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:
- Cabernet Sauvignon
- L.A. KFWE/IFWF/Tierra Sur – Todd Aarons
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.
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.
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.
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!
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)
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:
- Four Gates Winery
- Gvaot Winery
- Eagle’s Landing Pinot Noir (2016 and 2018 are great)
- 2014, 2015, 2017 Chantal Lescure Burgundy from Pommard (I hope there is a 2018 vintage, I disliked 2016)
- 2017 Jean-Philippe Marchand Burgundies (2019 vintage was just released)
- 2018 Jean Luc & Paul Aegerter Burgundies
- 2010 Domaine Gachot-Monot Beaune 1er Cru Les Cent Vignes (this is the last of good “cheap” Burgs)
- 2016 Maison Roy & Fils Shai Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley (Sadly it was a ONE and done deal)
- Hagafen and Vitkin have left me wanting more, and forget the rest of Israel’s Pinot Noirs. The same goes for Pacifica, which has also been lacking, other than one vintage.
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.
Kosher Mid-Range aging red wines may well be the sweet spot for the kosher wine market – lots of WINNERS.
We are working our way through the QPR 2.1 and 2.0 wine categories and so far, outside of simple white wines, there has not been a lot of love or WINNERS to talk about. However, things start to change with the 2nd red wine category.
These wines are drinkable now but will improve a bit with time. They are not the undrinkable wine category, which will be next, but rather these wines are good now and may garner some of those tertiary notes we all love so much, with a bit of time in the bottle. These kinds of wines are normally more expensive, but this is where the QPR (Quality to Price ratio) sweet spot exists, IMHO.
As explained in my last post, the wine categorization is impacted by what I think the wine will last. Meaning that a poor wine will not be more enjoyable in 5 years if it is a painful date juice now. Nor will the wine be more ageable depending on the price of the wine. The length of time wine can live in the bottle is not scientific in any manner, it is subjective, much like the wine’s score, still, it is based upon this that the wines are judged for their QPR.
Mid-range aging Reds (4 to 11 years) – cellar saviors
As I have stated enough times now, the fact that a wine can “live” for 10 or so years, tells you that the wine is good to start with, or at least professionally made. Still, the next level up, High-end Red wines (11 and more years), come at a much higher price range. Yes, there are sweet spot wines there as well, but there are more here in the mid-range options. Also, these are the wines that will save your cellar. Look, I like wines like the 2019 Chateau Les Riganes, or the 2017 Chateau Mayne Guyon just fine! But when you want something with a bit more polish or elegance and you do not want to raid your high-end wines early, THIS IS the category to go to!
If you want that next level is quality but not the next level in price, per se, this is the category to hit. Here you will find wines like the 2017 Chateau Greysac, Medoc, the 2015 Louis Blanc Crozes-Hermitage, and the 2018 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico, which all scored 92 or higher and are all priced at 30 dollars or lower. While I would say these wines will improve with more time, they can at least be enjoyed now, without robbing the cradle of wine like 2015, 2017, or 2018 Chateau Fourcas Dupre.
On a Facebook post, I and many others were asked over and over about this wine or that wine, wines that were still far too young to be appreciated now. My response was the same over and over, stop opening bottles so early! I opened a bottle of 2007 Four Gates Cabernet Franc, 2 weeks ago, it was an absolute joy but also, a wine that was so young it was truly a crime! STOP opening wines early folks. Let the wines come to you! This wine category is where you will find the richer, more complex options, for a higher price than the Simple reds, but still at a lower price point overall than the higher-end reds. There are 20+ WINNERS here, between USA and France, BUY them and SAVE YOUR CELLAR!!!
Shirah Wines Post
If one takes even a cursory look at this post and the wine notes below, the predominant winery/producer you will find is Shirah Wines. I got all the current wines in May of this year. It took me a bit of time to finally post them. As I stated last year, in my year in review, California had indeed turned its direction towards riper fruit and wines. Shirah contacted me and I bought the current wines to make 100% sure that my notes were in line with my comments, you can make your mind up from the notes.
I will stress THREE points here AGAIN, as I have done over a long time already:
- I crave the 2010 (AKA NV) /2012/2013/2014 Bro.Deux and the 2013 Syrah, and I FONDLY remember the old days of the One-Two Punch. Those were and still are VERY different wines than what is being sold now. I have had all of them recently and still have some bottles. They are wonderful, but they are not what the 2016 or 2017 Bro.Deux is like today.
- I strongly believe in Shirah Wines, I think the wines they produce are professionally made and are perfect for the bigger/flashier/riper palate that is the cornerstone of today’s kosher wine-buying public. They are just not the wines I want.
- Finally, there has been a clear and very big shift in the palate of the wines being made in California, today. Even Four Gates wines are getting riper. The issue here is all about balance. If I feel fruit is overripe and sticking out, to a point where I do not enjoy the wine, but rather think about the ripe fruit, I will move on. I understand this is a subjective way of seeing wine. I get that, and that is what makes wine so fascinating. Like all of art, it is not what is true or false as much as it is what one likes or dislikes.
WINNERS and other demarcations
As stated above, some wines will be winners in France/Europe and others will be WINNERS in the USA. I do not know the pricing in Israel or the wines or really anything about Israel for the last year+. Maybe Avi Davidowitz of Kosher Wine Unfiltered can make a post or two on this subject! HINT HINT!
Also, there are strange prices, distributions, and edge cases throughout Europe, and as such what is a good price in Paris may not be in London. Worse is wine in Belgium may be a better price than in Paris or London. The idea of “Europe” being a single country for commerce is a MASSIVE sham in the kosher wine market, in Europe anyway. In the USA it is equally messy, in regards to pricing throughout the states, L.A.’s wine prices are either non-existent (because there is no wine) or it is sky-high. I have seen better prices for California wines in NYC than in California! Like what now??? So, yeah, pricing is not as crisp, all the time, as I make it out to be here with my QPR posts, but I do the very best I can.
So, WINNER means USA (sorry this is a USA dominant blog), WINNER (F) means a WINNER in France. I will denote as well, in the wine post if the wine is only available in France or Europe, which is the same for me here, as London is the main outlier and it is not part of Europe anymore – sorry London! Enjoy the train!!! On a total aside, I did love taking the train from London to Paris, a few days AFTER they left the union! Moving on now.
So, without too much more delay – let’s get to it! Here is the list of cellar saviors and mid-level red wines. There are many WINNERS for buyers here in the USA and those in France! The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:
2018 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico – Score: 92 to 93 (QPR: WINNER)
This is a fantastic wine, and with my new QPR scoring it is still is not as expensive as the median and its score is also above the median, so it is a GREAT QPR. This is a no brainer GREAT QPR wine and will sell out quickly BUY NOW!
This wine is incredible, it is better than the 2016 vintage and much better than 2017. It is even a bit better than the massively epic 2015 vintage. Bravo Daniella and Maria!!!
