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Three 2018 California Napa Valley Wines

I know some of you are hoping for posts from my trip to France. However, I need to clean up some missing posts, I have a lot of wine that needed to be posted and now I will do those quickly. After that, I will start posting the wines I tasted in France.

In April Gabriel Geller and I went to Marciano Estate, along with Hagafen Cellars, both of them in Napa Valley, California. Then we went to Herzog Wine Cellars, Oxnard, California. Most of the wine notes from Hagafen and Herzog were posted in this blog post. Of the 2018 vintage, I am still a massive fan of the Sonoma County wines over the Napa Valley wines, in this case, the EPIC 2018 Herzog Wine cellars lineup. Though, the 2018 Herzog Forbearers Cabernet Sauvignon was quite nice but too expensive. Overall, the Napa Valley wines are all too expensive for the value, and really, I would stick 100% with the Sonoma County wines. That said, the Marciano wines are beautiful but at 350 dollars or 140 dollars, it really is a matter of value to me. Are they great wines? Yes, you can see that from the scores below. Napa Valley wines are not cheap, and the cost of labor and kosher wine supervision at such a small scale adds to the overall cost of the kosher product. This is just a matter of Napa Valley wines while being nice, are almost pricing themselves out in the kosher market, when there are better options available.

My thanks to all at Marciano Estate and to all at Herzog Wine cellars for hosting us and letting us taste the wonderful wines. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:

2018 Marciano Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley – Score: 93+ (QPR: POOR)
The wine is a blend of 82% Cabernet Sauvignon & 18% Cabernet Franc. The nose on this wine is so elegant it is crazy, with sweet oak, tar, graphite, roasted animal, spice, rich black currant, sweet cinnamon, and lovely floral lavender. The mouth on this full-bodied wine is incredible, richly layered, concentrated, extracted, deep fruit focus, crazy balance, with intense mineral, the graphite and saline are far more pronounced in the Marciano than in the Terra Gratia, with pure elegance, plum, dark cherry, smoke, and loads of earth. The finish is long, green, earthy, with sweet tobacco, vanilla, dark chocolate, sweet spices, more floral notes, and tannin that lingers forever. Drink from 2026 until 2034. (tasted April 2021)

2018 Marciano Terra Gratia, Napa Valley – Score: 92+ (QPR: POOR)
Lovely nose of black currant, roasted herb, rich mineral, serious smoke, star anise, tarragon, with rich saline. The mouth on this full-bodied, really impressive, with polish, plush, rich and concentrated, layered, elegant, with black currant, plum, incredible, rich smoke, raspberry, with menthol, intense acid, draping elegant tannin, green note, lovely, sweet Oak, Asian spice, and spices galore. The finish is super long and green and ripe and smoky and spicy, with elegance, roasted animal, and lovely chewing tobacco, and earth galore, and charcoal. With time the nose changes to sweet oak, sweet dill, smoke, green notes, garrigue, sweet mint, Oregano, tar, sweet black, and red fruit. The mouth is rich, extracted, layered, and elegant. Bravo! Drink from 2025 until 2032. (tasted April 2021)

2018 Herzog Generation IX Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap, Napa Valley – Score: 93 (QPR: POOR)
The nose on this wine is ripe, balanced, and in control, with rich blackberry, anise, raspberry, with tar, smoke, roasted meat, lavender, rooibos tea, black tea, with dense forest floor, mineral, rich tilled earth, and loam. The mouth on this full-bodied wine is ripe, layered, concentrated, and a bit elegant, with a nice plushness, with ripe blackberry, dark cherry, raspberry, currant, plum, and lovely green note, mouth draping tannin, foliage, loam, and forest floor, with anise and tar. The finish is long, green, with chalk, graphite, black tea, dried rose petals, graphite, dried porcini mushroom, and smoke that is wrapped in rich extraction, and foliage galore, Bravo! Drink from 2028 until 2035. (tasted April 2021)

The 2021 Kosher rose season is open and I am still underwhelmed – scene 3

I know some of you are hoping for posts from my trip to France. However, I need to clean-up some missing posts, I have a lot of wine that needed to be posted and now I will do those quickly. After that I will start posting the wines I tasted in France.

So, the last time I posted about roses, we had the lovely 2020 Chateau Sainte Marguerite Rose and the 2020 Chateau Sainte Marguerite, Cuvee Fantastique Rose, and I also tasted a few roses before my trip to Paris.

I will not repost all my thoughts on roses and the such or how they are made, please read my last post for all of that information.

This will be a quick and simple post for the roses I had not yet posted to the blog.

Best rose so far in 2021

Well, let’s hold up here for a second. as stated above, I have not tasted all the roses out there yet. I will get more over the next couple of weeks. I will probably taste as many as I did last year, again given the logistics of life today. That will still be fewer than in 2019.

If there are two ideas you get from this post that would be great. ONE: Drink only 2020 roses now. TWO: Drink refreshing roses. A rose that feels heavy, unbalanced, and one that does not make you reach for more, is not a rose I would recommend.

So with that said, here are the best options, if you must have a rose, sadly only a couple of these are worth buying – but so far are the best options here in the USA:

  1. 2020 Chateau Sainte Marguerite Cuvee Fantastique Rose – best rose I have tasted so far, but not including roses I had in France
  2. 2020 Or Or de la Castinelle Rose and the 2020 Domaine du Vallon Des Glauges Rose – ONLY QPR WINNERS
  3. 2020 Cantina Giuliano Rosato – a fun wine at a great price
  4. 2020 Sainte Beatrice B – is the best of the European Mevushal Rose, with the Roubine a touch behind
  5. 2020 Hajdu Rose – is the best of the Cali roses (that I have tasted so far)
  6. 2020 Domaine Netofa Rose/2020 Dalton Rose – nicest of the riper roses (that I have tasted so far)
  7. 2020 Lahat Vignette Rose – is the best of the Israeli rose, but expensive

The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:

2020 Domaine du Vallon Des Glauges Rose – Score: 91 (QPR: WINNER)
This is the second rose that is a WINNER – BRAVO! This wine is a blend of 60% Grenache and 40% Counoise, yes you had me at Counoise! Interestingly, comparing the Sancerre Rose to this one, the Sancerre is riper and the Vallon is dry as all dry, it is bone dry, and it is very different. To double down on my previous statement this is not your strawberry, raspberry, cherry wine, this is more white fruit than red fruit. The nose on this wine is unique and lovely, with notes of tart strawberry, peach, apricot, jasmine, flint, smoke, and rocks galore – lovely! The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is so refreshing, so lovely, so fun, so invigorating, I could not spit this one, with rich saline, plus acidity, funk galore, peach, tart red fruit, pear, and intense grapefruit/lime. The finish is so long, so lovely, balanced, refreshing, it pulls you in with pith, fruit, mineral, limestone, slate, and rock. WOW! Drink now. (tasted May 2021)

