Blog Archives

The KFWE/KFWV 2021 results are in – the glass is half-empty, sadly.

Last year’s KFWE NYC/L.A. result post never made it to the blog. To be honest, I was too overwhelmed with the madness and I barely got the Passover post up, as you can read, I even put in a disclaimer, in case people thought it was crass. Still, people replied that it was appreciated and I appreciated those comments. On a total aside, as I stated elsewhere, L.A. was the clear winner in 2020. NYC was a zoo, for both trade and public tastings. L.A., as usual, was a true joy, I know some have issues with the venue, but for me, the Cali weather, cigar bar, great wines, and classic old-Hollywood vibe, give me a break – hands-down winner!

So, after a full year+ under the pandemic cloud, we were all dreaming of another KFWE and sadly, that was never going to happen, as was obvious. The way I see it, for me and my family here in California, we will not get vaccinated until July, at the earliest. Life for us will not be “going back to normal” for a long time!

So, with the pandemic still clearly hanging over our heads, Royal Wine decided to go the virtual route and to ship certain wines, from their large portfolio, in small bottles. I discussed this in my KFWV post.

Much like I stated in my year/decade in review, I will go with the result of glass-half-empty. I will jump right to my thoughts on the event, both the pros and the cons.

Cons

  1. The poor and frozen weather that KFWE has skirted past in previous years came to haunt this year’s iteration, sadly. Packages were frozen, broken, lost in the chaos of one of the worst weather storms in a long time. More were delayed or never delivered. Some were delivered on the day of KFWV and some were after. In the end, the weather was an issue and this was not something Royal could have worked around. Sometimes you get lucky sometimes you do not.
  2. The lack of variety in the wines was an issue. Remember the idea was to “replicate”, to some extent, KFWE. The inability to get a choice of wine sets was a miss, from a marketing perspective, with the MOST glaring issue (#5) this would still have not helped. I understand that this was already a crazy undertaking, of logistics and overhead, and trying to do multiple lists would have been insane. I get that, but if this needs to evolve, it will be needed.
  3. The price for the “event” did not include food, recipes are nice, but you had to pay for the food as well. Maybe having some food delivered in NYC or Florida would have been a better option.
  4. The labels on the bottles were wrong, vintage-wise. This is an issue as anyone tasting the 2017 Capcanes Peraj Ha’abib (Mevushal) thinking it was the 2018 non-Mevushal will seriously not buy the 2018 vintage!! This ties into the next and main issue, which is all about very serious unintended consequences, IMHO.
  5. Yes, I know this is burying the lede, as this is the main issue, the wines were a disaster. The wines were no representation, at all, of the wine in the original bottle. The transfer mechanism failed Royal. The wines devolved in the little bottles as the wine was already subjected to oxygen during the bottling. It did not matter that they filled the wine in the little bottles to the top, it did not fix the issue caused a few days earlier. The damage had already been done and now the wine was devolving over days! The answer may not be simple, but it is the ONLY way to make this work, and that is to transfer these wines under a vacuum. Anything less will get you what you had this past week.

    Please do not say, oh why is it different than when they open the wine at KFWE and pour – it is also not like the original bottle at home? Give me a break! These wines traveled for DAYS in this state – it does not get better once oxygen has been introduced – IT ONLY gets worse.

    The outcome was a multi-fold problem:
    1. The wines had NO RELATIONSHIP to what I tasted from the original bottles, all of them! I had tasted all of these wines, other than the Stags Leap Cabernet Sauvignon, over a few months. This is sad, as remember these wines are being sent as an example of what Royal and the wineries have to offer – what I tasted had no relationship to what I had tasted in the past for these very same wines.
    2. Worse, was that they did not taste good at all. The only wine, “I enjoyed” tasting was Guiraud Sauternes, as that is much harder to kill. The overall process truly ruined the wines and made them not very good, enjoyable, or interesting to buy!
    3. That last part is very important! The main reason to have put on this event/show was to help sell wine! Sadly, this event caused many to not buy the very wines they were sent. If you asked me would I buy the 2017 Giscours, after tasting the small wine format representation that was sent to me? The answer would be NEVER. Not only did I feel that way, but others told me they had buyers come into their store and say I tasted that in the KFWV and I do not want to buy it! Unintended consequences, for sure, but very serious ones!
    4. IMHO, this may have been good marketing, but the implementation of the wine bottles has already turned people off from buying THOSE VERY WINES, which is the OPPOSITE of what the KFWE is all about!
  6. Another side-issue, but very much akin, is that I had at least three corked wines. YES! Remember how much I rail about cork every year in my year/decade in review! Well, it is real and I scream about it for a reason! Now throw in thousands of bottles and the basic math will tell you that there will be lots of corked wine! Lots! So, no one checked the wines as they were being transferred. I get it, that would be a lot of work, again, this is an issue that needs to be fixed.
    Now throw in a vacuum environment and you have a real tough job! The answer is an automated system that dispenses the wine from the vacuum, allowing a person to check the wine, and then continue the transfer or reject it. If you have enough spouts and enough people to check, this can be handled within reason. Otherwise, you are bound to have lots of unhappy customers.
  7. This issue was a BIG one and was why I went with the glass-half-empty score. You cannot charge people and then send them less than what they expect – you just cannot! Sadly, this issue was the undoing of the KFWV, IMHO.
  8. The wines came in boxes that had numbers – but those numbers meant nothing. Not sure what they added.
  9. After the event had started, I heard emails were sent out, to some people, as I never got them. Those emails seemed to explain or say what wines were in what boxes and what numbers, but I never got this email, and nor did many others.
  10. The box that the wines were delivered in had no padding and most of my boxes were almost open. Overall, the idea was nice, almost design-forward, in nature, but not safe, which when it comes to wine is what matters.
  11. The recipes that were printed had typos and mistakes – again – just a bit too last minute – things that they can tighten up for future events