The nose on this wine is ripe, but the balance on it is incredible, the fruitiness exists but it hides behind a redolent garden of fresh mushroom, grass, dirt, loam, and lovely earth, with hints of barnyard, forest floor, and dark fruit, with balsamic vinegar, and roasted herbs galore. The mouth on this medium to full-bodied wine is incredible, layered, rich, extracted, and so balanced, with incredible acidity, intense saline, dark sour cherry, coffee, all balanced and plush, with rich blackberry, cherry, strawberry, salami, with lovely mouth draping tannin, with minerality, graphite galore, and a lovely tannin structure. The finish is long, green, and ripe but perfectly balanced, with lovely acidity, roasted coffee, graphite, scarping mineral, loads of smoke, and sweet tobacco on the long finish. Bravo!! Drink until 2027 maybe longer.
2017 Tassi Aqua Bona Toscana Rosso, Bettina Cuvee – Score: 92 (QPR: BAD)
This wine is meant to be bottled under the D.O.C.G. Rosso di Montepulciano, but because of some strange requirements that were not met to meet the body’s requirements it only has the I.G.T. Toscano Rosso moniker.
This wine producer/winery is quite famous in the non-kosher world. The wine is made from 100% Sangiovese.
The nose on this wine starts with a crazy cedar box, followed by a mound of fresh Cuban Cigar tobacco, followed by loads of anise, licorice, smoked meat, followed by black and red fruit, foliage, forest floor, and more sweet cedar/oak. The mouth on this medium-bodied to full-bodied wine is not as extracted as I expected though this wine is richly expressive with loads of smoke, earth, rich tannin, nice green notes from what I can imagine is what I would get from whole-cluster and stems fermentation, with loads of rich spice, heady roasted herbs, and lovely blackberry, dark cherry, rich umami notes of balsamic and mushroom, with loads of mineral, graphite, and rich fruit-structure and focus with lovely elegance and control. The finish is long, rich, layered, and smoky, with nice control, lovely acidity, and smoke, roasted herbs, smoked meats, and soy sauce followed by more cigar smoke, and freshly tilled earth. Nice!!! Drink from 2021 until 2026.
OK, so let’s start this whole discussion once again with a massive disclaimer – I am not a food scientist or a chemist, but I know what the USDA says about wines, so let’s go with that!
As with other USDA organic products, organic wine is made without using prohibited substances or genetic engineering (see Allowed and Prohibited Substances). It undergoes the same rigorous requirements of USDA organic certification as other products throughout its lifecycle (see Five Steps to Organic Certification). And, in addition to being overseen by the USDA National Organic Program, it has to meet the requirements of the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, especially for sulfite labeling requirements.
Before a wine can be sold as organic, both the growing of the grapes and their conversion to the wine must be certified. This includes making sure grapes are grown without synthetic fertilizers and in a manner that protects the environment and preserves the soil. Other agricultural ingredients that go into the wine, such as yeast, also have to be certified organic. Any non-agricultural ingredients must be specifically allowed on the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances (see Allowed and Prohibited Substances) and can’t exceed 5% of the total product. And, while wine naturally produces some sulfur dioxide (sulfites), they can’t be added to organic wine. Sulfites are commonly added to wines to stop the fermentation process or preserve the flavor profile.
Wines that are sold as “made with organic grapes” have different requirements than organic wine. When a wine is labeled as being made with organic grapes 100% of those grapes used must be certified organic. Yeast and any other agricultural ingredients aren’t required to be organic but have to be produced without excluded methods (like genetic engineering). As for non-agricultural ingredients, these have to be specifically allowed on the National List. Finally, sulfites may be added to wines that carry the “made with organic grapes” label—up to 100 parts per million.
So, that clears things up, scientifically, for the USA! Meaning that for you to say you have an organic wine in the USA on a US wine label, you cannot add sulfites and the grapes must have been grown organically. All good.
Let’s look at other countries – this is where things become a bit murkier. The biggest of them is Europe and they allow the “small” addition of sulfites to organic wine and those rules went into effect in 2012.
In contrast, the new EU rules for “organic wine” allow a maximum of 100 parts per million for red wine (compared to 150 for conventional reds) and 150 parts per million for whites and rosés (compared to 200 for their conventional counterparts). Sweet wines are allotted an extra 30 parts per million as more sulfites are typically needed to prevent residual sugar from fermenting in the bottle. Canada allows up to 100 parts per million in its organic wines.
In saying that, organic wine does contain half the maximum legal limit of sulphur dioxide (220) – a common preservative in wine that is used to inhibit or kill unwanted yeasts and bacteria, and the main culprit for those shocking hangovers, the next day.
The maximum allowable limit of “pres 220” in Australian wine is 300 parts per million (ppm). For Australian certified organic wine, it’s 150 ppm. To give a little context, most dry wines usually won’t exceed 200 ppm, and dried fruits can contain anywhere between 500 and 3000 ppm. If you are overly sensitive to sulphur, then drinking organic wines can be a “healthier” choice and will usually make the next day’s declarations of a sober future a lot less necessary.
I could find no real laws in regards to Israeli wine production – please send me more info – if you can find – ACTUAL Israeli laws regarding Organic wine production requirements – thanks!
Organic kosher wine options
Now that we have covered the gamut of wine rules and regulations in regards to organic and no-sulfite added wines, by definition, on a label, we can look at the kosher wine options that exist, sadly there are few.
It all started with Four Gates Winery making wine from Organic CCOF grapes, in 1997. After that, we had some wine from Yarden Odem Winery that used Organic grapes as well, but the label kept getting into trouble with the USDA – as there was no way to state “using Organic Grapes” in those days.
We had the first TRULY organic winery in the Bashan Winery until they closed and we had the lovely Harkham wines from Australia, but they are really hard to find here in the USA now, and they would not get the USDA Organic wine label, as they do throw in a sparingly small amount of sulfites. My guess is, they sell perfectly well in Australia, so why bother with shipping.
So, where does that leave us now – actively, outside of Four Gates and Yarden Odem Chardonnay that are not organic wines, but rather a wine made with organic grapes?
We have three options today:
- Herzog Wine cellar’s brand new 2019 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Variation Be-leaf. It is the 1st wine made in the USA that deserves the USDA organic wine label, and widely available now.
- Elima from Or Haganuz – was the first no-sulfite added wine that was mass-produced and marketed here in the USA and it is still widely available. It is not made with organic grapes.
- Camuna Wines from Camuna Wine Cellars has wines that – though not “officially” organic wine were made in a natural manner and with minimal intervention. Like added sulfites. Sadly, it does not look like they made any new wines recently.
I would suppose the real question what is the market out there for such wines in the kosher wine world? In the non-kosher wine world, the market for natural wines is massive and Alice Feiring and others are the drivers for this change.
Maybe now with two large companies producing Organic kosher wines – the market will grow, time will tell.
Where is the USDA Organic label?
As we have described above – the USDA label requires nothing more than organic grapes and no added sulfites. So, when Herzog released their 2019 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon Be-Leaf I was wondering why the label did not have the USDA Organic certification?