2020 J. De Villebois Sancerre Rose (M) – Score: 90 (QPR: GOOD)
I had heard rumors about thsi wine but they were all wrong – this is a lovely wine! The nose on this Pinot Noir Rose, is crazy fun, with intense mineral, loads of tart strawberry, rosewater, cherry, flint, limestone, and lovely floral rose petals. The mouth on this medium-bodied rose is screaming with acid, the acid hits you and it never leaves, but it is not a one-trick pony, the wine is balanced with ripe fruit, strawberry, peach, lavender, watermelon, intense mineral, more of the limestone, slate, and smoke, with rich saline, pink grapefruit, and intense acid that goes on forever. This wine is super refreshing, tart, fruity, balanced, and really fun, Nice!! (tasted May 2021)

2020 Herzog Limited Edition Rose of Pinot Noir, Tasting Room – Score: 90 (QPR: EVEN)
The nose on this wine is sweet, with intense floral notes, candied fruit, and rich mineral. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is solid, with intense rhubarb, pomegranate, and strawberry, with enough acid, nice rosehip, sweet fruit, and berries. The finish is long, tart, sweet, and ripe but balanced, nice! Drink now. (tasted April 2021)

2020 Bat Shlomo Rose – Score: 89 (QPR: EVEN)
The wine has enough here to make me interested but in the end it comes up short. The nose on this wine is nice with the smoke and flint, that is the best part, sadly, after that, there is little to captivate you, strawberry, raspberry, and lime are also present. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine feels a bit hollow, it has the acid, it feels correct, it has some amount of refreshment, but the hole in the middle is maddening, with good acid in the front and back, strawberry, lime, tart quince, Rooibos notes, and lingering acidity on the end. a nice enough wine drink now. (tasted May 2021)

2020 Rubis Roc Rose (M) – Score: 88 (QPR: GREAT)
This wine is a blend of 50% Cinsault and 50% Cabernet Sauvignon. This is a nice enough rose, it lacks the acid punch I crave but it has some bite. The nose on this wine is muted, with notes of funk, cherry, raspberry, plum, and flint. The mouth of this medium-bodied wine is balanced but it lacks the acid, it has the fruit, and it is refreshing, but what it needs is more punch and more bite. Still, a nice enough rose. Drink now. (tasted May 2021)

2020 Shirah Rose – Score: 85 (QPR: EVEN)
The nose on this wine is ripe, showing notes of candied fruit, watermelon, pomegranate, rosewater, orange blossom, red fruit, and spices. The mouth on this wine is empty, it has fruit, ripe fruit, and some mineral, but there is no acidity, it is flat, it has enough fruit to make things interesting, with ripe and candied plum, strawberry, rosewater, and sweet spices, but it truly lacks acid and lacks the refreshing factor. Drink now. (tasted May 2021)

2020 The Butcher’s Daughter South Rose (M) – Score: 80 (QPR: NA)
This wine is a blend of 60% Cinsault and 40% Cabernet Franc. The nose on this wine is is muted and flat much like this wine, though there is acidity in the mouth the rest is hollow and empty. The mouth on this wine is flat as well and has acid, raspberry, and cooked fruit to show. Drink now. (tasted May 2021)

2020 Tura Mountain Vista Rose – Score: 70 (QPR: BAD)
This wine is a blend of 68% Merlot and 32% Cabernet Sauvignon. I keep asking for wineries, to be honest, if a wine has residual sugar why are you writing the wine is dry? This is not a dry wine by anyone’s assessment. The nose on this wine is ripe, candied watermelon, lifesaver candy, and loads of ripe peach, pineapple, and candied fruit, with a hint or two of floral notes and that, is it. The mouth on this wine, to me, is appalling, it is 100% in-your-face fruit, no attempt to show balance, just candy and more candy, think of Halloween night and you are 7 years old, that is what this tastes like. This is all Jolly Rancher sweet, with watermelon, peach, pineapple, and just no balance. Sad. Drink now. (tasted May 2021)

The 2021 Kosher rose season is open and I am still underwhelmed – scene 2

Since the last time I tasted and posted notes on the new roses, NorCal was still in the dead of winter/Spring and it was not very Rose weather. At that time, like now, I was deeply underwhelmed and thought it was going to be another stinker of a year for roses. Thankfully, since then, I have had two roses that returned my belief in rose, though that is two out of 48 roses that I have tasted. Overall, the scores are lower than last year and those were lower than the year before, essentially, less happy!

So, this post is scene 2 in the rose open season, and I have now tasted all the roses I would dare/care to try, and FAR TOO many that I did not want to! Sadly, many wines are still not here. We are missing a few new wines from Chateau Roubine, the new 2020 Vallon des Glauges is lurking somewhere in the USA, the 2020 Recanati roses are not here and neither are Yatir or Yaacov Oryah. So, yeah we are missing some that normally come here, but I have tasted almost everything that is here in the USA< outside of some that I could not bring myself to taste, I am sorry.

While rose wine in the non-kosher market is exploding – especially Rose wine from Provence; a wine region of France, kosher roses have ebbed and flowed. Last year, the kosher market for roses slowed down a bit. This year it has returned to absolute insanity and sadly they are all expensive and boring, again, at best.

QPR and Price

I have been having more discussions around my QPR (Quality to Price) score with a few people and their contention, which is fair, in that they see wine at a certain price, and they are not going to go above that. So, instead of having a true methodology behind their ideas, they go with what can only be described as a gut feeling. The approaches are either a wine punches above its weight class so it deserves a good QPR score. Or, this other wine has a good score and is less than 40 dollars so that makes it a good QPR wine.

While I appreciate those ideals, they do not work for everyone and they do NOT work for all wine categories. It does NOT work for roses. Look, rose prices are 100% ABSURD – PERIOD! The median rose price has stayed the same from last year, so far though many expensive roses are not here yet! So far, it is around 22 bucks – that is NUTS! Worse, is that the prices are for online places like kosherwine.com or onlinekosherwine.com, with free or good shipping options and great pricing, definitely not retail pricing.

As you will see in the scores below, QPR is all over the place and there will be good QPR scores for wines I would not buy while there are POOR to BAD QPR scores for wines I would think about drinking, but not buying, based upon the scores, but in reality, I would never buy another bottle because the pricing is ABSURDLY high.

Also, remember that the QPR methodology is based upon the 4 quintiles! Meaning, that there is a Median, but there are also quintiles above and below that median. So a wine that is at the top price point is by definition in the upper quintile. The same goes for scores. Each step above and below the median is a point in the system. So a wine that is in the most expensive quintile but is also the best wine of the group gets an EVEN. Remember folks math wins!

Still, some of the wines have a QPR of great and I would not buy them, why? Well, again, QPR is based NOT on quality primarily, it is based upon price. The quality is secondary to the price. For example, if a rose gets a score of 87 points, even though that is not a wine I would drink, if it has a price below 23 dollars – we have a GREAT QPR. Again, simple math wins. Does that mean that I would buy them because they have a GREAT QPR? No, I would not! However, for those that still want roses, then those are OK options.

