Blind tasting in Paris (Part #1) – Nov 2022
As stated in my previous post, I was in Paris in November, with Avi Davidowitz from Kosher Wine Unfiltered. The sheer number of boxes in our room was insane, somewhere nearly 120 bottles of wine came to our hotel or to Ari Cohen’s home. The poor bellman pushing that cart laden with wine boxes was a site to see.
We were in Paris for a week and during that time Avi and I had three organized tastings with Bokobsa, Royal Wine, and IDS. We also tasted some 80+ wines in the hotel room, blindly, in 5 rounds, each time following the methodology defined below. This post will showcase the wines we had in rounds 1 and 2.
Blind Tasting Methodology
Thankfully, my posts can stop referencing COVID and focus on wine. So, let us get to the process. This time I wanted to break up the normal approach, or taste wines from the distributor or wine producers and instead taste the wines blind in their respective groups. The methodology was simple, bag all the wines, hand them to Avi who wrote a number/letter, and then line them up for the tasting. Then we taste them in numerical/alphabetical order and write the notes. After the first pass, we taste the wines again to see if they have changed. Then we show the wines and write the names down. We did find a few anomalies in the system. First, the more closed wines needed time to open and those were tasted again later. If there were flaws at the start those stayed in the notes, at least for me, and if there were issues after they were also written.
White wines and Sparkling Wines (First Round)
There were a few shockers, in this round, the shockers were all for the bad! Sadly, this round and the subsequent one with simple red wines were underwhelming to deeply disappointing. There were TWO WINNERs in the first TWO rounds and they were repeat WINNERs from previous tastings I had with Avi last year in November 2021 and with Nathan Grandjean in 2017. I have also included a wine I tasted TWICE over the past month or so, the 2016 Yarden Rose, Brut, it is underwhelming, much akin to its brother the 2016 Yarden Blanc de Blancs. Both are underwhelming and very sad as this is the first time that I ever had a Yarden Sparkling wine I did not like on release. Very sad indeed! If you want sparkling wines stick to Drappier, Laurent Perrier, Gilgal, and others.
The other disappointing wine was the highly anticipated 2020 Chateau Olivier Blanc, sadly it did not live up to expectations. At the start it was horrible flat peach juice, if you read my original blind tasting – it went like this, “This wine is cooked peach juice, flat and useless. Drink never.” Literally. The wine evolved over three days! The same thing could be said for the 2020 Chateau Olivier red and the famous 2020 Carillon d’Angelus Saint-Emilion. Though the reds wines were less flat and more closed tightly.
Other than the lone WINNER and the disappointing 2020 Chateau Olivier Blanc, there were no wines that were very interesting at all. There were a few new ones, like the 2020 Les Vins de Vienne Saint-Peray, Les Bialeres, disappointing, and lacked acidity and balance. The 2021 Casa E.di Mirafiore Roero Arneis DOCG was also a dud, both white and red. Overall, nothing very good here, but hey my pain is your gain!
2020 Vintage versus 2021 Vintage in Bordeaux
I will repeat what I wrote previously, as this post will showcase far more 2021 wines from Bordeaux. So far, the sample size of 2021 wines from Bordeaux includes very few big names because they are still in the barrels. Or should be! So, the sample size of 2021 wines from Bordeaux is all simpler and of lower starting quality. Still, what is apparent, from this sample size, is that 2021 will be a very hard year. The 2020 vintage, by contrast, is hit and miss, and so far, while the hits have been solid, there are no home runs, and we have tasted most of the wines we expect to rave about from the 2020 vintage. There will be one 95-scoring wine, ONE, from all the wines we tasted on this trip. I expect even fewer exceptional wines from the 2021 vintage and I personally, will be buying far fewer of the 2020 or 2021 wines. Finally, the wine notes from the 2020 vintage should be witness to the fact that while the 2020 wines are OK to good, they are far more accessible than previous vintages. The glaring exception to that will be highlighted in a subsequent post.Read the rest of this entry
Another round of QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) Hits and Misses, Eight QPR WINNERS – October 2022
I hope you all had a wonderful Jewish Holiday season! We are now back to the grind and I have a bunch of wines that need to be posted. As usual, my QPR posts are a hodgepodge of wines but thankfully we have some nice QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) wines.
QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) Wines
It has been two months since my last QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) post and many people have been emailing me about some unique wines I have tasted and some lovely wines that are worth writing about.
Thankfully, no matter how much garbage and pain I subject myself to, we are still blessed with quite a few wonderful QPR wines out there. This post includes some nice wines and some OK wines with the usual majority of uninteresting to bad wines.
