Covenant Wines’ latest releases – September 2022
Last week, California was overrun by a nasty heatwave, besides breaking records and driving me and everyone else crazy, it meant my entire week was open as mountain climbing was off the table. That left lots of time to go see Jeff Morgan (founding winemaker and co-owner of Covenant Wines) and family (Jodie and Zoe), literally, and Jon Hajdu at Covenant Wines. They were already taking in fruit for the 2022 harvest and it was extremely kind of them to carve up some time for me during this busy time of year.
I remember well the time I was in Canada with Jeff for a vertical tasting of all the Covenant Cabernet, at that time, it was a wonderful experience and tasting! I have said many times, that Covenant Winery is one of the original California wineries that makes solid wines, especially in the Cabernet Sauvignon space. I found some of the wines taken a step back in recent years. The white wines were always enjoyable, like the Sauvignon Blanc and the Lavan white, but that changed recently from what I see in this tasting.
I was at the winery in March for a local RCC (Rosh Chodesh Club) and I got to taste one of the wines but it was not a setting to write notes and appreciate wines. I do remember the wines we had and one wine, in particular, did not show nearly as nicely as it did at our tasting last week. So, I am happy for many reasons to have driven up to Berkeley, CA to taste the 7 wines. All of them were quite enjoyable.
First, we tasted the Covenant Solomon Blanc a new white wine on the Covenant label and the only white wine on the Covenant Solomon level. The 2020 Covenant Solomon Blanc was the wine I tasted back in March and it showed far superior last week. It finally came out of its shell and had fully integrated with the sweet oak, it was a lovely wine indeed! The 2021 vintage, which was newly bottled was a drop better, showing a bit more acidity and an overall complex mouthfeel that did remind me of the 2019 Chateau Gazin Rocquencourt, Blanc. Both showed lovely gooseberry and ripe fruit but also bracing acidity and controlled yet lovely oak, very well made.
After the lovely Sauvignon Blanc wines, we moved to another white wine the 2021 Covenant Lavan, Chardonnay. I am being honest here, I have been falling into the new version of ABC (Anything But Chardonnay). It is new but old, the same old same old, fat, blubbery, overoaked, under-acidified, flat wines. ABC was a thing in 1995 when the MY Times wrote a piece on it and it is coming back with a vengeance again. Much akin to the date juice fiasco in the kosher wine market, Chardonnay is also moving to its old roots and they are being made into oak-driven apple juice that is honestly boring and uninteresting. Thankfully, we have been saved by the two incredible Burgundy Chardonnays for the Meursault region, by Taieb Wines, and by IDS. Those wines are clean and correct, they speak to the place and the time they were made. So, when I had the lovely Sauvignon Blanc wines it further solidified my belief in what I desire, clean and well-made ABC wines. With that as a disclaimer, the 2021 Covenant Lavan Chardonnay, was properly made. It was well balanced and showed a fruit focus that would make an ABC drinker, like myself, enjoy and drink the wine.
Five Red Wines
After the three white wines, we moved the line along to 5 red wines. In some ways, white wine is harder to make than red wine. White wine has fewer places to hide as a winemaker though I am far harsher, as a wine taster, in the land of red wine, simply because I am sick and tired of lazy winemaking or worse, purposeful and mindful winemaking that removes the grapes from their natural state of being and place to make fruit juice that is sweetened by whatever actions the winemaker has in his/her arsenal that week. Wineries will tell you it sells better but to me, that is just selling out and I have no time or interest in tasting wines like that. So, when I see 5 red wines, I am thinking, like I always do, even in Europe, I hope there is a desire here to let the fruit talk. Sure enough, the team has pulled the winery along into an impressive place where you can find some lovely wines and even some that garner the QPR WINNER score along with quality scores that make me want to buy and drink the wines. Bravo!
The first wine was a lovely Pinot Noir from under the Landsman label. The 2021 Landsman Pinot Noir had just been bottled and it showed no bottle shock. The lines on this wine were clean, with red juicy fruit, floral, earthy, and smoky. No baby fat, just clean lines, and good fruit. Nice! Another WINNER from the Carneros wine region in Sonoma County. Carneros has the moderating influence of the San Pablo Bay, the northern portion of the greater San Francisco Bay, which keeps Carneros cool and windy, but not too cold. We then moved to two Syrah followed by two Cabernet Sauvignon, the flagship wines of the winery.
The first Syrah was the 2020 Landsman Syrah, Santa Rita Hills, Robert Rae Vineyards. This was a new one for me, I was unaware that Syrah grew well in the Santa Rita wine region. Of course, I love the Santa Rita Pinot Noir from the Herzog Reserve line and their more exclusive Eagle’s landing wine lines. So, when I tasted the Landsman Syrah from 2020, I was not surprised to find it more of an old-world style wine than the next wine we would be tasting. The Landsman Syrah reminded me of the Shirah Syrah from 2013, a dirty, earthy, smoky, meaty animal that was more old-world than new from Santa Barbara County. This wine is comparable if not a bit better, here the fruit is more controlled, yet very present, focused, and precise, I bought what was left – one bottle, maybe Jeff or Sagie can scrounge another one or two up. Either way, lovely wine!
Finally, we tasted a new wine on the Covenant label, the 2020 Covenant Syrah, Bien Nacido Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley, Santa Barbara County. This is one of the most famous vineyards in Santa Barbara County, very difficult to get into and even tougher to keep. In 2020 some folks were too worried about smoke damage and bailed on their allocations. Covenant found out about the availability and jumped on it, there is no smoke taint on this wine, it is smoky, but from the lovely french oak used to age the wine. A lovely wine, one that is balanced, but a bit too new-world for my taste. This is a perfect example of how new-world wine can be made to its place and its fruit without turning it into an abomination. Here the team took beautiful fruit and let the fruit speak to its true nature, lovely! Hopefully, there will be more of this wine being made, it shows great potential.
