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Israel’s lost decade for red wine

Well, it has been too long since I have posted and so I thought I would return with a thought that has been really eating away at me for far too long. Which is, it has been more than 10 years since I have tasted a wine from Israel that I would think would actually improve with age. The last ones that I thought could do it were the Flam 2010 and 2011 Noble, the first kosher vintages for the Flam Noble. Sure, you have Domaine Netofa as well, but that is where it ends.

I recently really enjoyed a 2007 Tzora Misty Hills, sadly I cannot say for any of the recent Misty Hills. Sure they are nice wines, but after a few years, they go really ripe and sweet. The 2013 Domaine du Castel Grand Vin is already tasting very sweet and is a drink-up now for my bottles. The 2016 Domaine du Castel was always super ripe to start and I do not have much hope it will last long either. The 2007 Domaine du Castel, that I had a couple of years ago was STUNNING. I will be honest, until maybe a year ago I thought the 2013 Domaine du Castel Grand Vin would live long, but after tasting it recently, that does not seem to be the case. It may well be the case that 2016 will live up to the original drinking window, but with how 2013 turned, and with where 2016 started, I am seriously worried.

This brings me to my point, in the last ten years Israel has produced hundreds of millions of bottles of red wine and I can honestly say I have bought maybe 20 of them, and of those, they are in drink-now mode. Domaine Netofa stands as the only real red wine that can age, but that is sad for a country with so much potential.

The crazy thing is that Israel has the ability to make great wines, it proved it during the aughts and yet they all decided that it is better to go for the least common denominator than for the world-class moniker. I get it, wine is a business and wineries need to hew to where the money is, and right now, that is riper wines. Wines that may well not hold out for a decade, and if they do, they will be riper and as long as the market holds up, all is good.

Israel produces white and sparkling wines that are world-class. Look at Yaakov Oryah’s work, his 2009 Semillon is getting tired but epic, his 2008/2015 Musketeer is INSANE. The 2005 Yarden Blanc de Blanc is crazy good, and the 2007 vintage is even better!

So, while Israel continues its need to push riper wines we have been blessed with many vintages of world-class wines from all around the world, which includes many Israeli white wines from Domaine Netofa and Yaakov Oryah Wines.

Of course, with time everything changes. Ten years ago, we had almost nothing from Europe, and we relied heavily on Israel, Herzog, and Capcanes/Elvi Wines. Now, that has flipped, and if the current batch of wines from Capcanes is a harbinger of what is to come, they too have sold out to the Parker-side of wines.

Sure, temperatures are rising all around the world, but Europe keeps pumping out great wines with higher temps, so nature is not the issue here, in regards to Israel’s desires, it is a market-driven decision and my response is to buy almost nothing of it.

I wish Israel only the best, it is OUR country, it is the land of the Jews, the land of flowing milk and honey, and it is where I feel at home most. I love the land with all my heart, I am just not a fan of the red wines. May we blessed with a year of success, health, family, great friends, and great kosher wines, no matter their origin.

Kosher Wine bars in Jerusalem

I am not sure what is in the air, but at least 5 people asked me about kosher wine bars in Jerusalem this past week, like really?? OK, when asked I can help. However, this is not a post about the actual venues – I have only been to two of them, and only one of them in the past 6 months. So, here is a list of the wine bars in Jerusalem – I hope you all enjoy! Send them my regards, especially to Mark Arnold Jam from Red and White wine bar, I hope he has some great jazz going the night you visit, he is really one entertaining cat!

PLEASE This is not my final version of all possible wine bars, please post whatever I have missed – this is not an ego trip, this is all about helping my friends – and that is all about family! So, if you have other wonderful options, post below in the comments!

The thing that blows my mind is that two years ago – all we had was the Mamilla Winery, and that is open only 4 hours a day “officially”, I was there for more hours a few years ago. Sy=till, in the last year or more, 4 new wine bars have popped up and BRAVO to them all! Even if I have yet to visit them, it is all about the same thing I pound on and on about – education! The more people taste the more they will learn!


The wine bars follow below:

The Mamaila Winery:

Come on, this name is far less offensive (in English anyway) than the Wine Temple! Come on – this is Jerusalem! Have we forgotten what the REAL temple really was?? Of course, this is NOT a winery! But it has a nice list of wines from around Israel – and that is what a wine bar in Israel should be all about!
Anyway, I listed this one first because it is the first kosher wine bar in Jerusalem, as far as I know of! I posted about it here and I have yet to return, maybe the next trip! Man, I have been begging my wife to hang here for a day or two (at the beautiful Mamilla Hotel of course!), I  have struck out so far – maybe in the future! Until then, you never know what you may run into when you swing by – I saw a BMW M3 with gull wings – come on!

Contact info:

Address: 11 King Solomon Street, Jerusalem (inside Mamilla Hotel)
Hours: 5 P.M. – 8 P.M.
Tel: 972-2-5482230

Red and White Wine Bar

Of the five wine bars that I list here, this is the one I have personally been to recently, a fact I really hope to rectify on my next trip unless I am too tired from running around to all the wineries in Israel like the last trip. I know I kid, I kid…

Anyway, Mark Arnold Jam is a great host and he will make sure you and your friends are well taken care of! The wines he has are almost all great, and that is saying a lot for me! He has Yaacov Oryah’s wines, Netofas, Tzora, Castel, and of course, some not so great ones, but hey – this is Israel and not everyone needs to be as crazy as I am!

Send him my best and enjoy – the menu at the bar is milk based an idea that seems to be not only simple but also very well accepted – let the food be a part of the conversation, with the wine being a very good partner.

