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2015 Terrenal Reds – kosher Trader Joe’s Wines

Well – the wines keep coming and as you saw on my Passover wine post – there were many 2015 and 2014 options from Terrenal on the list. I have been posting about Terrenal wines for a long time now. Mostly because they are solid wines at a reasonable price (AKA QPR) and they prove that you can make solid kosher wines under 10 dollars.

Sure, they come from countries where labor and land are far more reasonably priced, but who cares?? Herzog has proven that you can create really impressive wines in CALIFORNIA for less than 10 bucks!

In the end, the more options we have for less than 10 or 15 dollars the more hope we have of really creating wines that the world loves – that happen to be kosher!

Well, the new Terrenal wines are in, at your local area Trader Joe stores. They are the 2015 Terrenal Malbec from Argentina, the 2015 Terrenal Tempranillo from Yecla Spain, and the 2015 Terrenal Seleccionado. Sadly, the name has not changed to reserve – which we would all understand and find easier. Though, KUDOS to the TJ folks, they have already learnt the names and know their products, so even if you cannot spell it or pronounce it – they will find it for you and happily sell it – if it is in stock!

Talking about in stock – the 2014 Terrenal Chardonnay from Chile is sold out and the 2015 has yet to reach the stores. The wine is on the boats, but there is no clear ETA yet. The hope is that it comes soon! The 2014 was on my QPR list and I hope the 2015 will be there as well!

The Banero also seems to be out of stock here on the west coast – though I am not sure what the stock is like elsewhere.

So, without further ado – here are the new wines and the notes!

2015 Terrenal Seleccionado – Score: A- (QPR) (not mevushal)
This wine is a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Monastrell (AKA Mourvedre). It turns out that Monastrell is quite a successful grape in Spain, actually Monastrell is the 5th most popular varietal in Spain in terms of acreage planted.

This is the second vintage of this highly successful and wonderful QPR wine. The previous vintage was starting to show its heat, but this vintage has yet to show any heat – so far. The nose on this lovely wine shows rich and dense earth, along with loam, followed by black fruit, roasted herb, and red forest berry. The mouth on this medium plus bodied wine is plush and rich, with nice mouth coating tannin, toasty notes, lovely acid, blackberry, more rich earth, lovely graphite, plum, mineral, and green notes, all wrapped in a cocoon of searing but plush tannin. The finish is long and dark, with nice espresso beans, dark cherry, intensely roasted herb, menthol, and great black pepper. BRAVO!!

2015 Terrenal Tempranillo Yecla – Score: B+ to A-
The 2015 Cab from Yecla is a great PQR and the Tempranillo is not far behind with a lovely QPR non mevushal wine. It improves on the 2014 vintage.

While this wine does hail from Spain, it is not a Rioja by place or style. It is far more blue and earthy than black/red and dusty. The nose on this wine is vibrant with black cherry, strawberry, blue fruit, and earthy aromas. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is a nice wine indeed, with great acid and tannin, showing spicy fruit, blackberry, ripe boysenberry, nice round and appealing and capable of handling many a food. The finish is spicy and long with nice spice, along with a dollop of vanilla, great root beer, and more spiced blue fruit. Nice!!

2015 Terrenal Malbec I.P. Mendoza – Score: B
Sadly, this wine returns to its far too floral roots and while the wine is nice, the rose hips that dominate the nose and body are not for me.