Sadly, the requirements to meet the USDA label versus actually getting the label are not in the same ballpark. While, the requirements are not complicated, getting a third party to the winery to observe and validate the requirements and then validating it with the USDA makes for such an arduous task that Herzog chose the CCOF route, the same route that Four Gates uses – for just Organic grapes. Since the CCOF route was taken and they wanted to denote the organic nature of the wine – without the USDA organic label, the TTB (Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau) required the label have more additions to make it all good. All in all, a classic example of what is wrong with bureaucracy. Take a simple-ish idea and complicate so horrible that the outcome – is more complicated than where we started! Bravo TTB and USDA!!
Either way, the outcome is more options for the kosher market, notwithstanding the complications and headaches for all!
2019 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Variation Be-leaf (M) – Score: 88
This is not the first wine to use organic grapes, Four Gates has used CCOF grapes for as long as it has been around, 1997. As described above, an organic wine means that the wine is, of course, using Organic grapes (CCOF Organic as Herzog is a California winery) and there were no sulfites added at all. As I have posted many times when I talk about the only other no-sulfite-added wine, the Or Haganuz Elima, that all wine has sulfites. All wine has sulfites naturally. Still, Herzog added no sulfites to this wine and as such, it could have garnered the USDA Organic certification if it were not such a huge hassle.
Finally, come on guys, wines like this deserve a DIAM cork, enough already! Heck other wines with bigger price points and “theoretical” lifespans use DIAM, even Château Guiraud uses DIAM cork, for the Grand Vin – come on guys – MOVE ON!
This is the second time I have had this wine and it is finally calming down. The nose is still very fruity, not overly ripe, but the fruit is very present, with notes of blueberry, black fruit, licorice, red fruit, and more dense fruit that has not had a chance to calm down and integrate. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is fun, it shows lovely boysenberry, dark cherry, cassis, and draping sweet tannin, with nice menthol, mineral, and pencil shavings, with an ever-present ripeness that is not going to go away. The finish is a pith attack, with loads of almond, citrus pith, and sweet/ripe fruit that lingers long with a good minerality and tannin structure that will keep this no-sulfite added wine fine for a couple of years. Drink by 2022.
2018 Or Haganuz Elima – Score: 82
This wine has no added sulfites and it is a blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Cabernet Franc. The nose on this wine is ripe and at 14% ABV, on the label, I think it is a bit higher, with heat and alcoholic aromas, sweet oak, cassis, black fruit, and red fruit in the background. The mouth on this full-bodied wine is ripe and uncontrolled, sadly, with clear leanings of overripe fruit, blackberry, candied cherry, overripe currants, and loads of oak and smoke, with nice enough tannin and more oak. The finish is long, sweet, oaky, and sweet, with sweet chewing tobacco galore and a hint of graphite. Drink until 2023.
So, as the image above shows roses are very expensive and the majority of the 28 of the 55 are at or above the median price of 23. This is not new, IMHO, roses overall have not been good or even very interesting this season.
Please read this post for my writeup on rose wines this year. I had a few follow-ups after that, including the one post with the QPR Rose for 2020, but this post will list all the rose wines I have had this year. Also, as I tasted more wines the price of the median went up and that allowed the Roubine La Vie to also become a QPR Winner. Again, the MARKET decides the QPR winners, not me! All I decide is the wine’s subjective quality score, and yes, that is subjective! The rest, the P part of QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) is decided upon by the market. Please read my revised QPR scoring here.
The image does not show the 2 QPR Winners as obvious winners, as the dot that represents the Carmel Rose and the Roubine La Vie Rose is on the top left of the winner box. These wines barely made their way into the Winner’s square, but with such a horrible vintage, rose-wise, 2 is better than NONE.
In regards to rose, look a lot of my friends and I do not agree. Look at the Cantina Giuliano Rosato, it is a VERy nice and classically made Gris style rose, but it has a bit of RS (Residual Sugar) in it, at least to my palate, and I have issues with that. Other wines that have more RS drive me nuts. My friends do not care about RS or ripe notes in rose as long as it is balanced. To me, rose, red, or white, I DO NOT want RS. The funny thing is that Kedel Jackson probably got away with1% RS in his Chardonnays for decades, and made it the classic style for Cali Chard, which brought on the famous ABC movement (Anything But Chardonnay). Which spawned Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, and so many other great white wines here in California.
So, yes, there are two winners now, and there are a few 91 scored roses, but please look at the chart!! LOL! It is visually clear that the vast majority of the wines are not something I would look to buy. They are either too expensive or not interesting and that is what has gone wrong with the kosher rose market. Again, I have said it a few times, IMHO, the wineries have thrown in the towel and they make rose thinking it will sell, no matter what they release. This will eventually end badly. Only time will tell. Read the rest of this entry
The first Rose QPR WINNER, along with two other QPR Winners, and even more roses and whites from 2019, and a few Sparkling wines as well!
Sorry, it has been so long before I have posted here, but I am back and lets start with a few good wines and well, the rest of the 2019 wines white and rose wines that I could find.
QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) is the non-qualitative score I have been giving to wines recently. In my last update to QPR, a week after I posted the QPR revised methodology, I defined the QPR score of WINNER. A QPR score of WINNER is defined as a wine that scores a qualitative score of 91 or more, a score I define as a wine I would buy happily while also being a wine that is cheaper than the respective median wine category.
This week we have a mix of 27 wines 10 whites and 14 roses, and 3 Sparkling wines. One of the whites I have already posted about, a winner of the QPR GREAT score, the 2018 Domaine Netofa, White. The wine is a bit hit and miss and I wanted to update folks about it.
However, the absolute clear QPR WINNER of this week’s post is the FIRST 2019 Rose that gains the QPR WINNER title! Bravo!!! The wine is the 2019 Carmel Rose, Appellation. There were two other Sauvignon Blanc WINNERS, the 2019 Goose Bay Sauvignon Blanc (being released soon), and the 2019 Hagafen Sauvignon Blanc (Just released). 2019 white wine WINNERS are ALL Sauvignon Blanc and I am stocked!
The 2019 Teperberg Rose, Essence is another wine that got close to WINNER status, yet sadly, it did not, as the price is too high. This is a wine that should sell for less, like so many others from Isarel, yet that is just not the case.
The 2019 Herzog Rose, Pinot Noir, Tasting Room Reserve was a lovely wine for me. The weight and the acidity and the refreshingness of it really made it quite a fun wine indeed!
I continue to stand by my opinion that 2019 is one of the very WORST vintages for white and rose wines in the last 10 years for Israeli wines. I continue to dream of the 2013/2014 vintage for Israeli whites. Some of the very best Israeli whites came from the 2013/2014 vintages. Yes, I have not had as many of the 2019 whites and roses from Israel, as I would normally have had by now, sadly, the current circumstances do not let me do that. There are many roses still in France and Israel that I have not had, but of the ones I have had from Israel so far, I am fine with my statement.
Roses have continued to disappoint. We finally have a QPR WINNER for Rose, from Israel, but the vast majority of them this year have been an absolute letdown. There are now 8 QPR winners in whites (plus two in this post, and one from this post), it is clear as day to me that white wines are the way to go this summer.
Probably the saddest and maybe controversial wine note in this post is my score of the 2019 Chateau Les Riganes Blanc. What can I say, I did not love the wine. I LOVED the 2018 vintage! That wine had it all! The 2019 is just not as good and that is life sadly. I was really hoping for a repeat, like the 2019 Goose Bay Sauvignon did.