PROS:

  1. The effort was herculean – I get that
  2. The logistics were crazy – I get that also. However, those logistics were part of the cause of the main detraction to the entire event, which again is an issue that needs to be fixed.
  3. The effort was impressive, and the overall show was quite nice and fun, especially if you are virtually hanging out with a bunch of crazy friends.
  4. The overall look and appeal were a solid marketing effort.
  5. But this was worse than even last year’s NYC Trade tasting where I was punched in the face by elbows a few times – I hope you understand how much this was a good try but sadly, not even a base hit.
  6. There is a LOT that can be fixed and changed to make these a real future of tasting – but the MAIN ISSUE must be dealt with FIRST – the wine HAS to be managed in a vacuum and MUST taste the same as the original wine or it is a failure, there is no way around this.
  7. The winemaker videos did show passion but as the chef videos – they were out of place and disjointed. Non-Jewish winemakers saying enjoy the wine with shellfish, kosher chefs saying they have no idea what they are pouring but this recipe goes well with wine/beer/spirits! Again, nice idea, just poor overall oversight/approach/execution.
  8. I would say, that I buried the lede again, and the best part of the entire event, was the production work! Gabriel Geller, my good friend, I hope still, after forgetting this part of the event, Jay Buchsbaum, and Erik Segelbaum (a top up and coming Sommelier, who happens to be Jewish and loves wine, of course). The three of them traded off here and there and the tasting videos were fluid, entertaining, and very informative! The best part is that they and the chefs can be seen at your leisure on the KFWE website! The wealth of information shared was truly impressive and I am sorry for leaving this part out in my original post, apologies!

In closing, I wanted to go glass half-full and if this was just about having fun and NOT about wine AT ALL, then yes, I would have scored it as such. However, in the end, people wanted wine and these wines were a mess, once you throw that in, the party/fun was not a success, sadly.

KFWE (KFWV) 2021 – a virtual tasting extravaganza – coupon code included

Well, you know it, we all still living under state or county quarantines, with limited to no ability to get around and taste wine together. I still cannot believe how close last year’s KFWE was to be shutdown. Two weeks after the KFWE L.A., which was the best of the USA, yes, I still owe a writeup on that, cities were in lockdown or very close to it.

Well, not much has changed over the last 10 months. We are finally getting closer to vaccines, but they are still a long way off for the majority of this country. So, we have all seen tasting and cooking shows online. I thought for sure that KFWE would go virtual this year – and I was right! However, I never thought through the logistics it would take to make this happen!

So, this is what Royal explained the KFWE would be like this year! To bring the feeling of KFWE to your home, we’re offering for sale a limited amount of wine-tasting kits, which will include a carefully curated offering of 25 wines in 100ml bottles (enough for 2-3 sample pours) and a tasting guide featuring detailed information on the wines. Enjoy wines from Israel, France, Spain, California, Italy, and Argentina, in an evening hosted by Jay Buchsbaum, Gabriel Geller, and Erik Segelbaum, Food & Wine Magazine Sommelier of the year 2019, who will guide you through tastings!

Just think about it for a moment, how exactly does one get 100 ML bottles made? Thankfully, no human is involved! The 750 ml bottle is inserted into a machine and the machine pours the wine into smaller bottles, all in an environment that does not deter from the wine and the wine experience – when you open it 2 weeks from now! That is a TON of work!

Add to that the menus and chefs that you will cook along with and this is going to be fun! I have been cooking like crazy before Covid turned our lives upside down. But where I live, there are no restaurants, so I started cooking all sorts of Asian dishes, from Korean to Thai. Well, now we will be able to take our cooking chops to the next level with chef lead menus to make dishes that will wow your family for sure!

Again, here is Royal’s take on the food side of the event! Throughout the night, we’ll be featuring cook-a-long demos! Simply download the detailed recipe cards with shopping lists and prep instructions so you can cook along with the chefs, friends, and family in real-time! Featured will be Chef Gabe Garcia of Tierra Sur, Kosher.com Personalities, and celebrity chef and James Beard Award Winner Michael Solomonov, owner of various restaurants in Philadelphia with a focus on Israeli cuisine and more!

