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Open That Bottle Night 15 and a few missed wine posts

2007 Hevron Height PardessWell, it is that time of year again for OTBN (Open That Bottle Night), a night conceived by Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher, in February 2000, then with the WSJ. Well, officially it is the last Saturday night in February, which this year is Feb 22. However, us Jews like Friday/Sabbath to be our special wine moment, so we will be enjoying OTBN this Friday Night, hopefully!

According to the WSJ site: On OTBN, which is celebrated on the last Saturday of February every year, thousands of bottles all over the world are released from prison and enjoyed. With them come memories of great vacations, long-lost loved ones and bittersweet moments. The whole point of the weekly “Tastings” column is that wine is more than the liquid in the bottle. It’s about history, geography, relationships and all of the things that are really important in life.

We have had many great OTBN tastings but this year, it is about tasting my oldest and best Yarden Winery wines. Yarden Winery has moved to the sweet side on their new wines, for the most part, but the El Rom wines have never been sweet. Yarden has always been on the sweeter side, in terms of ripe fruit, but these past few years, the weather has really hurt them badly. The 2009, 2010, and 2011 vintages have been nice wines, but too sweet for my tastes. The 2012 and 2013 look like they will be better, from what we have tasted of the white wines. Still, the El Rom and red Katzrin wine have always been controlled and beautiful. They are Yarden’s flagship wines and they keep a very tight lid on the fruit in these wines. The 2006 and 2007 ROM wine is another story, it was always sweet and somewhat controlled, and yes, very expensive. It all started when the late Daniel Rogov gave the 2006 ROM, a very unique Israeli blend wine, a massive 96 score!  That score sent the futures of that wines to the moon, along with the expectations of greatness. In reality, it is a nice wine, but nowhere where Rogov placed it.

Well, I have been sitting on too many of these wines, and so this week, for my version of the OTBN 15 (the 15th year of OTBN), I will be opening the 2001 Yarden El Rom (Shmita year), the 2004 Yarden El Rom, and the 2007 Yarden ROM. I have many backups in the ready! Read the rest of this entry

2013 Jewish Week kosher wine tasting at the City Winery in New York City

City Winery PictureAs I stated in my previous post, my heart was in the Shabbos but my mind was on my trip that I was taking to New York. All the thinking did not help make the trip any less miserable. Once again I have proven to myself that flying to New York is hard enough, doing a stop in between is miserable and downright idiotic. Lets take a step back here and explain the situation. The Jewish Week holds a wine tasting every year, showing of the top kosher wines they thought made an impression to the wine judges. This past year, they tasted through some 400+ wines and came up with a long list of wines, many of which I like and some I did not like. Anyway, the tasting was this past Sunday, the 3rd of March, 2013, at 1 PM. To get there from the west coast, it would mean either sleeping in NY for Shabbos (not an option), or flying out Saturday Night.

I LOVE Jet Blue, but they canceled flying out Saturday night from San Jose airport, and now only fly out Saturday night from SFO – AHHH!!! So, the only other option was Delta, which I should never have done, because it meant a stopover in Atlanta. The idea was to fly out by 10:45 PM, have an hour in Atlanta and hop on the 9 AM flight to NY. That all sounded OK, no storms in the forecasts, no crazy storm trackers or watcher on the news – so it looked like I was in the clear! Not so fat, turns out that there may not be Godly reasons to not fly – but Delta is more than capable of creating man-made disasters – all by itself!