Contact info:

Address: Shlomo ha-Melekh St 8, Jerusalem
Hours: Open today · 8:00 P.M. – 12:00 A.M.
Phone: +972 2-645-1212

Corky- Experience Wine

I have yet to visit Corky, something I hope to rectify on my next visit. It is also a dairy restaurant with lots of Israeli wine options. The cheese options are also very good from what I read.

Contact Info:

Address: Azza 18, Jerusalem, Israel
Hours: 6:00 P.M. – 12:00 A.M.
Call +972 2-940-8038

The Wine Bar

This is another wine bar I have yet to visit – but it is situated in the hotel that also contains the best restaurant in Jerusalem, hands down – Le Regence! Please make it your business to visit the restaurant with either your best friends or on your anniversary – it is not cheap – but the food is second to none in Jerusalem!

Now, to get back to the main storyline here – the Wine Bar at King David hotel is also a dairy food-focused bar with a classic Israeli focused wine list, one that needs to be improved from what I have seen online so far – again another bar that needs a visit!

Contact Info:

Address: 23 King David St., Jerusalem
Hours:  5 P.M.. to 12:30 A.M.
Call +972 2 620-8784

The Wine Temple – מרכז לתרבות יין

Sorry to harp on this again, but really! Wine Temple! Anyway, this is the newest of all the wine bars out there and my good friend, Moises Cohen was just there to show off his wonderful line of Elvi Wines!

The bar space looks stunning! Really lovely, but a temple, OK OK, I will stop now. I reached out to the wine bar to find out more about what its menu is like, but so far no response, but I also did not give them much time. I have yet to be there, so maybe next time!

Contact Info:

Address: Emek Refaim 8, Jerusalem, Israel
Hours:  11 A.M. to 11 P.M.
Call +972 2-992-9999

Mike’s Place

In closing – there is a famous bar – Mike’s Place, NO it is not a wine bar, it is a food bar and now one of its locations, is now kosher! A great place to hang out and watch American football (PLEASE do not waste your time watching the bears) and drink some bear and eat some pretty good beer pub food. Just a shout out as this looks cool!

Kosher Wine Society Tasting – New Wines and Vintage Experience

This past week I had the chance to taste some wines at an event put on by the Kosher Wine Society. Before we get to the main event, quick question, what does kosher wine and fashion models have in common? More on that in a moment!

The Kosher Wine Society (KWS for those in the know) was started in 2005 when Aron Ritter could not find real events to attend that centered on one of his true passions, kosher wine! Remember, this was a point in time, when Lance Armstrong could still wear a yellow jersey! Further, the only kosher wine event, at that time, in the United States, was the Gotham Wine Extravaganza!

So, the KWS was born, and slowly but surely it has grown into a membership that spans a large cross-section of the New York social scene. Thursday evening was no different, when I arrived early to see what was going down at the 4th annual New Wines for the New Year tasting. I strolled in and went straight to work photographing what I could, though I did not bring my camera thinking my cell phone camera would be enough – bad idea, so I am sorry if the pictures are underwhelming. That is totally on me and not the event. The event itself was top-notch and well worth the 50 bucks I spent, if there was an issue with the event, it would be with some of the wines that did not meet my expectations, showing 2009 and 2010 to be difficult years – for different reasons.

The event was hosted in the Solarium room at the Roger Smith Hotel, where you had the opportunity to enjoy some 80+ wines, ranging from Argentinian wines to United States wines, and everything else in between, including many Israeli wines and a few Italian wines to boot. There were also a few real shining stars, including a real winner from the Gvaot Winery and a few new Brobdingnagian wines as well! I did not have time to taste the Brob wines again, but from the responses I heard, they were well received! Read the rest of this entry

Kielbasa Sausage Stew, Kosher Cabernet Sauvignon, and Four Gates Chardonnay

This past weekend we were surrounded by many of our friends, from close and far, and it was a truly lovely evening. I have always said that food and wine are greatly improved by the company that surrounds you. One of our guests was a close friend who left some 10 or more years ago from our area, so it was really great seeing him again. Benyamin of Four Gates Winery joined us as well for the evening and shared some wines with us along with one of our guests who brought a bottle of Psagot Cabernet.

The evening started with one of our consistent hits – Herb Encrusted Baked Fish Loaf, alongside olives, chumus, and jalapeno salsa. The fish was paired with a fantastic 2005 Four Gates Chardonnay and a 2005 Psagot Cabernet Sauvignon. The Chardonnay was perfectly paired with the fish, while the Psagot was a bit too astringent for our liking.

For the main course, the fish was followed by another wonderful dish that we have made a few times – Kielbasa Stew, Brown Basmati rice, and fresh green salad. The Red C followed the lackluster Psagot and was also lackluster to us. The last time we tasted the 2006 Covenant Red C we LOVED IT! This time however there was a lack of depth and body that truly surprised us. That was followed by the two highly enjoyable 2004 Ella Valley Cabernets. These wines are really supposed to be twins at birth, but they seem to have been separated at some time, as they each showed different characteristics. The two wines were the 2004 Ella Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2004 Ella Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Israel 60 Special Edition. They start off quite different and even with air do not change from their separated paths. However, after a fair amount of time the twines were finally reunited, but lacking some of the concentrated characteristics that make them super special, but still quite lovely. Benyamin also brought a bottle of the 2005 Four Gates Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. It showed as well as the last time we tasted it (also with Kielbasa Stew and Tajine), and was enjoyed by all. The dinner was capped off with a killer dessert brought by another of our guests, who we jokingly call our local artisan bakery! The wonders she creates are always devoured, with crumbs nowhere to be found. This past week she honored us with a rum soaked sponge cake with rum frosting – killer!! It was paired with leftovers of the 2005 Four Gates Cabernet Sauvignon and a bottle of the 2006 Tzora Or Shoresh Gewurztraminer. This wine was one of the two highest scoring wines when Robert Parker and Mark Squires held their first ever wine tasting of Israeli wines. It was scored a 92 by them both and I scored it a way too high score of A+ when I was at the winery in March 2008. This time it was a lovely wine but not an A+ but very close to a 92, more like an A-, which is a really fine wine. It is clearly at its peak or a drop below it, drink up.