Please remember, a wine score and the notes are the primary reason why I would buy a wine – PERIOD. The QPR score is there to mediate, secondarily, which of those wines that I wish to buy, are a better value. ONLY, the qualitative score can live on its own, in regards to what I buy. The QPR score defines, within the wine category, which of its peers are better or worse than the wine in question.

Finally, I can, and I have, cut and paste the rest of this post from last year’s rose post and it plays 100% the same as it did last year. Why? Because rose again is horrible. There is almost no Israeli rose, that I have tasted so far, that I would buy – no way! Now, I have not tasted the wines that many think are good in Israel, Vitkin, Oryah, and Recanati roses. In reality, there is NO QPR WINNER yet, of the 30+ roses I have tasted, not even close, sadly.

The French roses are OK, but nothing to scream about. I still remember fondly the 2015 Chateau Roubine, I tasted it with Pierre and others in Israel, what a wine! I bought lots of that wine in 2016. Last year, the 2019 Cantina Giuliano Rosato was lovely, and the new 2020 vintage is almost as good.

As stated above, this year, I will not be able to taste all the roses like I have been able to do in the past, or get close anyway. This year, travel is not an option and many of the wines are not coming to the USA. So, sadly, all I can post on is what I have tasted. To that point, I have yet to taste the Israeli wines I stated above, along with a few Cali, and the more obscure Israeli wineries that I normally get to when I am there. Still, what I have tasted is not good. A literal repeat of last year, sadly.

So, if you know all about rose and how it is made, skip all the information and go to the wines to enjoy for this year, of the wines I have tasted so far. If you do not know much about rose wine, read on. In a nutshell, 2020 roses are a waste of time. Please spend your money on white wines instead. They exist for a better price, value, and garner better scores. IF YOU MUST have rose stick to the few that I state below in my Best rose so far in 2020 section, right above the wine scores.

Kosher Rose pricing

I want to bring up a topic I have been hammering on in my past posts, price! Yeah, I hear you, Avi Davidowitz, of KosherWineUnfiltered, please quiet down, gloating does not suit you – (smiley face inserted here). The prices of Rose wines have gotten out of control. QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) has become nonexistent, essentially here in the USA, for the kosher rose market. Finally, I am sorry, but I feel that wineries were either hampered in some way with the 2020 rose vintage, or honestly, they just threw in the towel, The 2020 vintage is as bad or worse than the 2019 vintage, and 2019 was the worst one in the last 10 years, AGAIN. The roses of 2020 feel commodity at best, they feel rushed, with no real care, rhyme, or reason. They feel like we have peaked. They are nowhere near the 2015 vintage that put Chateau Roubine on the map for kosher wine drinkers. This year’s crop of roses feel half-hearted pure cash cows, and really without love behind them, AGAIN. I get it running a winery is a tough business, and you need cash flow, and the best cash flow product out there is Rose and Sauvignon Blanc wines. At least there are some good to WINNER Sauvignon Blanc wines from 2020. In Rose, for 2020, so far there is none.

As always, I will be chastised for my opinions, my pronouncements, and I am fine with that. This is a wake-up post, last year there were one or two roses at this point. This year there are none! In the end, I will repeat this statement many times, I would rather buy, the Gilgal Brut, 2019 Chateau Lacaussade, 2020 Hagafen Riesling, Dry, 2020 Sheldrake Point Riesling, 2018 Ramon Cardova Albarino (2019 is not as fun but solid), 2019 Goose Bay Sauvignon Blanc, 2019 O’dwyers Creek Sauvignon Blanc, 2018 Pacifica Riesling, 2019 Netofa Latour White, 2020 Covenant Red C Sauvignon Blanc. There are far better options, cheaper and better options in the world of white wine! PLEASE!!!

I was thinking about going with the title: 2020 kosher Roses suck hard – who cares? Because that is how I feel. This vintage is a massive letdown, AGAIN, worse than 2019, prices are still too high, quality has hit rock bottom, and overall professionalism, IMHO, has gone along with the quality. Wineries have been getting away with less and less quality for years, raising prices, and this is the worst I have seen in the rose market overall. So, yeah, who cares?

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Herzog Wine Cellars continues to impress with red wines from 2018, 2019, and now the 2020 vintages

In case you missed the last Herzog Wine Cellars post – please check that out here, I see no need to repeat all of the same content! That said – wow! The 2017 vintage was tough, it was tough for all of Cali, it was a bad vintage. Thankfully, 2017 is past us, and we have 2018 and 2019 looking mighty fine, given the scores/notes from the last post and the ones from this new tasting. Throw in ONE 2020 red wine, the 2020 Herzog Choreograph, which is fun, extremely well balanced, and literally what I wrote – fun!

The other wines in the tasting are from 2018 and 2019 and they garnered QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) WINNER, GREAT, GOOD, or EVEN scores. Still, the most impressive wines, from this tasting, came from the 2019 vintage, the 2019 Herzog Pinot Noir, Reserve, and the 2019 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Reserve, Lake County. There were also two 2018 wines, the WINNING 2018 Herzog Merlot, Special Reserve, Alexander Valley, a return after almost 20 years of hiatus. Along with the 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Reserve, Napa Valley. The 2019 French and American Oak wines were not as good as in previous vintages. Also, the 2019 Lineage Pinot Noir was not as good as previous vintages, though I liked the Lineage Chardonnay.

I will keep this short, so my many thanks to Joseph Herzog, David Whittemore, Joe Hurliman, and Alicia Wilbur for answering my many emails and calls. Be well to you all, California is getting even crazier – stay safe guys! The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

2018 Herzog Merlot, Special Reserve, Alexander Valley (M) – Score: 91 (QPR: WINNER)
This is the return of the Alexander Valley Merlot – Miles is dead (not in real life but you get the gist)! The nose on this wine calls to mind a Zinfandel more than a Merlot, which is helped by what I think is sweet American Oak, followed by hickory, sweet sugar/toffee notes, followed by blue and red fruit, licorice, with violet notes, and smoke. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine, to start shows more like Zinfandel than Merlot, with enough complexity to grab you, followed by fine tannins to start, but they grip and drape with time, strawberry, boysenberry, cranberry, and hints of pomegranate, with intense garrigue, sweet zin berry notes, and everything that makes me want to say this is a Zinfandel. The finish is long, green, red, smoky, and gripping with tannin, boysenberry, leather, and more violets. You see why I think this is a Zinfandel! With more time the wine does not change, in the end, it is a nice wine that does not taste like a Merlot to me. (tasted March 2021)

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The 2021 Kosher rose season is open and once again I am underwhelmed – scene 1

It is not yet summer and here in NorCal it feels like more like a wet winter, this year has started cold and has stayed cold throughout the country, other than in Arizona and Florida, AKA, baseball Spring Training! Normally, I would have been in Israel by now, one way or the other, and I would have also visited France, sadly, with the times we live in now, neither of those wonderful ideas is possible. Sad and strange days we live in. Also, this is scene 1, more roses are coming in, but we have seen a large number already, and yes, like last year, they are underwhelming, at BEST!