The nose is a flower bed, with nice red fruit, earth, and spice. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is nice with soft mouth coating tannin, with hints of cooked fruit, but overall the floral and cherry and cranberry dominate. The finish is long and spicy, with great cloves and black pepper

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Some nice older and amazing newer kosher Israeli wines

2013 Yarden Sauvignon BlancWhen one speaks about Israeli wine – the name Yarden is sure to be one of the first wineries that are spoken of. Why? Because simply stated they are the defacto standard for quality in Israel. That was at least until the past few years, when the red wines took a very clear and strategic direction towards more ripe and classic new world styled wines. Why? Well, as I wrote here in my year in review, the kosher wine public is still a few years behind the wine learning curve, and they crave wine that is as subtle as a two-by-four between the eyes. Why? Well, to be blunt, starters do not have the capacity to appreciate the more subtle aspects of old world wines. That takes training and in the words of the late Daniel Rogov – the best way to appreciate and learn more about wine – is to drink more wine. Until that point, we will all have to wait for the majority of the kosher wine buying public to learn the joy of subtlety and stop craving sweets, and live with the result of that fact – meaning sweet and overripe wines. Thankfully, there are wineries that are still interested in creating well-rounded and all around enjoyable wines – like Tzora, Recanati, Netofa, Yatir, Castel, Dalton, Flam, Four Gates, and many others.

That said, Yarden is still the clear king of white and bubbly wines in Israel. First of all, there are few wineries with more than three quality labels of white wine. Many are still just producing one white wine. Tabor is one of those wineries that is showing it QPR value and clearly coming out from under the haze of Coca Cola and its perceived wine quality, in their situation “perception is NOT reality”.

Proof of this can be found in the bottle. Tabor Adama Roussanne, Gewurztraminer, Viognier, and Sauvignon Blanc are examples of GREAT QPR wines, though only the Sauvignon Blanc is available here in the US.

The Yarden 2013 Sauvignon Blanc may very well be the best kosher Sauvignon on the market and maybe ever made. yes, that is high praise for a white wine, but ignoring the sweeter side of Sauvignon Blanc (AKA late harvest or Sauterne) this is one of the best or the best kosher version of a dry blanc that I have tasted yet. Along with that the Yarden Gewurtz and Yarden Chardonnay – both Odem and non are great this year. Finally, the Viognier and the entire line of bubbly wines are absolutely crushing it! Even the Gamla Blanc is very nice. Essentially, while Yarden may have had some missteps or may want more ripe red new world fruit, the whites still are showing why Yarden is king of the kosher bubbly and white wines. The only real competitor in the kosher market to the vast array of Yarden’s whites would be Hagafen’s vast array of white wines and rose wines. Read the rest of this entry

Assorted wines from Purim and previous weekends and a new Terrenal Malbec

It has been a few weeks since I posted my wine notes. I have been posting other ideas, but this was a long time coming. The biggest take away for me was that the 2013 Terrenal Malbec was out, a new Terrenal kosher wine that can be bought at Trader Joe’s and it is mevushal. Sadly, I was not a fan. It is OK, but for me, I will look elsewhere. It is a shame as the non mevushal Terrenal wines from Spain continue to impress!

The other take away from these wines was that the new NV Freixenet Cava Excelencia Kosher Brut was no fun either. The final notes revolve around the return of Lewis Pasco and his wines! Mr. Pasco was the head wine maker at Recanati until 2006. After that he did wine in the US and other places and in 2012 he returned to Israel to work with Hillel Manne of Beit El Winery, and to make his own wines as well! The wines we tasted in early 2012 were nice, but the Pasco wine has really come around with oak and time. The insane Carignan wine of 2012, is not as good as we remembered it from the barrel in the winery, but it is still very nice a clear QPR.

Finally, as I stated when I was at the Tzora Winery, the 2012 Judean Hills is lovely and is a crazy QPR wine. That said, the notes have not changed but the wine needs serious time to open and when it does it shows its blue and black madness. The wine has really just arrived to the US and it seems to be in bottle shock, so either wait a month or two to enjoy, or open it now and decant for at least 2 to 3 hours ahead of time. If it is not black and blue, wait!!!!

So, I hope you enjoy the notes and have a great Shabbos! The notes follow below:

 

2012 Shirah Rosé – Score: A- (and then some)
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, and spice. The mouth is insane on this medium bodied wine, it starts with an attack of red currant, followed by blue fruit, herb, 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!!!

