wine notes follow below:
2010 Barkan Pinor Noir – (mevushal) Score: N/A
This tasting was even worse than the previous one – sorry, this is not a wine I could possible serve to my guests. It has a basic nose, but the mouth tastes of stewed fruit – no hope to be enjoyed. Mevushal wine at times really does bite! Not a single person, drunk or even tipsy could like this wine. I started with it and it failed on all accounts. Read the rest of this entry
Rosemary and Lemon Roasted Chicken, Brown Basmati Rice, Chicken Soup, and 2007 Galil Mountain Winery Yiron
On the weekend of October 28th, 2011 we were not feeling so well, a common ailment that happens to me after the Simchat Torah festivities. So we made a lovely chicken soup that was killer and one that really hit home. My wife whipped up a batch of Rosemary Lemon chicken that was great, and I ate some, but I was totally fixated on the chicken soup! We also had some lovely Brown Basmati rice and fresh green salad as usual. To pair with this meal we opened a lovely bottle of 2007 Galil Mountain Winery Yiron. Like the Recanati wine from last week, Galil is another of Israel’s leading kosher wineries with a very high QPR.
The wine note follows below:
2007 Galil Mountain Winery Yiron Kosher (Israel, Galilee) – Score: A-
The nose on this dark purple to black colored wine is hopping with an expressive and intoxicating smokey perfume of minted chocolate, licorice, spice, black pepper, black cherry, raspberry, blackberry, plum, crushed herbs, and oak. The nose is alcoholic at first but it calms down over time. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is truly explosive with still not integrated tannin, rich mouth feel and concentration of black cherry, blackberry, ripe plum, and raspberry. The mouth gives way to a balanced mid palate of ripe plum, oak, tannin, vanilla, and chocolate. The finish is long, spicy and expressive with minted chocolate, mounds of vanilla, loamy dirt, black cherry, plum, blackberry, oak, and crushed herbs. This is a wine that is fine now, but is really not ready to settle down with for a long evening. If drinking now, open this wine a few hours before enjoying it and watch it evolve in the glass.
This past Sukkot we hung out with family and enjoyed a bunch of great wine and food. It was a potluck of sorts, each one of us bringing some food, and it was a grand ball. Sukkot is one of those truly happy times of the year, all the heavy and deep inner inspection is over and now you get a chance to let loose of all of your pent up concern and angst. In its place you find joy and contentment from your efforts over the past 6 weeks, a time truly made to be shared with friends and family.
For our part, we brought the second chunk of meat that we cooked for Rosh Hashanah (and froze immediately after the holiday) and some lovely brisket. We also brought a BUNCH of wine! Hey it is a let loose holiday – right? I was in such a rush to get the wines that I went to my local wine shop and all they had were Galil and Yarden wines – so we brought Galil and Yarden wines. Many turned out really nice, and others were OK, but they were all enjoyable. In case it is not obvious, Yarden and Galil Wines source their grapes from the Galilee. This tasting was a true Israel Galilee tasting. We also went through some 6 bottles of Sara Bee Muscat. Galil is one of the top QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) wineries in the kosher market. Yarden is an OK QPR winery, especially in their basic line, but some of their upper echelon wines are so out of reach that they lose a bit of the QPR luster.
So, here are all my wine notes – enjoy and remember, wine is not just about the flavors, it is also about the happiness and memories you get to keep when you enjoy them with friends and family.
The wine notes follow below:
2005 Galil Mountain Winery Yiron – (Israel, Galilee) – Score: A-
This is a seriously lovely and opulent and redolent wine that is initially hot out of the bottle, but quickly shakes off the alcohol coat and shows super rich and ripe black plum, toasty cedar, black cherry, blackberry, vanilla, tobacco, chocolate, and herbs. The mouth on this rich and concentrated black colored wine is screaming with what initially feels like searing tannins, but then quickly your mind gives way to the true source – toasty cedar, blackberry, black cherry, and super ripe plum, all wrapped up is a velvety package that cuts through almost anything you throw at it. The mid palate is packed with black cherry, cedar, chocolate, tobacco, and nice integrated tannin. The finish is super long and very spicy with rich plum, toasty cedar, blackberry, chocolate, tobacco, black cherry, and a nice dollop of vanilla. The black cherry, vanilla, tobacco, chocolate, blackberry, and herbs linger.