The story of 2021 Israel whites and roses is very unfortunate, it started with a bang. Matar and a couple of others showed very well. Sadly, after that, every other white and rose wine from Israel was not as impressive. They all show middling work and product, very disappointing indeed. Thankfully, this round has one Israeli WINNER and it is from the 2021 vintage.
We have a nice list of QPR WINNERS:
- 2021 Shirah Rose, Central Coast, CA (A nice solid rose)
- 2021 Covenant Israel Rose, Blue C, Israel (lovely color and great acidity)
- 2018 Allegory Pinot Noir, Duvarita Vineyard, Santa Barbara, CA (Another nice Pinot from Cali)
- 2020 Chateau Montviel, Pomerol (Perennial winner)
- N.V. Drappier Carte d’Or, Champagne (Best of the 4 Drappier Champagne)
- N.V. Drappier Brut Nature, Zero Dosage, Champagne (Lovely but drink now!)
- 2020 Chateau Piada, Sauternes (Not their best but solid)
- N.V. Drappier Rose de Saignee, Champagne (Nice brut rose, hard to find outside of Yarden)
There were also a few wines that are a slight step behind with a GREAT or GOOD QPR score:
- 2021 Shirah Bro.Deux, Blanc, Santa Ynez Valley, CA (A nice wine just missing a bit)
- 2021 Yatir Mount Amasa Rose, Judean Hills (Not bad)
- 2021 Or de la Castinelle Rose, Cotes de Provence (Another solid vintage for this new rose)
- 2021 Vitkin Israeli Journey, Red, Israel (Simple but nice)
- 2021 Laufer Tokaji Late Harvest, Tokaji – Simple but balanced
- 2018 Allegory Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford (too ripe for me but good)
- 2019 Vitkin Grenache Blanc, Galilee (A step back on this vintage sadly)
- 2018 Ma’ayan Cabernet Franc, Shomron (A lovely wine just too Israeli for me)
There are a few wines that got a QPR Score of EVEN – meaning expensive or average:
- 2019 Shirah Nebbiolo, Paso Robles, CA (A bit too ripe for my tastes)
- 2021 Flam Camellia, Judean Hills (Less interesting than previous vintages)
- 2018 Allegory Meritage, Paso Robles, CA (weakest of the Allegory wines)
- 2021 Laufer Tokaji Ice Wine, Tokaji (Not enough acidity to make it work)
The others are essentially either OK wines that are too expensive, duds, or total failures:
- 2021 Jezreel Valley Rose, Sharon (Not very good)
- 2020 Yatir Darom, Red, Israel (Just trying too hard with so little)
- N.V. Drappier Rose, Brut Nature, Champagne (Not a good idea IMHO)
Wine sets that I tasted
This tasting includes three sets of wines.
- Shirah Rose and white wines
- Allegory and Ma’ayan wines (from The Cellar wine store in Lakewood)
- Four newly disgorged Drappier Champagne
- The rest of the assorted wines I tasted over the last 1+ months. I tasted more but I am waiting to post them later.
Some things that made me stand up and take notice (AKA QPR WINNERS):
The largest WINNER group of the sets of wines I had came from the Drappier Champagnes. Three of them were dead on and the fourth, the brut nature rose, is just a bad idea, IMHO.
The other two sets are all made by the Weiss brothers from Shirah wines. The Shirah Wines are made under the Shirah brand and the Allegory wines are Cali wines made for the Cellar wine store in Lakewood.
The Shirah Rose and the Allegory Pinot Noir, two wines made by the Weiss brothers are solid to lovely wines.
Covenant keeps popping out lovely wines and the 2021 Israeli Rose is another example of what care brings you!
The other two wines are the 2020 Piada and Montviel, two more WINNERS for Royal Wines. The Montviel is sheer joy and the highest-scoring wine of this post while the Piada, while nice enough, is a step back from previous vintages.
Other wines of note (AKA QPR GREAT or GOOD):
This group is not a group of wines I would buy and some are not even wines I would drink if given the chance. They are Ok wines but there are far better options out there. The one that did surprise me was the 2018 Ma’ayan Cabernet Franc, Shomron. It is a wine that was close and nice but still too Israeli for me.
Wines that are either good but too expensive or average (AKA EVEN):
This list is also boring, the only real wine to call out, is the 2021 Laufer Tokaji Ice Wine. It should have been a better wine but the wine is a mess, it is all over the place and lacks acidity, sad.
The rest of the wines are not interesting to me and are on this list because of either quality or price.
Wines that are either OK but far too expensive or bad wines (AKA POOR/BAD):
This round this list is just duds and I will just leave you to peruse the names and scores down below.