2012 Tzora Judean Hills – Score: A- (and more) (crazy good QPR)
When I was at the Tzora Winery, the 2012 Judean Hills was showing lovely and was a crazy QPR wine. That said, the notes have not changed but the wine needs serious time to open and when it does it shows its blue and black madness. The wine has really just arrived to the US and it seems to be in bottle shock, so either wait a month or two to enjoy, or open it now and decant for at least 2 to 3 hours ahead of time. If it is not black and blue, wait!!!!

This is a wine that is made of a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Petite Verdot, Syrah that was fermented and aged in oak, and named for the terroir and vineyard that the wine was sourced from. This was a barrel/tank sample but such a wonderful wine and one very close to bottling that I had to write about it. The nose on this deeply black colored wine is rich with crazy black fruit, along with ripe blueberry, blackberry, along with deep mineral notes, roasted animal, and nice floral notes with slate. The mouth on this lovely full bodied and elegant wine shows far more control than the 2011 vintage, with great control and style, with layers of concentrated black and blue fruit, rich graphite, bracing acid, coming together with mouth coating tannin, and spicy oak. The finish is long and mineral with lovely chocolate, bright fruit, and lovely sweet spices. BRAVO!

2013 Terrenal Malbec Kosher – Score: B
The 2012 vintage of this wine was a favorite of mine last year, till it turned into a flower bomb. This vintage is starting that way out of the chute. The noise on this purple colored wine starts off with nice blue and black notes, followed by floral notes that feels disjointed, along with plum, and spice. The mouth on this medium bodied wine shows blackberry fruit, blackcurrant that spikes, along with nice tannin and blueberry/green notes. The finish is long and all over the place with green blue notes that cover over the nice root beer notes. Read the rest of this entry

Open That Bottle Night 15 and a few missed wine posts

2007 Hevron Height PardessWell, it is that time of year again for OTBN (Open That Bottle Night), a night conceived by Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher, in February 2000, then with the WSJ. Well, officially it is the last Saturday night in February, which this year is Feb 22. However, us Jews like Friday/Sabbath to be our special wine moment, so we will be enjoying OTBN this Friday Night, hopefully!

According to the WSJ site: On OTBN, which is celebrated on the last Saturday of February every year, thousands of bottles all over the world are released from prison and enjoyed. With them come memories of great vacations, long-lost loved ones and bittersweet moments. The whole point of the weekly “Tastings” column is that wine is more than the liquid in the bottle. It’s about history, geography, relationships and all of the things that are really important in life.

We have had many great OTBN tastings but this year, it is about tasting my oldest and best Yarden Winery wines. Yarden Winery has moved to the sweet side on their new wines, for the most part, but the El Rom wines have never been sweet. Yarden has always been on the sweeter side, in terms of ripe fruit, but these past few years, the weather has really hurt them badly. The 2009, 2010, and 2011 vintages have been nice wines, but too sweet for my tastes. The 2012 and 2013 look like they will be better, from what we have tasted of the white wines. Still, the El Rom and red Katzrin wine have always been controlled and beautiful. They are Yarden’s flagship wines and they keep a very tight lid on the fruit in these wines. The 2006 and 2007 ROM wine is another story, it was always sweet and somewhat controlled, and yes, very expensive. It all started when the late Daniel Rogov gave the 2006 ROM, a very unique Israeli blend wine, a massive 96 score!  That score sent the futures of that wines to the moon, along with the expectations of greatness. In reality, it is a nice wine, but nowhere where Rogov placed it.

Well, I have been sitting on too many of these wines, and so this week, for my version of the OTBN 15 (the 15th year of OTBN), I will be opening the 2001 Yarden El Rom (Shmita year), the 2004 Yarden El Rom, and the 2007 Yarden ROM. I have many backups in the ready! Read the rest of this entry

Ella Valley Merlot and a not so good kosher Malbec

This past week we enjoyed some lovely wine from the Ella Valley Winery, which is going through some changes right now. This wine dates back to 2005 when Doron Rav Hon was the head winemaker and the this wine shows his classic Burgundian styling. Of course Merlot is not made in Burgundy, but the restraint and depth of fruit shows the style that he became famous for when he was making wine there.

