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A Shabbat in Jerusalem with epic old world wines

As I have been posting so far, I enjoyed my last trip to Israel and Europe, and I am almost done with my Israeli winery posts. Last we left off, we had just had our second kosher wine tasting at DD’s house, and the first of the three wineries we visited on Friday – Domaine du Castel Winery. However before we get back to the other two wineries we visited on Friday, I wanted to post about the wines we enjoyed over the Shabbat that followed.

I will leave the story for another day, but I can say that Jerusalem was smoking hot Friday and Shabbat (chamsin-like), but thankfully dry. I spat throughout the tastings on Friday, where we went to Tzora Winery, Flam Winery, and the afore-posted Castel Winery. However, some of the group were less careful about spitting and combine that with the searing heat that did not cool till almost midnight – and that made for a viscous 1-2 punch that slowed some folks at the dinner table on Shabbat. However, come Shabbat day all were active and wine was flowing like bonkers. I brought over two wines, as I was asked to drink and forget Israeli wines, please, which is all I could have access to!

However, I was able to find the lovely 2016 La Vie Roubine rose and a total pass of a wine, the 2016 1848 White blend, flat and unimaginative, and the fantastic NV Yaacov Oryah Old musketeer, so I was 2 for 3, which is a very high batting average, but not a good wine present average. Though the NV Yaacov Oryah Old musketeer hopefully makes up for it.

Friday Night

The walk to dinner was preceded by a quick davening in a Sephardic shul that brought back memories of my youth when I spend Shabbosim in Jerusalem. Old and young mingling and davening with their own expressions and intonations, but all still together in spirit and fervor, a real joy. Of course, the other great part is that there was no schlepping of any sort! Gotta love praying in Jerusalem! There was a class by some Rabbi, but I remember none of it, I think that is clear enough.

As we made our way up to our host, the heat was receding a bit, but that is like saying it is easier to walk through torrential rain than a hail storm. It was tough, and it was straight uphill, a small fact that everyone felt free to not disclose to me ahead of time, very nice! To be fair I was not the one schlepping the 8 bottles of wine up that hill, those were strapped to the back of the “not so with us” participant, who courageously powered up the hill, weaving here and fro but upwards all the same! I had to stop once and when we arrived at our host’s home, I was literally blanched and unable to stand – the heat, the hike uphill, it took a toll on me and I must have drunk a gallon of water until I was human again.

Finally, we were ready for kiddush, at least most of us, and that was done on grape juice! Like what! Grape juice! Then I realized – this may be the home of a Frenchman, but it is also home to a few kids who drink grape juice first and then wine. The smallest of the three drinks wine just fine, but the other two enjoy tasting it. The house itself is quite lovely and the fact that it is still standing, notwithstanding the three young terrorists that live within its walls, is a testimony to the building skills of the masons and builders of Jerusalem!

I will skip the food as I was not really tracking what I was eating, not because it was not great, but more because I was greatly enamored by the wines in front of me and the need to sleep ASAP, it had been a long day at that point. Read the rest of this entry

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Back to the Future – the kosher French wines available today

Well, I hope all of you enjoyed the Passover respite (some see it as a stressful time, I see it purely as a joyous time, and yes I do a lot of cleaning as well). This post I wanted to talk about the kosher French wines that I have tasted recently.

Now I must stress that these are the wines that I have tasted, not ALL the wines that are available. There are hundreds of kosher French wines, and the vast majority of them never make it to the USA. With that said, I really LOVE the new crop of 2011 and 2012 wines that have made their way to the US and around the world. But before we jump into the nitty gritty and the tastings we need to take a step back and talk about French wines for a second.

Let us start with some very basic concepts around France and its wines. To start it is one of the oldest wine making locations in the world. Sure, Israel, may well be the oldest, but it stopped making wine for a very long time – till around the 1870s or so. Even then, they did not start making real world class wines till the 1980s (ignoring the 1901 and 1970 successes of Carmel).

France is once again the largest wine producer in the world, as of 2014, and most of it is quality wine. It is hard to find another country that makes so many good wines, so many vastly different wines – each from their own terroir – with such a long and storied history. The wines I will be talking about today are mostly from Bordeaux, the home of the “noble grapes of the world” – Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc (not on the official noble list), and Sauvignon Blanc. To be fair there are other noble grapes not in Bordeaux, like Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from Burgundy. Riesling – mostly from Alsace and Sauvignon Blanc again from Upper Loire. Toss in Syrah and Grenache from the Rhone and that comprises the wines that I am noting today.

I did not write Pinot Noir notes – I did that recently here and you can read my French wine notes there.

I have written often about the wines of the Rhone – because many of my favorite wines from California (Shirah and Hajdu) make most of their wines that comprise the region called Rhone. Those would be Syrah (as noted previously), Grenache, and Petite Sirah (not really Rhone at all, but the Rhone Rangers love it). With some Grenache Blanc and Viognier thrown in.

In case you have not yet realized it, but I have pretty much listed many of my own favorite varietals, and they all come from France. Truly France is the cradle of the wine world. Sadly, there was little to no kosher options in the 1980s, even though France itself was producing 10s of millions of cases of wine at that time.