Overall another nice list of QPR WINNERS. I can always look at these kinds of lists and say there are only 7 or 8 wines I would want to buy from this entire list, but that would be a defeatist attitude. The correct way to classify this list is we have 7 or 8 more wines available to us and in the end, as I have stated many times now, I cannot buy all the WINNER wines even if I wanted to. There are just too many good wines out there and that is what we should be focused on!
The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:
2020 Chateau Montviel, Pomerol – Score: 93 (QPR: WINNER)
This wine is a blend of 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc. The nose of this wine is incredible, this is what I dream about when I smell wine, dirt, earth, smoke, loam, elegance, fruit, and mushroom, yum!!! The mouth of this full-bodied wine is balanced and soft, it comes at you in layers, showing raspberry, plum, rich loam, earth, sweet spices, and forest floor, all wrapped in a silky and elegant plush mouthfeel, with lovely acidity. It is a silky seductress. The finish is long, green, herbal, dirty, loam, and more forest floor that really comes out, with sweet tobacco, dry meat, and lovely green notes. Bravo!!! Drink from 2025 until 2034. (tasted September 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 13.5%)
Another round of QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) Hits and Misses, Nine QPR WINNERS – May 2022
A side note before we get to the QPR list. I just returned, B”H, from Paris and I know many are interested in my notes from the trip, along with all the roses that are NOT on this list. So, for full disclosure, I will be posting the rose list next and then I will be getting to the wines I enjoyed and suffered in Paris. The good news, there are lots of wonderful wines from the Paris tastings and many will be making their way here. Sadly, the rose list is not that interesting at all. Now on to the QPR list, which will catch me up to almost all the wines before my Paris trip, other than the roses.
QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) Wines
It has been a few months since my last QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) post and many people have been emailing me about some unique wines I have tasted and some lovely wines that are worth writing about.
Thankfully, no matter how garbage and pain I subject myself to, we are still blessed with quite a few wonderful QPR wines out there. This post includes some nice wines and some OK wines with the usual majority of uninteresting to bad wines.
I had the fortune of going to Hagafen Wine Cellars with Neal and Elk and the 2018 and 2019 vintages continue to impress. The prices are a bit high but with the price of land and fruit in Napa Valley, the fires, the lack of water, and so much more, the price is what it is. Still, the two QPR winner wines were lovely as were the vast majority of all the wines we enjoyed.
I also had the chance to go to Marciano Estates Winery and the wines showed beautifully there as well. The same can be said about Marciano, in regards to the pricing, both at the price and the reasons for them, so read the notes and make up your minds.
The story of 2021 Israel whites and roses is very unfortunate, it started with a bang. Matar and a couple of others showed very well. Sadly, after that, every other white and rose wine from Israel was not as impressive. They all show middling work and product, very disappointing indeed.
We have a nice list of QPR WINNERS:
- 2019 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, Alexander Valley, Sonoma, CA
- 2018 Hagafen Pinot Noir, Prix, Napa Valley, CA
- 2020 Domaine du Castel Blanc du Castel, Judean Hills
- 2020 Ramon Cardova Albarino, Rias Baixas
- 2021 Baron Edmund de Rothschild Rimapere, Marlborough
- 2021 Matar Sauvignon Blanc Semillon, Galilee
- 2021 Gush Etzion Sauvignon Blanc, Judean Hills
- 2021 Herzog Sauvignon Blanc, Lineage, Lake County, CA
- 2019 Hagafen Cabernet Franc, Napa Valley, CA
There were also a few wines that are a slight step behind with a GREAT or GOOD QPR score:
- 2018 Hagafen Syrah, Napa Valley, CA
- 2019 Hagafen Malbec, Napa Valley, CA
- 2019 Carmel Gewürztraminer, Late Harvest, Single Vineyards, Galilee
- 2021 Dalton Chardonnay, Unoaked, Galilee
- 2020 Pascal Bouchard Chablis, Chablis
- 2021 Tabor Sauvignon Blanc, Galilee
- 2020 Matar Chardonnay, Galilee
- 2015 Louis Blanc Crozes Hermitage, Vintage, Crozes Hermitage
- 2019 Koenig Riesling, Alsace
- 2019 Matar Stratus, Galilee
- 2021 Or Haganuz Blanc, Galille
Five new kosher Hungarian wines with some QPR potential
There are a few lovely old and pretty good Hungarian sweet wines from the old days, the last time I had them, they were nice, now they are dead. However, there are some new ones out, recently released which have yet to get to the USA. I tasted them by Andrew Breskin’s house – the founder of Liquid Kosher, along with Gabriel Geller, and he was tasting them to understand their potential here in the USA.
