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An epic tasting of M & M Importers latest imports – QPR WINNERS and the best Kosher Pinots on the market

I was in NYC for a few days and I had the opportunity to have lunch with Dr. Ralph Madeb, president and CEO of M & M Importers, one of M’s in M & M (I just think Ralph secretly loved M&Ms as a child, but hey). I was joined by GG, Yed, and Avi Davidowitz of Kosher Wine Unfiltered. It was a wonderful tasting that had no duds, just hit after hit, and truly a unique experience, IMHO, as we are finally seeing the power of kosher wine in Italy. Of course, we have been blessed with fantastic wine from terra di Seta for more than a decade now, but our Italian experience has been limited to Chianti. There are other options but they rarely impress me. There was the epic 2010 Barolo and Barbera d’Alba from Florenza, but sadly that was a one-time run (there was more made in 2011 but it never came to the USA).

There were many more wines than just Italian, the gamut included Provence Rose from IDS, followed by Falesco’s new Ferentano, one of the very few wineries that make a varietal wine from Roscetto, followed by IDS 2018 Clos des d’Argent, which is showing well now! Then came the mind-blowing 2019 Pinot Noirs from IDS 2019 Jean Luc et Paul Aegerter Nuits St. Georges 1er Cru, Les Vallerots, and the 2019 Jean Luc et Paul Aegerter Corton-Vergennes, Grand Cru. There was supposed to also have been a Meursault to match JP Marchand’s 2019 Meursault, but sadly they ran out of fruit. The 1er Cru is on par with the best of the JP Marchand and Lescure, but the Grand Cru takes kosher Pinot Noir to a very new level, one that I am blown away by and I hope this continues!

The lineup then moved back to Italy with 2019 Terre Alfiere Tuke Nebbiolo, a crazy good QPR WINNER. Followed by another QPR WINNER, the 2018 Irpinia Aglianico. This is what Aglianico should taste like! A beautifully controlled tannic beast with nice fruit, tannin, and incredible floral aromas – BRAVO! The rest of the wines after that were wines I knew, and have written about in the past, so I took no notes. They included the 2005 Valendraud, a monster of a wine but one that is at its peak and is good to go. Following that was the IDS 2018 Jean Luc et Paul Aegerter Gevrey-Chambertin and the 2018 Jean Luc et Paul Aegerter Pommard. Followed by the epic IDS 2015 Virginie de Valendraud and a yet unreleased 2018 Virginie de Valendraud. Then came the IDS 2015 Chateau Labegorce Marguax and the IDS 2017 Chateau Lafon Rochet! Two epic wines that I love! It was finished with the two lovely 2014 and 2015 Von Hovel Rieslings, the Haute Oberemmel and the Saar Riesling, and the crazy QPR WINNER 2019 Pescaja Terre Alfieri Arneis Solei. Thanks to Avi for taking all the pictures!

There was no wine below 90 and there was my first ever 95+ score since I turned to score with numbers. To say it clearly, the lunch was epic, the wines were epic, and to have the ability to hang out like the times of old, with friends and great wine was a day to remember! My sincerest thanks to Ralph and his partner at M & M Importers for sharing their wonderful wines with us all! The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

2020 Chateau Sainte Marguerite, Cuvee Fantastique Rose – Score: 91 (QPR: EVEN)
This wine is a blend of 50% Grenache, 40% Cinsault, and 10% Rolle (AKA Vermentino). The nose on this wine is lovely with great notes with peach, mineral, grapefruit, lovely apricot, lemongrass, and green note. The mouth is lovely, acidic, refreshing, with good acidity, nice fruit focus, with a lovely mouthful, showing classic strawberry, raspberry, lemon/lime, more peach, mineral madness, and rich salinity, wow! Lovely! The finish is long, with flint, rock, saline, lemon, tart pink grapefruit, and lemongrass, lovely! Adding in the white wine helped. Drink now. (tasted April 2021)

2020 Chateau Sainte Marguerite Rose – Score: 90 (QPR: POOR)
This wine is a blend of 50% Grenache, 40% Cinsault, and 10% Rolle (AKA Vermentino). The nose on this wine is quite nice, with minerality, lovely strawberry, raspberry, peach, lemon, grapefruit, peach blossom, and lemon blossom. The mouth is correct, enough acid, mineral galore, smoke, flint, and nice fruit focus, but missing in the middle. The finish is long, floral, with flint, green notes, and red fruit, nice! Drink now. (tasted April 2021)