2006 Yarden Syrah – (Israel, Galilee, Golan Heights) – Score: A-
The nose on this purple to black colored wine is not a classic syrah, excepting for the roasted meat, along with blackberry, ripe cassis, chocolate, plum, raspberry, cherry, and oak. This wine starts off super hot and need a good hour to open up and blow off its coat of alcohol. I must admit that I enjoyed this with friends in a house that was being used as a barbeque pit, as the outside was too wet, still, the nose showed well with the black and red fruit, along with the oak and chocolate. The mouth on this rich and muscular black wine was opulent and powerful with more blackberry, inky black, ripe and rich cassis, and plum, and tannins that are still finding their way around the house, but are slowly learning the premises. The sinews rippling on this bad boy easily handled the char broiled meats that were superb! The mid palate was balanced with acid, chocolate, nice oak, still tight tannins, and more inky black. The finish is super long and crazy spicy with a hint of leather, chocolate, blackberry, ripe plum, and more inky black density. Read the rest of this entry
Rosh Hashanah lunch, Herb encrusted gefilte fish loaf, Rosemary and Sage Infused Encrusted Rib Roast, vegetable kugel, and many wines
Rosh Hashanah day was a bit more wine focused than the previous evening. We invited a bunch of friends over and they brought some wonderful wines for us to enjoy. The first one being the 2008 Brobdingnagian Besomim Wine from Jonathan Hajdu, the associate wine maker at Covenant Wines. The other wine was the 2007 Hagafen Cuvee de Noirs, which I had been craving and was a wonderful surprise and delight to enjoy! We also opened a bottle of 2007 Galil Mountain Winery Shiraz Cabernet, which is another bottle that I truly enjoyed. The wines were all killer and really enjoyable. Now on to the menu and my normal format, we will get back to the wines later.
The meal started with the same starter course as we had the previous night, our reliable Herb encrusted gefilte fish loaf and green and black olives, and hummus. The reason I really like this recipe is because while normal gefilte fish recipes tastes like bland boiled white fish, this recipe tastes like herb-encrusted fish that is lightly charred with the herb and spice flavors permeated through and through the fleshy texture – quite a treat. The main course consisted of one of my favorite cuts of meat – rib roast. This was not a standing rib roast, as it was already deboned. The only way to cook this meat is covered slow and low and then blast it with a 400 degree oven to char the outside. This is the recipe of the generation X master of cooking science; Alton Brown, who I believe took much of what he learned in culinary school and Harold McGee and made it simple and palatable to generation X. The roast came out really nicely; it was NOT over or under cooked. However, the issue was that we served it lukewarm instead of piping hot. It is difficult on Yom Tov to both warm up a chunk of meat and not over cook it while trying to serve it piping hot. At least the rest of the meal was warm, including the Sage and Rosemary Jus. Along with the rib roast we had a repeat performance of brown rice, vegetable kugel, and fresh vegetable salad. The guests did serious damage to the rib roast, so I think it worked out well. We bought two chunks of rib roast, one 7+ pounds and the other one being 5+ pounds. The 7+ beast was consumed on Rosh Hashanah lunch, while the other chunk was served to family, when we all gathered for Succot (more on that is a subsequent post).
To pair with the lovely side of cow, we opened two bottles of wine, the two a fore mentioned; 2008 Brobdingnagian Besomim Wine and 2007 Galil Mountain Winery Shiraz Cabernet. The Brobdingnagian Besomim is a field blend of Zinfandel, Grenache, Petite Sirah, and Carignan. The grapes are sourced from the Chabad Rabbi’s small vineyard that he planted on his property in the Napa/Sonoma area. Jonathan then made the wine and it is truly a wine for drinking with food, this is no sipping wine. The wine is crazy rich with spice, which is the obvious derivative for its name (Besomim means spice in Hebrew). The wine easily handled the richly fat and herbed rib roast and the side dishes. We also enjoyed a bottle of 2007 Galil Mountain Winery Shiraz Cabernet. Originally, Daniel Rogov had given the wine a poor score, and I wanted to try it anyway, and I am happy I did. In a later tasting, before his untimely passing, he tasted the wine again, and scored it much in line with my notes and score.