Finally, Royal has just released THREE newly disgorged Drappier Champagne! In this post I give you the score – it is AWESOME, I hope to taste the other two soon!
2019 Hajdu Rose – Score: 90+ (QPR: EVEN)
The 2019 Rose market has been so weak, it is nice to see Jonathan Hajdu and the Shirah brothers picking up the slack with their 2019 Roses, even if the QPR score is not as good as I would have wished for.
The nose on this wine is classic Cali rose notes, bright, sweet, ripe, yet well-balanced notes of blueberry, yes blue fruit, followed, by pomegranate, with raspberry, and sweet plum notes, this sounds riper/sweeter than I like, but it is more tart fruit than it is ripe fruit. The mouth on this medium-bodied plus rose is really fun, truly tart, refreshing, with great acidity, along with balanced sweet fruit, of blue fruit, tart strawberry, raspberry, grapefruit, sweet/tart collage of nice plum, strawberry, sweet and tart strawberry, and really tart red peach. The finish is long, sweet, tart, with nice mineral, body, freshness, and refreshing qualities that are truly a lovely summer wine – Bravo!
2019 Shirah Rose – Score: 90 (QPR: GOOD)
This is a nice wine, and with my new QPR scoring even though it is more expensive than the median price for rose wine, it garner’s a quality score that is in the 2nd quintile, so the math says the QPR score is GOOD.
This rose is a blend of Grenache, Nebbiolo, Cabernet Franc, and Aglianico, using the Saignee method. The nose on this wine shows nice notes of peach, sweet and juicy strawberries and creme, along with cranberry, cotton candy, and vanilla, with a touch of heat, and rhubarb. The mouth on this light to medium-bodied wine is well balanced, with good enough acidity, showing little in complexity, but this is not a pure fruit bomb, it has acidity and pith to bring the wine around, with sweet notes of grapefruit and pomelo, with hints of orange, sweet orange pith, and flint. Drink now.
2019 Teperberg Rose, Essence – Score: 91 (QPR: GOOD)
This is a nice wine, and with my new QPR scoring even though it is more expensive than the median price for rose wine, it garner’s a quality score that is in the 2nd quintile, so the math says the QPR score is GOOD.
This is the best of the three roses with Grenache and Barbera. This wine is a blend of 45% Grenache Noir, 35% Mourvedre, and 20% Barbera. The nose on this wine is fruity, it has clear sweet notes of candied strawberry, and lychee, with bright melon, gooseberry, and passion fruit, with hints of white flowers. The mouth on this wine is a REAl winner, lovely acidity, the acid hits you like a ton of bricks up front, though the finish, at this point, is a bit shallow, with clear and lovely notes of strawberries, rhubarb, loads of gooseberry, pink grapefruit, and lovely overall refreshing mouthfeel and a bright and easy-going freshness that has enough complexity for me to make this the best Israeli rose by far, that I have tasted this year. With time, the finish fills out and then you get lovely rocks, slate, saline, and more tart and bright red fruit, with flowers, and crazy lemon/lime lifesavers lingering long on the bright and floral finish. BRAVO!!!
2019 Five Stones Rose, D vs G – Score: 86 (QPR: BAD)
This is a wine that is just good enough, but with my new QPR scoring it is one quintile more expensive than the median rose price and it is not as good as the median score so that is why this wine gets a BAD on the QPR score.
The nose on this wine is fruity, too fruity for me, the fruit needs to be there, but when it is so obvious it feels like overkill, The wine is a blend of 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. While I liked the 2019 white D vs G, the rose is not interesting to me.The nose on this wine is fruity, showing clear sweet notes of candied plum, red fruit, and too much heat for me, at 13% ABV. The mouth on this light to medium-bodied wine is flat, not showing a lot, really lacking, there is a nice hit of acidity, but then it falls apart in the middle and disappears at the finish. The mouth is just acid and crazy fruity fruit, with candied and overly ripe strawberry, grapefruit, and melon, bummer. There is some refreshing notes if you like fruity wines to this extent. Drink now!
2019 Herzog Rose, Pinot Noir, Tasting Room Reserve – Score: 91 (QPR: GOOD)
This is truly a lovely wine but it is a bit more expensive than the Median. With my new QPR scoring, it is one quintile higher in price than the Median, however, it scores in the 2nd quintile, so that makes it a GOOD QPR score.
I have liked this version of their rose lineup for a long time now, yes it has oak, and yes it is a fuller-bodied wine, but it is also very enjoyable!The nose on this wine is classical in its rose styling, with lovely dark strawberry notes, with lovely red fruit, and peach, with citrus, and sweet cedar. The mouth on this full-bodied rose, yes I wrote that is actually quite fun, the acidity is lovely, maybe their best acid showing in this wine so far, with crazy Kirche cherry, tart grapefruit, plum, and sweet notes of cedar, followed by saline, gooseberry acidity, and very tart pomegranate. The mouthfeel is tart, juicy, with great weight, but yes so very refreshing! The finish is long, tart, with lovely acidity, with sweet watermelon, hints of candied fruit, but really impressive precision with the acidity and refreshingness. Bravo!!! Drink now.
2019 Chateau Sainte Marguerite Rose – Score: 87 (QPR: POOR)
Sadly, this wine is right on the Median line for quality and it is more expensive than the median price, so this lands it as a POOR QPR wine.
Lovely nose with classic leanings for a Provence rose, showing lovely mineral, rosehip, citrus, gooseberry, classic ripe and juicy strawberry, and red fruit, but I am shocked by the ripeness/sweetness of the fruit on the nose and mouth. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is ripe, and while there is a load of pith, it lacks the acidity to make this work, it has crazy pith and hints of tannin, the mouth shows sweet peach, apricot, guava, and strawberry, with lemon, and yet more pith. That is about it, mineral-wise it is loaded, but the lack of acid is really surprising, IMHO. In regards to my refreshing scale, this one is low, now acidity and the pith is more aggressive than it is balancing. Drink now.
2019 Carmel Rose, Appellation – Score: 91 (QPR: WINNER)
This wine is in the 2nd quintile of quality scoring and it is RIGHT on the median price line, so this wine SHOULD get a score of GREAT for QPR. However, it is ALSO the ONLY rose from the 2019 vintage, so far, that scored at least a 91, and that has a price that is at or below the median price line, so this wine gets the coveted score of WINNER for QPR. Bravo!!!