Looking at this from the outside looking in, I love it. The wine selection is nice, but yes, I wish there were more European wines. Still, there are a lot of awesome wines and some I have never had! The Terra di Seta Riserva and the Herzog Generation IX Stags Leap Cabernet Sauvignon, and others. All in you are looking at 25 bottles that you can share with your family. The best part of it to me is that I will get a chance to taste the wines in an environment that is far more conducive to tasting. No more feeling like a bug smashed on the windshield, you have all the room you want in your home, and the opportunity to enjoy it in a quieter and more amiable wine tasting environment. Throw on top of that the 4+ bottles of wines and the recipes and this is going to a lot of fun.

So, here is the game plan for the 2021 KFWV.

1.           Sip and cook along with the official KFWV 2021 Tasting Kit that includes samples of each of the wines being tasted (25 100mL bottles, enough for 2-3 sample pours), a tasting guide, recipe cards, and shopping lists so you can sip and cook all night long!  Kits are $250 + processing fees and include shipping where available (please note, we cannot ship internationally or to PO boxes, and you or someone over 21 must be available to receive the delivery).  To ensure delivery in time for the event, the last day to order wine kits is February 8, 2021.  Kits will begin shipping the week of February 8, 2021.

2.           Watch the live stream of KFWV 2021 for FREE! Simply register to receive a viewing link for the February 21st event.  Leading up to the event, we’ll provide the wines being served along with the recipes and shopping lists online so you can cook along and put your own tasting kit together with as many or as few wines as you like!

Kits are available for purchase at www.kfwe.com, and Kosher Wine Musings followers save $25 off the kit price with code MUSINGS. Don’t delay, kits are limited, and once they’re sold out, they’re gone.

Sign up now – and make sure to use my code MUSINGS to get the 10% off. I hope to see all of you online – enjoy, stay safe, and be well! The place to put the code is on the main page above the KFWV wine tasting kit.

Stay safe, be well, and enjoy!

KFWE London takes a giant step forward with things still to fix

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!!

Read the rest of this entry

The 2019-2020 kosher wine tasting event season is upon us!

KFWE LA 2020.jpeg
When most people think of seasons – they think of either the 4 environmental seasons, or the holiday seasons (Jewish or otherwise), and then there are the more obscure – seasons, like the kosher wine tasting season. Yes, it is a once a year season and it starts in December and goes through late March. The exact dates are mostly set now, but a few are still missing, as they depend on the Jewish Lunar calendar with the start of Passover. Yup! Passover drives the entire kosher wine tasting season – and that makes sense since 40 to 50% of ALL kosher wine sold, happens in the month around and before Passover! That is totally crazy!

Now last year I forgot to add in the Long Island Kosher Wine Expo until it was too late. They are now the start of the wine tasting season, and this year looks even better!

So, with that in mind let the festivities begin! As stated above, the first tasting is the Long Island Kosher Wine Expo, followed by the KFWE Miami, and as of last year, it has finally been “officially” added to the KFWE calendar. The KFWE family has officially expanded and subsumed what was already really KFWE events (including Israel and Miami) and now just made it official. The TRUE shocker this year is that KFWE Miami will not be held during Hannukah! Here I thought it was an actual requirement from the folks down under in Miami, I guess I must be mistaken!

KFWE – Kosher Food and Wine Experience

KFWE has been around since 2007 in NYC, and it keeps evolving and growing. Originally, the Los Angeles version was called International Food and Wine festival (IFWF) it started in 2008. It is not the oldest kosher wine tasting event, that would be the now-defunct  Gotham Kosher Wine Extravaganza. Sadly, they stopped hosting those tastings, such is life, their first one was in 2004, and it ran until 2014. In 2015, the first year that the IFWF became the west coast KFWE, David Whittemore, and the gang from Herzog Winery pulled out all the stops and created what I still think was the best ever KFWE, with the first-ever VIP session, which has been copied in almost every KFWE version, and hey “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”. Well, this year I hope the L.A. KFWE is back in Hollywood, at the world-famous Hollywood Palladium, a true slice of Hollywood nostalgia if there ever was one.  According to Wikipedia, it is a theater located at 6215 Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, California. It was built in a Streamline Moderne, Art Deco style and includes an 11,200 square foot dance floor including a mezzanine and a floor level with room for up to 5,000 people. There will be little to no dancing going on or performances from world-class musicians, which is normally what happens at the venue, but instead, it will have even a larger number of wines and food options. Last year I was sad to see the L.A. KFWE move from the Petersen Automotive Museum, where it has been for two years, 2016 and 2017. However, the 2018 KFWE L.A. at the Palladium was freaking EPIC and I expect more greatness!

As I have pounded on and on in these virtual pages, we need more wine education and the wine education leader, IMHO, is also the kosher wine 800-pound guerilla, Royal Wines. Recently I did a quick check-in my mind of the top kosher wineries or kosher wine runs from around the world, and Royal probably imports about 90+% of them. Sure, there are tons of wineries that they do not import, but they are also not wines that I particularly buy and covet. It is just a very interesting fact IMHO, somewhat scary but also very telling. Here are a wine distributor and importer that gets what sells and what does not, and has successfully found the better options out there and keeps adding more.