The wine notes follow below in the order enjoyed:
2007 Hagafen Cuvee de Noirs – USA, California, Napa Valley, Yountville – Score: A-
The nose on this lovely burnt peach colored wine was lively with effervescent small bubbles, along with pear, orange, brioche, light toast, yeast, mango, apricot, peach, strawberry, and chocolate. The mouth on this medium bodied wine attacks first with a lovely mousse of small bubbles, followed by strawberry, peach, apple, orange, and pear. The mid palate is lovely and balanced with lively acidity, brioche, yeast, oak, and mango. The finish is super long, concentrated, and spicy with strawberry, lovely mousse, brioche, more chocolate, yeast, mango, peach, light oak, orange, and tea. This is a lovely sparkling wine that really needs time in the fridge and one that is a lovely now and will continue to be lovely for at least a few more years to come.
2008 Brobdingnagian Wines Besomim – USA, California, Sonoma County – Score: A-
This is a wine that truly lives up to its name. Besomim is Hebrew for a potent spice mix that is used as part of a post Sabbath havdalah (or separation) ceremony. The grapes used in this blend come from a field blend of Zinfandel, Syrah and Petite Sirah. The nose on this dark garnet to black colored wine is screaming with spices, nutmeg, black pepper, cloves, along with mint, tobacco, chocolate, a hint of tar, high alcohol to start, cedar, raspberry, plum, black fruit, herbs, and vanilla. The nose is assaulted by all of these aromas in quick succession, so I am sure I missed some. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is hopping and super concentrated with dark cherry, plum, blackberry, nutmeg, cloves, spices, mint, and chocolate. The mid palate is balanced with nice acidity, chocolate, mint, tobacco, and cedar. The finish is super long and spicy, with rich spices, toasty almost spicy cedar, tobacco, chocolate, tar, black pepper, cloves, blackberry, herbs, and vanilla. This is a wine that is best enjoyed with heavy foods, this wine is far to spice infused to be enjoyed as a sipping wine.
2007 Galil Mountain Winery Shiraz Cabernet kosher – Israel, Galilee – Score: B++ to A-
The nose on this purple to black colored wine is an alchemy of the two fruits used, tobacco, rich chocolate, tar, strong alcohol to start, black pepper, dirt, sweet cedar, smoky notes, raspberry, blackberry, plum, and vanilla. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine starts off very hot, but over time cools off to show both sides of this blend, the syrah shows first with a strong presence of black pepper, coffee, blackberry, and tar, over time the syrah gives way to the Cabernet with rich blackberry, plum, sweet cedar and chocolate. The Cabernet side of this wine almost 100% reminded me of the Alexander Winery Cabernet with its sweet cedar, plum, and blackberry combination. The mid palate is balanced with rich acid, sweet cedar, black pepper, tar, chocolate, tobacco, licorice, dirt, plum, raspberry, and a nice dollop of vanilla on top. This wine pack a punch with its heat, but once that dies down, the wine has two sides that are both lovely apart or combined, and linger nicely with rich ripe plum tobacco, chocolate, a hint of tar, and vanilla.
Well after a long hiatus I have finally been able to grab some time for myself and this blog. I have of course been writing wine notes (at cellartracker), just have had no time to get them placed here. So, I rewind us to July 29th, when we had the true joy of many of our friends sharing a meal around our table. The meal started with a lovely bottle of Four Gates Pinot, which was filled with classic CCC (Chicka Cherry Cola) and lovely bramble. The wine was lovely for the first course, which consisted of smoked salmon, spicy hummus and dips.
For the main course we made Beef Bourguignon made from eye chuck roast. I must say that this was the first time we used chuck eye roast, a more expensive cut of the chuck, but it was well worth it. The meat was well marbled, which allowed the meat to stay moist after being cooked for so many hours. I used this recipe, from Daniel Rogov’s culinary site.