For full disclosure, these wines do not have an OU or OK, or such, they have off-brand supervision. I checked into it and I found it OK for ME, you need to do your research before trying them, IMHO.
There are a total of 5 of these new Hungarian wines, four of them are off-dry to sweet and one is a stunning dry wine, which in the USA will not garner a WINNER as the costs to get them here will evade the QPR price. However, the dry Furmint is awesome and exactly what I crave in a dry white wine.
Of the 4 off-dry to sweet sweet wines I tasted three of them, and I would only buy one of them. The five wines are:
- 2019 Tischler & Halpern Reserve Tokaji Dry Furmint (Dry)
- 2015 Tischler & Halpern Reserve Furmint Tokaji Félédes (Semi-Sweet) (NOT TASTED Yet)
- 2015 Tischler & Halpern Reserve Tokaji Late Harvest (Semi-Sweet)
- 2015 Tischler & Halpern Reserve Tokaji Szamorodni Édes (Sweet)
- 2015 Tischler & Halpern Reserve Tokaji Aszú 5 Puttonyos (Sweet)
The wines have not yet been imported in by Liquid Kosher, but they are available in Europe, my buddy Ari got some, and they are priced perfectly well for the European market. The Dry Furmint is a screaming WINNER there along with the 5 Puttonyos. The other two that I tasted are reasonable, for the price paid in Europe, but not worth the trouble. I have not yet tasted the Feledes.
The 5 Puttonyos is nice now, but I think it will evolve, even more, it has the fruit and the acidity to go to the next level. The Dry Furmint will be good for a year or so, but why wait – the wine is beautiful as it is – right now!
The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:
2019 Disznoko Tischler & Halpern Furmint Reserve, Dry Tokaji – Score: 91.5 (QPR: EVEN – USA, WINNER – EUR)
The nose on this wine is lovely, with beautiful floral notes of lemon blossom, honeydew, honeyed notes of Meyer lemon, wax, straw, lavender, and flint, lovely! The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is lovely, showing straw, Meyer lemon, green apple, incredible acidity, lovely tannin, ginger, with weight and density, showing rich saline, mineral, straw, and peppercorn. The finish is long, spicy, tart, with white pepper, ginger, smoke, flint, and mineral, wow! Bravo! Drink until 2023 (maybe more). (tasted April 2021)
2015 Disznoko Tischler & Halpern Tokaji Aszu, 5 Puttonyos – Score: 92.5 (QPR: GREAT – USA, WINNER – EUR)
While I think this wine is nice enough it is not as good as the previous vintages and it hits the point but this is missing a few steps. The nose on this wine is nice showing rich funk, brown sugar, sweet notes, guava, candied peach, apricot, candied ginger, lemon, and lemon zest. The mouth on this full-bodied wine is nice, with good enough acidity, lovely funk, good mouthfeel, plush, rich, concentrated, unctuous, with more citrus, lemon, mineral, and clay, nice and while I like it the wine lacks the punch, but still very nice, with intense pith, zest, funk, and acid lingering long. Very nice – Drink until 2030. (tasted April 2021)
2015 Disznoko Tischler & Halpern Tokaj, Late Harvest Furmint – Score: 90 (QPR: POOR – USA, EVEN – EUR)
This wine is fascinating as it has common notes to the dry younger wine. The nose on this is nice is off-dry, with wax, Meyer lemon, honeysuckle, sweet brown sugar, good enough acidity, and while I like it I want more acid. Drink by 2025. (tasted April 2021)
2015 Disznoko Tischler & Halpern Tokaji Szamorodni – Score: 90 (QPR: POOR – USA, EVEN – EUR)
Szamorodni, which takes its name from the Polish word ‘Samorodno’ meaning ‘as it comes’, is made from whole bunches that combine the treasured noble rot grapes and the healthy ones.
The nose on this wine starts with hints of funk with good saline, but after a few minutes, it explodes with pure funk, lovely socks, peach, guava, candied apricot, and Meyer lemon. It does show a nice blend of funk and fruit, but it has issues in the middle that may calm over time. The mouth on this full-bodied wine is rich, layered, but still showing a hollow with nice ripe and candied fruit, with good acidity, after a few minutes, and nice enough fruit, but it lacks the punch I crave. The finish is long and sweet with more acid, saline, mineral, slate, and lots of tannin and wax. Drink by 2025. (tasted April 2021)
Herzog Wine cellar’s 2018 lineup is sensational – beyond just the Cabernet Sauvignons
Herzog Wine Cellars (which now go by herzogwine.com not herzogwinecellars.com, no idea why they dropped that and emails bounce all over the place, a better idea would have been simple web/MX record routing/forwarding – but enough tech talk) has been in the wine business, in California, since 1984. The days of San Martin, when I met Josh Goodman and his wife (PSA – be careful with how you pronounce her name) when they were in the San Jose Jewish community. In those days, San Jose was the closest thing to a community for them, that was close enough to San Martin, for them to live a Jewish life and work as cellar rat/master at Herzog Wine cellars. With time, the Herzog moved to Santa Maria, which was closer to the L.A. area and then they finally moved to the location they are today, in Oxnard, in 2005.