The other wine was another kosher, baseline Malbec, and I guess you get what you pay for. The 2012 Don Mendoza Malbec is a wine that does little to stem the tide of public opinion around kosher wine. The wine is boring, bland, and within minutes just falls apart in your mouth. You get what you pay for, I recommend you not even try this wine and look elsewhere.

Truly it is sad, because when you type Malbec into Google, you quickly find that it was Argentina that turned the world onto single varietal Malbec. The 2009 Flechas Malbec from Rothschild in Argentina is a nice enough wine, but it can be a bit extreme. If you must buy an Argentinian Malbec, that is your best option by far, even if the 2011 vintage is not as good as the 2009. But this wine, is not even in that league.

Like I posted here about the Kosher Malbec options out there, stick with either the Yarden Malbec, the Tishbi Malbec, or the BEST option, in my opinion the Teperberg Malbec.

The wine notes follow below:

2005 Ella Valley Merlot – Score: A- (and more)
The nose on this wine, a blend of 95% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, is old and mature but not over the hill at all! The nose is rich with dark fruit, candied raspberry, cherry, with insane barnyard funk coming out, along with rich loamy dirt, earthy notes, and spice. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is rich and layered with lovely funk and mushroom, with good blackberry, forest floor, all wrapped up in a cocoon of green leafy notes, sweet cedar, and mouth drenching tannin. The finish is long and spicy with lovely leafy tobacco, salty notes, rich mineral, graphite, chocolate, and rich dark fruit and leathery notes – BRAVO! The wine is drink up mode and it is throwing sediment – but enjoy!

2012 Don Mendoza Malbec Reserve – Score: C
This wine is mevushal and it shows. The wine shows a simple, not complex, or even very good wine with basic fruit, but a wine that is all over the place. The wine starts off nice, with spicy notes and fruit, but that falls apart very quickly and falls flat to the floor, with stinky socks. Sad, as I was hoping for a better showing from a Argentinian Malbec!

Teperberg Winery Tasting – just outside of snowed in Jerusalem

Teperberg Tasting with all the wines and Fricassee a person can dream for!As I have stated before, these postings are from my previous trip to Israel, where Jerusalem and mush of the north was snowed in with many feet of snow. Picking up from where we left off, the Sabbath was snowed in and cold, but at least we had power. The next day, my brother drove the car to the hotel and from there – the careful but madman driver – known as Mendel made his way to both GG and me and using Waze we were off to highway 1. The road itself was open, as was clear by the crowd sourcing cars driving up and down the road on the Waze map. However, there were parts of the road that were packed to the gills, because these were car drivers – driving to har menuchot (Jerusalem’s cemetery which has a massive parking lot) to pick up their abandoned cars! Yup, on Friday, these folks could not make it into Jerusalem, as their car was stuck, and they could not get back to where they came from, so they left their cars and were bussed out by the Army using mechanized solider transport vehicles, that can drive through snow or up a hill, for that matter.

Well, as we drove by that horde of cars, our minds were all single focused on getting to Teperberg Winery, one of the best unheralded wineries in Israel. As I wrote about in previous posts, here and here, ever since the U.C. Davis trained senior winemaker Shiki Rauchberger joined the winery, they have been producing wines destined to appeal to a more sophisticated audience. With the addition of Olivier Fratty and tons of new high-end equipment, the winery is poised to make the next leap into the upper echelon of Israeli kosher wine producers.

When we arrived after driving through the snow covered mountains, the roads cleared as we dropped in elevations, and the mountains became hills, and their color turned from white to green. Not too far down the highway, we turned off for the road leading to Bet Shemesh, and from there another turn and we quickly found out way to Kibbutz Tzora (where the Tzora Winery can be found), which is across the street from the Teperberg Winery, and down the street from Mony Winery.