Unfortunately, the recipe calls for some fatty goose to be the fat flavor booster (as pork is not kosher), but we had none of that. So, we went with some cubed sausages instead. The main trick is really to allow this dish to happen very slowly. The more time you give the ingredients to marinate, cook, and or cool the better the flavors will come together. The meat was awesome as was the dish, as we had almost no leftovers. The only thing we messed up, was not to remove more of the fat, which we will do next time.
The amount of time it takes to brown 4 pounds of cubed beef is crazy long, and that is why this is one of the easier yet long preparation dishes that we make. We paired the Beef Bourguignon with brown basmati rice, a lovely fresh green salad and some roasted green beans.
The wines we poured that matched this dish were three syrahs that I have been dying to try. The first was the 2008 Syraph One | Two Punch, which we tasted twice back in 2010. This wine did not disappoint us in any way. The wine is still kicking just fine and still has the insanely unique flavor of chocolate mocha covered espresso beans is quite fun and went very well with this hearty dish. That was followed by the 2007 Tishbi Organic Shiraz which was not tasting nearly as well as it did some 5 months ago when we tasted it in the winery. I brought this bottle back myself, and it was a slight disappointment. The nose was crazy good but the mouth was weak and not there. Finally, we had a bottle of the 2004 Yiron Syrah, which is going nowhere anytime soon. This wine is still a massive powerhouse and has at least a few more tannic years under its belt.
The meal was a hit as were most of the wines served. There were a few experimental and barrel wines served, but those notes are not listed here. The wine notes follow below:
2007 Tishbi Organic Sirah: (Israel, Galilee, Golan Heights) – Score: B++
The nose on this purple colored wine is clearly its strongest suite, it is clean, rich cedar, exploding with plum, strawberry, raspberry, black berries, roasted meat, tobacco, chocolate, a hint of tar, and vanilla. The nose is rich and full, and sadly its best feature. The mouth on this medium bodied wine does follow the nose, but has a blatant flaw,; that being is clear lack of balance. The mouth is mouth coating with nicely integrated tannin, raspberry, black plum, black berries, chocolate, and fig. The mid palate is unbalanced with what can only be called strawberry zest, black pepper, dirt, tar, and tobacco. The finish is nice and long with integrated tannin, dirt, black pepper, black plum, chocolate, rich cedar, tobacco, roasted meat, and vanilla. Cedar, tobacco, chocolate, vanilla, and plum linger long. This wine is DRINK NOW mode, please do not wait any longer.
2008 Syraph One | Two Punch 50% Grenache & 50% Syrah – (USA, San Luis Obispo Counties) – Score: A-
The nose on this purple-black colored wine is truly unique and very hard to pin down. Sometimes it smells like coffee and sometimes it smells like chocolate. I think it is actually a blend or maybe a mocha espresso, along with ripe blackberry, blueberry, plum, vanilla, smoky, oak, along with crushed herbs. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is layered and concentrated with blackberry, blueberry, vanilla, mocha espresso, nice tannin, and plum. The mid palate spikes with acid, oak, and vanilla. The finish is super long and spicy with chocolate, vanilla, black fruit, tannin, oak, and herbs. Quite a unique and fun wine. This wine has calmed a bit since last year, but the tannins are still not fully integrated.
2004 Galil Mountain Winery Syrah Yiron Kosher – (Israel, Galilee) – Score: A- to A
To start I opened this bottle because I was told it was drink now time, personally, this beast is going nowhere fast in my opinion. The nose on this purple to black colored wine is exploding with rich and concentrated aromas, rich cedar, baking chocolate, leafy tobacco, hints of tar, heaps of black pepper, smoky notes, coffee, raspberry, blackberry, cassis, plum, crushed herbs, and eucalyptus. The mouth on this super rich and concentrated wine hits you in layers upon layers of still not integrated tannin, licorice, black pepper, blackberry, plum, chocolate, and cedar. The mid palate is balanced with sweet cedar, nice acidity, more nice tannin, tobacco, and chocolate. The finish is super long and spicy with crazy rich cedar, blackberry, crushed herbs, plum, tobacco, chocolate, figs, a hint of tar, with a dollop of vanilla. Black pepper, crushed herbs, chocolate, tobacco, plum, and vanilla linger super long. This wine is in no hurray to be drunk, but is lovely now.