While rose wine in the non-kosher market is exploding – especially Rose wine from Provence; a wine region of France, kosher roses have ebbed and flowed. Last year, the kosher market for roses slowed down a bit. This year it has returned to absolute insanity and sadly they are all expensive and boring, again, at best.

QPR and Price

I have been having more discussions around my QPR (Quality to Price) score with a few people and their contention, which is fair, in that they see wine at a certain price, and they are not going to go above that. So, instead of having a true methodology behind their ideas, they go with what can only be described as a gut feeling. The approaches are either a wine punches above its weight class so it deserves a good QPR score. Or, this other wine has a good score and is less than 40 dollars so that makes it a good QPR wine.

While I appreciate those ideals, they do not work for everyone and they do NOT work for all wine categories. It does NOT work for roses. Look, rose prices are 100% ABSURD – PERIOD! The median rose price has stayed the same from last year, so far though many expensive roses are not here yet! So far, it is around 22 bucks – that is NUTS! Worse, is that the prices are for online places like kosherwine.com or onlinekosherwine.com, with free or good shipping options and great pricing, definitely not retail pricing.

As you will see in the scores below, QPR is all over the place and there will be good QPR scores for wines I would not buy while there are POOR to BAD QPR scores for wines I would think about drinking, but not buying, based upon the scores, but in reality, I would never buy another bottle because the pricing is ABSURDLY high.

Also, remember that the QPR methodology is based upon the 4 quintiles! Meaning, that there is a Median, but there are also quintiles above and below that median. So a wine that is at the top price point is by definition in the upper quintile. The same goes for scores. Each step above and below the median is a point in the system. So a wine that is in the most expensive quintile but is also the best wine of the group gets an EVEN. Remember folks math wins!

Still, some of the wines have a QPR of great and I would not buy them, why? Well, again, QPR is based NOT on quality primarily, it is based upon price. The quality is secondary to the price. For example, if a rose gets a score of 87 points, even though that is not a wine I would drink, if it has a price below 22 dollars – we have a GREAT QPR. Again, simple math wins. Does that mean that I would buy them because they have a GREAT QPR? No, I would not! However, for those that still want roses, then those are OK options.

Please remember, a wine score and the notes are the primary reason why I would buy a wine – PERIOD. The QPR score is there to mediate, secondarily, which of those wines that I wish to buy, are a better value. ONLY, the qualitative score can live on its own, in regards to what I buy. The QPR score defines, within the wine category, which of its peers are better or worse than the wine in question.

Finally, I can, and I have, cut and paste the rest of this post from last year’s rose post and it plays 100% the same as it did last year. Why? Because rose again is horrible. There is almost no Israeli rose, that I have tasted so far, that I would buy – no way! Now, I have not tasted the wines that many think are good in Israel, Vitkin, Oryah, and Recanati roses. In reality, there is NO QPR WINNER yet, of the 30+ roses I have tasted, not even close, sadly.

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The start of 2020 roses and whites and six QPR WINNERS

I am going to keep this post real short. I am catching up on some wines that I have tasted over the past month or more. Sadly, most of these are a mess or just good enough. Thankfully, there were six QPR (Quality to Price) Winners. That included the 2017 Carmel Riesling, Kayoumi Vineyards. I have said this a few times, Rieslings need time! 2017 is no different. It needed time to come around and now it is a solid QPR WINNER.

Roses are slowly trickling in and on kosher wine sites, you can see as many as 20 2020 roses. Sadly, it takes time for them to get to me, so I will start my usual procession of rose wines in a subsequent post, as they get to me here in California. So far, like 2019, they are a mess, and they feel like a total waste of my money.

In the end, the QPR WINNERS are no surprise! The 2020 Covenant Sauvignon Blanc is a solid wine and one that has lovely control and acidity. Having a wine like this with all that mother nature threw at California in 2020, I say Bravo to Covenant Winery! There are two Netofa Latour QPR WINNERS and OMG they are absolute ROCK stars. Please do me a favor and GET THEM! They will move fast! The 2016 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico, Riserva is another absolute Rock Star! Finally, the last QPR WINNER was the new vintage of the Flechas Gran Malbec a lovely wine that is not ready yet but will be nice when it is.

There were a few wines that were not winners:

  1. The much-ballyhooed 2018 Capcanes Peraj Ha’abib. I had it and it was a mess to mess. It was ripe from the start and while that ripeness did calm a bit it never really came around and for the most part, it was just OK.
  2. I was not a fan of any of the Carmel Mediterranean Vats wines. The 2019 Mediterranean 2 Vats white wine was ok, but it felt to me like it has RS (Residual Sugar) and that does not fly with me at all.
  3. The 2017 Marciano Terra Gratia was shockingly ripe and is probably the most elegant Date-juice driven wine I have ever tasted. I could be convinced, at gunpoint, to enjoy that wine, based solely on its elegance.
  4. The 2018 Dalton Petite Sirah was nice enough, but for the price, and the overall quality, it was a miss for me.
  5. Sadly, the 2018 Koenig wines continue to not impress, other than the lovely Riesling
  6. I tasted a large number of Victor Wines and none of them were any good.

While these other wines were not WINNERS they were quite enjoyable:

  1. I got to taste the new 2018 Dampt Freres Bourgogne. It is a much better version than the 2017 vintage. Sadly, the wine will probably sell for a price that does not let it be a QPR WINNER. I hope future wines will be priced lower. The sad truth is that there are few good QPR WINNER wines in the simple red wine category. It is a very hard nut to crack both in regards to making good wine and keeping it at the QPR price for that category, which is 20 or so dollars, at this moment.
  2. There were two nice 2019 Vitkin Wines the 2019 Vitkin Pinot Noir and the 2019 Vitkin Israeli Journey. These wines are solid, both a 90 score, but the prices are still too high for such wines. They are both simple reds and they price above the 20 dollar price range for simple red wines. They punch MUCH higher in regards to quality. The median score for simple reds is 87, at this moment. Again, getting a red wine to score WINNER in the simple red wine category is really tough!
  3. The Twin Sun white and Rose wines have been doing a great job, which is no surprise, as the Weiss Brothers know how to make great white and Rose wines. The 2018 Twin Suns Chardonnay-Viognier is a nice wine and at a very good price! Nice!
  4. The famous Matar Sparkling wine was nice enough, but it is not nearly as good as the Yarden Sparkling wines and it is more expensive. The bottle is nice!
  5. I had the chance to taste the 2017 Chateau Leoville Poyferre again, under less than perfect conditions, NO NOT the KFWV bottle, and I have revised notes, but the score stays the same.