Many thanks to all my friends who shared their wine and food with us and may we all be blessed to share time and food with our friends and family. The wines are listed in the order they were enjoyed:

2005 Four Gates Chardonnay – Score: A-
We last tasted this wine during a winery visit in 2009 and we loved it even more now. The nose on this gold colored wine is screaming with caramel, butterscotch, butter, straw, apple, peach, apricot, cut grass, lemon, and smoky toasty oak. The mouth on this full bodied wine is rich and concentrated with toasty oak, rich full summer fruit, butterscotch, lemon, and peach. The mid palate is balanced and bracing with acid, butter, toasty oak, butterscotch, caramel, and peach. The finish is super long and rich with toasty oak, summer fruit, smoky notes, caramel, nice butterscotch, with a touch and finish of cut grass and hay.

2005 Psagot Cabernet Sauvignon – Score: B to B+
The nose on this garnet colored wine shows crushed herbs, cranberry, raspberry, plum, oak, black plum, licorice, chocolate, and tobacco. Over time the nose turns blacker with blackberry and black plum. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is spicy and mouth coating with raspberry, plum, and blackberry. The mid palate is a bit astringent with acid, tobacco, nice integrated tannin, and oak. The acid is over the top, but it does seem to calm down over time. The finish is long, spicy, and bright with raspberry, plum, oak, nice tannin, and tobacco.

2006 Covenant Red C – Score: B+ to A-
We had much higher expectations for this wine since the last time we tasted this, but it was not to be. The nose on this purple colored wine is the high point of this wine with rich chocolate, oak, smoky notes, raspberry, plum, blackberry, and herbs. The mouth on this medium bodied wine was missing, clearly lacking though showing raspberry, black fruit, and plum. The mid palate is balanced with oak, nice tannin, and chocolate. The finish is average with spicy oak, chocolate, tannin, raspberry, plum, and vanilla. The wine lingers with black fruit, vanilla, and a touch of herbs.

2004 Ella Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – Score: A-
The nose on this lovely dark garnet to black colored wine is similar to its near twin Israel 60 Special Edition in structure, with each showing different lovely notes. The nose on this dark garnet to purple colored wine is hopping with chocolate, tobacco, cedar, vanilla, raspberry, blackberry, cassis, plum, herbs, and mint. The mouth on this full bodied wine is rich and concentrated with ripe plum, blackberry, cassis, and a full mouth feel from integrated tannins. The mid palate is balanced with cedar, tannin, tobacco, and crushed herbs. The finish is super long and sensuous with black plum, spicy notes, cedar oak, chocolate, tobacco, and vanilla. The wine lingers long with chocolate, tobacco, vanilla, black plum, and cassis.

2004 Ella Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Israel 60 Special Edition – Score: A-
The nose on this dark garnet to black colored wine is exploding with roasted meat, smoky notes, vanilla, ripe blackberry, cassis, black plum, fig, raspberry, and tobacco. The mouth on this full bodied wine is mouth coating and concentrated with lovely tannin, ripe plum, blackberry, cassis, and raspberry. The mouth is concentrated and packed with nice fruit. The mid palate is balanced with acid, spicy oak, spice, tannin, tobacco, and licorice. The finish is long, spicy, and extracted with tobacco, spicy oak, roasted meats, ripe plum, and blackberry. The wine lingers with tobacco, plum, spicy oak, and vanilla.

2005 Four Gates Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley – Score: A-
The nose on this dark garnet to black colored wine is filled with blackberry, cassis, plum, oak, and spice.  The mouth on this medium to full bodied is concentrated with fruit that follows the nose, blackberry, cassis, and plum.  The mid palate is balanced with oak and still gripping tannins.  The finish is long and graceful, with spicy oak, black pepper, cassis, and a hint of leather.

2006 Tzora Shoresh Or Gewürztraminer – Score: A-
The nose on the gold to amber colored wine is popping with floral notes, grapefruit, pear, guava, mango, honey, and pineapple. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is concentrated with a sweet tooth, ripe rich fresh and fleshy fruit, pear, grapefruit, honey, guava, and a nice floral hit to boot. The mid palate flows off the mouth and is balanced with nice acidity, honey, and sweet mango. The finish is long and fun with sweet rich and ripe mango, guava, honey, and acid with a touch of butterscotch. The mouth on this wine is rich and sweet but is also balanced with enough acidity and butterscotch to make the world go round.

Baked Gefilte Fish Loaf, Stuffed Vegetables, Château Malmaison Baronne Nadine, Recanati Cabernet Sauvignon, Gamla Cabernet Sauvignon

We had our family over for the last part of Passover, and so we had a few dinners and lunches with guests and some alone, which were really nice.  Anyway, we served the baked fish, which is described here, along with our now famous stuffed vegetables.  This started a long time ago, when we had a group of people coming for a Passover meal, and we had no idea what to serve them.  We were sick of roast or brisket, and did not want chicken or fish.  We thought about the rudimentary meat loaf and such stuff.  But, that got us thinking about stuffed vegetables that my sister once served us.  They were crazy good, but man they sounded like a ton of work.  So, unfazed by the potential madness that faced us, we pushed on unfazed, and found out that the work is just maddening.  So here is the rough sketch of the recipe, but you can find out for yourself if it is worth the effort.