I arrived to the airport with an hour to go, and by the time we took off, I was in the airport for some 3 and a half hours! AHH!! Yep, you guessed it Delta screwed up and lost a tire on landing so the plane could not take us to Atlanta. By the time they fixed the plane, the man fixing it broke another part and we had to deplane and get on another plane – a gate over. By the time that plane was fueled and had everyone’s bags repacked – we were two+ hours behind. I slept like a baby on the plane, but by the time we arrived in Atlanta – I knew I was cooked. The connecting flight was 5 terminals over and the “plane train” could not get me there in time to save my bacon. So here comes the best part – I arrive at the gate and the plane was not departed, but the man would not let me on – no matter how much I screamed and begged. However, he gave me a printed ticket (I have not sen one of those in years) and told me to run to the next terminal where the Laguardia flight was boarding. I ran like a mad man, and in the interim broke my hand luggage! One thing after another – I know! Anyway, as I get to the gate the lady tells me that there is no such flight, I say what – the man told me there was a plane boarding now! She says – oh sure – that is one gate over, the dude gave me the incorrect gate number! Anyway, she walks me over and I start talking to the gate agent who tells me – once again – sorry the gate is closed and the plane is leaving. This is when the other gate woman turns into SuperWoman! She says – OH NO – this poor man has been through enough. She swipes her card, opens the gate door, walks me down the jetway – and bangs on the plane door! Seriously! She screams – open this door!

Now – let me please recap, I have a ticket – printed ticket, for JFK. I am trying to board a plane for which I have NO TICKET – none whatsoever! Actually I have a ticket for a totally different airport! Think of me as one of those lost souls dropped on a plane. That was me! Of course, I have no checked luggage – for two days, but still, this is COOL! The unflappable stewardess, behind a massive closed door replies; the door is closed. The gate attendant is equally unflappable, and she fires back (sorry bad use of verbage) open the door, you forgot this guy! Will you believe – the stewardess blinked and opened the door! Heck these folks were half way through the security demonstration! I was told grab any seat – we need to move. I grabbed the first window seat I could find, and promptly went back to sleep! WOW!! By the time I land in Laguardia, I had two hours to go and once I finished davening, I hopped in a taxi and found my way to the City Winery. Read the rest of this entry

Lovely Hevron Heights Elone Mamre Chardonnay

2010 Hevron Heights Elone Mamre Chardonnay_This past week I came back from the IFWF and the KFWE, and I was so tired I was not up to writing anything. Thankfully, we had some chicken and some olive and white bean soup in the freezer, so I had little to no work to do before the Shabbos weekend. The chicken was the lemon rosemary roasted chicken of course, and the soup was the Olive white bean soup.

So, to pair with this meal, we went for a lovely Chardonnay that I had the joy of tasting last year in NY, and based on that bought a bottle sometime ago. The wine is ripe, rich, and yet controlled with good acidity and great body. The fruit is far more tropical than summer and the body and acidity and creaminess, makes for a rich and fun white wine.

Hevron Height winery is one of those highly polarizing wineries, mostly because the late Daniel Rogov was never a fan. Actually, he hated the winery and its wines. To be fair, he did like a few bottles, here and there, but for the most part – he was very down on them. That made me not interested in tasting these wines for years. I then tasted wines from Hevron Heights, here and there in the past few years, and most of the time, the wines were a complete disaster.

Well all of that has changed in the past few years, with the 2005, 2006, and 2007 Hevron Heights wines being imported by Happy Hearts imports. The wines were quite nice, not winner winner chicken dinner kind of wines, or WOW wines, but clearly far better than the earlier wines I had endured. That said, the word on the street is that wine maker helping Michel P. Murciano, the founding owner and wine maker at Hevron Heights Winery has left the coop. Still, there is yet another rumor that the new wine maker helper, is a man that I highly respect and if he can get his hands on the overall process and make it hum, we could be seeing some killer wines from this winery in the future.

The wine note follows below:

2010 Hevron Heights Chardonnay Elone Mamre – Score: A-
2010 Hevron Heights Elone Mamre Chardonnay - back label_This is a lovely and unique Chardonnay with great aromatics all wrapped up in clear effects from the 6 months in oak. The gold colored wine’s nose screams of pineapple, bright citrus, toast, great caramel, nice mineral, fig, and guava. The mouth is rich, medium to full body, creamy, fruity, with tropical concentrated fruit, mango, peach, melon, and tart green apple that lingers. The finish is long, spicy, and rich with butterscotch, smoky notes, grapefruit, lemon, and toast.