The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

2020 Rose Wines

2020 Flam Rose – Score: 89+ (QPR: EVEN)
The nose on this wine is nice, with floral notes, with strawberry, flint, and red fruit. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is nice, with good acid, nice mouthfeel, with a good fruit-focus, nice strawberry, currants, and good grapefruit. (tasted January 2021)

2020 1848 2nd Generation Rose – Score: 84 (QPR: EVEN)
The nose on this wine is nice enough with notes of rosehip, floral notes, citrus, and mineral The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is nice, with good acidity, and not much else, with more citrus, grapefruit, currants, and strawberry. The finish is long, acidic, and more currants and flowers. (tasted January 2021)

2020 Herzog Lineage Rose (M) – Score: 80 (QPR: NA)
Sadly, this is off-dry, it has sweet notes and not my thing. The nose on this wine has a Muscat feel, with floral notes, pineapple, cooked cabbage, and red fruit. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine has no acid, is sweet, ripe, guava, melon, and no citrus, no acid, tropical, and not much else. (tasted January 2021)

2020 Shiloh Rose (M) – Score: 73 (QPR: NA)
The nose on this wine is tropical and ripe, with hints of mineral, and citrus. The mouth on this wine is where it all goes bad, sweet, unbalanced, bitter, a mess. (tasted January 2021)

Wines ordered in score order

2016 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico, Riserva – Score: 93+ (QPR: WINNER)
This is one of the most balanced versions of the Riserva in a very long time. The Riserva is normally undrinkable for a few years, this one is far more accessible than any previous version – WOW! The nose on this wine is incredible, with mushroom, truffle, soy sauce, tar, with floral notes of violets, and earth, smoke, and rich dark fruit, WOW! The mouth on this full-bodied wine is incredible, tannic, gripping, earthy, smoky, and fruity, with lovely tart cherry, currant, plum, and ripe blackberry, with rich earth, loam, mushroom, intense saline, black olives, with intense acid, and mouth-drying and draping aggressive tannin, wow! The finish is long, black, green, and earthy, with umami, soy sauce again, with incredible floral notes, leather, tobacco, tar, and richness, wow! Bravo!! Drink from 2025 until 2033. (tasted January 2021)

2017 Chateau Leoville Poyferre, Saint-Julien – Score: 93+ (QPR: EVEN)
The nose is beautiful and well-controlled with crazy pencil shavings, rich black, and blue fruit, followed by tar, earth, smoke, and licorice. The mouth on this medium to full-bodied wine is closed to start with layers upon layers of currants, dark cherry, blackberry, with mouth draping tannin, crazy mineral, pencil shavings galore, with plush elegance that is plush, mouth-coating, yet the ripeness in the background is ripe and scary, but hedonistic and voluptuous, with layers of tar, earth, licorice, bell pepper, and loads of tannin galore, showing elegance and plushness, with clear hedonistic leanings and graphite/acid core that makes it all work. The finish is long, black, green, and tannic, with plush fruit and smoke, with tobacco, chocolate-covered coffee bean, and earth galore. Bravo!! Drink from 2028 until 2037 (tasted February 2021)

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The top QPR Kosher wine WINNERS of 2020

This past year I wanted to drive home the need for QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) wines. So I set out to create what I thought a QPR metric should be! Gone were arbitrary price ranges and the such. Instead, I let the market define what the QPR price range should be. I did this by grouping the wines by their type (white, red, rose, sparkling, and dessert) and then further refined the grouping by age-ability within the white and red wines. This gave me the following groups:

  • Drink “soon” White Wine (Simple whites)
  • Rose Wine (always drink soon)
  • Drink “soon” Red Wine (Simple reds)
  • Mid-range aging Reds (4 to 11 years)
  • High-end Red wines (11 and more years)
  • High-end White wines (7 and more years)
  • Sparkling Wine (No need here for extra differentiation)
  • Dessert Wine

I then made the mistake of trying to create an Orange wine range/group – that was a HUGE mistake. Again, the wines themselves were not the issue, the issue revolved around trying to group such a small sample set into its group. They will go into their respective white wine category, next year.

Throughout the year, I posted many QPR posts, for almost all of the main categories. I will continue down this road until I find a better way to categorize and track wines that are QPR WINNERS. Talk about WINNERS, that secondary QPR score was a 2.1 revision to my QPR scoring, and that is explained in this post. All the wines listed here are QPR WINNERS from my tastings in 2020.

This year, the list came to a total of 25 names, and none had to dip below 91 in the scores, which is a large number and better scores overall than last year, but again, the pool from where they are culled continues to grow, and the diamonds in the rough are getting harder and harder to find.

I have added a few new things this year. The first is QPR for France, the prices for many wines there, are dirt cheap! Maybe, Avi Davidowitz, from kosher wine unfiltered, can create a list like that for Israel, this year, a bunch of wines became available there, and a proper QPR list would be worthwhile!

Shoutout to TWO GREAT wines that are just sitting around!

I am sorry to get on my soapbox before we get to the top QPR wines of 2020. But I have to ask what is wrong with Les Roches de Yon-Figeac? What is wrong with Albarino?

The 2016 Les Roches de Yon-Figeac is sitting around and no one is buying it! WHY??? It sits around and there is no real better option, IMHO, at this price point, currently. Yet, the wines sit! The crazy part is that the 2016 Les Roches is lovely, but 2017 is even better!!! The 2016 vintage has been here in the USA for years already! The price is perfect, 36 or 37 dollars for an impressive wine that can be enjoyed now, if you decant it well or age for 12 more years!

What about the Albarino wines? There is the cheap but wonderful 2018 Ramon Cardova Albarino, along with the 2018 Herzog Albarino, Special Reserve, at 2x the price. They are wonderful wines and they too sit on the sidelines! Horrible Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay wines sellout but these far better white options sit around. It is great that some of you have been enjoying Riesling, Grenache Blanc, and other varieties, but COME ON FOLKS – try other white wines – PLEASE!!

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 2020 White QPR kosher WINNERS

The Dampt Grand Cru from 2018 was the white wine of the year and the 2017 Dampt is the white Co-QPR white wine of the year. The other Co-QPR white wine of the year is the lovely 2019 Pescaja Terre Alfieri Arneis Solei. It is almost as unique as the 2013 Eccelenza, Bianco Umbria, which was crazy cool. These wines are worth the effort to find them, IMHO!

2019 Pescaja Terre Alfieri Arneis Solei – Score: 92+ (QPR: WINNER)
WOW! this is Arneis fruit, but to me, it is Sauvignon Blanc all the way, but where it departs from classic SB is the pear and almond which should tell you that something is either very wrong or this is not SB, which in case, is the latter, this is not Sauvignon Blanc! If anything this is more a perfect blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier, incredible!
PSA – This wine needs to be CHILLED – LIKE Champagne chilled, PLEASE!
The nose on this wine is truly redolent and super-expressive, if this is lost on you, please do not buy the wine, leave it for others who can appreciate it! This wine does indeed have notes of gooseberry, and cat pee, and lovely green notes, but it also has loads of floral notes, showing violet, rose, salted almond, chamomile, white flowers, and sweet ripe pear, and grapefruit. The mouth on this medium-bodied white wine is INCREDIBLE, nuts, with layers upon layers of incredible fruit, sure it has a drop of RS, but who cares! The mouth is layered with ripe pear, peach, apricot, ripe pomelo, with incredible honeysuckle, followed by honey, honeyed and spiced Citron, and incredible mineral, slate, spice, nutmeg, freshly-cut grass, straw, hay, and lovely roasted almond on the super longer lingering finish – WOW!! This is fun! Drink until 2024. (tasted August 2020)