Meat Stuffed Vegetables Recipe
5 or more really large onions cored
3 large eggplant scooped until just the skin and a bit of flesh is left
3 large sweet yellow or red peppers
2 large green peppers
1 large can of tomato sauce
2 tbsp of olive oil
2 pounds of ground meat
3 tbsp Parsley
5 cloves of garlic – chopped
2 tbsp of sugar (or until it does not taste bitter)

Core the onions, which are crazy hard, with a large and strong spoon.  Cut the top of the onion off, and then with a large spoon start digging into the onion from the top.  Keep digging until you start to peel the onion from the inside out.  Do not worry if you cut all the way through the bottom of the onion, I do that all the time, but I put a small thin sliver in the bottom to cover the hole, and it bingo – it is like nothing happened.  Once you are done with the onions, move on to the eggplant by slicing them length wise, and coring them until there is just a drop of flesh and the skin left.  Do not puncture this one – it is far more difficult to remedy!  Drop the cored remnants and whole eggplants into a bucket of cold water to slow down their oxidation, which causes them to turn brown.  Then core the sweet peppers by cutting the tops off and removing the ribs.  Leave the peppers whole.  Now take a deep roasting pan and place 1 inch of water at the bottom of the pan.  Place the peppers and onions standing up in bottom of the roasting pan, along with eggplant lying skin down.  As a heads up, the eggplant dos not cook too well, unless you spray the eggplant ahead of time with some olive oil.

OK, so now you have a bunch of vegetable remnants, which should be in separate buckets.  So we now move on to cooking the meat and vegetable mixture that will be going into the vegetables to bake.  Start off by taking all the remnants and chopping them up finely.  Start off by placing 2 tablespoons of oil into a large Dutch oven and heating the oil until it shimmers. Next place the chopped onions into the Dutch oven and sauté the onions until golden brown.  Once golden, add the rest of the chopped remnants and sauté them until nice and soft.  Now add the chopped meat into the pot and cook the meat until it is browned.  Now add in the tomato sauce and spices and simmer for 20 minutes.  Now place the cooked mixture into the cored vegetables and put the roasting pan into a 350 degree oven for one hour.

With served an assortment of wines with the cooked vegetables.  The wine notes follow below:

2002 Château Malmaison Baronne Nadine – Score: B
The nose on this garnet colored wine has blackberry, cassis, mounds of dirt, mineral, and graphite.  The mouth on this soft but terroir harsh wine is really packed with earth, black fruit and oak.  The wine is simple enough, but still gets your attention with mounds of earth that melds with acidity and oak.  The finish is long and spicy along with more dark fruit.  It should have been a better wine, but the wine was out of balance and too aggressive in its mineral notes.

2006 Recanati Cabernet Sauvignon – Score: B+
The nose on this purple colored wine with brown halos is hot out of the bottle, but calms down with oak, cranberry, dark plum, and roasted herbs.  The mouth of this medium bodied wine follows the nose with cranberry and plum.  The mid palate is packed with acid, spice, oak, and nice tantalizing tannins. The finish is long and spicy with more fruit and herbs.

2004 Gamla Cabernet Sauvignon – Score: B+
The nose on this garnet colored wine is classically Cabernet with dark cassis, blackberry, oak, and anise.  The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine follows the nose with black fruit and a semi complex mixture of spice, oak, and integrating tannins.  The finish is long with more cassis, spicy wood, and chocolate.

Baked Gefilte Fish Loaf, Sweet and Sour Brisket, Roasted Root Vegetables, Castello di Cesare Bianco Lazio Toscana, Chateau Graveyron-Carrere Bordeaux, Galil Cabernet, Borgo Reale Chianti Classico, Kadesh Barnea Gilad, Tierra Salvaje Chardonnay

The first night of Passover found us with friends and we had the usual four cups of wine ritual, that makes Passover a wonderful precursor for Alcoholics Anonymous Meetings 🙂  The wines are listed below in the order that they were drunk, also we had quite a few folks, so please do not think I actually need to attend some AA meetings.

Once the first two cups were drunk we started in on the Matzoh (we only use shemurah matzoh), Maror (our custom is to use endives, because they are so easy to clean), and then the meal.  Mind you I am really happy with how the meal came out.  We started with hard boiled eggs with salt water poured over it.  There are many people who are starting to make this simple dish Haute Cuisine, but that is so broken.  The reason for the boiled egg is to remind us of the temple’s destruction and how we used to have a Passover Sacrifice, which is oxymoronic.

The meal started with a new dish for us and a major hit on the table – Baked Gefilte Fish Loaf.  A friend of ours was kind enough to share the recipe, and I hope she does not mind me sharing it with all of you.  It is crazy simple to boot!

Herb Encrusted baked Fish Loaf Recipe
1 loaf of Gefilte Fish
1 onion slices into thin rings
3-4 tsp of a mixture of any Italian Herbs you want (we used Oregano, Parsley, Thyme, and Savory)
2 tbsp of oil
Garlic Powder, Paprika, and Black Pepper

Mix the spices and oil in a bowl and drop the sliced onions into the herb mixture and mix around to coat the onions well.  Next drop the loaf into a baking pan and coat it with the garlic, paprika, and pepper.  Then drop the onions on top and cook covered for 30 minutes in a 350 degree oven.  Then flip the loaf, remove cover and bake until the pan is dry and onions are crispy.