This past week was Passover, which started on Monday night. We always enjoy Passover with a few of our friends, with each of us trading off for who hosts the Seder, this year we did the hosting and it was a lovely party! We opened some wines, some nice, some OK, and some close to being duds. In the end it was a true joy and was enjoyed by all who attended, at least that is what they told me 🙂 We started the Seder off with some nice wines, listed below, and then moved on to whole-wheat hand shmurah Matzoh! This was the first year that we were lucky to get our hands on whole-wheat hand shmurah matzoh. It is very easy to get whole-wheat, spelt, or other cool versions of the five grains matzoh. However, this is the first year that I could easily get our hands on whole-wheat hand shmurah matzoh. The matzoh was thin and lovely but a bit stale, so we had to reheat the matzoh for 10 or so minutes in the oven to revive them and get them nice and crispy.
After that we had some lovely herb encrusted Gefilte fish loaf along with eggplant, onion, and mushroom salad. For the main course we had some lovely meatballs, kugel, quinoa, and a fresh green salad.
Now before you call me a heretic, yes I eat Quinoa on Passover, as does the CRC and the Star-K, while the OU has backed away from this whole mess and let people decide for themselves. We have been eating Quinoa for sometime on Passover and though others have an issue, we feel fine about it, though it is best to contact your own local area Rabbi. The New York Times heard about the tumult and wrote an article all about it.
Kosher for Passover Meatball Recipe (modified from the Early Show recipe):
3 tablespoons of Olive oil
2 coarsely chopped Onions
8 ounces of tomato sauce
4 tablespoons of Parsley
3 broken up square Matzohs
Salt & Pepper to taste
Tomato Sauce for Braising the meatballs:
2 tablespoons of Olive Oil
2 finely chopped Onions
1 28 oz can of Tomato Puree or Tomato Sauce
2 cups of red wine
Heat the olive oil in a large pot. Add the onions and sauté over a high flame stirring constantly until soft. Add the tomato sauce and parsley and continue to cook for three minutes. Remove the onions from the heat and set aside and cool. Once cool, add all of the ingredients to a large bowl and mix thoroughly by hand and roll the meatballs into golf ball sized meatballs.
Now we need to create the braising sauce. Chop the two onions and saute them in the olive oil. Once browned nicely throw in the tomato sauce and wait for the sauce to thicken by a quarter. Then add in the wine and mix thoroughly. Then add in the meatballs one at a time into the hot braising sauce and cook the meatballs for 20 to 30 minutes.
The funny thing about the Early Show recipe was that it had liver in it, which is not for me. Also, they were roasting the meatballs and that is a no-no for the first two nights, as one cannot eat any type of roasted meat for the first two nights of passover, as it may look like the Passover Sacrifice which we do not have today. Yes, meatballs do NOT look like a sacrifice! Still, the law is: any meat braised is fine, any meat roasted (cooked without a sauce) is NOT. You can eat roasted vegetables.
For the four cups (arba kosos) and beyond we enjoyed the wines listed here in the order they were served:
2004 Golan Heights Winery Pinot Noir Yarden Kosher – Score: B++ to A-
This wine is really hitting its stride and may well be time to drink up! The nose on this dark garnet colored wine opened with black fruit that lays deep within this wine’s veins, but hidden initially under a blanket of oak. This wine opens with sweet oak, blackberry, raspberry, plum, and classic Pinot cherries along with coffee, dirt, and a hint of herbaceous mint. The mouth on this full bodied wine was velvety and mouth coating. The tannins are now well integrated and not mouth puckering and give a richness to the wine. The mouth starts with blackberry, raspberry, plum, and cherry, and flows into a mid palate of more oak, coffee, dirt, and some middling acidity. The finish is long with rich fruit, oak, chocolate, vanilla, and a bit of chocolate that rounds out the wine. This is a nice wine that is showing well but is time to drink up!!!