2018 Famiglia Cotarella (AKA Falesco) Ferentano – Score: 93 (QPR: EVEN)
This is Incredible, the nose is lovely with great and unique floral notes, Jasmine, white flowers, beeswax, with intense mineral, vanilla, sweet oak, pineapple, hints of banana, lemon, peach, and green notes. The mouth on this full-bodied wine is rich, layered, and extracted, with nice tannin, lovely acidity, great mineral, flint, peach, lemongrass, pineapple, sweet oak, Asian pear, with a lovely viscous body, rich and beautiful, sweet vanilla, grapefruit, honeysuckle, and honeyed quince, just lovely! The finish is long, green, with tannin, tart lime, lemongrass, sweet mint, with flint, and gun smoke, wow!! Drink until 2026. (tasted April 2021)

2019 Jean Luc et Paul Aegerter Corton-Vergennes, Grand Cru – Score: 95.5 (QPR: EVEN)
The nose on this wine starts with deep mushroom and barnyard aromas, then it goes smoky, showing notes of roasted duck, red fruit, smoke, floral notes, rich saline, dense foliage, and toast. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is rich, layered, elegant, plush, and concentrated, but not overly extracted, with sheer elegance, loam, dark cherry, currant, plum, sweet raspberry, and dense dark fruit, porcini mushrooms, dirt, smoke, all wrapped in an ethereal package, just incredible!! The finish is long, dark, green, red, and smoky, with coffee, dark chocolate, and leather. Drink from 2029 until 2036. (tasted April 2021)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A tasting of M & M Importers latest imports

I was in NYC for a few days and I had the opportunity to have dinner with Dr. Ralph Madeb, president and CEO of M & M Importers, one of M’s in M & M (I just think Ralph secretly loved M&Ms as a child, but hey).

The current lineup of wines is the following:

NON-IDS Wines
2013 Eccelenza, Bianco Umbria (tasted in past)
2014 Famiglia Cotarella, Marciliano, Umbria (note below)
2014 Famiglia Cotarella, Montiano, Lazio (note below)
2014 Chateau Leroy-Beauval, Bordeaux Superieur (tasted in past)
2016 Chateau Haut Brisson, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru (tasted in past)
2016 Chateau Tour Saint Christophe, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru (tasted in past)
2018 Valle Reale Botteotto Montepulciano, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo (not yet tasted)

IDS Wines
2015 Chateau Labegorce, Margaux (tasted in past)
2015 Virginie de Valandraud, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru (tasted in past)
2016 Chateau Leydet-Valentin, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru (not yet tasted)
2011 Chateau de Valois, Pomerol (note below)
2018 Jean Luc & Paul Aegerter Pommard, Reserve Personnelle (note below)
2018 Jean Luc & Paul Aegerter Bourgogne Hautes-Cotes de Nuits, Reserve Personnelle (note below)
2018 Jean Luc & Paul Aegerter Gevrey-Chambertin, Reserve Personnelle (note below)
2016 Château La Tour de By, Heritage Marc Pages, Médoc (note below)
2018 Clos des Lunes Lune D’Argent, Bordeaux (note below)
NV Janisson & Fils Champagne Brut Rose (tasted in past)
NV Janisson & Fils Champagne Brut Blanc (tasted in past)

While the IDS portfolio is impressive, I find the Italian wines more impressive, Italy is where I truly believe Kosher wine can shine. Of course, the French wines from IDS and those that M&M have imported are very impressive and really shows the power and potential of France for kosher wines.

The focus of the tasting were the 2018 Jean Luc & Paul Aegerter wines. They were all very impressive, the wines are super young now and have a long way to go. Still, as much I really liked them, they are a step behind the current kosher star of Burgundy Domaine Lescure. I have put in my order for all three 2018 Jean Luc & Paul Aegerter wines and I hope to watch them evolve. For now, do not waste your money tasting them, store them away and start opening them up 6 years from now. Still, the best wine at the tasting was the 2016 Château La Tour de By, Heritage Marc Pages, it is a rich, racy, and in-your-face Medoc wine that should be a sure buy by all.

My many thanks to Ralph and his partner for sharing their wines with us, the wine notes follow below:

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

2018 Clos des Lunes Lune D’Argent, Bordeaux – Score: 91 to 92
This wine is a blend of 70% Semillon and  30% Sauvignon Blanc. The nose on this wine is lovely, with flint, rock, gooseberry, citrus, and green notes, with orange blossom, yellow fruit, and earth. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine comes at you in layers of fruit, with a nice integrated acid, showing green notes, tart with asparagus, yellow plum, dry straw, with mineral, lovely smoke, tart fruit, rock, and grapefruit and lemon/lime. The finish is long, green, with orange notes, and mineral that lingers long forever. Drink by 2023. Read the rest of this entry

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