Cross distributor tastings

The Long Island Kosher Wine Expo is actually the first of many cross-distributor wine events, and as stated above will kickoff the wine tasting season. It will showcase many wineries that do not come to other shows, like Jonathan Jadu’s wines, and a few other boutique Israeli wineries, along with many other wineries and wines from around the world!

Besides the Royal wine events – AKA KFWE, there are events in Israel, namely Sommelier, the only wine event in Israel publicizing Israel’s diverse wine culture. That happens every year in and around the month of January, as stated earlier exact dates for any of these events are only locked down a few months in advance and the date changes every year.

Israel wines may be going off the deep end, in terms of date juice and all, but Sommelier continues to do a wonderful job of keeping a continuous focus on Israel and its potential in the wine world. Bravo to them!

There is also the Bokobsa event in Paris, which I went to last year, which is NOT officially part of the KFWE family, but Royal wines are represented there as are other wineries that Bokobsa imports into France. Read the rest of this entry

And the winner of KFWE NYC and L.A. 2019 goes to the City of Angels

If you have been keeping up with my travels around the world to visit the KFWE venues, you will know that I really was impressed with what Bokobsa did in Paris and I was split over the London KFWE, given its posh settings and solid wine selection, though it has where to grow.

Before I go further, I wanted to define to you my criteria for grading a wine tasting:

  1. The Venue, of course, its ambiance, and setup
  2. The wine selection
  3. The wine glasses
  4. The number of humans at the tasting
  5. the food served
  6. Finally, the reactions of the participants, though for me that is less important to me, as I judge the tasting based more upon the body language of the participants than what they say.

Now, some of these variables are subjective, rather than just objective. Take for example #1, the venue, it is a highly subjective though also objective variable. Pier 60 is a nice place, but in comparison, the Peterson museum of the past few years in Los Angeles was far better. Now, again, this is subjective, some people hate cars. They hated how big the Peterson was, and how spread-out the food and wine was. I loved the Petersen, loved the cars, and while the food and wine were spread out and difficult to find, the roominess and vast space to sit and enjoy art and wine at the same time, was truly impressive.

App and its data needs serious work

One more thing, as I stated in my KFWE recommendation list – the KFWE App is a disaster. It rarely worked. When it did, it was so annoying it was hopeless. Take for instance the go back button went back to the main wine list. So if you wanted to go through the list of Elvi or Capcanes wines, you had to go back and forth OVER and OVER. Worse, and I mean far worse, was the data behind the app, the data was all wrong. The wines at the event did not match the wines in front of you at the tables.

I really hope that next year, Royal Wines puts in more effort into building a proper app, with proper data. Even if the wines that are delivered are different than the wines on the app, change the data! Make sure the data matches reality instead of dreams and rainbows.

Mother Nature took kindly to KFWE in NYC and LA (well mostly)

A quick footnote here, before we dive into the highly contested and dispassionate discussion around which KFWE is the best KFWE, we need to thank the good mother! Mother nature really threw us a pair of bones this year! Yes, I know that flying from NYC to LA was a bit torturous for some, and yes, I sat/slept in my middle seat all the way to LA, but come on, it was that or we get 6 inches of snow a day EARLIER and KFWE NYC would have looked more like a Flatbush Shtiebel during the summer, AKA empty!

Sure, traveling to LA was a pain, but it all worked out, even those who flew to LA on the day. Further, while mother nature opened the skies on the day following KFWE L.A., with what the meteorologists loved to call an atmospheric river, it was the DAY AFTER KFWE L.A. On the day of KFWE L.A. there was a light smattering of rain here and there. The next day, God opened the heavens, when we were driving in our Uber to the airport the streets were almost flooded, and this is L.A. which has a massive concrete drain snaking its way through Los Angeles, with which to dump and maneuver billions of gallons of rainwater.

Further, if we had been at the Petersen this year, the VIP and Trade would have been a mess. There was not so much rain, as it was just not nice outside, this is an El-Nino year in Califonia, and that means more rain than normal here in Cali! So, all in all, God was kind to Royal and the KFWE circuit. The weather was just right, along with some intelligent decisions, turned out to be true blessings for all, especially us Californians who really need the rain! Read the rest of this entry

Blue Smoke dinner and the London KFWE 2019, posh events in a growing kosher wine and food market

As I said to me old and new found friends in London, I will miss the people, I will miss their kindness and their civility, but they can keep the weather and their inability to drive on the correct side of the road!

Drive-on-the-left-kent-1b.jpg

Well anyway, back to wine and food! As stated in my previous post, this was the first year I tried going to more than two KFWE events around the world. I arrived in Paris on Monday, Went to the Bokobsa Sieva tasting, and then on Tuesday, I took the train to London. I arrived in the afternoon and I then got a short rest before heading to a crazy dinner at Andrew Krausz’s house, the master chef of BlueSmoke.