In the start, the head winemaker was Peter Stern, mostly as a part-time winemaker. In 1998, Joe Hurliman joined as the full-time winemaker at Herzog Wine and they have not looked back, thankfully! In that time, Joseph Herzog took over running the winery and Tierra Sur, the wonderful restaurant attached to the winery. Soon after moving into the Oxnard winery/facility, Herzog undertook multiple manners to interact with their customers. The first approach was the winery’s tasting room, which is still highly pivotal in attracting all members and customers into tasting Herzog wines. They also started with many wine clubs, with the most influential one being Eagle’s Landing. It has become the area where Mr. Hurliman can truly experiment, at smaller scales, than even the Special Edition series and craft wines that he would love to see become mainstream. Things like Santa Rita Pinot Noir, Templeton Pass Zinfandel (we need more of that kind of Zin being made!!), and Paso Robles Syrah. These are not new to the kosher world as much as they are good to see at the scale and care that Herzog can bring to these varietals and wines.
One cannot talk about Herzog without talking about a few very poignant points:
- Cabernet Sauvignon
- L.A. KFWE/IFWF/Tierra Sur – Todd Aarons
Herzog did not invent the Mevushal methodology in the new era of kosher wine, which was done by Hagafen Winery, but Herzog has been equal or slightly better than Hagafen as time has progressed. When you ask who does the best with Mevushal in wines – the answer is Hagafen and Herzog, there is no one else in their league. Royal Wines Europe does a nice job as well, but they are two peas in the same pod. Rollan de By does a very good job as well.
The next question you will consistently get is – does the Mevushal process hurt wine? The answer is complex and like everything in this world, it depends. It depends on the process you use, the varietals you “boil”, and for how long you do the process, and at what temperature. Long ago, people have stopped boiling wine – they moved to Flash pasteurization or Flash Detente, both in the kosher wine world and outside of it. The length of time and the temperature of the flash is one that is hotly debated in the Rabbinic kosher world, which is why you will see many put the temperature the wine was flashed at, on the wine bottle itself. Few wineries will flash Pinot Noir or Grenache as these wines are delicate and will not gain from the flash process. Herzog does flash their Lineage Pinot and it is not a wine for long holding so that works with what they are shooting for. Hagafen, flashes everything and as such, they do flash the Pinot and Pinot Prix, but IMHO it has been hurting the wines in recent vintages. Doing the Mevushal process to Cabernet Sauvignon is one that works and may well be the most prevalent of the varietals out there that go through the Mevushal process.
This leads us to the standing joke, in regards to Herzog Wine Cellars, that Herzog makes more Cabernet Sauvignon, in a single vintage, than almost any winery makes wine, across all labels. They are the Cab Kings like Oryah is the Orange wine Factory. My last count was 27 Cabernet sauvignons across all labels, which is a crazy number, but to be fair, they know what their customers want. No matter the price, style, makeup, or focus of the Cabernet Sauvignon, Herzog has a Cab for you and that has been their motto for as long as they have been at Oxnard, and maybe even a bit before in Santa Maria.
Herzog has done a very good job in both managing leases/relationships with vineyards – dating back to the early days of the 1990s. Chalk Hill and Alex Reserve are both examples of vineyards they have managed to lease and continue to do so for decades. This is not anything new in any way, but it was for kosher California wines in the 1990s. Hagafen Winery has had vineyards that they have leased or owned for long stretches’ of time as well. It is just a very impressive thing to have done back then.
They have quietly been buying vineyards all around California. It started in 2010 when they were forced to buy the land or lose their longtime relationship with Clarksburg grapes. Then in 2017, they bought 2 plots of land in lake County. Then in 2018, they bought the Herzog Ridge Vineyard in Napa Valley. The new 2018/2019 Forebearer wines (listed below) are from that vineyard.
There are not many wineries today, in the kosher market, that have wines dating backing to 1996 that still blow my mind. yes, I continue to have my mind blown by 1997 Four Gates Merlot or Pinot Noir, and Yarden made some wines back then that were pretty good as well. However, to have made wine continuously, minus a few years here and there, I would have to say, the only ones that come to mind are Capcanes (until 2015), Herzog, and Four Gates. That is quite an impressive feat and one that helps me to buy their wines on an almost yearly basis.