We made three loafs at a time, by simply tripling the recipe and using a large baking pan.  The fish was a hit as were the onions.  The thing that was awesome was that the fish was permeated with a really cool herb and garlic flavor, not just flavored on top – really cool.  We of course served it cold with a nice cold eggplant salad.  We make our own, but it is available in small plastic containers at the supermarket as well.

The fish and eggplant went well with the Castello di Cesare and the Tierra Salvaje Chardonnay.  After the fish appetizer, we moved on to the main course of Sweet and Sour Brisket and roasted root vegetables.  I have described it a few times before, but put simply I braise a whole brisket and ONLY a whole brisket.  I have no idea how anyone can braise any other version of a brisket, really.  Without the top layer of fat to keep the meat moist, it would turn into shoe leather, which I have been forced to eat from time to time.

My World Famous Whole Brisket Recipe
10 white onions sliced thinly and browned in batches
1 10 or more pound whole brisket
1 can of whole berry cranberry
1 cup of ketchup
20 or more garlic cloves
1 bottle of a nice Cabernet or full bodied Merlot

So Anyway, place the browned onions in the bottom of a large roasting pan.  Then take a whole brisket and rub it with garlic powder, black pepper, and tons of paprika on both sides.  Next take the cloves and puncture the top of the meat (fat side up) and place a clove in each whole – make sure to NOT puncture the meat all the way through.  Finally, place the meat fat side up into the roasting pan, and pour the cranberry and ketchup mixture on the meat and then pour the bottle over the mixture.  The liquid should NOT cover more than half of the meat – if it does stop and add no more liquid of any kind.  I need to stress this, as the meat exudes tons of liquid and the fat melts on top of that.  Anymore and you will have a mess and worse a boiled chunk of meat, which is NOT what is meant by braising meat.  Finally roast the meat for 4 or so hours.  After it finishes cooking, let it cool over night and then slice it the next day and rebraise before serving for at least another two hours.

The roasted vegetables were pretty simple; toss whatever vegetables you want to roast in a deep pan with oil, garlic, paprika, and cumin.  Roast until just puncture soft by a fork.

The wine notes follow below:

2001 Four Gates Merlot M.S.C. – Score: A
The color of this wine is a beautiful deep garnet. The nose on this wine has strong aromas of blackberry, dark plum, cranberry, eucalyptus, and oak. The mouth on this full bodied wine is layered and complex. The mouth is full with blackberry, plum, and raspberry and then layers in mint. The mid palate adds core acidity, eucalyptus and lovely integrated tannins. The finish is long and satisfying with black fruit, chocolate, and vanilla. A wonderful wine – it is at its peak if not a bit over the other side – drink up!!

2005 Kadesh Barnea Gilad (Undisclosed mixture of Merlot/Petit Verdot/Syrah) – Score: B+
The nose on this garnet-brown colored classic Cote’ de Rhone wine blend, is heavy in earth, cranberry, cassis, and oak.  The mouth on this balanced medium to full bodied wine follows the nose with cranberry, cassis, and earth.  The mid palate is jammy with red fruit, acidity, and nice oak.  The finish is smooth, balanced, and long with red fruit and oak.  The clear winner of the night, and just as good as when I tasted it in NY.

2002 Chateau Graveyron-Carrere Bordeaux – Score: B
The nose on this ruby/light garnet colored wine was the best part of this wine, with pencil shavings, blackberry, mineral, and oak.  The mouth on this astringent medium bodied wine was unbalanced and really not there.  The fruit was there, but overpowered by the mineral and musty French flavors.  The mid palate had a nice acid core, but the finish was what threw the wine into a tizzy.  It needed a ton of air, and even after all that, it was the least appreciated bottle of the night.

2007 Galil Mountain Winery Cabernet – Score: B
The nose on this dark ruby colored wine was also the best feature of this wine, it had lovely notes of blackberry, raspberry, and spice.  The mouth on this medium bodies wine was also off and astringent.  It may have been the bottle, or the fact that it was shipped to me recently.  I will be taste wine again in the future and will repost.  The fruit did show, but was overpowered by the acidity and astringency.

2007 Castello di Cesare Bianco Lazio Toscana – Score: B
The nose on this straw colored wine is super crisp with citrus, apple, peach, and lychee.  The mouth on this light bodied wine is extra dry, with citrus and green flavors.  The mouth is not as crisp and sharp as the nose is and is a letdown, almost flat.  The mid palate is citrus with a nice but not so long finish.  A bit brighter and fresher than what we tasted in NY.

2008 Tierra Salvaje Chardonnay Estate Bottled – Score: B+
This wine is controversial to say the least.  Many people on the table hated it while I really liked it.  This is not a democracy; it is more like a benevolent dictatorship.  Still, it is important to tell readers that many hated this wine, and that it may not ring true with you.  So on to the notes:

The nose on this brilliant golden colored wine with green halos is almost sweet with clear vegetal leanings, bright acidity, spice, green apples, pear, and lychee.  The mouth on this medium bodied wine is not sweet at all; rather it is almost bone dry, which is funny given its sweet nose.  The mouth is semi rich with green apples, flowers, and dry tea flavors.  The mid palate is acidic and dry.  The finish is medium long with more apples and nice acidity.  This is not a big or complex wine, but a nice dry change of pace and a quite nice quaffing wine, especially given its dirt cheap price.