Four kosher wines I enjoyed in the past week from California and Israel

This past weekend I enjoyed some lovely wines from Israel and California. The first wine is the 2010 Covenant Sauvignon Blanc and the second was the 2009 Adir Cabernet Sauvignon, Ben Zimra. The third wine was the 2010 Gvaot Pinot Noir that I loved and tasted at the Kosher Wine Society Tasting – New Wines and Vintage Experience, and the fourth wine which I also tasted at the KWS tasting was the 2007 Hevron Heights Merlot, Pardess.

The only wine in this lineup that disappointing me was the 2009 Adir Cabernet! I had the chance to taste this wine in Israel last year, and when I tasted it now it showed itself in a vastly different manner. Where before the wine was rich and layered, now the wine was still green but felt unbalanced and not all there. Again, it could be an issue of transportation or storage, but I bought the wine at a great store – called Liquors Galore. It has a fantastic selection and the prices are solid for wines that are on sale. For all other wines, shop and compare, but their selection is very impressive, and it is local if you live in Flatbush, NY.

Again, I believe the issue here is transportation and maybe the wine is a funk or quiet period, but in the end, it is a wine I could not recommend to others. The other wine I bought there was the 2010 Covenant Sauvignon Blanc, which was awesome and bright, ripe and clean, while showing nice minerality, slate, and crispness. Read the rest of this entry

Mamilla Hotel Winery and kosher Wine Bar in Jerusalem

Though this wonderful establishment is not a winery, since it has winery in its name, I will count it as my 12th article on wineries in the Judean Hills.

Truly the simplest way to describe the Mamilla Hotel Winery is to call it for what it is; the only kosher wine bar in Israel! As sad as that sounds, at least there is one. There are many wonderful wine bars in Israel, with many wonderful kosher wines, but they are not exclusively kosher, unlike the Mamilla Hotel Winery.

I arrived early on my first trip to the wine bar. I like to do that so that I have the chance to take in the ambiance and since there were few patrons initially, it gave me the chance to talk with Hadas, the wine bartender. It turns out after talking with Hadas for sometime that she and her father are good friends or acquaintances of Alice Feiring, the Joan of Arc of all things natural and wine.

The wine bar has been open for some three years now, and the last two times I tried to go and enjoy some wine there the bar was closed. To be honest they do keep strange hours at this wine bar. The hours are:

Sunday Through Thursday 15:00 – 20:00
Friday 12:00 – 18:00
Saturday Closed

The wine bar is more a feeder for the larger bar and restaurant than a self-contained and sustainable system. It is a real shame as I found the selection and service at the wine bar to be top-notch.

The wine bar has some twenty or so seats and is just outside the famous mirror bar and a few steps from the elevator to the rooftop restaurant in the Mamilla hotel, on the mezzanine floor of the hotel. As you look around and take in the ultra modern, minimalist, and sleek style of the wine bar, you can feel yourself starting to relax and as you start to settle into the atmosphere, you find yourself instinctively yearning for a fine glass of wine. Well, mission accomplished Mamilla Winery! Read the rest of this entry

Bean and Rice soup, Roast, Meat Sauce, Roasted Vegetables, Rice Pilaf, and a bunch of wine…

On the weekend of January 8th, we had a Friday night party, with my nephews from Chicago and from around the Bay Area, and Benyamin Cantz.  The meal started with a wicked cool soup that we made for the first time and then followed it with a roast, some meat sauce, brown rice, roasted vegetables, and fresh salad.  The soup recipe is below, and is from a recipe book – fittingly called – Soup!  We laughed about the soup book, because my Sister is the owner of Source Books, and we bantered around about how much time she would have spent on just the picture on the front of the book, which of course is a bowl of soup!  After the soup, we made some roasted vegetables (sweet potatoes, beets, rutabagas, parsnip).  The vegetables were so good because we roasted them until they released their water and started to crystallize the sugars – which makes them extra yummy!  They went along nicely with the roasted shoulder meat, which was braised with peas and carrots, and a bunch of wine – recipe can be found here.  The meat sauce was a lot like this one, without trying to make meatballs out of it.  They were all paired with a lovely brown rice pilaf and a fresh green salad.