Two big yet elegant Cabernet Sauvignon wines
The tasting ended with two lovely Cabernet Sauvignon wines from Napa Valley, the Covenant Cabernet Sauvignon, and the Covenant Solomon, Lot 70. I claimed, in a previous post, that the crown for the best red 2019 kosher wine had been given to Chateau Smith Haut Lafite, with the disclaimer that I had yet to taste the Four Gates or Domain Roses Camille wines yet. I should have added that I had also not yet tasted the 2019 Covenant Solomon, Lot 70. The Solomon, as nice as it was, did not eclipse the Chateau Smith Haut Lafite or the Chateau Pontet Canet, but it is indeed up there on the list of top wines of 2019.
The two Cabernet wines were quite lovely though the Solomon was a step above the Covenant Cabernet Sauvignon. The Solomon was so elegant, powerful, and yet precise, with great fruit focus and control, quite a lovely wine that deserves your attention and a place in your wine cellar for many years from now! I say that, but Mr. Morgan will tell you it is just lovely now as well, and while I wholeheartedly agree with him, get a few and enjoy one now, if you must, and then enjoy the rest later!
My many thanks to Jeff Morgan, Sagie Kleinlerer, Jonathan Hajdu, and the rest of the Covenant team and family for setting up the meeting, sharing their wines with me, and taking time out of their busy harvest schedule to meet with me. The wine notes follow below in the order they were tasted – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:
2020 Covenant Solomon Blanc, Bennett Valley, Sonoma County, CA – Score: 92.5 (QPR: WINNER)
This wine is from the Moaveni Vineyard, in Bennett Valley, Sonoma County.
The nose of this wine is a perfect blend of sweet oak and sweet fruit, showing lovely peach, apricot, bright fruit, green apple, sweet orange marmalade, orange blossom, sweet melon, and sweet Asian pear. The mouth of this medium-plus-bodied wine is incredibly fun, with screaming acidity, lovely minerality, and so refreshing, with lovely sweet oak, lovely green apple, orange marmalade, yellow Asian pear, peach, apricot, and cloves. The finish is long, tart, and balanced, with sweet fruit, incredible balance, loam, flint, and lovely sweet smoke and orange peel. Drink by 2027. (tasted September 2022) (in Berkeley, CA) (ABV = 13.90%)
A Horizontal of 2013 Pinot Noirs and other top Pinot Noir to buy now
A few weeks ago, Benaymin Cantz from Four Gates Winery and friends came over for a Friday night dinner, and I thought it was a good time to open my 2013 Pinot Noirs that I have been saving. I must say, in hindsight, I should have done it earlier, as some of the wines were already past their time or DOA.
My love for all things Pinot is well known, and I had such high hopes. Overall, the night was fine, it was just not at the level I had hoped for. Thankfully, Benyo brought two extra wines, and they made the night super special! They were, a 1997 Four Gates Pinot Noir and a 2005 Four gates Merlot. M.S.C.
It is funny how the media can change people’s perspectives, and in some cases twist it in a way that we would not expect. Say Pinot Noir and most wine drinkers will think of the enigmatic anti-hero Miles Raymond, and his explanation on his love for Pinot Noir; “…It’s, uh, it’s thin-skinned, temperamental, ripens early. It’s, you know, it’s not a survivor like Cabernet, which can just grow anywhere and thrive even when it’s neglected. No, Pinot needs constant care and attention. You know?…“. Pinot is a complicated grape – but not to its own detriment. Listen to Miles throughout Sideways and you may come to think that Pinot is fleeting, flinty, thin, and complicated. In the end, as you watch that horrible movie, you quickly realize that Miles was simply projecting in a fire fueled rambling and using Pinot Noir as his conduit.
To the French, Pinot Noir is called Burgundy – following the tradition of French wineries to name their wines after the region where the grapes are grown. Americans have had success with Pinot – in California, Oregon, and Washington State. New Zealand, has really taken the lead in bringing the grape into the 21st century. The French Burgundy has its terroir (earthy dirt flavors, sometimes barnyard flavors as well). The New Zealand and American Pinots show characteristics that are more akin to Syrah then Burgundy – fruit forward, meaty wines with soft caressing tannins. The rest of the world is choosing sides. Though true terroir flavors are hard to replicate outside of Burgundy, many countries have been successful at bringing out the true fruit characteristics that the land is willing to share and are creating wonderful Pinot Noirs. Israel was starting to come into its own with Pinot Noir, now all I would buy from Israel, in regards to Pinot would be from Gvaot. Even if the 2013 Pinot was DOA, I have had good success with Gvaot Pinot Noir. Right now, the best bet is France and the USA, with a drop from Israel, and after that, we are on empty.
Sadly, Pinot Noir to me is one of those wines that is so badly mangled in the kosher wine world, that it is no shock that most kosher oenophiles, turn face when u say Pinot Noir. Not on account of the Pinot Noir grapes themselves, but rather on account of the pathetic state of kosher Pinot Noir wine on the market.
Say, Pinot Noir to me, and sadly I can only think of:
- Four Gates Winery
- Gvaot Winery
- Covenant Winey’s Landsman Pinot Noir (the 2016 vintage is really fun)
- 2013 Eagle’s Landing Pinot Noir (the 2015 and 2016 were too ripe for me)
- Hajdu Makom Pinot Noir (though no new ones recently)
- 2014 & 2015 Chantal Lescure Burgundy from Pommard
- 2010 Domaine Gachot-Monot Beaune 1er Cru Les Cent Vignes
- 2016 Maison Roy & Fils Shai Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley
- Hagafen and Vitkin have left me wanting more, and forget the rest of Israel’s Pinot Noirs. Same goes for Pacifica, which has also been lacking, other than one vintage.