I first met Andrew, and his sidekick, Mordechai, on the hilltop of Four Gates Winery, some 20 months ago! The wines we enjoyed there are listed here. But beyond the wines, one quickly got a sense for the Jewish community of Hendon, London. I must say, I still have nightmares from the dump of a hotel that we stayed at in Golders Green, a large Jewish community kitty-corner to Hendon. Hendon reminds me of everything that is great about London. The people are really nice, the community is tightknit, and they are a bit more aware of the outside world than say Golders Green. That said, I have heard wonderful things about the Golders Green community, I just need to exercise the nightmares of my past. Anyway, enough of my nightmare! The next time you need a nice hotel in Hendon area, Pillar Hotel! Solid, kept up nicely, kosher, and the folks are really nice.

Blue Smoke and Andrew Krausz

Take a quick read of this article to get a sense of Andrew and the work he puts into Blue Smoke and the joy people are getting from it. The dinner at Andrew’s was insane, to say the least, and there were many winemakers there that we would be seeing again the following evening at London’s KFWE! The courses were highlighted by cured more than smoked but streaked with bits of smoke throughout. The dinner started with gravlax and pickled beetroot. The pickled beetroot was straight crack! It was infused for 6 months! I hope this starts to give an understanding to the participants of the level of effort that was made to put this event together. The care and love for the task at hand by Andrew and his family! Yes, the family, were incredible! They have to live with the madness that fed people like me. From what I could tell, they are happy travelers on the road of food madness that is paved by Blue Smoke, but I am sure the 25 or so people invading their home on a weeknight, and the days and weeks of preparations leading up to that day, may not have been a path so easily traveled. Also, please understand that we would see Andrew for a few seconds as he explained the dish and then he disappeared into the same black hole from which he miraculously reappeared from over and over again. That black hole, the cavernous sized kitchen, was packed with humanity and hands coordinated by Andrew to push out 25 dishes over and over again throughout the evening. Read the rest of this entry

KFWE NYC and L.A.’s must taste wine list

This is not the first time I have been asked to post this list, and shocker, it will have very little Israeli wine on it. So, if you want to concentrate on Israeli wines at KFWE NYC and LA, you can stop reading right now. Domaine du Castel will be on the list, as will Carmel’s Riesling, one Vitkin, one Tabor, and one Or Haganuz, and that is about it for Israeli wines on this list.

Next, yes download the app, there is an app for KFWE, at least for NYC anyway, the data for the L.A. show is not yet in the app, but it should be up soon, according to my main man in Herzog, David Whittemore, the Marketing, and Public Relations Director at Herzog Cellars Winery. Now, totally separately as a software architect that has built world-class systems around the world, this app really sucks. It is slow, illogical in how the application moves, does not keep state, has loads of wrong data (wines and vintages), and for the most part, not a very good looking application. With all the caveats aside, the tables and the wines on those tables are defined, and therefore, I will list the wines to enjoy based upon that information!

So, let us keep this simple – here are the tables and the wines I say are “cannot miss” or make sure to taste.

OVERALL Rules.

  1. Skip 2013 Bordeaux wines – if any exist
  2. Skip most whites, unless written here, from before 2015/2016
  3. Skip all roses unless from 2018
  4. Taste what you can, the list below is what I liked, but you may like other wines. Learn, explore, and enjoy!!!!
  5. Finally, the app is horrible but even worse is the data. Many wines and vintages in the app are wrong. So check the wines yourself and follow the guide, in regards to vintages above.

Rothschild Table:

  1. 2016 Chateau Clarke Baron Edmund de Rothschild
  2. 2016 Chateau Malmaison (QPR)

Bokobsa Table:

  1. 2016 Chateau Hauteville
  2. 2016 Chateau Lamothe Cissac (QPR)
  3. 2015 Chateau le Cailou
  4. 2017 Domaine Jean-Pierre Baily Pouilly Fume (QPR)
  5. 2017 Pascal Bouchard Chablis

Capcanes Table:

  1. 2015 Capcanes Flor del Flor de Primavera Samso
  2. 2014 Capcanes Flor del Flor de Primavera Garnacha

Carmel Winery Table:

  1. 2014 Carmel Kayoumi Vineyard White Riesling (QPR)

Read the rest of this entry

The 2018-2019 kosher wine tasting event season is upon us. Updated with new discount codes for KFWE!

KFWE19-heading-laWhen most people think of seasons – they think of either the 4 environmental seasons, or the holiday seasons (Jewish or otherwise), and then there are the more obscure – seasons, like the kosher wine tasting season. Yes, it is a once a year season and it starts in December and goes through late March. The exact dates are mostly set now, but a few are still missing, as they depend on the Jewish Lunar calendar with the start of Passover. Yup! Passover drives the entire kosher wine tasting season – and that makes sense since 40 to 50% of ALL kosher wine sold, happens in the month around and before Passover! That is totally crazy!

Now last year I forgot to add in the Long Island Kosher Wine Expo until it was too late. To be fair they are now the start of the wine tasting season, and this year it was a total blast, well executed!

So, with that in mind let the festivities begin! As stated above, the first tasting is the Long Island Kosher Wine Expo, followed by the KFWE Miami, and as of last year, it has finally been “officially” added to the KFWE calendar. The KFWE family has officially expanded and subsumed what was already really KFWE events (including Israel and Miami) and now just made it official.