Of course of all the varietals – Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot tend to grab all the headlines. Rightfully so to some, but to many the wines of the Rhone and Burgundy are of more interest. So, how does all of this work? France long ago decided to control what varietals would be planted and within the regions of its country that would produce the best wines possible. It is a foreign thought to many still, even here in the USA. Terroir defines France. Essentially the 300 or so appellations d’origine contrôlee (AOC) within the country are so designed and controlled to allow for creating the best wines possible. Planting Syrah in Bordeaux can be done – but why? Syrah requires far more heat and sun that Bordeaux can dish out – so Syrah was defined as a southern grape location – AKA Rhone, where it can flourish in all of its glory. Read the rest of this entry

Rosh Hashanah 2010/5771 – Friday Night

To start, Friday Night was not Rosh Hashanah; I just put Rosh Hashanah in the title of this blog posting because it came right after it, and to be true I could not come up with a better title 🙂 There were six meals in total eaten during the three day holiday time, and we had guests for two of them and ate in for the rest. It all started with the wonderful meal and get together on Wednesday Night, as described in my previous post. The next meal we had with guests was on Friday Night. Sandwiched in between them were three meals on our own, where I enjoyed wine from the first night. Thursday and Friday afternoon we enjoyed brie, fresh vine ripe tomatoes, and avocado. Thursday Night we had some more simanim, along with a sneak peek of Friday Night’s main course, along with some Roasted Fresh Green Beans, sliced onions, and a fresh salad.

Friday Night started with Lox and Boiled Eggs, along with Benyoganoush. Benyoganoush is Benyamin Cantz spin on Babaganoush. I call it a spin, because until we enjoyed the dish at Benyamin’s house, we were used to only store bought Babaganoush that is normally roasted eggplant submerged in a pool of mayonnaise – Yuk! However, Benyamin taught us that the recipe is truly as simple as it comes! The main course consisted of Tri-Sausage Stew, Brown Rice, Parve Spinach Kugel/Soufflé, and a fresh green salad. The Tri-Sausage stew consisted of three different sausages, as the name suggests; 12 oz of Merguez cut into chunks, 12 oz of Italian Sausage cut into chunks, and 12 oz of Tofurkey Kielbasa sausage. The rest of the Kielbasa Stew recipe stands (pretty much).

One of our guests brought us a Bordeaux, while I struck out with a so-so to bad bottle of Segal Fusion and a not so bad bottle of Vouvray, which is a Chenin Blanc wine that turned out to be quite nice.

The meal was a joy, because we got the chance to stretch our legs from the grueling Rosh Hashanah services that were long, and well worrisome. It is after all the Day of Judgment, with Yom Kippur being the day our judgment is sealed. We sang some lovely Shabbos songs, spoke about the week’s Torah portion, and just kicked back a bit. It was a wonderful meal, with a lovely group of friends, along with nice food and wine. Again, may God seal us all for a year of life, success, joy, and health – Shana Tova and Gamar Chatima Tova!

The wine notes follow below in the order they were served:

2007 Segal Fusion (Israel, Galilee, Upper Galilee) – Score: B
The nose on this purple colored wine shows clear effects of mevushal, the nose has cooked plum, blackberry, raspberry, black fruit, loamy dirt, spice, and oak. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is spicy with black pepper, cooked blackberry, plum/prune, and dirt. The mid palate is balanced with oak, nice tannins, and tobacco. The finish is long and spicy with cooked black fruit, raspberry, loamy dirt, and licorice.

2008 Clos de Nouys Vouvray Moelleux (France, Loire Valley, Touraine, Vouvray) – Score: B++
The nose on this straw to gold colored wine is rich and honeyed, with wet grass, floral, green apple, honey, guava, pear, and citrus. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is rich with honey, floral notes, green apple, and tropical fruit. The mid palate is semi-sweet with bracing and balanced acid and orange peel. The finish is long with honey, floral notes, tropical fruit, and citrus. A nice wine that has just enough complexity to get your attention and keep it, but not for long enough. This is pairs nicely with spicy food, medium to hard cheese, and rich white sauces.

2005 Château Le Bourdieu (France, Bordeaux, Médoc) – Score: B to B+
The nose and mouth on this wine starts off very slowly and can definitely use some air, but it is also a wine that is at its peak or a bit behind it, so it is a very careful balance that you need to keep an eye out for. The nose on this browning garnet colored wine has cherry, raspberry, currant, a hint of plum, along with coffee, smoke, bell pepper, and mineral. The mouth on this medium bodied wine has raspberry, currant, plum, and cherry. The mid palate is acidic with oak, almost integrated tannin, and oak. The finish is spicy and long with mineral, acid, coffee, and vegetal notes. This is a wine that works well with light meat, chicken, and medium cheese. The wine is one that can is medium weighted with enough to get some attention, but not enough to make it worthy of must have wine. Open it an hour in advance and then start enjoying it. Also, it is really nice chilled down to about 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

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