L.A. KFWE/IFWF/Tierra Sur – Todd Aarons
Tierra Sur was a smash hit years before IFWF came to Los Angeles in 2008. Todd Aarons was running the ship and he could well have been the first kosher Chef-Driven restaurant, at least in the USA. There were a few in Paris in the late 1990s that were quite the thing. Still, Chef Aarons brought that flair, focus on ingredients, and presentation to a far-flung location, outside of L.A., but within driving distance, that made Tierra Sur world-famous for kosher and non-kosher consumers alike.
The IFWF (International Food and Wine Festival), the west coast’s KFWE was Herzog’s way of showing off the food over the wine. The 2007 KFWE, and many after it, was more focused on the wine and good for them! What Herzog has done for so long with the IFWF or the KFWE is to showcase what Los Angeles has over the east coast, at least at that time for sure, which was the weather and great food!
Now on to the wines! The 2017 vintage was not kind to much of California and sadly it affected Herzog wines as well. I did like the 2017 Lineage Chardonnay and the 2017 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Lake County, with the Clone Six showing some elegance from under the issues of the vintage. All of that is in the past and the 2018 vintage is another winner. These wines are rich and layered and truly a joy – I would not sit long on the sidelines, I would buy these ASAP before they all go away. So to those that ask me – why did you not warn me – you have been warned!
In the end, this vintage is a WINNER across the board. The Forebearers are nice wines but they are relatively expensive, in comparison to other Herzog options, from 2018. The Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Lineage, Reserve, even the Baron Herzog line have great deals and lovely wines. Overall, if I was standing in front of Joe Hurliman at KFWE, I would have said what I am oft to say – Bravo my good sir – BRAVO!
I will keep this short, so my many thanks to Joseph Herzog, David Whittemore, Joe Hurliman, and Alicia Wilbur for answering my many emails and calls. Be well to you all, California is getting even crazier – stay safe guys! The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:
2018 and 2019 Forebearers Wines
2018 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Forebearers, Napa Valley (M) – Score: 92+ (QPR: POOR)
The wine is very slow to open, this wine needs time, so give it the respect it deserves. The nose on this wine is lovely, not one of those “Brilliance” fruit bombs, this is a lovely earthy, anise filled joy, with smoke, tar, fruit galore, but well-controlled, with loam, candied ginger, and more fruit. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is oaky, it starts off with a clear focus of oak, and has a bit of a hole, but with time, as I said, this needs it, the hold fills in well, with a rich coat of mouth-draping tannin, earth, sweet dill, oak, blackberry, dark cherry, hints of plum, and currants, all wrapped in tannin and oak, very nice. The finish is plush, and tart, with good acidity, earth, more dill, sweet smoking tobacco, dark chocolate, and anise. Really nice, a wine to get and store away. Bravo!
With loads of time, this wine really starts to shine and I highly underestimated it, this wine is super young and needs time. I would wait 3 years to play with this again. Let this beast lie. Drink from 2024 until 2028 maybe longer. (tasted Nov 2020)
My top 30 kosher wines of 2019 including wine of the year, Winery of the year, and best wine of the year awards
Like last year, I wanted to make this post short and sweet – so the criteria are simple I could care less about price, color, or where it was made. All that matters is that it is/was available this year sometime to the public at large and that I tasted it in a reliable environment, not just at a tasting, and that it was scored a 93 or higher. Also, there are a few lower scoring wines here because of their uniqueness or really good QPR.
We are returning with the “wine of the year”, and “best wine of the year” while adding in a new category called “Winery of the Year”, and another new category, the best White wine of the year. Wine of the year will go to a wine that distinguished itself in ways that are beyond the normal. It needs to be a wine that is easily available, incredible in style and flavor, and it needs to be reasonable in price. It may be the QPR wine of the year or sometimes it will be a wine that so distinguished itself for other reasons. The wines of the year are a type of wine that is severely unappreciated, though ones that have had a crazy renaissance, over the past two years. The Best Wine of the year goes to a wine well worthy of the title, especially with its 2016 vintage.
This past year, I think I am pretty sure about my statement. In the past, I had not yet tasted the pape Clement or other such wines. However, over the past year, those have been covered, and they were a serious letdown. As stated in the article, I truly believe the entire kosher production of the Megrez wines, following the EPIC 2014 vintage of the Pape Clement and others, to be below quality and seriously overpriced and without value in every category, which is a true shame. The 2015 reds are all poor quality and the whites are not much better, in 2015 and 2016. The 2016 Pape Clement, while better, is a total ripoff for what it is.