KFWE – Kosher Food and Wine Experience

KFWE has been around since 2007 in NYC, and it keeps evolving and growing. Originally, the Los Angeles version was called International Food and Wine festival (IFWF) it started in 2008. It is not the oldest kosher wine tasting event, that would be the now-defunct  Gotham Kosher Wine Extravaganza. Sadly, they stopped hosting those tastings, such is life, their first one was in 2004, and it ran until 2014. In 2015, the first year that the IFWF became the west coast KFWE, David Whittemore, and the gang from Herzog Winery pulled out all the stops and created what I still think was the best ever KFWE, with the first ever VIP session, which has been copied in almost every KFWE version, and hey “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”. Well, this year the L.A. KFWE is back in Hollywood, no not at the W like in 2015, but rather at famous Hollywood Palladium, a true slice of Hollywood nostalgia if there ever was one.  According to Wikipedia, it is a theater located at 6215 Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, California. It was built in a Streamline Moderne, Art Deco style and includes an 11,200 square foot dance floor including a mezzanine and a floor level with room for up to 5,000 people. There will be little to no dancing going on or performances from world-class musicians, which is normally what happens at the venue, but instead, it will have even a larger number of wines and food options. I will be sad to see the L.A. KFWE move from the Petersen Automotive Museum, where it has been for the past two years, 2016 and 2017. However, this looks like crazy fun, Sunset Boulevard reminds me of so many songs singing about its fame. It sounds like they have listened to my issues with the past LA KFWE, and are shooting to bring back the glitz and success of the 2015 KFWE LA. They will bring back the library wines, continue with the cigar bar, and up the ante with Tierra Sur dining experience. Looking forward indeed. Get your VIP tickets ASAP and use the promo code below for an early bird discount!!

As I have pounded on and on in these virtual pages, we need more wine education and the wine education leader, IMHO, is also the kosher wine 800-pound guerilla, Royal Wines. Recently I did a quick check in my mind of the top kosher wineries or kosher wine runs from around the world, and Royal probably imports about 90+% of them. Sure, there are hundreds of wineries they do not import, but they are also not wines that I particularly buy and covet. It is just a very interesting fact IMHO, somewhat scary but also very telling. Here are a wine distributor and importer that gets what sells and what does not, and has successfully found the better options out there and keeps adding more.

Read the rest of this entry

The 2018-2019 kosher wine tasting event season is upon us!

KFWE19-heading-laWhen most people think of seasons – they think of either the 4 environmental seasons, or the holiday seasons (Jewish or otherwise), and then there are the more obscure – seasons, like the kosher wine tasting season. Yes, it is a once a year season and it starts in December and goes through late March. The exact dates are mostly set now, but a few are still missing, as they depend on the Jewish Lunar calendar with the start of Passover. Yup! Passover drives the entire kosher wine tasting season – and that makes sense since 40 to 50% of ALL kosher wine sold, happens in the month around and before Passover! That is totally crazy!

Now last year I forgot to add in the Long Island Kosher Wine Expo until it was too late. To be fair they are now the start of the wine tasting season, and this year looks even better!

So, with that in mind let the festivities begin! As stated above, the first tasting is the Long Island Kosher Wine Expo, followed by the KFWE Miami, and as of last year, it has finally been “officially” added to the KFWE calendar. The KFWE family has officially expanded and subsumed what was already really KFWE events (including Israel and Miami) and now just made it official.

KFWE – Kosher Food and Wine Experience

KFWE has been around since 2007 in NYC, and it keeps evolving and growing. Originally, the Los Angeles version was called International Food and Wine festival (IFWF) it started in 2008. It is not the oldest kosher wine tasting event, that would be the now-defunct  Gotham Kosher Wine Extravaganza. Sadly, they stopped hosting those tastings, such is life, their first one was in 2004, and it ran until 2014. In 2015, the first year that the IFWF became the west coast KFWE, David Whittemore, and the gang from Herzog Winery pulled out all the stops and created what I still think was the best ever KFWE, with the first ever VIP session, which has been copied in almost every KFWE version, and hey “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”. Well, this year the L.A. KFWE is back in Hollywood, no not at the W like in 2015, but rather at famous Hollywood Palladium, a true slice of Hollywood nostalgia if there ever was one.  According to Wikipedia, it is a theater located at 6215 Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, California. It was built in a Streamline Moderne, Art Deco style and includes an 11,200 square foot dance floor including a mezzanine and a floor level with room for up to 5,000 people. There will be little to no dancing going on or performances from world-class musicians, which is normally what happens at the venue, but instead, it will have even a larger number of wines and food options. I will be sad to see the L.A. KFWE move from the Petersen Automotive Museum, where it has been for the past two years, 2016 and 2017. However, this looks like crazy fun, Sunset Boulevard reminds me of so many songs singing about its fame. It sounds like they have listened to my issues with the past LA KFWE, and are shooting to bring back the glitz and success of the 2015 KFWE LA. They will bring back the library wines, continue with the cigar bar, and up the ante with Tierra Sur dining experience. Looking forward indeed. Get your VIP tickets ASAP and use the promo code below for an early bird discount!!