2007 Borgo Reale Chianti Classico Vespertino – Score: B+
I must start by stating that this wine needs air like Frankenstein needs a new marketing agent!  It was the second worst bottle of the night, but I truly felt all it needed was air.  Sure enough 24 HOURS later, it was really yummy and tasty.  The wine had opened and now the ruby colored wine has a nose filled with cherry, raspberry, and cranberry, along with a nice dollop of chocolate.  The mouth of this medium bodied wine follows the nose with more of the same fruit, in a soft mouth that you feel throughout.   The mid palate is still bright with acidity, and the finish is long with more bright fruit and chocolate.  A really nice showing, it just needs a TON of air or time.

This past week’s wine…

We had no guests this week, so we were light handed 🙂 . We tried this wine that I was very excited about – but did not live up to my hopes. I talk of Hamasrek’s King Blend.  Daniel Rogov gave the 2003/2004 N.V (Non-Vintage edition an 80), but then gave the 2004/2005 edition an 86.  So there seems to be two vintages.  What perturbs me about this wine is that there is no clear way to see what N.V. vintage we are talking about – the 2003/2004 or the 2004/2005 N.V.  Why you may ask?  Because they used the same labels!  I hear rumors that you can tell the difference between them via the cap (where the top of the new vintage has an impression on  it)  – but I would love to know what others have heard about this.
Hamasrek The King’s Blend N.V. – Score: B
The nose on this purple to black colored wine changed over time. It started off with a zinfandel nose – loads of cranberry and raspberry along with a nice amount of smoked wood. After a bit of time the nose turns into a cab nose. Blackberry, cassis, along with a hint of chocolate. The mouth on this medium – full bodied wine was very fruity initially. Over time it lost the fruit and most of its complexity also disappeared. Which left a lightly acidic core and wood, with a bit of dark fruit. The finish was gone as well. It is a shame. This wine does not compare to a similar attempt by Herzog (though that one is going down hill – I have yet to tase its 2005 brother) – one I love and spoken of often. Not enough “stuffing” for this puppy to be there. That said – it is drinkable and if I had more of it – I would drink it now and fast.

International Food & Wine Festival – 2008

On a cool Winter’s night, my friend and I drove up to Herzog Winery in Oxnard, CA for a kosher wine tasting and food event.  The first thing that struck me was the number of Rabbi’s that were at the event.  I had heard that because of the large amount of non-mevushal wine that Royal Wine Corp would be pouring that night (Herzog Winery is a subsidiary of the Royal Wine Company) – that there was a call made out for all the Rabbis that they could get.

This is the first year for the west coast version of this event.  Last year the event was a huge success on the east coast – in New York and the Herzog Winery really stepped up and put on quite a show.  The event was called for 7 PM for the public and 6 PM for the press.  The advantage on arriving early was not for early an tasting, rather it was to be able to mingle with the winemakers that were brought in from around the world for this event.  We first met Assaf Paz from Binyamina wines.  Assaf is a very insightful person.  We had a long talk on Carignan wines.  I was in the middle of writing a piece on the 2004 Carmel Carignan Old Vines wine for’s wine club and he told me that he was one of the people that saved the very vines that helped produce the very nice wine.  We talked about kosher wine and Israel – a very touchy subject – but one he was very gracious with us about.  We then met Pierre Miodownick – the wine maker for Royal’s Herzog Selection wines that come out of France.  Pierre oversees all wine that is chosen for Kosher production and was very knowledgeable about his wines and very gracious with his time and brutally honest about his own wines – which is quite a nice change of pace from other wine makers.  Joe Hurliman was around and stopped by once during our Carignan discussion as did Jeff Morgan.  Both men were around during pourings and were more than happy to talk about their wines and answered almost all questions we posed – again whether complimentary or not.

The event was laid out with wineries displaying their wines on a set of tables and the food was served in Herzog’s award winning Tierra Sur Restaurant.  The food was served tapas style.  The presentation of the food was quite lovely.  Unfortunately, we did not get a chance to sample of all of it, as it closed a bit early.  We got to taste some of the fish and a couple of meat dishes – but totally missed desert.

The event had its highlights and its misses.  Some of the things we took notice to:

  1. The public came in LA style.  They came late and left early.  Quite humorous really.  We started tasting some wine and there was no one to be found.  Later we picked our heads out of our wine glasses to look around, and all of a sudden the rooms were filled with people.  We were happy to see so many folks so was Monica (Herzog’s one man show in producing this wonderful event).  Monica felt there were 100-150 people that arrived for the festivities, and that it was a good start for an event that we hope will be held annually at the winery.
  2. Most of the people arrived for the food and a few came for the wine.  I was really happy to see that the public did not come to get sloshed.  I have no issue with the crowd that the event brought in.  In the end, the event was held to showcase the wine and in a smaller scale – the restaurant.  The crowd was respectful of people’s space and people’s attitudes towards each other.
  3. The buzz was almost tangible and very electric.  There was noise everywhere – in a good way.  People were happy to be there and all the conversations that I heard in passing were positive about the event.
  4. There was a ton of food, and it never ran out.  The food was presented quite nicely and tasted quite good – of the little that I had a chance to get.
  5. Some of the people pouring the wine knew about the wine, but most had no clue.  To the point of a fault.  I was given a glass of Meursault Premeir Cru that was obviously spoiled, and the pourer said nothing.  Same with a few glasses of Yatir wine.  Quite a shame – as Herzog was presenting some of it top of the line wines in a very bad light – to its own detriment we believe.
  6. The event was a marked departure from its east coast version.  There were many more wines poured there.  But at the same time – it was so overcrowded in NY – that many who went there are thinking about not returning next year.  Of course that is more bluster than reality, as there is nowhere else in the world that one can go, and see the variety of wines that were poured at either event.  In the end it is about promoting the wines – and Royal will improve, we are sure, the presentation of its wines and manage the events to better meet the needs of the event goers.