This wine is a blend of 65% Marselan and 35% Grenache. The nose on this wine is really fun, truly Provence in style, with loads of mineral, red forest berry, yellow flower, rosehip, citrus galore, and passion fruit. This is a fun and funky wine, I like how the Israeli Rhone varietals, used ina rose style wine, get funky in the right ways, with a lovely core of screaming acid, followed by luscious and tart strawberry, raspberry, currants, loads of rosehip, floral notes, with mineral, dirt, and crazy fun and refreshing acidity, it may well be the best rose from Israel. The finish is crazy long, refreshing, with saline, slate galore, and pith to round out the attack. On the refreshing scale, this one is off the charts, showing the best so far maybe for 2019! Bravo!!! Drink Now
2019 Binyamina Rose, Grenache Barbera, Reserve – Score: 75 (QPR: NA)
This wine is a blend of 90% Grenache and 10% Barbera. Let us start off by the fact that those two varietals do not belong together, at least not by any territory. In regards to this rose, it is up for debate. The nose on this wine is funky, and no, not like the funky aromas, I mean the aromas are all over the place, with sweet fruit, yet tart, with dark aromas, and also peach-like aromas, there is no clear approach of style here. Like I said, up for debate.
The nose on this wine is sweet, almost like it has some RS, with peach and apricot notes, followed by raspberry, and very ripe and maybe too-ripe strawberry, with floral notes, and almost a peach perfume. Ok, this mouth is not for me, sorry, the nose is maybe debatable, but this is really unbalanced, and the RS is really off-putting, throw on the oak, and goodbye. The mouth on this wine is unbalanced, it is really all over the place like a kindergarten kid hopped up on adrenaline and Adderall. Sure there is some fruit, loads of RS, and much of the nose’s fruit, along with Pineapple, and guava, essentially, not a wine for me, though the acid is OK. Drink now.
2019 Yatir Rose, Judean Hills – Score: 84 (QPR: BAD)
This is a wine that is honestly not even good enough, so with my new QPR scoring it is one quintile more expensive than the median rose price and it is not as good as the median score so that is why this wine gets a BAD on the QPR score.
This wine is a blend of 53% tempranillo and 47% Mourvedre. This wine does not work for me, sorry, first it has sweet, I mean really sweet notes, even if it comes in at 12.5% ABV, this wine is ripe! The nose on this wine is ripe, with over the top and fruit-forward notes of blackberry, raspberry, and mulberry, with nice floral notes. The mouth is OK with the acid, but right after the acid front, the mouth behind it is sweet, unbalanced, with currant, mulberry, and black fruit, that is really not put together. The finish is ripe and it does not work. Drink Now.
2019 1848 Rose, 2nd Generation – Score: 78 (QPR: NA)
This is the 2nd blend of Grenache and Barbera of the tasting and the third from Israel, with the lovely Tepperberg also using that blend. This one is a blend of 85% Grenach and 15% Barbera.The nose on this wine is far more put together than the Binyamina but not nearly as good as the Teperberg. The nose shows notes of mineral, red forest berry, and floral notes, the noes is less expressive than I would have liked. The mouth though is highly expressive and once again, this blend reminds me of a hopped kindergarten child, it is a mess. It has more acidity than the Binyamina and a bit of funk, the acid is really intense, but wow, this is all over the place and no, it is not refreshing. It is a hard pass.
2019 Pacifica Rose – Score: 89 (QPR: GREAT)
This is a nice enough wine, but with my new QPR scoring it is still is not as expensive as the median and its score is also above the median, so it is a GREAT QPR, though not a wine I would run after. Still, for the heady prices of rose today, this is a solid buy if you like this kind of wine.
This may well be the highest scoring off-dry rose I have ever scored. The nose on this wine is sweet and IMHO it is the PERFECT sleeper agent rose to get people to like roses, it is super bright, well balanced, and respectful to both sides of the fence here.
The nose on this wine is ripe, and sweet, with nice pineapple, guava, and red fruit, followed by tart gooseberry, and lovely floral notes. The mouthfeel on this medium to full-bodied wine is lifted by the RS and sweetness, but it has crazy good acidity and the fruit and winemaking style respects the concept of rose, with lovely sweetness, followed by much of the fruit in the nose, along with crazy pineapple again, passion fruit, and intense grapefruit, and pith. The finish is long, sweet, and well done with sweet pomelo, and its citrus pith lingering long. Nice!
2019 Tulip White Franc – Score: 75 (QPR: NA)
I know, this is not an official rose, I get it, blanc de noir, I get it, but it looks rose, so in the rose list it goes, but sadly, rose or white, this wine misses the mark. Look at the 2019 Pacifica, which is off-dry but hits the mark well. This one is semi-sweet/off-dry, who cares, it is just off.
This wine is a blend of 60% Cabernet Franc and 40% Sauvignon Blanc. This wine tastes like they tried to pair sweet Cabernet Franc fruit with dry Sauvignon Blanc fruit, and for me, it is once again a crazed kindergarten child running all over the place. No focus and no approach. The nose on this wine shows intense fruity and sweet aromas with pineapple, guava, and gooseberry in the background, followed by flint, and pear. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is indeed all over, with sweet and tart fruit trying to meld together, but all I get is the sweet pear and apple with the pineapple fighting horribly with tart gooseberry and apple. Sorry, this one does not work.
2019 Dalton Rose, Alma Coral – Score: 86 (QPR: EVEN)
This wine is below the Median line for quality and it is below the median price, so this lands an EVEN QPR score.
The nose on this wine is nice enough with red and white fruit, showing some citrus, with floral notes, and hay. The mouth on this wine is boring, with no acid, a little fruit, and some mineral. Bummer. Drink now.
2019 Jerusalem Hills Rose – Score: NA (Mevushal) (QPR: NA)
This wine is a rose from Cabernet Sauvignon. The nose on this wine is sweet and cooked rosehip, followed by cooked strawberry, sweet cherry, and candied and sweet fruit galore. This wine may win the award for the worst rose from 2019, it is pure evil, there is nothing but cooked cherry compote and residual sugar sweetness. There is some acidity, but the wine is painful.
2019 Hagafen Don Ernesto Beret Rose – Score: 89 (QPR: POOR)
While this wine is nice enough it is two quintiles higher in price than the median and as such even with a quality score higher than the median the price pulls it down to a POOR QPR score.
This wine is a rose of Syrah. The nose on this wine is lovely, showing bright yet ripe fruit, with good strawberry, somewhat dull pear, melon, and jasmine flowers, with compote of rhubarb. The mouth on this medium-bodied rose has a nice weight and enough acidity, but again I wish it had more, with a lovely pith and sweet fruit mouthfeel, that is still refreshing with jasmine, strawberry/raspberry compote, followed by candied grapefruit, and tart melon. The finish is long, sweet, with red fruit, dried flower petals, and rosehip, and sweet red fruit. Nice. Drink Now.
2019 Hagafen Sauvignon Blanc – Score: 91 (QPR: WINNER)
It was awesome tasting this side-by-side the 2019 O’Dwyers Creek Sauvignon Blanc – they are REALY close, with the O’Dwyers Creek winning by a nose. This is tropical but so well balanced! Another white wine WINNER for the 2019 vintage!
The nose on this lovely Sauvignon Blanc is crazy tropical and almost over the top, but still well controlled, and really fun, with lovely notes of gooseberry, pineapple, intense and aromatic passion fruit, and lovely smoke/slate, wow, fun! The mouth on this wine is equally enjoyable and refreshing, with nice acidity, wish it had a drop more, with nice fruit of passion fruit, grapefruit, tart melon, and rich saline, with gooseberry, and slate/flint. The finish is long, green with lemongrass, ginger, and overall fun and refreshing approach. Nice!!! Drink now.