Top kosher 2017 white wines from around the world
Ok, let’s start with the obvious, I have been so busy this year that I have had zero time to work on these posts. So, ahead of the High Holiday Crescendo, I wanted to post a quick note about the 2017 vintage and my hopes for a great new year, filled with joy, success, health, and lots of great wine to all.
So far the 2017 vintage has been much akin to the 2016 vintage – last year. The 2017 roses have been a letdown overall, much akin to the 2016 vintage of roses that were a letdown after the epic 2015 vintage. Sure, we have a few rose winners, like the lovely 2017 Les Lauriers de Rothschild Rose, and the nice 2017 Covenant Blue C Rose, and 2017 Netofa Latour Rosado.
Still, the whites have been a real letdown, much akin to what happened in the 2016 vintages. We have not had a GREAT vintage out of Israel since the INSANELY good 2014 vintage.
So, Israel has been a letdown white wine-wise and rose overall these past few years. But there are some winners as usual. I have yet to taste the 2017 Tzora wines. The Netofa whites are lovely, along with the fun and very enjoyable 2017 Covenant Israel Viognier. There is also some nice Dalton Sauvignon Blanc wines.
The true savior is once again, the old-world region. France has a few great whites! Yes, I said whites! Throw in California, and we have enough whites, just not a bounty.
I hope you enjoy these great white wines in your Succah and with your family. Wishing you all a healthy year signed and delivered!
The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:
2017 Chateau Lacaussade Saint-Martin, Vieilles Vignes – Score: 90
The wine is a blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc. This wine is very slow to open, it may need a quick decanting, for an hour or so. The nose is slightly tropical in nature with lovely with melon, guava, and hints of passion fruit to start, over time it recedes to show lemongrass, straw, mineral, grapefruit, citrus, and honeysuckle notes. Just like the nose the mouth also starts off with crazy tropical notes that also recede with time, to show a very different wine. After some time, the mouth on this wine is not complex, but very nice, with rich acidity, showing a good balance of fruit, green apple, heather, tart pear, and mineral. The finish is long, super long, with southern tea, and rich acidity, and lovely pith. Drink by 2021.
2017 Chateau Guiraud ‘G’, Sec – Score: 92
Finally, a French white I can really appreciate! This is really fun, the wine is a blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc, showing notes of pure funk, wax, green notes, with cucumber, mineral, old-world notes, showing honeysuckle, and floral notes, with green apple, quince, lovely straw, and rich minerality. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is fun, with more funk, nice complexity, with rich salinity, followed by rich dry and tart Asian pear, with nice gooseberry, and graphite. The finish is long and green, with lemongrass, stone, rock, with more wax and flint. Bravo! Drink by 2021.
2017 Jean-Pierre Bailly Pouilly-Fume, Sauvignon Blanc – Score: 92
WOW! This wine has quite the nose, screaming with fresh orange blossom, ripe yellow grapefruit, with hints of nectarines, cat pee, and lovely citrus. The mouth on this unoaked Sauvignon Blanc is dry, bone dry, not quite a Sancerre, but impressive, with lovely weight, and great fruit focus with a crazy core of acid that keeps going long after the wine is gone, followed by rich mineral, slate, saline galore, and a lovely core of lie and lemon that mingle well and play with each other. The finish is long, crazy long, with more mineral, floral notes, lovely bitter notes of citrus pith, and just fun, tart citrus that lingers forever. BRAVO!!! Drink till 2021 Read the rest of this entry
Wines I enjoyed over Passover 2017
Well, I have been off for too long, that is for sure. First Passover, then travels to Japan and more work. Finally home for a bit, Passover was great as it was enjoyed with family and that is what makes the holidays so great!
I will keep this short and sweet – the wines were mostly good to great, except for one wine that I was really looking forward to tasting – sadly it was clearly not stored well. Other than the single disappointment – the rest of the wines were solid wines.
I also had the opportunity to enjoy some wines with friends at EZ’s house, with BC and CG. It was a lovely evening and we enjoyed 6 wines – the best of which was the 2012 Domain Netofa Latour Red, followed by 2010 Hajdu Grenache, 2011 Netofa Red, the 2004 Chateau Montviel (which is in drink up mode at this point), and the 2011 Hajdu Grenache. Many thanks to EZ and his wife for hosting us so graciously.
The wines are listed below – and I hope you had a great Passover as well:
2012 Herzog Petite Sirah, Clarksburg, Prince Vineyard – Score: A-
I found this wine to be showing better than the Hajdu PS, at least for now. Lovely blueberry jam and crazy black plum, with mounds of fresh vanilla, sweet cedar, with lovely floral notes, and sweet spices. Lovely full body wine with still searing tannin and lovely acid showing rich extraction and crazy spices with boysenberry and blackberry with rich sweet spices and elegance at the same time, along with ribbons of charcoal, and mineral. The finish is long and jammy, with rich leather, and mounds of mineral and black tea, with sweet tobacco, and sweet fruit lingering long. Drink by 2020.
2012 Hajdu Petite Sirah, Brobdingnagian – Score: A-
This wine was really a wine I was looking forward to tasting again, and it is either in a real funk, or it has taken a step back from its earlier stature. The wine opened quickly, it was not as closed as in the past, showing ripe blackberry, blueberry, and lovely dirt, and earth, with root beer galore and spice. The mouth on this full bodied wine is rich, but lacking the impressive extraction of old, with rich layers of blue and dark fruit, sweet oak, and tannin that does not let up. The finish is long with layers of dark fruit, leather, spice, Swiss mocha, boysenberry, and nice tart, and sweet fruit. This wine is on target, but lacking the complexity of old. Drink by 2021.