2017 Dampt Freres Chablis, Premier Cru, Cote de Lechet – Score: 93 (QPR: WINNER)
OK, so, 2017 is the year for Chablis, and of what I had from Dampt Freres, two years ago, a few showed quite well. Those were Petit and a more minor vineyard. This wine is the 2017 Premier Cru and what a wine it is! My goodness, this is what Chardonnay, unoaked of course, ie meant to smell and taste like. It is pure mineral and fruit, with loads of dirt, smoke, and flint – a true joy – BRAVO!!!
The nose on this lovely wine is purely mineral notes, sure there is apple, peach, apricot, and some other white fruit, but who cares, what shines here is the mineral attack, shist, rock, flint, along with lovely white flowers, almonds, and hints of mushroom – I WANT THIS! The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is lovely, layers upon layers, come at you, with non-stop attack of mineral, fruit, earth, rich spices, and more mineral. The apricot, peach, yellow and green apple from the nose are present, as are hints of lychee, lovely Meyer lemon, and a tiny amount of crazy Kafir lime leaves and juice – WOW! The finish is so long, with incredible minerality, showing flint, rock, shist, and lovely straw, that brings the entire wine together – wow! A true joy – get this!! Drink until 2025. (tasted December 2020)

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My top 25 kosher wines of 2020 including Wine of the Year, Winery of the Year, and the best Wine of the Year awards

Like last year, I wanted to make this post short and sweet – so the criteria are simple. I could care less about price, color, or where it was made. All that matters is that it is/was available this year sometime to the public at large and that I tasted it in a reliable environment, not just at a tasting, and that it was scored a 92 or higher. Also, there are a few lower scoring wines here because of their uniqueness or really good QPR.

We are returning with the “wine of the year”, “best wine of the year” along with categories I added last year, “Winery of the Year”, “Best White wine of the year”. Wine of the year goes to a wine that distinguished itself in ways that are beyond the normal. It needs to be a wine that is easily available, incredible in style and flavor, and it needs to be reasonable in price. It may be the QPR wine of the year or sometimes it will be a wine that so distinguished itself for other reasons. The wines of the year are a type of wine that is severely unappreciated, though ones that have had a crazy renaissance, over the past two years. The Best Wine of the year goes to a wine well worthy of the title.

This past year, I think I am pretty sure about my state on kosher wine overall. In the past, I had not yet tasted the pape Clement or other such wines. However, over the past year, those have been covered, and they were a serious letdown. As stated in the article, I truly believe the entire kosher production of the Megrez wines, following the EPIC 2014 vintage of the Pape Clement and others, to be below quality and seriously overpriced, and without value in every category, which is a true shame. The 2015 reds are all poor quality and the whites are not much better, in 2015 and 2016. The 2016 Pape Clement, while better, is a total ripoff for what it is. As I will talk about in my year in review post, 2014 will come out as the best vintage for the past decade in France. That is a hotly debated subject, but IMHO, in the world of kosher wine, there were FAR more best wine options in the 2014 vintage than any other vintage in the past decade. That may not be the case for non-kosher wines, but news flash, I do not drink non-kosher wines, or even taste them, and further this blog is about kosher wines. The 2018 vintage may well have some serious “best wine of the year” candidates, but sadly, not all of those wines are here and I could not travel to France to taste them all, as I do commonly.

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. If last year, I thought the roses were pure junk, this year, you can add another nail in the coffin of rose wines, IMHO. Thankfully, the task of culling the bounty of great wines to come to these top wines was more a task of removing then adding. We are blessed with a bounty of good wines – just not like a few years ago when that bounty included many 95 and 95+ scoring wines.

The supreme bounty comes from the fact that Royal released the 2018 French wines a bit early! Throw in the incredible number of kosher European wines that are coming to the USA and being sold in Europe and this was truly a year of bounty for European kosher wines.

Now, separately, I love red wines, but white wines – done correctly, are a whole other story! Sadly, in regards to whites, we had no new wines from Germany, still. Thankfully, we have some awesome new entries, from the 2017 and 2018 Dampt Freres Chablis, both Grand Cru and Premier Cru, and the new 2019 Meursault!

The wines on the list this year are all available here in the USA, in Europe, and a few can be found in Israel, as well.

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 2020 kosher wine of the year – is a return to its greatness – the 2018 Elvi Wines EL26

Elvi EL26 is back! Back to the glory days and I have stocked up and sadly, it will sell out quickly, if it is not already sold out! Get a move on, there was not a huge production of this beauty!

So, why did EL26 win? Simple, it is a great wine, and then throw in its WINNER price, and this wine punches at two levels, at the same time! You can read more about this fantastic wine here, in my post about it. Enjoy!

2018 Elvi Wines EL26, Elite, Priorat – Score: 93 (QPR: WINNER)
This wine is a blend of 80% Garnacha (Grenache) and 20% Carignan. This wine is pure heaven, dirt, smoke, roasted animal, saline, mineral, juicy tart red, and blue fruit, with incredible precision and fruit focus – Bravo!
The nose on this wine is pure fun, showing tart red fruit, incredible fresh loam, and dirt, hints of mushroom, licorice, roasted animal, a whiff of oak, sage, rosemary, with dirt, and green notes. This wine is currently far more Bordeaux in style than that of a Spanish Priorat! The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is not overly extracted, but it is well extracted, with good mouth and fruit texture, with incredible acid, good fruit focus, showing dark cherry, plum, ripe and tart raspberry, strawberry, oak, vanilla, and garrigue, with green notes, and lovely mouth-draping tannin. The finish is long, green, yet ripe, with great control and precision, with lovely graphite, more roasted meat, scraping minerality, saline, rich smoking tobacco, and smoke, lots of char and smoke. Bravo! With time the wine opens more and shows its riper side, still very controlled, but the fun red and blue fruit become a bit fuller and richer in the mouth – quite an impressive wine! Drink from 2026 until 2036. (tasted December 2020)

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Herzog Wine cellar’s 2018 lineup is sensational – beyond just the Cabernet Sauvignons

Herzog Wine Cellars (which now go by herzogwine.com not herzogwinecellars.com, no idea why they dropped that and emails bounce all over the place, a better idea would have been simple web/MX record routing/forwarding – but enough tech talk) has been in the wine business, in California, since 1984. The days of San Martin, when I met Josh Goodman and his wife (PSA – be careful with how you pronounce her name) when they were in the San Jose Jewish community. In those days, San Jose was the closest thing to a community for them, that was close enough to San Martin, for them to live a Jewish life and work as cellar rat/master at Herzog Wine cellars. With time, the Herzog moved to Santa Maria, which was closer to the L.A. area and then they finally moved to the location they are today, in Oxnard, in 2005.