There are also interesting wines below the wines of the year, think of them as runner-up wines of the year. There will be no rose wines on the list this year – blame that on the poor crop or rose wines overall, it was, by far, the worst kosher Rose vintage. Thankfully, the task of culling the bounty of great wines to come to these top wines was really more a task of removing then adding. I may have stated the obvious in my last post, about the state of kosher wine in general, and not all of it was very good. Still, as I stated, we are blessed with more QPR wines and more top wines, while the core pool of wines, which are horribly poor, continue to grow larger and larger.
The supreme bounty comes from the fact that Royal released the 2017 French wines a bit early! Throw in the incredible number of kosher European wines that are coming to the USA and being sold in Europe and this was truly a year of bounty for European kosher wines.
Now, separately, I love red wines, but white wines – done correctly, are a whole other story! Sadly, in regards to whites, we had no new wines from Germany. Thankfully, we had Domaine Netofa and Yaccov Oryah’s Orange and white Wines to come to the rescue. Throw in Vitkin’s good work, and more great work by Royal Europe, including the new Gazin Blanc, and others, and you have quite a crop of fun white wines!
Some of these wines are available in the USA, some only in Europe, and a few only available in Israel.
Finally, some of these wines are hard to find and they may have different siblings – but they are worth the effort. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:
The 2019 kosher wines of the year – we have a four-way TIE all from Yarden!
Yes! You have read it correctly, the wines of the year come from Golan Heights Winery (AKA Yarden Winery), the 4th largest date juice producer in the entire world! The top date juice honor belongs to Barkan Winery, but I digress.
So, why is Yarden here, because albeit’s deep desire to throw away years of work creating very nice wines, at a reasonable price, with its wines from the early 2000s and before, it still makes the best kosher sparkling wines, and it is time that it receives its due.
As I stated in my year in review, the kosher wine public has finally awoken to the joy of sparkling wine! Last week I told a friend I popped a sparkler for Shabbat lunch and he replied in a sarcastic tone, “Oh only a sparkler”, like that was a crazy thing to do. I replied that the Gamla (AKA Gilgal) Brut costs less than most white wines do! Why not pop one with lunch on Shabbat??? Others tell me, yes there is more a public appreciation for Sparkling wines, but it is a different wine category. I do not agree! Sure, sparkling wine has bubbles, so yeah, it is different. However, that is EXACTLY what is wrong here, Sparkling wine is just white or rose wine with bubbles. Who cares? When it is well made, it is a wine like any other wine.
Vitkin Winery visit – April 2019
I have written before about Vitkin last year, and this year (2018 production), makes it the third year of kosher production for the winery! Yes, as stated last during the 2015 vintage, Asaf believed that it was time to go kosher, so why not make it on a shmita year! They moved from 60K bottles in 2014 to 100K bottles in 2015 and on. The hope there is that expansion would be possible by moving kosher. Royal Wines is the USA importer for their wines from 2016 and on.
The winery has grown from its early days in 2001 to now making 100,000 or so bottles of wine, and though it has space for more, it will stay there for now. Avi Davidowitz, of KosherWineUnfiltered, and I arrived during the start of post-production work on the 2018 vintage for reds and some of the special whites, that we will talk more about later on.
The winery does not use pumps to move the wine must to the top tanks, but rather they use hydraulics to move the bins to the top of the tank and drop them into the tank. This makes sure that the fruit and it’s must is not crushed a second time, allowing for better wine. After the wine is finished fermenting, using gravity the grapes and the must are placed into the press and then the resulting wines are then dropped into the barrels. Tank to press to barrels all using gravity, with an assist from the hydraulics at the start. This is not a new scheme, it can be seen all over France, but it is nice to see it in Israel as well (Galil Mountain winery also does this along with others, but not many family-run boutique wineries show such care and concern).
Vitkin has three main lines of wines; Israeli Journey, Vitkin, and Shorashim (the elite wines), and some dessert wines as well. The kosher line started in 2015 and so initially the whites and rose were the only available options. Of the wines, we tasted this year, the rose is in the Israeli Journey line, along with the white Israeli Journey. The other three whites; Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and Grenache Blanc are all in the Vitkin line, with the Grenache Blanc and The Gewurtztraminer adding the Collector’s Edition moniker.
The current red wines that are kosher all fall into the Vitkin wine label, both the 2018 Vitkin Israeli Journey, Red, along with the 2017/2018 Vitkin Pinot Noir, the 2016 Vitkin Cabernet Franc, the 2016 Vitkin Petite Sirah, old vines, Collector’s Edition, and the 2016 Vitkin Carignan, old vines, Collector’s Edition.