2007 Yarden Blanc de Blanc – Score: A- to A
Same as last time, deep, mineral, and attack that is almost hedonistic.
NV Gamla/Gilgal Hashmura Brut – Score: A- (crazy QPR)
This is the new vintage (which is now out of stock in most places). The way to know it is the most recent vintage is to check if the wine says extra dry – otherwise, it is a previous vintage and not as fun, the wine is mostly 2011 grapes. The nose on this bubbly is sick with lovely quince, apple cider, with straw and tart citrus. The mouth is full and an attack force of small mousse bubbles, followed by yeast and rich undertones, followed by layers of pear and madly refreshing with crazy acid and pith, and more bubbles that do not give up. The finish is long with dried fruit, nice dry mouthfeel, that flows into nice dried herb, and rich white tea. BRAVO!!!!
Assorted wine notes from two dinners with friends
Over the past few weeks, we have had a couple of Friday night dinners and as such, I wanted to catch up quickly with just the wine notes. Three of the wines were brought by friends, while the rest were mine. All of them are from California, and they are highlighted below in that manner.
My many thanks to AG and LG, we will miss you both as you move to the east coast, and thanks for sharing the 2 with us – a lovely wine! Also, thanks to NB and AB for sharing the 2013 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Variations four, very nice wine. Finally, thanks to Benyo for bringing the only 2013 Pinot Noir that I had yet to taste from California, the 2013 Narrow Bridge Pinot Noir. It is made by Joshua Klapper, who also makes the kosher 2013 La Fenetre Pinot Noir, which we also opened side by side the Narrow Bridge. They are both made in Santa Maria, CA and are handled by the Weiss brothers and Rabbi Hillel. While both 2013 Pinot Noir (the La Fenetre and the Narrow Bridge) were nice, and almost identical twins, sharing commonalities like sourced fruit and winemaker, the Narrow Bridge surprised me! I thought it showed more acid and accentuated the green notes more than the fruitier La Fenetre. Sadly, the 2006 Falesco Montiano was corked, made me cry!
I also tasted two wines from the new 2015 Contessa Annalisa Collection, which are being sold on Kosherwine.com. They are the 2015 Contessa Annalisa Collection Gavi di Gavi and the 2015 Contessa Annalisa Collection Minutolo. These two wines are both a first in the kosher wine market. They are nice wines but lacked a true character that I craved, though air helped them a bit.
Well, there you go, I will be posting soon on a bunch of French wines, but for now, these wine notes will have to do. My many thanks to friends who shared our table with us.
2010 Shirah Coalition – Score: A-
I have said this before – we need the I LOVE Button for some of these special wines, and this one is in that camp, the first Coalition and wow what a GREAT wine still!!
This wine is a blend of 45% Touriga Nacional, 30% Syrah, and 25% Petit Verdot. The crazy part is that after 6 years this wine has changed and not at all. The wine has changed from its early days when the finish was shallow. But it has changed little in the past 4 years. The unique qualities of the Touriga come screaming in the nose with another crazy Shirah special blend. Once again, the red, white and blue nose of Shirah wines come from this unique and crazy blend! The label’s unique styling, styled after the constitution – is perfect for a wine whose essence is red, white, and blue.
The nose starts off with ripe and screaming blueberry, boysenberry, followed by loamy earth, herb, dirt, peach, apricot, pomegranate, lychee, and citrus fruit. The mouth on this medium+ bodied wine is layered with extracted red, white, black, and blue fruit, black cherry, plum, raspberry, peach, ripe apricot jam, rich tannin, boysenberry, watermelon, root beer, and lovely oak. The finish is balanced and rich with great acid, more tannins on the rise, more white and red fruit, chocolate, insane and crazy spices, nutmeg, cloves, black pepper, and so much more that it could fill a spice cabinet, finishing off with freshly baked raspberry jam pie. WOW BRAVO!!!
Mia Luce, Trio Special Cuvee, and French kosher wine win the night
I will try to keep this short and sweet. I have already posted on the state of Mia Luce here. Kobi is killing it as the 3rd winemaker at Recanati Wienry – but he is also doing exceptional things as the winemaker of his own winery; Mia Luce Winery. Kobi started making wines in 2009, and made both a Carignan and a Merlot, we had both of those along with a 2012 white blend. The 2011 white blend that we tasted when I was in Israel, was fantastic and also a lightening rod for disagreement. Some loved it like us, but the rest of the blind tasting panel hated it deeply, saying it was wet socks and god knows what else.
Well, before I went on my Alaska trip, we tried his 2009 wines along with the 2009 Recanati Carignan, side by side, and Kobi won hands down. Sure the wines showed bret from
Mia Luce, but I do not mind it – when in control. The Recanati wines were clearly more polished – but they were riper and when faced with that comparison, I tended towards the Mia Luca and so did the rest of the table.
The 2009 Merlot was Out of this world, as was the 2005 Chateau royaumont – just lovely! I also wanted to taste two other wines that were on my radar, the 2012 Trio Winery Special Cuvee and the 2012 Lewis Pasco Project #1. We have tasted the Pasco before here, but this was a re-taste to see where it was at this point. The 2012 Pasco is showing sweet now, which was a shock to me. The 2012 Trio was magnificent and truly needs time to come together. The 2012 Trio Special Cuvee was the winner of the 2014 Decanter World Wine Regional Trophy. I normally could care less about these wine events, but Decanter is a well respected award show and to me the wine was truly lovely.