In the start, the head winemaker was Peter Stern, mostly as a part-time winemaker. In 1998, Joe Hurliman joined as the full-time winemaker at Herzog Wine and they have not looked back, thankfully! In that time, Joseph Herzog took over running the winery and Tierra Sur, the wonderful restaurant attached to the winery. Soon after moving into the Oxnard winery/facility, Herzog undertook multiple manners to interact with their customers. The first approach was the winery’s tasting room, which is still highly pivotal in attracting all members and customers into tasting Herzog wines. They also started with many wine clubs, with the most influential one being Eagle’s Landing. It has become the area where Mr. Hurliman can truly experiment, at smaller scales, than even the Special Edition series and craft wines that he would love to see become mainstream. Things like Santa Rita Pinot Noir, Templeton Pass Zinfandel (we need more of that kind of Zin being made!!), and Paso Robles Syrah. These are not new to the kosher world as much as they are good to see at the scale and care that Herzog can bring to these varietals and wines.

One cannot talk about Herzog without talking about a few very poignant points:

  1. Mevushal
  2. Cabernet Sauvignon
  3. Vineyards
  4. Ageability
  5. L.A. KFWE/IFWF/Tierra Sur – Todd Aarons

Mevushal Program

Herzog did not invent the Mevushal methodology in the new era of kosher wine, which was done by Hagafen Winery, but Herzog has been equal or slightly better than Hagafen as time has progressed. When you ask who does the best with Mevushal in wines – the answer is Hagafen and Herzog, there is no one else in their league. Royal Wines Europe does a nice job as well, but they are two peas in the same pod. Rollan de By does a very good job as well.

The next question you will consistently get is – does the Mevushal process hurt wine? The answer is complex and like everything in this world, it depends. It depends on the process you use, the varietals you “boil”, and for how long you do the process, and at what temperature. Long ago, people have stopped boiling wine – they moved to Flash pasteurization or Flash Detente, both in the kosher wine world and outside of it. The length of time and the temperature of the flash is one that is hotly debated in the Rabbinic kosher world, which is why you will see many put the temperature the wine was flashed at, on the wine bottle itself. Few wineries will flash Pinot Noir or Grenache as these wines are delicate and will not gain from the flash process. Herzog does flash their Lineage Pinot and it is not a wine for long holding so that works with what they are shooting for. Hagafen, flashes everything and as such, they do flash the Pinot and Pinot Prix, but IMHO it has been hurting the wines in recent vintages. Doing the Mevushal process to Cabernet Sauvignon is one that works and may well be the most prevalent of the varietals out there that go through the Mevushal process.

Cabernet Sauvignon

This leads us to the standing joke, in regards to Herzog Wine Cellars, that Herzog makes more Cabernet Sauvignon, in a single vintage, than almost any winery makes wine, across all labels. They are the Cab Kings like Oryah is the Orange wine Factory. My last count was 27 Cabernet sauvignons across all labels, which is a crazy number, but to be fair, they know what their customers want. No matter the price, style, makeup, or focus of the Cabernet Sauvignon, Herzog has a Cab for you and that has been their motto for as long as they have been at Oxnard, and maybe even a bit before in Santa Maria.

Vineyards

Herzog has done a very good job in both managing leases/relationships with vineyards – dating back to the early days of the 1990s. Chalk Hill and Alex Reserve are both examples of vineyards they have managed to lease and continue to do so for decades. This is not anything new in any way, but it was for kosher California wines in the 1990s. Hagafen Winery has had vineyards that they have leased or owned for long stretches’ of time as well. It is just a very impressive thing to have done back then.

They have quietly been buying vineyards all around California. It started in 2010 when they were forced to buy the land or lose their longtime relationship with Clarksburg grapes. Then in 2017, they bought 2 plots of land in lake County. Then in 2018, they bought the Herzog Ridge Vineyard in Napa Valley. The new 2018/2019 Forebearer wines (listed below) are from that vineyard.

Ageability

There are not many wineries today, in the kosher market, that have wines dating backing to 1996 that still blow my mind. yes, I continue to have my mind blown by 1997 Four Gates Merlot or Pinot Noir, and Yarden made some wines back then that were pretty good as well. However, to have made wine continuously, minus a few years here and there, I would have to say, the only ones that come to mind are Capcanes (until 2015), Herzog, and Four Gates. That is quite an impressive feat and one that helps me to buy their wines on an almost yearly basis.

L.A. KFWE/IFWF/Tierra Sur – Todd Aarons

Tierra Sur was a smash hit years before IFWF came to Los Angeles in 2008. Todd Aarons was running the ship and he could well have been the first kosher Chef-Driven restaurant, at least in the USA. There were a few in Paris in the late 1990s that were quite the thing. Still, Chef Aarons brought that flair, focus on ingredients, and presentation to a far-flung location, outside of L.A., but within driving distance, that made Tierra Sur world-famous for kosher and non-kosher consumers alike.

The IFWF (International Food and Wine Festival), the west coast’s KFWE was Herzog’s way of showing off the food over the wine. The 2007 KFWE, and many after it, was more focused on the wine and good for them! What Herzog has done for so long with the IFWF or the KFWE is to showcase what Los Angeles has over the east coast, at least at that time for sure, which was the weather and great food!

2018 Wines

Now on to the wines! The 2017 vintage was not kind to much of California and sadly it affected Herzog wines as well. I did like the 2017 Lineage Chardonnay and the 2017 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Lake County, with the Clone Six showing some elegance from under the issues of the vintage. All of that is in the past and the 2018 vintage is another winner. These wines are rich and layered and truly a joy – I would not sit long on the sidelines, I would buy these ASAP before they all go away. So to those that ask me – why did you not warn me – you have been warned!

In the end, this vintage is a WINNER across the board. The Forebearers are nice wines but they are relatively expensive, in comparison to other Herzog options, from 2018. The Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Lineage, Reserve, even the Baron Herzog line have great deals and lovely wines. Overall, if I was standing in front of Joe Hurliman at KFWE, I would have said what I am oft to say – Bravo my good sir – BRAVO!

I will keep this short, so my many thanks to Joseph Herzog, David Whittemore, Joe Hurliman, and Alicia Wilbur for answering my many emails and calls. Be well to you all, California is getting even crazier – stay safe guys! The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

2018 and 2019 Forebearers Wines

2018 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Forebearers, Napa Valley (M) – Score: 92+ (QPR: POOR)
The wine is very slow to open, this wine needs time, so give it the respect it deserves. The nose on this wine is lovely, not one of those “Brilliance” fruit bombs, this is a lovely earthy, anise filled joy, with smoke, tar, fruit galore, but well-controlled, with loam, candied ginger, and more fruit. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is oaky, it starts off with a clear focus of oak, and has a bit of a hole, but with time, as I said, this needs it, the hold fills in well, with a rich coat of mouth-draping tannin, earth, sweet dill, oak, blackberry, dark cherry, hints of plum, and currants, all wrapped in tannin and oak, very nice. The finish is plush, and tart, with good acidity, earth, more dill, sweet smoking tobacco, dark chocolate, and anise. Really nice, a wine to get and store away. Bravo!
With loads of time, this wine really starts to shine and I highly underestimated it, this wine is super young and needs time. I would wait 3 years to play with this again. Let this beast lie. Drink from 2024 until 2028 maybe longer. (tasted Nov 2020)

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A lineup of the available 2018 kosher Pinot Noirs from around the world

In the past few months, there have been many releases of Pinot Noir from the 2018 vintage. For the most part, there are no real winners here, QPR and otherwise, except for two – the Herzog Pinot Noir, Reserve, and the Herzog Eagle’s Landing Pinot Noir (though the Eagle’s Landing is the only QPR WINNER).