We arrived almost on time, and Shiki and Olivier were there to greet us and lead us to a room where we would be having the tasting. Shiki told us that they are drawing up plans for a visitor’s center where they can have official tastings, and exhibits where the winemakers and the guests can interact in a more intimate environment. The exact date for this building to be completed is still unknown, as it has yet to even start, but it is on the books to be started soon. Read the rest of this entry

2008 Yarden Rose Brut, 2011 Teperberg Malbec, and 2010 Yarden Malbec

This past week, I was once again in Israel and it gave me the chance to taste the recently released 2008 Yarden Rose Bubbly, which was one of the highlights of my trip. I also finally had the chance to sit with and enjoy a bottle of the 2011 Teperberg Malbec, that I tasted at the winery, and it lived up to my hype. Finally, I tasted the recently released Yarden Malbec, and though it is a well constructed wine, it was too sweet for my palate.

Please be clear – the Yarden Rose will not be making its way to the United States, for reasons I do not know, but it is a wine that is well worth finding in Israel. The wine notes follow below:

Read the rest of this entry

Top Kosher Malbec wines from around the world

2009 Teperberg Malbec, TerraBefore I left for China and India I had the chance to hang with friends and go through many of the best kosher Malbec wines on the market. Since then a few new ones have popped up, which I have yet to taste, so I will add those to my next tasting run of Malbec wines hopefully.

As you know if you read my blog, I like wines that are blue in nature and I have no problem saying that out loud! The blueberry and boysenberry fruit are so rare and unique in wine that I am always overjoyed to taste them. That said, in a Merlot or a Cabernet Sauvignon they taste downright weird. So what about Malbec? Is Malbec a blue fruit wine or a black fruit wine? Well that depends, in the very same vein that can be asked about Syrah, is it a blue or black fruit wine? While were at it what about Zinfandel or Petite Sirah?

To the Petite Sirah question, until Israel, I had not tasted a PS without blue fruit, but I think the extreme heat in Israel kills the blue fruit, much like it does to the Syrah fruit (this is not a scientific statement – just my experience). Case in point, the Ellla Valley PS is black and earthy, but no blue fruit to be found. Same goes for the 2010 Yarden Malbec, black and earthy, just like in France. What can I say, it is interesting that these four varietals have the possibility of displaying blue fruit, but when grown in Israel there is less of an option. Now to be fair, the Dalton PS is full of blue fruit, as is the Teperberg Malbec.

There is a reason why Petite Sirah and Zinfandel go so well together, like in the Recanati Petite Sirah/Zinfandel blend, or the Hajdu NV Besomim wine. Either way, the fruit compliment each other, as does the spicy notes, the earthy components and the bramble. Same can be said for some of the insane blends that Tzora, Ella Valley, and others are perfecting in Israel. The Ella Valley 35/25 wine, a blend of Petite Sirah, Syrah, and Merlot (in 2008) is such a wine that is full of blue and black fruit (from what I hear I have not personally tasted it). Same goes for the wonderful Misty Hills or Shoresh wies from Tzora which take the Australian blends to the max, mixing Cabernet or Merlot with Syrah. Read the rest of this entry

City Winery in New York and its kosher wine program

City WinerySo, what is the City Winery? Why would you want to make a winery in the middle of a city, far from where the grapes grow, heck really far from where the grapes grow, like a different continent away! To be honest I did not get into all that with the Michael Dorf, Chief Executive Officer or David Lecomte, Chief Wine Maker. However, the basic premise of the City Winery, in the words of Dorf; In summary, our brand is starting to represent the image of being the highest-end experience combining a culinary and cultural offering. We are paying attention to our image from the time the consumer connects digitally through their onsite visit to the reputation and memory which lives on.

I had the chance to go there earlier this year, for the City Winery and Jewish Week kosher Wine Tasting. Though it is not the first time I ever visited the winery and each time I visit I was always impressed by its simplistic beauty. That is not to say that the event hall/winery is plain and boring, rather it is lovely and urban, even slightly rustic, but all of its innate beauty is not brazen and in your face. Rather, the winery is as subtle in its innate beauty as many of the wines that are available in the winery.