The dinner was meatballs and rice with fresh green salad and a lovely herb encrusted gefilte fish loaf to start. The wine notes follow below:
2012 Mia Luce Bianco Manara – Score: A- (and more)
OK, I must say this is a wine that will create divergent opinions. It has funk and wet notes that many think are socks but are really just dried notes of the semillon. The wine is a blend of 93% French Colombard and 7% Roussanne. The nose is sour with funky sock smell, lovely flint, mineral, smoke, floral notes, intense English lavender, and earth. This nose is truly old world with earth, dirt, mineral, and funk. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is unique to say the least with crazy quince, pink grapefruit, apricot, sweeter notes than the 2011, with riper tangerine, sweet apple peel, all wrapped in a rich, viscous, textured mouth feel, that is combined with crazy acid, and orange pith. Many will have issues with this one, so serve carefully but enjoy!!!
2012 LEWIS PASCO Pasco Project #1 – Score: B+
A Bordeaux blend of 59% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% merlot, along with 3% of Petite Sirah, for rounding and depth. The wine was aged for 9 months in new French barrels. The nose on this purple colored wine starts with Merlot barnyard funk, black fruit, spice, clear sweet notes that were not there 6 months ago, and herb. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is rich and layered with concentrated fruit, lovely extraction, showing spicy oak, mouth coating spicy and drying tannin, mounds of oriental spice, blackberry, swet notes bordering on date, and dark cherry. The finish is long and balanced with still searing tannin, lovely leather, lovely vanilla, nice balancing acid, dark chocolate, with nutmeg, cinnamon, but the date is overpowering – drink UP!!
2013 Shirah Syrah Santa Barbara County – Score: A-
What can I say, this is what I dream of when you say Syrah. No, this is not big, aggressive, full bodied (though this is mostly), sweet and in your face. This is old school! The wine has fruit and body, but what shines is the mineral, saline, acid, earth, dirt. All the stuff that says Rhone while being in Cali!
The nose on this wine is epic, with earth, dirt, loam, mineral, along with rich roasted animal, blackcurrant, hints of zinberry, and sweet spice. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is all about the dirt and mineral, along with sweet fruit, layered with insane sweet peach, plum, blueberry, boysenberry, with more sweet spices, nutmeg, and all spice. The finish is long with chocolate, leather, cinnamon, and watermelon. LOVELY!
2013 Covenant Pinot Noir Landsman – Score: A- (and more)
Lovely nose with crazy strawberry perfume, sweet cherry and sweet wood. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is rich and layered with spice and coffee, followed by layers of fruit and nutmeg, candied kirshe cherry, blackberry, and really nice tannin. The finish is long and spicy with cherry and blackcurrant, rich dirt, and mineral. With time the nose opens further with a perfume of earth, dirt, intense mineral, saline, and hints of barnyard. The mouth is still layered and concentrated with sweet white chocolate and sweet spices – BRAVO!!
2012 Celler de Capçanes Peraj Petita – Score: A-
This wine continues to impress and is now in the drinkable stage. This wine is a blend of 55% Grenache, 30% Tempranillo, and 15% Merlot. This is a wine that continues to excel at being a QPR superstar, and this vintage is no different. The nose on this wine is rich and black with loamy dirt, oriental spices, intense graphite, crushed herb, green notes, along with freshly paved asphalt, and earthy goodness. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is crazy with mouth gripping tannins, leather, along with layers of blackberry, black cherry, and inky notes, all coming together with oak and green notes. The finish is long and mineral based with still gripping tannin, tar, and sweet herbs that linger long. This is a wine is now ready to go.
2005 Chateau Royaumont – Score: A- (and much more)
What a lovely wine and this just shows the power of the French kosher wine, elegance and finesse in a bottle. The nose on this lovely wine starts off with rich barnyard notes, along with green fruit notes, herb, and lovely raspberry. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is ripping with acid, followed by rich mouth scarping tannin that have yet to fully soften, along with pure elegance, rich loamy dirt, layer of concentrated plum, blackberry, and cherry, along with green notes and more herb. The finish is long with dark chocolate, graphite, mineral, eucalyptus, and smoky notes. BRAVO!!!
2009 Mia Luce Carignan La Speciale – Score: A- (and much more)
Wow what a great wine! This wine is Kobi Arbiv’s first wines and it mad good! It is the same Carignan vineyard that is used by Recanati’s Wild Carignan, the Baal vineyard. that we tasted side by side and was not as good. Kobi is the 3rd winemaker at Recanati and he is a lovely man with a golden touch!
The nose is clearly showing brett, and not that I mind it at all, but some may have issues with it. The nose on this wine is filled with mushroom, barnyard, beautiful blueberry, with hints of cherry, intense smoke, roasted meat, and mad spice. The mouth on this full bodied wine is ripping with crazy acid, elegance and power, with layers and concentration of mouth draping and almost drying tannin, with rich black olives, saline, mad mineral, followed by raspberry, blackberry, and plum. The finish is impressive with tar, loamy dirt, mad coffee grinds, chocolate, tobacco,a nd more smoke that lingers long with hints of licorice and spice. BRAVO!!!!
2009 Mia Luce Rosso, Judean Hills – Score: A- (and much more)
What a CRAZY and lovely wine, this would be a sure fire French wine if anyone asked me blind – no questions asked! There is lovely brett here, get over it! Again, this is the first wine that Wow what a great wine! This wine is Kobi Arbiv’s first wines and it mad good! Kobi is the 3rd winemaker at Recanati and he is a lovely man with a golden touch! This was his first and ONLY Merlot wine, this is 96% Merlot and 4% Carignan.