The event by almost all perspectives was a smashing success, and we hope they will continue to improve both events for many years to come.  Now to the wines notes:

A few overarching themes that kept appearing throughout the evening.

  1. The wines were more red and green than dark and brooding – weird because we tasted many big Bordeaux, California, and Israeli wines.
  2. Many of the wines we saw and tasted will not be in stores until Passover and maybe beyond, as some have been just bottled and some are just not in the area yet in quantity.
  3. I have added links to the wines through or Google when wine-searcher get finicky.  I have no affiliation with this company.  I just find them accurate and useful.  I am tangentially affiliated with and so I have not linked the bottles to them directly.  They commonly show up in wine-searcher results.  Of course please – ALWAYS support your local shop before you run off to a web page near you.

Segal Unfiltered Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 – Score: B+
This ruby colored wine was aged in oak for 18 months.  The nose on the wine is filled with raspberry, plum, smoke and spice.  This full bodied and round wine is smooth and has carry over notes from the nose of plum, berry and spice.  The finish is long and filled with spice and smoky wood.

Domaine du Castel ‘C’ 2006 – Score: B+
This straw colored wine was aged in french oak for 12 months.  The nose on the wine is filled with oak, pineapples, citrus, and lychees.  This full bodied wine is edgy with strong notes of apples, summer fruits, and spicy wood.  The finish is long and filled with more spice and toasted wood.

Chateau Valandraud St. Emilion Grand Cru 2002 – Score: A-
This wine has a crimson red mature color to it.  The nose is heavy with earth, raspberries, and plum.  The mouth of this medium bodied wine has earth and dark berries that linger long on your mouth after the wine is gone.  Th
e finish is medium long with tannins and spice.

Chateau Leoville Poyferre St.-Julien 2002 – Score: A-
This wine has a deep garnet color.  The nose is filled with earth, smoke, black berries, licorice, and oak.  The mouth is of this medium – full bodied wine is very tannic still and is complex, deep and brooding.  Spice, dark fruit, and mint all come together in a medium long and satisfying finish.

Chateau Leoville Poyferre St.-Julien 2003 – Score: A-
This wine has a deep ruby red – garnet color.  The nose is filled with red fruit, raspberries, oak, and plum.  The mouth is of this full bodied wine is very tannic still and wound as tight as a coiled snake around its prey.  Spice, dark fruit, and licorice are overpowered by the chunky nature of the wine’s tannins.  The finish is super long and linger on your mouth long after the show is over.

Chateau Smith-Haut-Lafitte Pessac-Leognan 2002Score: A-
This wine has a ruby red-garnet color.  The nose is filled with raspberry, cherry, earth, spice, and smoke.  The mouth of this full bodied wine is overpowered still with chunky tannins earth, fruit, and sweet wood.  The finish is long, satisfying, and wrapped in a cloak of smoky tobacco.

Covenant Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2006Score A- to A
This wine has a lively garnet color.  The nose assaults you with raspberry, cherry, earth, and spice aromas.  The mouth of this full bodied wine is overflowing with flavors of chocolate, coffee, and oak.  The long finish is wrapped in oak and smoke and the flavors linger a long time in your mouth.  This is a very young wine and will develop nicely over time.

Herzog Generation VIII Cabernet Sauvignon 2004Score: A-
The color on this was is a lively ruby red.  The nose is filled with chocolate, smoke, black cherry, and oak.  The mouth on this full bodied wine is laden with cherries and plums.  The chunky tannins have yet to integrate, but the finish is long and smoky and the wine lingers long after it is gone.

Herzog Chalk Hill Warnecke Special Edition Cabernet Sauvignon 2004Score: A-
The color on this wine is a clean Ruby-Red.  The nose has aromas of black cherry, mocha, and toasted wood.  The mouth of this medium-full bodied wine has notes of cassis, spice, and cocoa.  The finish is long and spicy.

Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Special Reserve 2004 – Score: A-
The color of this wine is garnet with dark edges.  The nose on this wine is earthy with aromas of cherry, raspberry and oak.  The mouth on this full bodied wine is almost chunky as the tannins have yet to settle in.  The spicy wood and red fruit all flow together quite nicely into a medium finish that ends with a flourish.

Herzog Pinot Noir Special Reserve 2005 – Score: B+
The color of this wine is light ruby.  The nose on this wine is earthy with aromas of cherry, dust, spice and oak.  The mouth on this light to medium bodied wine has carry over from the nose.  The cherry comes through grabbing some anise along the way and ending in a medium long spicy finish.

Herzog Syrah Special Reserve 2003 – Score: A-
The color of this wine is deep garnet to purple.  The nose on this wine is laden with spice, tar, black berries and toasted wood.  The mouth on this full bodied beast has carry over from the nose.  The tannins have yet to fully integrate – making the wine a bit chunky, but the tar, black cherries, and pepper flow easily together into a medium long finish.

Francois Labet Puligny-Montrachet 2002 – Score: A
This was one of my favorites of the evening.  The color is an almost electric light straw.  The nose is stuffed full of citrus, apple, lychee, and light creme.  The mouth on this medium bodied wine is both acidic and citric but nicely balanced with oak and fresh fruit flavors.  Lychees and peaches jump into the mid palate and stay along for the long ride to the finish and than lingers on your palate long afterwards.