2019 Hagafen Riesling, Lake County, Robledo Ranch – Score: 89 (QPR: POOR)
Sadly, this wine is right on the Median line for quality and it is more expensive than the median price, so this lands it as a POOR QPR wine.
The nose on this slightly off-dry Riesling is too young to get those lovely petrol notes. Petrol takes a good year to really evolve in the bottle. The nose on this lovely wine is sweet, but very bright, with bubblegum, watermelon, with tiny hints of mineral and petrol, followed by lovely honeysuckle, lemon, lemongrass, with lovely melon, hints of pineapple, and rich saline. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is screaming for more acidity, but it is still nice, with lovely sweet notes of pineapple, sweet guava, honeysuckle, honeydew melon, and more watermelon in the background, with sweet pomelo, and nice salinity. A nice wine with a good saline/tart citrus finish but a bit simple and uni-dimensional. Drink now until 2023.
2019 Hajdu Vermentino – Score: 90 (QPR: EVEN)
The nose on this wine is fun, it takes a bit to open, but with time, say an hour, the nose is really fun, showing notes of orange, orange blossom, daffodil, with lovely citrus, ginger, and hints of nectarines. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is really fun, with good acidity, showing a slight miss in the mid-palate, that is covered up by the nice acid profile, with a nice almost oily texture, with orange, pink grapefruit, lime, and sweet yellow apple. The finish is long, really tart and green, with lovely acidity, slate, mineral, and more sweet fruit notes. Very nice! A shockingly good balance for a 14.5% ABV white wine!
2018 Goose Bay Chardonnay – Score: 88 (Mevushal) (QPR: POOR)
Sadly, this wine is right on the Median line for price and it has a lower quality score, so this lands it as a POOR QPR wine.
The nose on this wine is clearly showing its oak at this point, with a nice toasty approach, followed by lovely yellow apples, melon, and nice oak spices. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is nice e enough but it is too simple, it has a nice weight, but the overall package is lacking, with a very simple focus, but nice enough, with more apple, quince, creme brulee, and a bit of the creamy notes one gets from oaked Chardonnay. The finish is sadly short, it is hidden behind the nice acidity of this wine, but that is not enough to make up for the short length. Drink by 2021.
2019 Psagot Viognier, M Series – Score: 83 (Mevushal) (QPR: BAD)
This is a wine that is just not good enough, and with my new QPR scoring it is one quintile more expensive than the median price and it is not as good as the median score so that is why this wine gets a BAD on the QPR score.
This wine has real potential, sadly this was cooked and it feels it. The nose on this wine starts off nice, but within a minute of opening the bottle, it has that slightly extra-fruity note that is not from the fruit. The nose on this wine is a nice Viognier, showing really tart and well-controlled peach, apricot, perfumed jasmine, and loads of yellow flowers and honeysuckle. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is nice, excepting for that ripe fruit that sticks out from this lean and sleek profile, with an annoying spike of ripe honeysuckle, followed by peach, apricot, and honeyed and sweet mango, with nice grapefruit, and an overall sweet mouthfeel. The finish is long, green, in a way, yet sweet, with pomelo and citrus, along with apple, slate, and absurd pith on the long finish. Drink now.
2019 Chateau Les Riganes Blanc – Score: 86 (Mevushal) (QPR: EVEN)
This wine is below the Median line for quality and it is below the median price, so this lands an EVEN QPR score.
I was hoping for another home run from this chateau, and sadly this vintage lacks the acid of 2018. The nose on this wine is lovely but closed with orange pith, orange notes, apple, and orange blossom, ginger, with mineral in the background. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is nice but flat, with no acid, what it has instead is a load of pith and mineral, followed by gooseberry, straw, mineral, and more floral notes, with orange, nectarines, and more pith. Drink until 2023.
2019 Goose Bay Sauvignon Blanc – Score: 91 (Mevushal) (QPR: WINNER)
This wine is in the 2nd quintile of quality scoring and it is well below the median price line, so this wine SHOULD get a score of GREAT for QPR. However, it is ALSO the another Sauvignon Blanc from the 2019 vintage that scored at least a 91, and that has a price that is at or below the median price line, so this wine gets the coveted score of WINNER for QPR. TWO years in a row for Goose Bay Sauvignon Blanc! Bravo!!
The nose is closed and does not show the classic creaming notes, right now the notes are subdued but they are present, with time the wine really opens up, with cat pee, gooseberry, straw, grass, mineral, and Asian pear. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine needs a few minutes and with time it shows a far more restrained version but still quite enjoyable, with intense acidity, followed by loads of pith, straw, cut grass, mineral, dirt, and lovely orange, nectarines, citrus, Asian pear, and lemongrass. The finish is long, green, with passion fruit, more gooseberry, and mineral galore, straw, pith, slate, and flint. Bravo! With time the fruit will come out from under the pith and straw haze. Drink until 2023.
2019 Recanati Yasmin, White – Score: 87 (Mevushal) (QPR: EVEN)
This wine is below the Median line for quality and it is below the median price, so this lands an EVEN QPR score.
This wine is a blend of Chardonnay and 40% Sauvignon Blanc. The wine is all over the place with the Chardonnay being so sweet that it takes over and really makes this wine unfun. The mouth and nose are too all over the place. Not fun, but the Sauvignon Blanc is nice and tart with good gooseberry and straw, but the sweet Chardonnay fruit showing apple, pineapple, and nectarines make the wine a bit of a mess. Drink now.
2019 Recanati Sauvignon Blanc – Score: 86 (QPR: EVEN)
This wine is below the Median line for quality and it is below the median price, so this lands an EVEN QPR score.
This wine is overall boring, with no complexity, but it ha enough acid and fruit to make it a bit interesting. The nose is really not interesting, but the mouth has acid, some good fruit of citrus, lemon, orange, and gooseberry, make it a bit interesting. Drink now.
2017 Pascal Bouchard Chablis, Le Classique – Score: 88 (Mevushal) (QPR: BAD)
This is a wine that is good enough, but with my new QPR scoring it is two quintile more expensive than the median price and it is not as good as the median score so that is why this wine gets a BAD on the QPR score.
The nose on this wine is nice enough, showing notes of smoke, green notes, green apple, quince, lemongrass, and pear. The mouth on this light to medium-bodied wine is nice enough, but the fruit is less focussed, though the acid is nice, with orange pith, orange notes, and the mineral of saline and slate, is nice. Drink until 2024.
2018 Domaine Netofa White – Score: 90 to 91 (QPR: GREAT)
I keep trying to figure out this wine and I think I finally understand it – this wine has crazy bottle variation, plain and simple. Some bottles, like the one I am greatly enjoying now, is ROCK solid and an easy 91. Then I can have a bottle that is tropical and lacking all the acidity I love. If you look at the past posts, this is what I have written:
The good version looks like this – it is evolving in a great way, showing even more hay and plum. The nose on this wine shows a lovely nose of straight-up hay, mineral, and fruit, with apple and quince galore, and lovely fruit and blossom. The mouth on this wine is crazy good, with a clear ripe backbone, yet steely tart and bright with crazy saline and herb, with mineral galore, with crazy apple, and rich quince, with an incredible tension between the ripeness and the tart/dry fruit and minerality. The finish is long and green, with slate, more hay, and lovely freshness and minerality! Bravo! Drink by 2021.
The bad version looks like this – at this point, the nose on this wine has moved past the mineral and into pure tropical notes, with apple and quince galore, and lovely fruit and blossom. The mouth on this wine has lost a step, with a clear ripe backbone, and the steely backbone is barely keeping it afloat, nice quince, with what used to be an incredible tension between the ripeness and the tart/dry fruit and minerality. The finish is long and green, with slate, more ripeness than I would desire, and minerality! Drink up!
What can I say, this is hit and miss. When it is a hit the wine is so good, showing great minerality, saline, hay, straw, and yellow plum, with citrus and quince. So, here is wishing you a good one!
NV Drappier Brut Nature – Score: 92 (Mevushal) (QPR: GOOD)
This wine is a Brut nature, and as such, it does not have the added fruit or liquor as other Champagnes have. This shows extremely clearly in the notes. This is a clean, austere, grown-up approach to Champagne while having a downside as well, which is these do NOT last long. This wine has a disgorgement date of June 2020, meaning this wine is crazy fresh. Look at the bottom of the bottle – below one of the labels (back or front) and you will see a date etched into the bottle.
The nose on this wine is EXACTLY that, crazy fresh with lovely green and yellow apple notes, followed by bright citrus, lemongrass, waxy notes, and of course, loads of yeast. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is dry, rich, and super focused, with incredible saline, quince, and yellow grapefruit notes, intense acidity, with loads of graphite, and hints of tannin, with an incredibly focused small bubble mousse, that comes at you in layers and lingers forever. The finish is so long, so tart, with more mineral, dirt, saline, graphite, and quince/apple/citrus lingering long – Bravo!!! Drink until June 2021. You know my feeling about Brut Nature wines, they are NOT for holding, drink them NOW!
2017 Hagafen Rose, Brut – Score: 87 (Mevushal) (QPR: POOR)
The nose on this wine is very inviting with tart cherry, ripe strawberry, with some heat on the nose, loads of rosehip, and rhubarb. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is tart and refreshing but it has no complexity and is uni-dimensional in nature, with tart fruit, rhubarb, fine mousse bubble attack, and nice mineral. The finish is long and fruity, with mineral, hints of tannin, and loads of bubbles and acidity on the long refreshing finish. A very nice quaff. Drink until 2024.
2015 Hagafen Brut Cuvee, Reserve, Prix – Score: 89 (Mevushal) (QPR: POOR)
70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay, late disgorged recently. The nose on this wine has a lovely aroma of baked rhubarb pie, balanced well with citrus, earth, dirt, and lovely smoke, followed by minerals, strawberry, and some oxidized notes. The mouth on this medium-bodied bubbly starts off with a shot of mushroom, oxidized fruit, followed by lovely strawberry, and then some lovely citrus, tart raspberry, baked apple, and pear pie, and some more rhubarb, with a lovely small bubble, nice focus. Nice. The finish is long, tart, green and red, and loaded with smoke and almonds. Drink now.
Well, the roses from the 2019 vintage, so far, are not inspiring, and initially, I thought the same for the white wines, thankfully, as I tasted through the last 15 bottles of wines things shifted. There is a reason why I have been pushing Price in relation to its quality, AKA QPR (Quality to Price Relationship).
For this tasting, I tasted more than 70 wines, however, I posted only some 49 wine notes here. Rest assured, the others were either not worthy or I did not have detailed enough notes to make it here on this post.
Interestingly, initially, I had zero hope for the white wines, much as I felt about the roses. However, all of this is data-driven and other than my wines notes, the rest is all prices defined by the USA market. The more, I tasted, the more I felt that there are options in the simple white wine category. I was really ready to give up hope, but thankfully, folks like Shirah, Kos Yeshuos, and other Europen wines really pulled their weight. Sadly, of the top 27 wines, there were a total of 11 from 2019. Of them, only two were from Israel. The rest hailed from California, France, and New Zealand. In the end, so far, the vast majority of the Israeli white wines I have tasted from 2019 are also highly uninspiring.
With that said, the median price for the wine category of non-aging white wines is going up! There lies in my over-arching issue, prices keep going up!! The median price for non-aging white wines, here in the USA, is now 24 dollars! Seriously!! COME ON!! This is crazy! As the kids say, total Cray Cray! Turned around, the total number of wines below the median price of 24 dollars that received a 90 or higher was 12, and many of those are our QPR WINNERS. Overall, 2019 is still a dud in Israel, of those that have made their way to the USA, and Califonia is saving the day, so far.
All the wines here are scored both quantitatively, AKA using my classic wine score described here, and using the newly revised QPR score described here. So, yes, there will be more of the QPR discussion that will arise from this post. Thankfully, we have a good number of wines, 7 from my count, that received the QPR score of WINNER, sadly, they are mostly from 2018. Therefore, I repeat again, I am highly unimpressed with how many 2019 white wines I had and how many are subpar. Please be careful with the ones you buy.
Finally, in order of price, the first of the 7 QPR WINNER wines come in at wine #38, sorted by price! That means there are loads of other wines far less interesting than the 2018 Ramon Cardova Albarino, the most expensive of the 7 WINNER QPR wines. This is the kind of data that makes me scream. This is what needs to change! Wineries are willing to produce wines that are more expensive and less interesting, than more than HALF of the wine I tasted! This is what needs to change, kosher wine has gotten out of control, price-wise.
Do yourself a favor, check the price, you do it for everything else you buy! Check the wine, check the price, and then decide!
2018 Ramon Cardova Albarino, Rias Baixas – Score: 92 (QPR: WINNER)
This wine is in the 2nd quintile of quality scoring and it is just below the median price line, so this wine SHOULD get a score of GREAT for QPR. However, it is ALSO one of the few white wines that score at least a 91, and that has a price that is below the median price line, so this wine gets the coveted score of WINNER for QPR. Bravo!!!
The 2018 vintage of this Albarino, in its second vintage, shows less tropical and ripe than the first vintage, 2017. This bottle also had the thermal active label, and it shows up when the bottle is at the proper drinking temperature. My only REAL and serious complaint is the cork, why would Royal waste the money and my money of a real cork? Use a Diam or any other amalgamated cork, like almost everyone else is. I really hope I do not hit a bad cork for the wines I have.
The nose on this wine is better than the 2017 vintage, Lovely nose of rich mineral, with loads of straw, with which salinity, and lovely peach and dry pear, with honeysuckle, gooseberry, along with green notes galore. Lovely! The mouth on this lovely green and acid-driven wine has a more oily mouthfeel than the 2017 vintage, showing rich salinity, green olives, with lovely dry quince, green apples, more peach, green apple, but also with lovely lime and grapefruit, no sense of guava or melon-like on the 2017 vintage, with a tinge of orange notes. The overall mouth is lovely and it comes at you in layers. The finish is long, green, with gooseberry, tart fruit, with an incredible freshness, and orange pith, slate, rock, and incredible acidity lingering long. Incredible!! Bravo!! Drink until 2022.