The nose on this stunning wine is rich and perfumed with barnyard notes, along with lovely green notes, smokey and gamey notes from the carignan, along with raspberry and lovely red fruit. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is layered and rich and pure elegance in a glass, with crazy acid and ripping mineral, followed by deep rooted earth, green notes, bell pepper, asparagus, along with plum, and smoking tobacco. The finish is long with mouth coating tannin, acid, green notes, mint, and herb. This is a once in a lifetime wine to get your hands on and it is still going strong – BRAVO!
2010 Four Gates Petit Verdot – Score: A- (and much more)
Bravo what a lovely wine! This wine shows what a PV can be, with floral notes, wrapped in chocolate, and black and blue fruit – LOVELY!!!
The nose on this wine screams with blueberry, lovely floral notes, rose, along with ripe black and blue fruit, along with smokey game, and roasted meat. The mouth on this full bodied is ripe and balanced with lovely acid, sweet herb, black pepper, along with layers of concentrated blackberry, strawberry, and boysenberry all wrapped in earth, and toasted oak. The finish is long with mouth coating tannin, bittersweet chocolate, tobacco, and sweet herb. LOVELY!!!
2009 Recanati Wild Carignan, Reserve, Judean Hills – Score: A-
This was the first year for this wonderful wine, a great example of what Israel can do when the wine is handled correctly! This wine comes from wild vines that are old and gnarly and dry farmed.
The nose explodes with nice blackberry, raspberry, blueberry, roasted meat, tar, and plum. The mouth is rich and layered, with concentrated but accessible fruit, along with a crazy inky structure, mounds of earth, and a mouth that is massive and rich with mouth coating tannin, and nice cedar, but showing hints of date now as well. The finish is long and ripe with heavy spice, cloves, cinnamon, black pepper, tobacco, vanilla, and a salty finish. As the wine opened it turned closer to date than I would like. DRINK UP!!!
This is clearly a new-world style wine with crazy fruit forward and heavy use of oak, but one that is quite lovely all the same. There will be some that do not like the heavy smoke or the super ripe fruit, and that is fine, just know what you are getting into with this wine.
2011 Psagot Edom – Score: B+
This is a blend of 60% Cabernet, 6% Merlot, 19% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Petit Verdot. The wine starts off very closed and needs a few hours to fully open up, but throughout the date notes copme through, which is an issue, personally. The nose on this wine is elegant with lovely mushroom and dirt, but the date comes through along with herb and green notes. The mouth on this full bodied wine is well ripe, with good fruit structure, showing clear date, blackberry, dark ripe plum, and sweet cedar, followed by sweet spices, cloves, and green notes. The finish is long and spicy with sweet tobacco, and chocolate.
2012 Trio Winery Special Cuvee, Israel – Score: A-
I must admit I was concerned to start with this wine, solely because it looked like one of those classic israeli blends, the ones that commonly make me gag. However, the fact that it won the best wine of decanter and it scored a 95 from them, reassured me that it has some hope.
The wine is a blend of 63% Cabernet from the Judean Hills and 37% Syrah from the Galilee. The nose on this wine starts off very closed but with time it opens to black fruit, rich spice, made oak, sweet vanilla, and chocolate notes. The mouth on the medium bodied wine is ripe and balanced with good acidity, nice fruit structure, but lacking in complexity with nice blackberry, cassis, raspberry, and anise. The finish is long with nice spicy tannin, black pepper, and Oriental spices. With more time the wine opens to a nose of blueberry (from the Syrah), sweet spices, heat, nutmeg, cinnamon, and mad smoke. The mouth on the wine opens more to show black and blue fruit, roasted animal notes, and lovely sweet spices that meld into peppercorn and leathery notes. Quite nice! This wine needs time, but I fear it may lose balance in 4 years, so drink rom 2015/6 to 2019.
Covenant Winery Israel – the next step in a spiritual and physical Journey
When I think of Covenant Winery, what leaps to mind for me, is Jeff and Jodie Morgan, Jonathan Hajdu – Covenant’s top-notch associate winemaker, and their world-class kosher Covenant Cabernet Sauvignon, Lavan Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc. Sure, they also make a lovely and unique Red C wine, rose, and Landsman series of wines, but that is what comes first to mind.
When I first met Jeff and Jodie, it was at Herzog Winery, in 2006 where Jonathan Hajdu and they were pouring their wines at the first ever Herzog IFWF on the west coast. Since then I have made it my business to go to the winery at least once a year and meet with the Morgans and to taste their wines. I state that very specifically, as I have found that wines do follow their creators, and the open and accessible Covenant wines that also age to perfection, intrigued me and I wondered what their creators were like.
If you have had the opportunity to meet with Jeff and Jodie Morgan you will find two people who are passionate about their Jewish roots, though more traditional in nature than Orthodox, but still two people on a spiritual journey with their wines as their guides. From the start they decided that their wines would be kosher, and that they would be creating wines that were mimeographs of themselves, whether they realized that – or not.
To be honest, this article is a long time coming, a post that I think is more about my relationship with the Morgan’s, Mr. Hajdu, and their wines, and less about their story. The now famous story about Lessie Rudd and his grapes, his apprehension to letting the Morgan’s use his grapes, as he feared that they and their kosher process would ruin them, has been written about over and over. Humorously, the fact that the story is in every post about Covenant wines, and that the story is so well-known and repeated, is once again a representation of the wine and Jeff – both are wonderfully gregarious while also being quiet but confidently capable of spinning a tale of what they both have to offer.
Sure, when you meet the Morgans, and trust if you come to the KWFE in NYC – you will meet them, you will find two lovely, affable, and equally impressive humans that have honed their skills, with care and effort. However, it takes a bit more to see beyond the initial blustery interface, and to get deeper into what they see in the future. Yes, they are always looking forward to what the winery can become, but it is far more interesting to get to the story behind the tales, the story of a couple who are equally passionate about their tradition and history as they are about their impressive with their skills and craft.