Chateau De La Tour Clos – Vougeot 2002 – Score: A-
The color on this wine is a mature light burgundy.  The nose on this wine is earthy, vegetal, and loaded with oak.  The mouth on this medium bodied Burgundy is packed with wood, tannins that are far from integrating, and almost mud-like flavors, with a finish that was long and satisfying.  This wine is far from ready, over tannic, wound tight like a boa constrictor around its prey, and fruit that is almost not visible.  I am sure this one will come out of its coma and be a really fun wine with a lot more time under its belt.

Chateau De La Tour Clos – Vougeot 2003 – Score: A
The color on this wine is a mature and dark burgundy.  The nose on this wine is earthy, filled with red fruit, and loaded with oak.  The mouth on this medium to full bodied Burgundy is fruit forward with cherry – almost overpowering, the woody and chunky tannins.  The finish is long and tannic.  This wine is far from ready, the fruit has yet to integrate with the tannins and the oak is watching from the side wondering when it can join in as well.

Chateau Le Crock Saint Estephe 2003 – Score: A-
The color on this Bordeaux is deep and maturing garnet.  The nose on this wine is packed with dirt and earth, a bit of vegetal aromas and a fair amount of black cherries.  The mouth on this full bodied wine is still very tannic.  The cherries run with the vegetal qualities into a very long and spicy finish.  This one has some time yet to settle.  One of the best of the night by far (and far more reasonably priced to boot)

Chateau Lafon Rochet St Estephe 2003 – Score: A-
The color on this Bordeaux is a deep ruby color.  The nose on this massive wine is packed with dirt, earth, blackberries, dark cherries, and a ton of oak.  The mouth on this massively bodied wine is tannic but still closer to balanced than any other 2003 Bordeaux tasted.  This is more to do with it huge fruit that balances out the tannins.  Earth, mint, and blackberries run along side the dark fruit that takes hold of this wine, until the extra long finish that is filled with oak and spice.  A great bottle for the price and a real favorite at the show.

Chateau Guiraud Sauternes 1999 – Score: A+
First off – this wine is a killer wine.  One of the top rated wines in the world – both kosher and not.  That said this wine is a winner and can be cellared for quite a long time.  The color on this magnificent Sauterne is golden and deep.  The nose on this super concentrated wine is filled with honey, cooked fruit, lychees, and apricots along with spice and oak.  The mouth on this full bodied wine is quite insane; it is almost creamy in nature.   The wine hits you first with the carryover honeysuckle, cooked fruit, and spice.  But the structure and acidity is what makes this a wine and not a syrupy mess.  What a wine.  The wine has a super concentrated finish of acid and fruit and a lingering affect on your mouth that is sure to please everyone at the table.

Chateau Pontet – Canet Pauillac 2003 – Score: A
The color on this Bordeaux is deep garnet to purple.  The nose on this massive Bordeaux is chock full of chocolate, earth, oak, licorice, and dark berries.  The mouth on this super concentrated and full bodied wine is still very tannic.  The blackberries and cassis take second fiddle to the chocolate and coffee that dominate the palate.  This massively structured wine is a beast and will take quite a long time to settle down.  The finish is long and has an extra dollop of mineral and oak to close out the show.  Quite a wonderful wine and quite a close to the evening as it was the last bottle that we tasted that evening.

Barkan Altitude Series 412 Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 – Score: B+
The color on this Cabernet is deep garnet.  The nose is filled with spice, cherry and raspberry.  The mouth on this medium – full bodied cabernet is nicely balanced with oak, berries and mint.  The finish is long with spice and oak.

Barkan Altitude Series 624 Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 – Score: B+
The color on this Cabernet is light garnet.  The nose is filled with raspberry and cherries.  The mouth on this medium bodied cabernet is nicely balanced with oak, cherries and raspberry.  The finish is medium long with sweet oak on the side.

Barkan Altitude Series 720 Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 – Score: B+
The color on this Cabernet is light garnet.  The nose is filled with smoke, cherry and raspberry.  The mouth on this medium bodied cabernet is nicely balanced with oak, cherry red fruit, and licorice.  The finish is medium long with smoke and tobacco.

Rashi Barolo 2000 – Score: B
The color on this Barolo is a classic Piedmont red.  The nose on this wine is a earthy, filled with cherry and floral aromas.  The mouth on this medium bodied wine is nicely balanced with a bit of tannin, sour cherry, oak, and raspberry.  The finish is short and the structure is fading.  Drink now.

Carmel Limited Edition 2004 – Score: A
The color of this Cabernet/Petit Verdot/Merlot mix is deep garnet to purple.  The nose on this wine is filled with deep and brooding fruit that almost smell purple in nature.  Aromas of blackberry, oak, and cassis hit you.  The mouth of this full bodied wine is fat with tannins that have yet to integrate.  Blackberry, cassis, licorice, and a hint of chocolate fill your mouth like a velvet glove.  The finish is long and the chocolate and spice linger on your palate long after the wine is gone.

Carmel Kayoumi Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 – Score: A-
The color of this brooding Cabernet is deep garnet.  The nose is filled with earth, raspberry and blackberry.  The mouth on this full bodied wine is still brooding with chunky and fat tannins.  Once they integrate with the blackberry, cassis and oak they will make this winner a truly delightful wine.  The finish is long and spicy.

Yatir Forest 2004Score: A
The color on this Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot/Syrah mix is deep garnet to purple.  The nose on this wine is almost assaulting.  Blackberry, oak, smoke, and spice come at you from all directions.  The mouth on this full bodied wine is loaded with berries, plum, oak, and chunky tannins.  The finish is super long and earthy with a bit of spice that comes along for the ride.

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