The winery makes wine – every year, they import either juice or grapes and make the wines, 80% non-kosher and 20% kosher (and that number is growing). They make some crazy good kosher wines and they are available only at the winery. I did not get the chance to taste these wines before, other than a few barrel tastings with Yanky Drew two years ago. So, it was great to taste these wines at the wine tasting – more on that soon.

The winery is a crush winery – which makes wines for the wine lovers, allowing them to buy partial parts of a barrel or an entire barrel, and it allows them to be part of the wine-making experience. The entire effort is overseen by the head winemaker – David Lecomte, a Frenchmen in NY, with a love for wine and all things winemaking. Yanky is the associate wine maker and the cellar rat for the kosher wine barrels.

“We’ve had the luxury of buying our grapes from the best terroir in the country. For example, we’ve been getting Cab and Merlot from Napa Valley, Pinot Noir from Sonoma and Russian River, Syrah from Mendocino or Paso Robles,” says Dorf. The winery gets grapes from all over California, Oregon, and as far as Argentina!

However, wine is not the only part of the City Winery, Dorf is also a famous music promoter and that is the second arm of the winery – music. The intimate setting allows for small, close-knit interactions with musicians that come to the venue to rock out or jazz out and enjoy the crowds of music fans, drinking wine made at the winery and beer made at the winery. It is a dual armed business that makes for a great combination of good times and libations – what more could anyone ask for? Read the rest of this entry

Tishbi Winery – one of Israel’s oldest and original wineries

Tishbi Winery Tasting RoomThe Tishbi winery has a history that spans more than 120 years in Israel; one that intersects with many of the famous names of modern Israel’s short history. The story begins in 1882, when Malka and Michael Chemelitsky immigrated to the city of Shefeya at the foothills of Zichron Yaakov. There they worked for the Carmel Wine Co-op that was founded by Baron Edmund de Rothschild in the late 1800s. They worked the land, planting vineyards, clearing rubble and stones, with nothing more than the barest of tools and technology. The work was backbreaking and endless, and unfortunately more work, was the only reward for many of the early immigrants, that came to settle the barren land. However, for the few farmers that were lucky to work with Edmund, they saw salvation from his deep pockets, huge heart, and massive resources that he brought to bear, to teach, bolster, and, ultimately, build the, then fledgling, wine industry into the forebear of where it is today.

Soon after the Chemelitskys came to Israel and started working the land, they were advised to change their name to Tishbi, which is actually an acronym in Hebrew that stands for “resident of Shefeya in Israel”. The world-renowned poet Chaim Nachman Bialik, Israel’s national poet extraordinaire, gave the name to them. In the early days of Israel’s wine industry, the cooperative farmers would work the vines, planting them, pruning them, caring for them, and then sell their grapes to the Carmel Winery. However, after many decades of work and toil, it became clear to many of the cooperative farmers that life was changing, and that they would either need to break out of the cooperative or be left behind.

Tishbi Winery Tasting Room 2So, in 1984, the great-grandson of our story’s Protagonist, Jonathan Tishbi, stepped out of the shadows of the Carmel Winery and into the shadows of the Carmel Mountain range. Initially, he called his new winery Baron Winery, in honor of Baron Edmond, but later changed it to his namesake – Tishbi Winery. At that time there were few wineries in Israel, and even fewer successful ones that were not just making sacramental (sweet) wine. Jonathan went to Italy to see how generations of family-owned wineries had succeeded, and from where we stand, he seems to have emulated them quite impressively. The family tradition continues to the 5th generation, with Jonathan’s son – Golan Tishbi, acting head winemaker. The winery’s tradition is impressive, but it feels like it will always be overshadowed by the massive mountains under which it lays, and the equally massive foundation upon which it is built. Read the rest of this entry

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