As always, I am as straightforward as they come, there is really little left to read between the lines on my blog, though some think there is always another story. To me, Covenant Winery is a world-class winery, one that has the best track record, in my opinion across all California wineries (other than maybe Four Gates Merlot) of hitting a home run with every vintage of their Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. Were they all A- to A, not always, but they never were less than a classic 91 score and I am hardly the only person with that opinion. Look at Wine Advocate and you will know where this winery stands in the mind of Robert Parker and his minions. Read the rest of this entry
The kosher wines I enjoyed this past Passover
Well, Passover has come and gone and while I will not bore you with the details, I did get to cook my brisket and drink some very lovely wines. I have to say, I was away for this Passover from our home, and I brought some wines with me, many of which were great. However, I also visited Hungarian Kosher in Skokie, IL, the original home of kosherwine.com before they sold out to JWines.
When I was there I was happy to see that they were still selling lots of wine from all of the main distributors. The entire story of what happened to kosherwine.com and why it moved over to JWines, is not a mystery and much as it is politics and stuff I do not get into. This blog again, to remind many, is really for me to keep track of my notes and my wines, something I also do on Cellar Tracker. Still, when massive chances like this happen to the kosher wine industry some think I need to talk about it. Well, I do not agree. I like to converse about the overall wine industry, and the things I find issue with, such as the high cost of kosher wine, French Wines, and the date juice coming out of Israel.
The story of kosherwine.com is really not my business; it is between Dan and JWines and other people who I am friendly with, and something that is better left for table fodder.
Now, on to the wines. I was very happy to see a bottle of the 2002 Chateau Leoville Poyferre. WOW what a bottle! Another blockbuster wine that I enjoyed was the 2013 Harkham Shiraz, Aziza. We have spoken about the Harkham Winery and Richie Harkham here and here. The funny thing about this Aziza bottle is that the KA kosher supervision is not actually printed on the label! Mr. Harkham told me it was because of some glitch, and he sent me a letter from the KA, which stated clearly that the wine is officially kosher.
The next blockbuster was the 2009 Four Gates Merlot and the 2011 Four Gates Chardonnay. Both of them were insane and rich and really opened some few days after they were opened. Finally, the rose and whites from Hajdu and Shirah are still rocking and rolling and so are their new ones! Bravo guys!
After the blockbuster wines – I was lucky to spend some time with friends and family and we each shared wines with each other. My uncle shared a lovely bottle of the 2012 Quinta da Aveleda Vinho Verde Kosher Grinalda! I have never had this wine before, it is a white blend of some crazy grapes, I never heard of that was made in Portugal. I was skeptical to start – but WOW what a great wine and it is DIRT cheap. Sadly, it is only sold in Illinois. So, go to Binny’s or Vineyard’s in Lincolnwood and buy some.
My other friends, GM and RM shared two bottles of wines that they were aging for some time, maybe a bit too long (wink). They were a 1994 Yarden Merlot and a 1999 Hagafen Pinot Noir! Wow, sadly, they were both over the hill for sometime, but what a joy, honor, and experience to enjoy then with my friends. I shared with them a bottle of the 2013 Goose Bay Fume Blanc. The trade was nowhere near fair, but they were just being kind and I was happy to share more, but they seemed happy with that option. Shockingly, the star was yet another wine – a 2003 Weinstock Cellar Select Cabernet Sauvignon! That puppy was insane, rich, layered, black and mouth coating – LOVELY! That was a wine that was opened at its peak and we all GREATLY enjoyed!
The other visit was to BC and CG, CG made some two wicked cool brisket and other tasty side dishes. I shared the left overs of the 2002 Leoville Poyferre, the 2013 Aziza and they shared with me a lovely bottle of the 2008 Ella Valley Vineyards Vineyard’s Choice Personal and the 2012 La Fenetre Red Blend. Many thanks guys and feel better soon CG!!!!
Please post what you had for Passover, or at least your favorites ones from Passover!!
The wine notes follow below:
2003 Weinstock Cabernet Sauvignon, Cellar Select – Score: A- (and more)
WOW! Bravo guys, this is a wine, that is stored well will pay you back in deep dividends! The nose on this wine is redolent with dark brooding fruit, with hints of green notes and lovely cedar. The mouth is full and rich with layers of black and red berry, along with lovely and very elegant mouth coating tannin – lovely! The finish is long with roasted herb, vanilla, tobacco, sweet dill, and chocolate galore! Read the rest of this entry
2013 Landsman Zinfandel and 2012 Shirah Rose
This past weekend I was recuperating from flying around the world to almost every kosher wine event that I could get to. It started in Israel for the 2015 Sommelier, and then a few days later, the 2015 Tzur wine tasting, essentially the Israeli KFWE. Then I went home for two days before flying back to NYC for KFWE NYC and then to LA for the KFWE LA.
So, by the time I was home for good, I was exhausted, and what I needed was some good wine and food. It turns out that I chose a bunch of Cali wines, which may have been an internal reaction to tasting so many date wines from Israel and around the world at Somm and the KFWE. In the end, one of the three I chose was also date juice – Karma is a bitter mistress!
The Friday night dinner was roasted sausages and chicken, paired with a bottle of the 2012 Shirah Rose. The rose is still showing beautifully with ripe fruit and crazy mineral and pith. The other wine we enjoyed was the 2013 Landsman Zinfandel, a nice enough zinfandel with great spice and earth, but with a lithe body, holes in the mouth, and a wine that needs a day to truly open up.