The tasting included all the wines I could find though I left out two, the 2018 Barkan Pinot Noir and the 2018 Tura Pinot Noir. Both of them are Mevushal, and they do a HORRIBLE job on Mevushal, so I did not want to waste my money. My love for all things Pinot is well known, and I had such high hopes. I also seemed to have missed tasting the 2018 Vitkin Pinot Noir, as well.

It is funny how the media can change people’s perspectives, and in some cases twist them in a way that we would not expect.  Say Pinot Noir and most wine drinkers will think of the enigmatic anti-hero Miles Raymond, and his explanation on his love for Pinot Noir; “…It’s, uh, it’s thin-skinned, temperamental, ripens early. It’s, you know, it’s not a survivor like Cabernet, which can just grow anywhere and thrive even when it’s neglected. No, Pinot needs constant care and attention. You know?…“.  Pinot is a complicated grape – but not to its detriment.  Listen to Miles throughout Sideways and you may come to think that Pinot is fleeting, flinty, thin, and complicated. In the end, as you watch that horrible movie, you quickly realize that Miles was simply projecting in a fire fueled rambling and using Pinot Noir as his conduit.

To the French, Pinot Noir is called Burgundy – following the tradition of French wineries to name their wines after the region where the grapes are grown. Americans have had success with Pinot – in California, Oregon, and Washington State. New Zealand, has taken the lead in bringing the grape into the 21st century. The French Burgundy has its terroir (earthy dirt flavors, sometimes barnyard flavors as well). The New Zealand and American Pinots show characteristics that are more akin to Syrah than Burgundy – fruit-forward, meaty wines with soft caressing tannins. The rest of the world is choosing sides. Though true terroir flavors are hard to replicate outside of Burgundy, many countries have been successful at bringing out the true fruit characteristics that the land is willing to share and are creating wonderful Pinot Noirs. Israel was starting to come into its own with Pinot Noir, now all I would buy from Israel, in regards to Pinot would be from Gvaot. Yes, Vitkin does a nice enough job, but Gvaot does a better one. Right now, the best bet is France and the USA, with a drop from Israel, and after that, we are on empty. Sadly, 2018 was not a great year for Four Gates and what I had was not great, it was never officially bottled, but we have 2019 coming soon!

Sadly, Pinot Noir to me is one of those wines that is so badly mangled in the kosher wine world, that it is no shock that most kosher oenophiles, turn face when u say Pinot Noir. Not on account of the Pinot Noir grapes themselves, but rather on account of the pathetic state of kosher Pinot Noir wine on the market.

Say, Pinot Noir to me, and sadly I can only think of:

Pinot Noir is one of my favorite wines, NO NOT because of sideways! I loved the wine long before that horrific cult movie hit the theaters. I love PN for what it stands for – complexity through things other than fruit! A well made Pinot Noir, in my humble opinion, needs to be of medium body, medium fruit structure, accompanied by mounds of dirt, mushroom, barnyard, and earthy goodness. The ultimate aspect of a great PN is the secondary flavors, not the fruit, not cherry cola, and for the LOVE OF GOD not OAK! It is all about the secondary and old age notes that come with time and love.

Sadly, look at that list. Four Gates is tough to get in quantity. The Gvaot Pinot is available, but they are more Cab and rich than a pure ethereal wine, though very impressive. The Eagle’s Landing 2013 vintage is still available at the winery, and the 2016/2018 vintages rocked! The real winners are the French options, but they are NOT cheap.

So, where are we? Some like the Galil Pinot and other such structured wines, but to me, they are just bad Cabernet in a Pinot’s clothing. This is a shortlist. Heck, there are HUNDREDS of Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah, even many Cabernet Franc options. But say Pinot and numbers dwindle in the blink of an eye. Further, many of the options here are vintage based. For the true Pinot lover, Four Gates and France are your sure bets. Sadly, only the last one is pumping out wines consistently.

PSA: What is wrong with you all?? The Eagle’s Landing Pinot Noir has consistently been a high-rated wine and one that lasts for a very long time, improving along the way with great panache. Yet, you can still buy the 2013 and 2016 vintages of this wonderful wine!! I bought a bunch of 2013 from Herzog. I get NOTHING to tell you this other than pleasure. BUY the wine and enjoy one bottle now and save the others for a rainy day in 2026. Buy this now!!

Sadly, there were no surprises here, the 2018 Gvaot was nice, the Eagle’s Landing was great, and the Herzog Reserve Pinot (a return after many years of non-production) was also very nice. That is about it. The 2018 Jean Luc & Paul Aegerter Burgundies were tasted previously (the notes added here for completeness).

The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

2018 Herzog Eagle’s Landing Pinot Noir, Santa Rita Hills – Score: 93 (QPR: WINNER)
Let me start by saying buy this wine, buy lots of this wine, I mean a LOT! OK, now this wine is a bigger and richer version of the 2013 Eagle’s Landing Pinot Noir, in other words, this wine is a beast, a winner, and yes – get this wine! My only comment is that this wine is not a classically styled Pinot Noir. This wine is full-bodied and not so much about cherry and raspberry and more about blackberry and spice, I would not have initially guessed this was a Pinot Noir, still this a wonderful wine. My only real complaint is the strangely small cork used as its closure, when the Cabernet Franc has a much longer cork, just not sure why. Anyway, I do not care about corks, as long as they last long enough to meet the drinking window.
The nose on this wine is pure heaven, coffee and chocolate, and fruit madness, with dirt, mushroom, loam, and spice, all wrapped in dark and brooding fruit, showing control, spice, earth, and sheer umami notes, wow!! The mouth on this full-bodied wine is wow! the mouth starts very softly, almost like a leopard crouching before it pounces upon its prey, this wine is beautifully structured to last, and so well made it is almost difficult to get all the thoughts out of my head, layers of fruit, acid, tannin, salinity (that is incredible), black olives, with epic fruit structure and concentration, with clear and bold and jammy blackberry, raspberry, dark cherry, with intense saline, forest floor, searing acidity, and layers of dark jammy brooding but well-controlled fruit. With time the cherry and raspberry fall behind the intense black and intense brooding fruit. The finish is equally impressive with layers of chocolate, coffee, leather, spices, nutmeg, cloves, rich earth, lovely smoking tobacco leaves, sweet and jammy fruit, all wrapped in mineral, spice, and earth. Bravo!!! Drink from 2024 until 2033 or longer.

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