As I have pounded on and on in these virtual pages, we need more wine education and the wine education leader, IMHO, is also the kosher wine 800-pound guerilla, Royal Wines. Recently I did a quick check in my mind of the top kosher wineries or kosher wine runs from around the world, and Royal probably imports about 90+% of them. Sure, there are hundreds of wineries they do not import, but they are also not wines that I particularly buy and covet. It is just a very interesting fact IMHO, somewhat scary but also very telling. Here are a wine distributor and importer that gets what sells and what does not, and has successfully found the better options out there and keeps adding more.

Cross distributor tastings

The Long Island Kosher Wine Expo is actually the first of many cross-distributor wine events, and as stated above will kickoff the wine tasting season. It will showcase Jonathan Jadu this year, along with many other wineries and wines from around the world!

Besides the Royal wine events – AKA KFWE, there are events in Israel, namely Sommelier, the only wine event in Israel publicizing Israel’s diverse wine culture. That happens every year in and around the month of January, as stated earlier exact dates for any of these events is only locked down a few months in advance and the date changes every year.

Israel wines may be going off the deep end, in terms of date juice and all, but Sommelier continues to do a wonderful job of keeping a continuous focus on Israel and its potential in the wine world. Bravo to them!

There is also the Bokobsa event in Paris, which I went to two years ago, which is NOT officially part of the KFWE family, but Royal wines are represented there as are other wineries that Bokobsa imports into France.

Royal wine imports many Bokobsa wines into the USA, but Bokobsa itself makes kosher wines (like the fantastic 2007 and 2012 Sancerre Chavignol, and the lovely 2017 Fume Blanc, still I wish they made a new Sancerre already), and imports wines into France as well, and they are Royal’s distributors in France. The whole kosher wine import game is what drives these events. These are importers/winemakers that need to sell product and they need to advertise what they are selling, so these events are a win-win for us all!

Besides, Sommelier, there are a couple of wine events that happen closer to Passover that is not about a single importer but rather about kosher wine options overall. These events are not as deep as the Royal or Bokobsa wine events, which will showcase almost every single wine these importers make/import. Rather, it is a curated and diverse set of wines that span across multiple importers and distributors. So, Yarden, Rashbi, and others are at these events and it gives the chance to taste other wines outside of the deep vertical shows like KFWE.

One of them is The Grapevine Wines & Spirits Kosher Grand Tasting, it is a very nice event that normally in the middle of the kosher wine tasting event season, they will be hosting their 7th event in 2019. The last event of the season is always the biggest of this style, the Jewish Week Grand Wine Tasting, they will be celebrating their 10th year this coming 2019, impressive staying power indeed!

I hear there will be a new one to add to the list, but I will wait for them to announce it themselves. I hope it is successful. It will also be a cross-distributor wine tasting. Good luck! We need more education!!!

Wine events happening all the time

So there you have a quick history of the wine events that are coming up. There are also a few one-off events going on in NYC (nothing happens in LA or Norcal other than KFWE). Keep an eye open for them!

I will keep updating this page – so bookmark it and I will try my best to keep it up to date!

Kosher wine tasting events this season – in chronological order:

Name: Long Island Kosher Wine Expo
When: October 28th, 2018
Time: 5 PM to 9 PM (VIP is 5 PM to 6 PM)
Where: Cradle of Aviation Museum. Garden City, New York
26 Bridge St
Brooklyn, NY 11201 United States
Link to signup or for more information: https://kosherwineexpo.com
Admission Options: $125 for VIP, $85 for General Admission, $99 at the door ($15 for bus transportation option see ticket options)

Name: KFWE Miami
When: December 6th, 2018
Time: 7 PM to 10 PM (6 PM VIP access)
Where: Turnberry Isle Miami
19999 W Country Club Dr, Aventura, FL 33180
Link to signup or for more informationhttp://www.kosherfoodandwinemiami.com/

Name: Sommelier
When: January 28th and 29th, 2019
Time: 11:30 AM to 6 PM Trade and 6:00 PM to 9:30 PM public
Where: Heichal HaTarbut
Huberman St 1, Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel
Link to more informationhttp://www.sommelier.co.il/sommelier/
Sign up link: Will post when it shows up

Name: KFWE Tel Aviv
When: February 4th, 2019
Time: TBA
Where: Tel Aviv, Israel
Link to signup or for more information:

Name: Bokobsa tasting of Grand Cru Cachers
When: February 4th, 2019 (yes the same day as the KFWE Israel)
Time: Pavillon des Princes in the 16th district
Where: 4:30 PM until 10 PM
Link to signup or for more informationhttps://www.weezevent.com/degustationdevinbokobsa2019

Name: KFWE London
When: February 6th, 2019
Time: 3:30 PM for trade and 6:30 PM for public
Where: Sheraton Grand London Park Lane
Piccadilly, London W1J 7BX, United Kingdom
Link to signup or for more information: https://www.kfwelondon.com/

Name: KFWE NYC
When: February 11th, 2019
Time: 12PM trade, 5:30 PM – 9:30 PM EST (VIP is 5:30 PM)
Where: Pier Sixty at Chelsea Piers, New York, NY
Link to signup or for more informationhttp://thekfwe.com/ (choose New York – then buy a ticket)
USE PROMO CODE: EARLYBIRD (through December 16th)
This looks to be a smash hit – get your VIP tickets ASAP!!!