It is a nice enough wine but one that I was really hoping would finally bring me a California Zinfandel that rocked my world. Sadly, since Hagafen Winery stopped producing Zinfandel wines, we have been missing some great wines.
The good news is that there is a 2013 Dalton Zinfandel, that is blended with some Petite Sirah, Grenache, and Mourvedre. It has a nice body, great acid, crazy spices, and good fruit. I cannot wait to buy some soon.
Sadly, the third wine we had that was DOA was the 2009 Herzog PS2. The wine was not corked and the cork was fine, it is simply a case of the early death of Petite Sirah. The body on that wine was crazy rich, with layers and mad tannins, but it was dead. Sad. It reaffirms to me that PS can indeed be a beast of a wine, but its own life is short on its own, making it a far better blending grape than a pure varietal. Now, I love PS, and I think it – like Malbec – can be really nice, but it requires you to not wait long on them. Drink them quickly, when they are ready or even earlier, because they have the annoying habit of just dropping dead and leaving you holding the bag!!!
The wine notes follow below:
2009 Baron Herzog Petite Sirah PS2, Second Edition – DOA
This wine died a horrible death – sadly. It was oak and date juice when I opened it and it went to port in an hour – drink what u have!!!
2012 Shirah Rose – Score: A- to A
WOW What a rose! This wine is 100% rose of Grenache. The nose is bright and tart with crunchy roasted herb, forest floor, garrigue, red fruit, strawberry, black currant, and spice. The mouth is insane on this medium bodied wine, it starts with an attack of red currant, followed by blue fruit, tart blackcurrant, and crazy acid. The finish is long and attacking with mad acidic tart summer fruit, kiwi, candied strawberry, intense slate, mineral, and crazy tart zinberry that lingers forever, long after the wine is gone. The acid is so intense it is awesome and the fruit is ripe and expressive – BRAVO!!!
2013 Covenant Zinfandel Landsman – Score: B+ to A-
The nose on this wine starts off with lovely rich mineral, loamy dirt, roasted animal notes, and more dirt. The mouth is well spiced, and light to medium bodied with sweet fruit that blows off, to show cherry, strawberry, nice zinberry, blue fruit, good tannin, acid, and nutmeg. The finish is long and spicy with watermelon and black pepper. Sadly, this wine lacks the presence to cut through most food, though the rich acid and mineral is nice.
After the wine was open for a day – it really did open and become more complex and less sweet. The blue notes receded and the spices and complexity rose – with more earth, acid, mineral, and spice, nice.
More kosher Rhone varietals over Shavuot and afterwards
Over the Holiday of Shavuot, and weeks that followed, I have been continuing my love for all things Rhone, meaning Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, and things like Petite Sirah and others. Over Shavuot we had one half of the Weiss Brothers with us, and it was a great time to break out my last bottle 2007 Brobdingnagian Grenache! We had a few other bottles as well, of course, but that was the winner of the night for sure.
Many of the wines we have had over the past few weeks are still available now, while some are those MUST keep wines that I hope you all start to build from great 2009/2010/2012 wines (yeah 2011 was a tough one).
Over Shavuot we served rib eye and some brisket, and it went so well with the sweet Syrah and bold wines that we enjoyed. I hope you all enjoyed the Shavuot time with wine, learning, and friends!
Over the following weeks after that we opened Summer wines, many were rose and white, which I will post separately, and many were perfect BBQ wines, like the 2011 Chabad Cuvee Zinfandel. Along with the 2011 Netofa Red made of 60% Syrah and 40% Mourvedre. We truly enjoyed the 2012 Landsman Syrah, which is good news, as some of the other Landsman have been OK but not as good as this one.
We also enjoyed a few lovely Israeli blend wines, with a mixture of Cabernet, Syrah, and other varietals. Like the 2009 Kitron Reserve LIKA, a wine named after one of his children. The wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, and Merlot. The Tzora Shoresh was awesome, and the 2011 Trio was nice, but not great. I hear the 2012 Trio Grenache, a wine only available in Israel, is really impressive, look for that when in Israel next time.
Finally, the 2012 Capcanes Peraj Petita continues to blow me away, and the mevushal version of it is also very good and is actually more accessible now than the non mevushal version, which feels too tight still.
The wine notes follow below:
2007 Brobdingnagian Grenache, Santa Barbara County – Score: A
The name comes from the colossal, gigantic, extremely tall, and giant creatures discovered by Gulliver in his travels on the Northwest coast of California and is used today (although not by anyone I know) to describe anything of colossal size. That said, the wine does in many ways follow the moniker. The wine has a 16.3% alcohol, is massive in the mouth, and in the bottle! The bottle (empty) is one of the heaviest I have ever seen, quite extreme. The name of the winery, though unpronounceable by me, is one you already know by association. The wine is made by Jonathan Hajdu, the associate wine maker for Covenant Wines, owned and operated by Jeff Morgan.
The last time we opened this wine, the wine was inaccessible for many hours. However, this time the wine was immediately accessible with concentrated dried red fruit, raspberry, toast, smokey aromas, roasted animal, sweet cedar, insane and mad milk chocolate, and spice. The mouth on this browning colored wine is super concentrated, almost laser focused, and layered with dried strawberry, cranberry, raspberry, blueberry, root beer, and plum. The attack is what makes this wine; it is clean lined with heft and power, yet focused on delivering not a single but many blows of dried fruit and oak. The mid palate flows from the mouth with acidity to balance the beast, along with still searing tannins, cedar oak, and tobacco. The finish is super long and concentrated with more mouth coating tannin, sweet herb, licorice, white pepper, cloves, lovely acidity, sweet watermelon, and more spice – BRAVO!!!!
This wine has a year or so left – but I would start drinking them now for another year – drink UP mode.