2018 Hagafen Dry Riesling – Score: 91 (Mevushal) (QPR: WINNER)
This wine is in the 2nd quintile of quality scoring and it is below the Median price line, so this wine gets a GREAT score for QPR. However, it is ALSO one of the few white wines that score at least a 91, and that has a price that is below the median price line, so this wine gets the coveted score of WINNER for QPR. Bravo!!!
The nose on this wine is tropical and sweet fruit-focused, with pineapple, guava, melon, peach, but now THANKFULLY the petrol is in full gear, and it commands your attention, with the tropical fruit still very present, along with some nice mineral. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is fun, tart, nice acidity, with more petrol funk, showing nice balance, with good acidity, still, the mouth is sweet and ripe, the petrol and tart notes help, with green apple, tart grapefruit, tart stone fruit, and slate galore, with waxy notes, and tart pineapple. The finish is long, green, with intense mineral, slate, flint, and lovely petrol that gives way to nice acidity, and hints of tannin. The wine has indeed come around and now petrol is more present and the hole in the middle is gone. Drink until 2024. Read the rest of this entry
It is not yet summer but here in NorCal, it feels more like summer than spring, and the weather is making shipments really hard at this time of year. Normally, I would have been in Israel by now, one way or the other, and I would have at least had two tastings with the gang. 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 round 1, there will be another 15 roses I will get through over the next week or so.
While rose wine in the non-kosher market is exploding – especially Rose wine from Provence; a wine region of France, the kosher market this year will be more subdued. In the past, distributors brought in as much as 60+ kosher rose wines, this year with the issues I brought up in my previous post – there is less of an appetite for all those wines.
QPR and Price
I have been having more discussions around my QPR 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 gone up this year and 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 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, many 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. So, wines that are drinkable with an 88 or 89 score, though wines that I would not buy, have a low enough price to get a GOOD or GREAT score. Does that mean that I would buy them because they have a GREAT QPR? No, I would not! However, for those that really want roses, then those are solid 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, the Netofa, Vitkin, and Recanati roses. Yes, there is ONE rose I would “buy” by my qualitative scoring approach, which is why I used the word almost above. That wine would be the 2019 Bat Shlomo Rose, but at some 28 or more dollars a bottle, it is highway robbery for that score. Read the rest of this entry
As always, I start my posts by thanking God and my wife for allowing me to go and taste wines around the world. With the Coronavirus (COVID-19) going strong around the world, I was sure the planes would be emptier, but they were not. Thankfully, I flew and returned home, safely, Shomer Petayim Hashem. Now, on to show.
This year, I flew to London, and was in London for less than 24 hours, before, going on a train to Paris, where I stayed until after Shabbat, then I flew to NYC for KFWE there, then to LA, for KFWE there and then on home. Our plane to London came after the storms that terrorized Europe. First came Ciara on Feb 9th, a week before KFWE, but then came Dennis, the Sunday before KFWE, which was on Monday. What a beast that was, look at these videos, intense flooding! Ciara was so crazy that it blew a British Airways 747 825 MPH! The flight from NYC to LHR took under 5 hours, the fastest on record! I have a few snapshots on my flight going 700 MPH but come on, we were getting the leftovers of Denni’s fury or help, depending on how you see it and understanding the context of where you were at that moment.
Sadly, Dennis was so destructive, it did not stop at London or Paris, it continues throughout Europe. Sadly, that meant that wineries from Italy and Spain were not able to attend the KFWE. So Elvi Wines’s Moises Cohen and David Cohen were not able to make it, and nor was Eli Gauthier from Cantina Giuliano.
Overall thoughts of the new wines
Throughout the travels, I really did not find any new wine that I would kvell about. I STRESS NEW wine. Sure, there are many great wines, but they were wines I had already tasted. I did taste a few very special wines in Paris, that is another three posts from now. Other than that, all the roses I tasted from 2019 carried forth the flaws of 2018, flat, boring, and maybe showing a bit more acid, but who really cares. If there was ONE takeaway, from all the KFWE and other tastings like Bokobsa, and tastings I did in private, it would be that 2019 roses are a HARD pass from Israel and USA so far. The thankful note goes to Royal Europe for bringing back the rose love with the 2019 Chateau Roubine, La Vie! Also, Bravo to the unbottled Costa Rosato from Cantina Giuliano, sadly Eli was not there, because of the storms, but the rose showed very well, more of a Gris than a rose, and lovely. The other takeaway I had from all of the KFWE was that 2017 was a VERY hard year for California. It shows in every 2017 red and white wine, that I have tasted so far, except for the 2017 Herzog Chardonnay, Lineage, which is lovely, and which was on my QPR of the year list. The 2017 vintage, throughout the world, actually sucked. Spain had hail and other issues, Israel was a mess, California had two HUGE heat waves hit it and many lost their fruit, along with the smoke taint from the fires, and France had the freeze that culled many vineyards, while also just being an average vintage for Bordeaux and Burgundy. Yes, there were a few very nice wines from Bordeaux and Burgundy from 2017, but the vintage was no 2015 or 2016. On average 2017 in Bordeaux was no homerun. The 2017 California wines either taste overly ripe and fruity or they taste green and under-ripe. Either way, 2017, IMHO, is a vintage I will pass on from California, sadly.
Getting back on topic, the reason for coming to KFWE London was simply that I like London, it is a great city, and even if I am there for less than 24 hours, it is still fun to see the environment of what is becoming quite a kosher food and wine enclave. The issues I brought up on my post last year, being the distribution of kosher wines is still hanging over London. I spoke with many of the buyers that I know of in London, and they all agree, none of the enophiles buy their wines from a store. This issue is one I highlighted in my year in review, and it is one that needs to be answered long term.
KFWE London 2020
So, in my review last year of KFWE London 2019, I summed it up in one sentence:
So, in a single sentence to wrap up KFWE London 2019, an elegant hall and presentation, solid wines served, ok crowd control, poor implementation of the venue, glasses were OK and could be improved, and the food needs help.
This year things changed, well most of them anyway. Let us start with the good, the hall continues to be a huge highlight of the event, both the general hall and the VIP hall/rooms are quite beautiful. They are elegant and regal, all the ways you expect a London event to be held. The wines were solid again if you wanted to taste the new 2017 Royal wines, this was the ONLY KFWE event that had them all, ONLY! Sure, Menahem Israelievitch was nice to bring the 2017 Leoville Poyferre, by hand, from Paris, but if you wanted to taste the 2017 Chateau Giscours or the 2017 Les Roches de Yon Figeac, you were out of luck. Throw in the fact that ALL of the 2017 Herzog Wine Cellars Winery also had all of their 2017 wines there, along with the yet unlabeled 2016 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Calistoga, Single Vineyard. Once again, Herzog Wine Cellars came to play and came with all their wines. Though it was an absolute miracle for Jospeh Herzog to have even made it to London, he too was disrupted by the storms, but he was there, with maybe an hour of sleep, promoting hos wines, Bravo Joseph!!