There are two fascinating aspects of the wines produced the Vitkin Winery. One is that more than 55% of the bottles produced are either rose or white! Think about that for a second! Are you kidding me, that is really impressive if you ask me personally. Israel has changed so much in the last 10 years, in two core aspects. The Israeli public now drinks more wine, and they like white/roses and the second is that red wines are turned riper – a drum I constantly beat – and one that is not changing yet. Read the rest of this entry
Petite Sirah Round Two and a few very nice wines
Two weeks ago, before I left for all of the Royal wine events, I went searching through my cellar for more Petite Sirah wines to make up for the sleeping beauties (at least they were beautiful before) I had to endure two weeks ago. Two weeks ago I posted about my failed attempt to find great Petite Sirah wines. Why? I do not know, these wines used to be great and I doubt they are dead, but rather in deep sleep. So, I tried to open all the Herzog Petite Sirah wines I had to see if they were any better. We did have a Herzog petite Sirah two weeks ago – the newest Herzog Petite Sirah that has been released, the 2010 Princeville PS, and it too was so-so, again I think something was wrong with my bottle or I and the rest of the table had an off day.
So, I tried a different table of people (mostly) and a different set of wines, and these came out better, but not awesome, other than the 2009 Baron Herzog Petite Sirah P.S. Limited Edition! That was a beast of a wine and lovely. The clear take away here is that these wines need a lot of time in a decanter and only then are they ready to play. Along with PS wines we also enjoyed three older wines from the Four Gates Winery, and a bottle of the 2005 Galil Yiron.
There was talk that the 2005 Yiron was going down hill, and I can say that the wine is fine and going nowhere but it was shocking when tasted side by side the 2005 Four Gates Merlot M.S.C. The Merlot was bracing with black fruit and acidity, while the Yiron was full of black fruit but flat in terms of acidity, and I think that is what people are concerned about the Yiron. The Yiron is much like many of the older Yarden or Galil wines, they are flabby, oaky/cedar, and black ripe/sweet wines.
It is a continued theme in Israeli wines, the sweet notes and ripe fruit that overpowers the palate and takes away from the other attributes of wines. Having tasted many Israeli wines during my trip to Israel, I have found many wineries who have found a way to calm the sweet or new world notes and show more bright and ripe flavors without overpowering sweetness or fruitiness. The Yiron wines are not one of those, they normally show sweeter notes, and planks of cedar, but they continue to be bold and enjoyable. This one was no different, very enjoyable but the wine’s clear lack of acidity was truly shocking. Read the rest of this entry
Wines from the weekend along with lovely meatballs and spinach kugel
This past weekend we had friends and family around the table to enjoy some great food and some pretty good wines. This week there was no wine theme, actually to be more precise, the theme was that there was no theme. The theme was Drink up or let die. I say this as I have far too much history and track record in this area, and it has been my sworn duty going forward that I would embrace and channel the work of Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher and attempt to always open that bottle in its time. To meet this need I attempt to create wine themes when there is no pressing wine to get to, otherwise, I drink the wines that are up next.
I use drink by dates of the late Daniel Rogov, Cellar Tracker, and of course, my own personal notes. This week it was time to get to some bottles that I have been worried about. I got to a couple of them, but missed out on the 2005 Ella Valley Pinot Noir, which we last tasted on some 3 years ago. We did get to enjoy some wine that we have not tasted in a couple of years, the 2001 Yarden Merlot, Ortal Vineyard, one of the finest Merlot that Yarden has ever produced, along with the 2006 Recanati Cabernet Franc, both of which have a year or maybe more left on them. Both are drinking lovely now, but if you too wish to live the motto “no good wine will be left to die“, drink it now and you will not be sorry.
I often laugh when people ask me when they should drink a particular bottle. In the kosher wine world more and more wines are being created that are built for cellaring. All that means is that the bottle you buy is not quite ready to drink, and the wine maker and winery have decided to diversify their risk and have you cellar the wine rather than them. For the most part, most wine (kosher or not) is made to be drunk within the year or two. There are reserve wines that are built to age a few years maybe 4 years at most. Then there are the a fore mentioned high-end wines that are truly not enjoyable at all from release, and need time to come into their own/peak.
The Recanati Cabernet Franc is at its true peak and can be left for another year or so, but why? Unless you have more pressing wine to enjoy – drink it now! There is only one sure thing, other than taxes, and that is – that the wine will eventually die. Why not enjoy it now. There is rarely a perfect time to drink a wine. There is just the acceptable and peak time to enjoy the wine and the rest is what you make of it! Read the rest of this entry