Rice & White Bean Soup Recipe
9 oz of white beans
Olive Oil
Onions
Garlic
Diced Carrots
Diced Zucchini
Diced Red peppers
Cubed Soy Sausage
Thyme
Bay Leaf
Chicken or vegetable stock
Half a cup of brown rice

Place the beans in water over night and then drain and rinse a few times the next day.  Sauté the onions and sausage until browned.  Add in the garlic, and once browned nicely, throw in the diced zucchini, carrots, and peppers.  Wait for the vegetables to give off their liquid and then add in the herbs and vegetable stock.  Wait for the soup to boil and throw in the washed and rinsed beans.  Lower the heat to simmer and stir the soup every so often until the beans are softening (about an hour).  Then throw in the rice, and whatever other seasoning (salt, pepper, etc.) to taste, and wait another 30 or so minutes.

The wine we chose to pair with this food was partly from Four Gates Winery and partly from our cellar.  One wine from my cellar was a massive and huge dud, while the other one was OK.  Both of the wines from Four Gates (one of which is still unreleased), were quite nice indeed.

The wine notes follow below:

2006 Cantina Gabriele Sangiovese – Score: B+
The nose on this dark ruby colored wine is rich with loamy notes, black cherry is ever evident, some violet, and a bit of plum. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is mouth coating with integrated tannins, plum, and concentrated cherry flavors. The mid palate is balanced with integrated tannins and acid. The finish is long with loamy soil, a hint of floral notes, and a ton of cloying tart cherries at the very end. The tart cherries throw off the finish and ruin the wine, which is a shame, because of the rest of the package.

2006 Hevron Heights Mount Hevron Red – Score: C-
This bottle was either really wrong or it is flawed at birth. The bottle had way too much volatile acidity, which messed up an already not so great wine. The nose on this vibrant garnet – purple colored wine is over the top with Volatile Acidity, cherry, plum, and coffee. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is flush with cranberry, plum, and eucalyptus. The rest of the flavor profile is cherry and coffee and not much more than that because of the VA.

2006 Four Gates Merlot M.S.C. – Score: A
When we last tasted this wine it was a bit redder.  Now the wine has turned black (as has its younger brother the 2006 Merlot La Rochelle), and it is a crazy joy to drink and share with your friends and family.  The interesting thing is that, while there are some red characteristics to this wine, the black ones clearly stand out.  Who knows, it may well go back to its red past, which was still one wonderful wine as well.

The nose on this purple to black colored wine is screaming with rich oak, cassis, blackberry, plum, raspberry, tobacco, chocolate, and licorice.  The mouth of this full bodied wine is full of raspberry, cassis, plum, and blackberry.  The mouth’s tannins are slowly integrating and creating a lovely mouth coating experience that fills out the already full wine’s body, and the layers of fruit accentuate the palate with nice oak notes.  The mid palate is balanced with acid, chocolate, nice tannins, and spicy oak.  The finish is long and rich with red fruit, more spicy oak, licorice, and chocolate.  The wine is a massive black Merlot that is layered, complex, and screaming with black fruit and extracted flavors.

2006 Four Gates (Yet Undisclosed Name) – Score: A-
The nose on this royal purple to black colored wine is filled with raspberry, plum, floral notes, kirsch cherry, oak, and spice.  The mouth on this full bodied wine is hopping with raspberry, plum, and cherry.  The mouth comes at you layer after layer on a plush mouth with mouth coating tannins.  The mid palate is balanced with acid, integrating tannins, and coffee.  The finish is long with red fruit, vanilla, lovely tannins, coffee, and a hint of leather.

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