Name: KFWE LA
When: February 13th, 2019
Time:  1PM Trade, 6:00 PM – 9:30 PM PST
Where: Hollywood Palladium (6215 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90028)|
Link to signup or for more informationhttp://thekfwe.com/ (choose Los Angeles – then buy a ticket)
USE PROMO CODE: EARLYBIRD (through December 16th)
This looks to be a smash hit – get your VIP tickets ASAP!!!

Name: The Grand Kosher Wine Tasting
When: TBA
Time: TBA
Where: TBA
Link to signup or for more information:

Name: Grand Wine Tasting and Kosher Wine Guide
When: April 1st, 2019
Time:  5:00 PM for premium tasting, 6 PM to 9 PM for general admission
Where: City Winery NYC
155 Varick St, New York, NY 10013
Link to signup or for more information
:

KFWE NYC and LA 2018 was ruled by European Wines and American Foie Gras

Well, it was another great series of KFWE shows. Sadly, I missed the one in Israel, which many say was the best one so far! Thankfully, I made NYC and LA. What I can say, is that while not much has changed in regards to overall quality, location, and layout, the shows themselves were not overwhelmingly great this year. Each one had its issues, and in the end to me, it was a tie, with neither wines or food really shining through, other than Heritage’s Foie Gras and The European wines.

As always, the events happen in two parts, the trade and then the public. Public again, had the VIP session, which LA started in 2015, and what has been copied all over the KFWE family since then, and the General admission.

Overall Impressions

To me, while the halls were very nice, trade was really crowded in NYC, like nuts. After the first hour it calmed a bit, and in LA it was really busy throughout the entire trade session. Also, the guests were more demanding and in need of face time with the winemakers and winery representatives, which is really good as wine without context is not as poignant, but it gets in the way of the overall flow of the event. It is a point that needs fixing, but I honestly am not sure how to do it.

Next, let’s start with the positives, the public/general admissions were not moshpits. Which is a huge advance over the past years in NYC, still for many there was not much to taste that was new. THAT was the main issue in my opinion. Again, I have spoken of this many times, but shmita is starting to get really annoying.

I mean that in the manner of how it affects subsequent years. The Shmita overhang is getting in the way of at least two years, given the average release cycle of wineries, maybe even longer for the higher end wines. So, Shmita was the 2015 vintage, meaning we never saw the white and roses wines until the 2016 year. Since the USA does not want shmita wines, 2016 was covered with 2014 wines. The 2017 year was covered by what? Well leftovers of the 2014 vintage, of course. What about this year, 2018? Well, finally, we are starting to see 2016 reds, but not in Israel, they are still on 2015 wines. Royal and other importers have forced Israeli wineries to release the 2016s early, and that is why we saw some Vitkin 2016 red vintages. Still, most of the Israeli wines were old vintages that have still not moved in the USA.

So, what we have is the compounded problem of not having new vintages because of the shmita overhang, and the fact that the older vintages on shelves have not moved. Worse, than that, there were a few misses at both KFWE, like the new 2015 Capcanes Peraj Ha’abib, which was a no-show.

Overall, to me, the REAL truth, was that the wines were mostly older vintages or wines we had already tasted throughout the year, like the wonderful but not new 2016 Goose Bay Sauvignon Blanc. There is no fix to this, wine needs to be sold. Yet, pouring 2014 Roses, that needs to stop. The fact that they were pouring more than a few 2016 roses is already bad enough.

Winners of the shows

The winners were, of course, the 2015 and 2016 wines from Europe. Yes, I dislike date juice, that is not new news, and the Israeli wines were all too old or too ripe, with the exception being Flam, Castel Winery and Carmel Winery on the higher-end wines.

The real saviors of the shows were the European wines. All of the French wines showed as expected, with some ill effects to the mevushal process on 2015 Cuvee Hautes Terres, Chateau Fourcas Dupre, 2015 Chateau Le Crock, and to a lesser degree the 2015 Chateau Greysac. The rest of the French wines showed beautifully, as did the European wines of Elvi Wines, Terra de Seta, and Capcanes Winery. In NYC, it was really fun tasting the 2014 Giscours side by side the 2015 Giscours, showing the elegance and power of the 2015 vintage.

The really impressive and hard to implement fact was that the KFWE LA show – had ALL the wines! Other than Flam’s 2017 Rose, all of Covenant wines, and Hagafen wines (as they self-distribute within Califonia), all the wines were at KFWE LA. The entire French collection was there, even the entire Tabor winery line was there. Though they did not pour the Chateau Leoville Poyferre for trade or General Admission in LA.

The other real winner was Heritage’s, Foie Gras. Enjoying that Foie Gras with some of the 2014 Chateau Rayne Vigneau in NYC was heaven. They even had Foie Gras, not as good as Heritage Farms in the trade and VIP in LA. Read the rest of this entry

%d bloggers like this: