A tasting of M&M Importers’ latest imports – Feb 2023
It has been almost a year since my last “A tasting of M&M Importers’ latest imports – release post” and a week or so from the post about the three gorgeous Burgundies from Honest Grapes and M&M Importers. So, I was really excited to write this post about even more wonderful wines from Ralph Madeb, president and CEO of M&M Importers. These are almost all the Italian options; some can be found in Europe from Honest Grapes while all of them are here in the USA from some stores in and around NY and NJ. Sadly, I missed the new 2016 Brunello Riserva and the other 2 Sicilian wines. I hope to get a chance to taste those soon. There is also a Chianti Classico Riserva but that is still not here in the USA yet.
Just take a quick look at the wine notes below and you will find 6 QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) WINNER scores. That is incredible for such a small number of wines. Six out of ten WINNERS is just an incredible value-based lineup. Still, the prices are on the upper end of the QPR scale but the wines themselves are quite impressive.
I had tasted the Barbera before last year and the Mevushal Arneis in January of this year. Both of these wines were solid though I really want to taste the non-mevushal version of the 2021 Pescaja Solei’ Arneis. A QPR score of WINNER and a GOOD is impressive.
The Barbera is a fun, refreshing, and enjoyable wine that will probably not become something more than it is right now but one never knows!
The biggest name on this list and the most expensive was the 2017 Tassi Brunello di Montalcino, Bettina Cuvee, Brunello di Montalcino. I was ready for an over-the-top, bombastic beast of a wine, a trait that seems to be the calling card of the 2017 Brunello vintage. I was shocked when I opened the wine, first, the color threw me, and then the nose. The color of the wine, a characteristic I rarely talk about, was already bricking, but that seems to be par for the course with Brunello wines. Next, the nose was shocking, it smelled like a flower shop, filled with violets, geraniums, and very floral. Over the next two weeks I let this wine talk to me, yes, I wrote two weeks! The wine never went over the hill, it was rock solid, and it improved all the way to the finish line. Even two weeks later, the wine was not running out of steam, this is a wine that is built to go for a decade-plus, easily. Over time, the wine lost some of the floral notes and became more of what I expect from a Brunello, though it never went too ripe and never lost its precision, the only real issue I had was it felt more like a very nice Chianti than a Brunello. The tannin structure told you this was no Chianti, but the weight was clearly affected by whatever the winemaker did to counteract the screaming hot 2017 climate.
The star of these four wines, to me, is the stunning 2018 Tassi Aqua Bona, Bettina Cuvee, Montalcino. The wine went up in price but it still is on the upper edge of WINNER, by a hair, and while the price is high the wine is incredible! It has this umami and cedar notes that just blow you away! The wine’s complexity, and structure. control and elegance show well and the wine is equally built to last.
I had the Super Tuscan, the 2019 Rocca di Frassinello Le Sughere di Frassinello, Maremma Toscana twice and it showed far better this time. From the time of opening till it was done some 5 days later the wine never lost a step and shined throughout. The Sangiovese fruit shows more at the start while the Merlot makes its presence felt more later in the glass. I found the wine overall to be very nice and balanced with good acidity but overall lacked a step on the Aqua Bona.
Finally, the Pinot Noir was nice enough, it showed varietally correct, but there was not enough there to interest me.
I regret not getting the 2019 Castellare di Castellina Chianti Classico when it was out and available. That wine is lovely, and ethereal while being so Chianti, in all the right ways! The 2020 vintage is no slouch and it shows beautifully! A clear WINNER!
The pricing of this wine is higher than a Chianti Classico from Terra di Seta, but it is distinctly different! TDS is a wine that is sinuous, ripe, rich, and layered. The two Castellare di Castellina Chianti Classico, both 2019 and 2020, is more ethereal. They are clearly built to last and while I gave them a drinking window of 9 years or so, I am sure they can last longer, but I do not yet have enough history with the wine to go farther.
I was not expecting a lot after having tasted some other 2020 Chianti wines but this wine shined beautifully! This is a wine to lie down for a bit but if you must enjoy one now, I would decant this two hours in advance. Bravo!
There are two Montepulciano d’Abruzzo wines and I liked one of them and it scored a QPR score of WINNER while the other’s style was not my cup of tea.
The 2018 Valle Reale San Calisto, Montepulciano D’Abruzzo, Montepulciano D’Abruzzo is a beautiful wine and for the price, it is an obvious QPR WINNER. The balance, elegance, and structure all hit me while the acidity brings all that fruit and mouthfeel to bear. It is one of those wines that is uniquely Italian. The fruit, tertiary notes, leather, and smoke, were all unique in a single bottle but the telling characteristic was the bracing acidity, cherry notes, and ripeness. The bottle just screams Italian and is one that can be enjoyed now but only with a few hours of decanting. This would benefit a few years of bottle aging before diving in.
The 2018 Valle Reale Vigneto Sant’Eusanio, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo was a wine that was just too ripe for me. Eventually, the ripeness did calm but there was nothing there to find at that point. This is a wine that the new-world crowd would like and one that can maybe be a gateway wine to helping them appreciate old-world wines.
Finally, I tasted the kosher Sicilian Merlot. This was a lovely wine that does start a bit ripe but with time it really shows its colors and shows balance with bold fruit and lovely minerality and acidity. This is a wine that you cannot judge at the opening! If you MUST open this now, I would say to decant this for some 5 hours and then pour it back into the bottle. Double decanting and 5 hours of air may shake the true colors loose but I am not promising anything. Time will let this wine be free!
This tasting was not done in a day or a week, it took over three weeks to taste through the lineup and throughout it all, I kept to the same approach. Write the initial notes at the opening, then a few hours later write any changes, and then finally over the days I would add thoughts. The wines did evolve, other than a few, and when/if they did, the notes reflect those thoughts and concerns.
My sincerest thanks to Ralph and his partner at M&M Importers for sharing their wonderful wines with us all! The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:
2018 Tassi Aqua Bona, Bettina Cuvee, Montalcino – Score: 93+ (QPR: WINNER)
The nose of this wine is lovely, bright, tart, and very expressive, with notes of bramble, dirt, loam, graphite, bright red sour cherry, dark red berry, rosehip, rose petals, rich and very expressive toasted cedar, sandalwood, mushroom, and more minerality. Lovely!! The nose is so expressive from the opening and only gets better with time, impressive! The umami-centric nose is incredible with soy sauce, mushroom, and cedar notes that really take your breath away.
The mouth of this medium-plus-bodied wine is lovely, dirty, earthy, smoky, and precise, with good fruit focus, nice dark cherry, raspberry, tart plum, scraping minerality, loam, dirt, rose petals, and lovely mushroom. With time it opens to a rich toasted cedar expression and it overtakes the mouth with beautiful fruit, intense mushroom, forest floor, plush body, and intense dirt and minerality. Lovely! With even more time the lovely cedar calms down and the ripe fruit, intense acidity, mushroom, and smoke linger long on this full-bodied wine.
The finish is long, tart, bright, and layered, with rich minerality, intense graphite, lovely soy sauce, umami notes, loam, lovely truffle, and mushroom, loam, and dirt linger long. BRAVO! Drink from 2025 until 2033. (tasted February 2023) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 13.5%)
2017 Tassi Brunello di Montalcino, Bettina Cuvee, Brunello di Montalcino – Score: 93 (QPR: EVEN)
I rarely talk about color but this wine is brick red. The nose of this wine is a flower pot, with screaming and intense violets, rosehip, dirt, loam, tar, mint, and underbrush, with little to no red fruit on the nose, crazy! With time, the nose evolves to show lovely French oak, rich loam, dark red cherry, licorice, roasted herb, mint, garrigue, and sweet spice, lovely!
The mouth of this medium-bodied wine is lovely, with more rose, violet, and green notes, dirt, loam, and smoke, the mouth is precise and velvety, with tart plum. The real fun is the tart red berry profile, and dark sour cherry, backed by intense acidity, mineral notes, and smoke. The texture, mouthfeel, and puckering tannin structure keep getting more and more complex with time, it is still not 2016, but it has the potential to still be quite lovely, however, this needs loads of time. With even more time, the floral notes move to the background, and the puckering acidity and tannin take over, the plushness of the mouthfeel emerges and this wine is lovely!
The finish is long, tart, green, and smokey, with more flowers, nice mouth-draping tannin, licorice, and lovely acidity. Drink from 2024 until 2032. (tasted February 2023) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 14%)
Four Gates Winery’s January 2023 new releases
As you all know, I am a huge fan of Four Gates Winery, and yes Benyamin Cantz is a dear friend. So, as is my custom, as many ask me what wines I like of the new releases, here are my notes on the new wines.
I have written many times about Four Gates Winery and its winemaker/Vigneron Benyamin Cantz. Read the post and all the subsequent posts about Four Gates wine releases, especially this post of Four Gates – that truly describes the lore of Four Gates Winery.
Other than maybe Yarden and Yatir (which are off my buying lists – other than their whites and bubblies), very few if any release wines later than Four Gates. The slowest releaser may well be Domaine Roses Camille.
Four Gates grapes versus bought grapes
It has been stated that great wine starts in the vineyard, and when it comes to Four gates wine, it is so true. I have enjoyed the 1996 and 1997 versions of Benyamin’s wines and it is because of the care and control that he has for his vineyard. That said, the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes he receives from Monte Bello Ridge show the same care and love in the wines we have enjoyed since 2009.
I have immense faith in Benyo’s wines which are sourced from his vineyard and the Monte Bello Ridge vineyard. The other wines, that he creates from other sources, are sometimes wonderful, like the 2010 Four Gates Syrah that I tasted recently, and I would have sworn it was a Rhone wine, crazy minerality, acid, and backbone, with fruit NOT taking center stage, though ever so evident, the way is meant to be! Others, while lovely on release may well not be the everlasting kind of Four Gates wines.
One new wine
This year we have the return of Petit Verdot is from the Santa Clara Valley AVA, and another Malbec from the same vineyard as in 2019, in Santa Cruz, but not from the Four Gates vineyards. There is a new Cabernet Franc, all the way from Santa Barbara County, not a location I normally associate with Cabernet Franc, but it is a REAL WINNER, in all ways!
That ends the list of wines I call – not Four Gates wines. I state this because the Four Gates Cabernet Sauvignon, is also not from the Four Gates vineyard, but for all intent and purpose, of what I care about, the quality is as good or better than the Four Gates vineyard and it has proven itself as such for more than a decade!
The rest of the wines are the normal suspects, though this year’s crop feels riper than the 2017s, still, the Cabernet and Merlot are incredibly beautiful wines. There are two Chardonnay and they are both sold under the Four Gates label, there is no Ayala this year. Next, you have the 2019 Pinot Noir, a bit riper than I like it but a solid wine. Then you have the 2018 Merlot and the 2018 Merlot, La Rochelle, both are beautiful wines! The true star of this release is the 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon, a shockingly ripe but true wine, the fruit is clean, expressive, and true to its nature, a lovely and very unique wine. Finally, there is the 2018 Frère Robaire, which while nice, is a step back from what I expect from a Frère Robaire.
Prices and Quantities
I have heard it over and over again. That I and others caused Benyo to raise his prices. First of all that is a flat-out lie. I never asked for higher prices, but when asked about the value of his wines, the real answer I could give was more than 26 dollars.
Let us be clear, all of us that got used to 18/26 dollar prices and stocked up on his wines in those days should be happy. The fact that he raised prices, is a matter of basic price dynamics, and classic supply and demand. Four Gates has been seeing more demand for wines while the quantity of what is being made is slowing down.
The law of Supply and Demand tells you that the prices will go up, even if you beg for lower prices.
Four Gates Winery is one of the few cult wineries in the kosher wine world that releases wines every year. Sure there have been crazy cult wines, like the 2005 and 2006 DRC wines, or some other such rarities. His wines are in a class of their own, especially when it is his grapes, and there is less of it out there.
This year, the prices reached their highest Zenith, and it took some 30 minutes to fully sell out. The lower-priced wines sold out in the usual 8 or so minutes while the Cabernet and Merlot and Frère Robaire were the last to go. Still, the crazy prices people paid for the Auction wines that just finished selling this past Sunday show the intense demand for Four Gates wines.
My thanks to Michel and Sima Rynderman for hosting the tasting and for putting up with me and Benyo crashing their home and keeping them both up far later than we should have!! Also, Michel’s awesome Apple phone was used to take lovely pictures – thank you, sir!!!
The notes speak for themselves. Again, this year, I “liked” all the options for sale, though I did not buy the Malbec in case anyone is asking. 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:
2021 Four Gates Chardonnay, Cuvee Rishon, Santa Cruz Mountains, CA – Score: 92 (QPR: WINNER)
This is a very unique wine from Four Gates. This is a Chardonnay that was picked early, hence the “Cuvee Rishon” name. It is very different than previous vintages – very cool! The nose of this wine is fruity, not oak-bomb, with rich gooseberry, guava, melon, and Asian Pear, very fun, with rich saline, orange blossom, jasmine, and spice. The mouth of this medium-plus-bodied wine is not in line with the nose, with a lovely mouthfeel, great acidity, sweet oak, spice, orange, nectarines, green/yellow apple, Asian pear, and lovely sweet oak, sweet baking spices, and more saline. The finish is long, tart, ripe, balanced, and refreshing, with lovely vanilla, cloves, nutmeg, sweet oak, and yellow blossom lingering long. Bravo!! Drink until 2030. (tasted December 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 14.2%)
2021 Four Gates Chardonnay, Santa Cruz Mountains, CA – Score: 91.5 (QPR: GOOD)
The nose of this wine is fruity, not oak-bomb, with rich guava, melon, Asian Pear, honeydew, rich saline, orange blossom, jasmine, and spice. The mouth of this medium-plus-bodied wine is more in line with the nose, with a slightly fuller mouthfeel than the Cuvee Rishon, nice acidity, sweet oak, spice, orange, lemon/pomelo, yellow apple, Asian pear, and lovely sweet oak, sweet baking spices. The finish is long, tart, ripe, balanced, and refreshing, with lovely vanilla, cloves, nutmeg, sweet oak, and yellow blossom lingering long. Bravo!! Drink until 2028. (tasted December 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 14.2%)
2020 Four Gates Petit Verdot, Santa Clara Valley, CA – Score: 91 (QPR: EVEN)
This is what Petit Verdot should smell and taste like, clean lines, not over the top, and well-balanced. The nose of this wine is lovely, with bright fruit, smoke, herbs, lovely baking spices, roasted animal, soy sauce, lovely violet, rosehip, and nice black, red, and blue fruit. Nice! The mouth of this medium to full-bodied wine is layered, and lovely, with ripe boysenberry, raspberry, ripe strawberry, and ripe plum, all wrapped in sweet tannin, cedar, smoke, and intense acid, well balanced, with gripping tannin, and nice fruit focus. Bravo! The finish is long, bright, tart, ripe, and balanced, with more smoke, leather, roasted meat, and great fruit. Drink until 2026. (tasted December 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 14%)
2020 Four Gates Malbec, Santa Cruz Mountains, CA – Score: 88 (QPR: POOR)
The nose of this wine is too ripe for me but this will hit the spot for those that like this style. The nose of this wine changes quickly and turns very fruity, too ripe, with zinberry, ripe blackcurrant, leather, meat, smoke, tar, and over-the-top fruit. The mouth of this full-bodied wine is too ripe for me, almost fig-like, with dried fig, blackcurrant, smoke, dried plum, and mouth-draping tannin with nice sweet oak. The finish is long, ripe, over-the-top, and smoky. Drink by 2026. (tasted December 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 15.2%)
2020 Four Gates Cabernet Franc, Santa Barbara County, CA – Score: 92.5 (QPR: WINNER)
This wine is sourced from Santa Barbara County and it shows. The nose of this wine starts with nice bell pepper, spice, cloves, cinnamon, gravel, hints of jalapeno, and nice red fruit. The mouth of this medium-bodied-plus is ripe, with nice ripe strawberry, raspberry, plum, and hints of elderberry, with a bit too much green notes, nice acidity, good fruit focus, nice acidity, refreshing, with good mouth-draping tannin, and some elegance, nice! The finish is long, tart, ripe, and fruity, with good acidity, nice leather, vanilla, and good red/blue fruit. Drink until 2030. (tasted December 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 14.2%)
My top 25 kosher wines of 2022, including the Wine of the Year, Winery of the Year, the Best Wine of the Year, and the Best Mevushal wines 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 scored a 93 or higher.
We are returning with the “wine of the year”, “best wine of the year” “Winery of the Year”, and “Best White wine of the year”, along with a last year’s new addition the – “Best Mevushal wine of the year”. Wine of the year goes 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.
The Mevushal wine of the year is something I dread. I understand the need for a wine that can be enjoyed at restaurants and events, but when we start seeing Château Gazin Rocquencourt and Chevalier de Lascombes go Mevushal – we know we have a problem. As I have stated in the past, if this is what needs to happen, then please sell both options as many do with Peraj Petita/Capcanes, Psagot wines, and many others. Still, it is a wine and as such, it needs a best-of-the-year moniker, so we do it once again!
This past year, I tasted more wines than I have ever, in the past. Now to be clear here, I did not taste many Israeli wines as they have proven to me over and over again, even with the much-ballyhooed 2018 vintage that they are not worth my spending my money on. Still, I did taste a large number of Israeli wines both in my home and at KFWE events. I spent a fair amount of time tasting all the French and European wines I could get my hands on and I feel that is where I added the most value, IMHO. For those that like the Israeli wine style – other writers/bloggers can point you in some direction. This past year, was a return to an above-average year but not as good as last year’s list because last year’s 2019 wines were incredible and precise.
Last year’s list was star-studded and was driven by the incredible 2019 vintage. This year’s list is solid and will highlight a few top 2020 wines, but the clear winner will highlight a 2019 wine that missed making last year’s list because it was released later.
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. If last year, I thought the roses were pure junk, this year, you can add another nail in the coffin of rose wines, IMHO. Last year’s list was stronger with some 123 WINNER wines, this year we had 95. Still, another overall solid year.
Royal Wines continues to impress with the wines they make or import. However, slowly, more lovely wines are being made from other sources though they are harder to find in the USA or outside of Europe.
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, still. Thankfully, we have some awesome entries, from the incredible 2020 Chateau Malartic Blanc to the lovely 2021 Covenant Solomon Blanc, to the beautiful 2021 Jean-Philippe Marchand Meursault.
Finally, this year is the year of the Clos! Between the awesome Wine of the Year – the 2018 Clos Mesorah and the Clos Lavaud from Domaine Roses Camille, the Winery of the year, long live the Clos!!!
The wines on the list this year are all available here in the USA, and in Europe, and a few can be found in Israel, as well. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:
The 2022 Kosher Winery of the Year
This award continues to get harder and harder each year. The sad cold, hard truth is that there are too few great kosher wineries. When I started this award, some 4 years ago I thought it would only get easier. Sadly, there are a few truths that limit my ability to give out this award.
First, as much as we have been blessed with great Kosher European wines, in the past 6 years, most of those blessings come under the auspices of single-run kosher wines. Chateau Leoville Poyferre, Château Smith Haut Lafitte, you name it, are all based upon kosher runs. What we have in Europe, kosher-winery-wise, is Terra di Seta, Cantina Giuliano, and Elvi Wines (including Clos Mesorah). Along with this year’s winner, Domaine Roses Camille. Officially, Domaine Roses Camille only became 100% kosher in 2020, but for all intent and purpose, they have been producing the vast majority of their wines in kosher, since 2011.
The requirements to receive this award are simple, the winery must be kosher, not a kosher-run, the quality must be consistent, and the wines must be readily available. The last requirement is the main reason why Four Gates Winery has yet to win the award, but at this point, it is only a matter of time, as kosher wine availability is becoming less of an issue overall, given the sheer number of cult-like kosher wineries that exist today.
Domaine Roses Camille was one of those cult-like wineries at the start when they produced a stunning 2005 Pomerol. It hit that cult status when the late Daniel Rogov called it the best kosher wine he had ever had, at that point, anyway.
As always, my disclaimers. The U.S. importer of Domaine Roses Camille is Andrew Breskin, of Liquid Kosher, and a person I call a friend. This past week I spent two days with him tasting many a wine, that post will follow my year-in-review posts, along with the Four Gates Winery new releases post.
Domaine Roses Camille’s winemaker is Christophe Bardeau. I have had the honor of meeting him a few times and he always comes across as a kind and professional person. While the main two wines, Domaine Roses Camille and the Echo Roses Camille come from Pomerol, he also makes wines from other regions in Bordeaux, like the Clos Lavaud (Lalande de Pomerol), Chateau Moulin de la Clide (a wine that took on its cult-like status as it was sadly a one and done run), Chateau Marquisat de Binet, and others.
Now, to be clear, the Domaine Roses Camille, Echo Roses Camille, and Clos Lavaud – which are all in Pomerol are made in Domaine Roses Camille winery, the 2022 Winery of the year. The one-off Moulin de la Clide and the lovely Chateau Marquisat de Binet were/are made in those Chateaus. Christophe Bardeau made/makes all the other wines but I named them here for completeness.
Pomerol is a lovely location and the wines of Domaine Roses Camille continue to impress. The Clos Lavaud is a year-in-year-out QPR WINNER along with the Echo Roses Camille. They are both perennially great wines and wines we all are very lucky to have in the kosher wine market! The flagship wine, Domaine Roses Camille has never had a bad year, it is the model of consistency, and the only years it was not made kosher was during the lean years of the kosher wine market in France, 2007 – 2010 (inclusively). It does come in at a higher cost than other kosher Pomerol wines but the high-end quality of Domaine Roses Camille matches the prices and longevity potential of other high-end quality kosher wines that cost much more than the DRC does. Yeah, there, I slipped, we all call the Domaine Roses Camille, our kosher DRC, but yeah, we all know what the real DRC is and that is a different wine region and price, all together!
So, with mad props and great happiness, and hope for even more success, I say Bravo to Christophe Bardeau and Andrew Breskin for all the hard work and lovely wines. The quality of the wines that are here and will be coming, in the future (I tasted many of them over this past week), are impressive and I wish them only continued success!Read the rest of this entry
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
A few good red wines along with too many misses – Jan/Feb 2022 Tasting
This is my second QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) WINNER Hit and Miss post of 2022 and while this started in January as a poor showing, I had two more wines in February that made the overall post much better. We started with one QPR WINNER and that grew to three WINNER by February. Still, the star of the show was the first QPR WINNER, the 2016 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico, Assai, Gran Selezione, Chianti Classico!
This post is filled with many more examples of what people are raving about from Israel, the 2018 red vintage, and all I can say is, yes they are not date juice! They are not uncontrolled madness, they are OK, they lack acidity and mostly they are copy and paste of each other with different fruit. Still, an improvement over other vintages. Essentially, much like the 2016 vintage, another highly vaunted vintage, which I described to my buddy EA as: “milk chocolate, either blue or black fruit, loads of cedar and tobacco – copy and paste wines”.
I wish it was better, even when God forces a winery to make good wine by keeping the temperatures at bay, they still make mediocre stuff. Such is life! Thankfully, we are blessed with Terra di Seta, aka TDS, which won my first ever winery of the year in 2019 and a winery that I have been touting for many years now! The newly released 2016 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico, Assai, Gran Selezione, is a stunning wine and maybe their best Assai so far!
The next two QPR WINNER are the 2019 Herzog Winery Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, and the 2020 Chateau Signac Pliocene, Cotes du Rhone. I must say, the 2019 Herzog is shockingly ripe but the level of acidity it has really helped to tamp down the fruit and with time they all work together to make a harmonious wine. Still, it is ripe to start so leave this wine alone for many years. The 2020 Chateau Signac Pliocene, on the other hand, is lovely and ready to go. It is NOT as ripe as the 2018 vintage, but it is nice and very enjoyable for the next few years.
Finally, there is a repeat tasting of the 2019 Pavillon du Vieux Chantre, Puisseguin Saint-Emilion. As I stated in the Moises Taieb post, I needed to taste a few wines a second time and I am happy I did. The 2019 Pavillon du Vieux Chantre showed beautifully and just as I expected it to, after having tasted all the previous vintages. Thankfully, this wine is available in the USA in an easy-to-find location, from Andrew Breskin and Liquid Kosher.
The rest are OK, QPR score-wise, with only one wine garnering a score of GREAT, which is the 2017 Ma’ayan Asis Blend, these are relabeled wines from Tom Winery. The Tzora was nice but overpriced for what it gives.
I also tasted three 2019 Pinot Noirs and the clear winner, of those three, was the 2019 Goose Bay Pinot Noir, Small Batch. It is a lovely wine and one to enjoy over the next couple of years.
The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:
2016 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico, Assai, Gran Selezione, Chianti Classico – Score: 93.5 (QPR: WINNER)
This vintage of Assai is its best and this wine is 100% Glorious, rich, elegant, focused, balanced, fruity, but tart, refreshing and concentrated – WOW! BRAVO!!! The nose on this wine is pure heaven, it is soy sauce, funk, forest floor, mushroom, fruity, red and black fruit, tar, smoke, violet, very floral, wild herbs, and rich mineral. The mouth on this medium to full-bodied wine is ripe, concentrated, but well-controlled, with ripe plum, dark strawberry, candied raspberry compote, with menthol, licorice, baking spices, all wrapped in dense sweet oak and elegant draping tannins, just incredible! The finish is long, dense, dark, rich, layered, concentrated, yet perfectly balanced, with screaming acidity, rich espresso coffee, mushrooms, almost truffle, forest floor, mineral, charcoal, graphite, and star anise. WOW!!! Drink from 2026 until 2033. BRAVO!!! (tasted January 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 15%)
Final Tasting from my trip to Paris – November 2021
As stated in my previous post, I was in Paris in November, and while it took forever to post these notes, I am happy to finally be getting to them at this point. The total number of boxes in our hotel room, much like in June, still makes me laugh!
As I stated, in my previous post, I kept to my hotel room for much of the trip. I was joined by Avi Davidowitz from Kosher Wine Unfiltered. Even vaccinated, I was worried, as such we kept to ourselves, where possible. Almost all the wines below were tasted with Avi, in our hotel room, a few were tasted after he returned home to Israel.
I truly enjoyed the Château de Marmorières Les Amandiers, La Clape, Languedoc we had in June. So, I made sure Avi tasted that along with other wines from the winery, which was only released after I left Paris in June. The rose and white were nice while the Cab and Merlot were less interesting.
White wines from all over France
For the most part, the list was weak as it had too many boring Chablis. There were one or two nice wines, so look for those WINNERS. The best of that group has the worst name I have ever seen – LaCheteau Sauvignon Blanc – like seriously??? Anyway, horrible name – great wine!
Charles Pere & Fils Burgundy Wines
I was hoping to enjoy some 2020 Burgundy wines, but sadly, none of them stood out in a good way. They felt rushed, not complete, and overall, lackluster. I hope subsequent vintages will be better.
We had wines from Famille Daubree and Les Vins De Vienne and neither of them stood out. Again, they were very ripe, and we gave them days to come around, they never did. These are not what I am looking for. They are well made but too ripe for me. If you like well-made ripe French wine, try them out.
Various Bordeaux Wines
This group was a total loser, just like in June, except this time – there were no new wines to save me! Thankfully, for Avi, there were many of the wines I enjoyed in June, but for me, there was not a SINGLE red wine I would drink. That is how bad the options were!
German Weingut Gehring Wines
These wines were the most enjoyable and reasonably priced wines we tasted in our own tasting. The wines were made for an Israeli entrepreneur, who was going to sell them to hotels and restaurants, but sadly, he died, and the wines just sat in Germany! Some of them made their way to Israel anyway and that is where Avi and a few others saw them and worked crazy hard to buy them. Avi brought one wine with him, but I wanted to taste them all, there are three of them.
Weingut Gehring made three kosher wines with this gentleman who passed away, a Riesling, Grauer Burgunder (Pinot Gris), and an off-dry muscat. So, while I was in France I called the winery and paid them to ship the wines to my hotel, which worked perfectly! That was how I was able to taste all three of them. The wines that were sent to me all have Hebrew back labels as they were meant for the Israeli market and while the Hechsher is good it is not one many would know.
Thoughts on this tasting
Overall, these wines were unimpressive, but wow did we find some real sleepers! The 2020 LaCheteau Sauvignon Blanc, Les Cimes, Haut-Poitou, Loire Valley is a no-brainer for those in France/Europe. Same for the two german wines. Other than that it was a total mess and I hope the next trip will have better options!
Though none of these wines will ever make it to the USA shores, some are in Israel and I feel bad for you. The LeChateau is in Israel, but I have no idea if there were transport issues, like with many other French wines imported into Israel, in the past. The two German wines were in Israel but I have no idea about their distribution. Either way, thankfully, these wines can stay in France/Europe, there is nothing I want here, other than maybe the German wines, but I think they are all spoken for.
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 Chevalier De Marmorieres Rose, Vin de France – Score: 90.5 (QPR: GREAT)
Clean smelling rose with good lines, bright fruit, floral notes of violet, honeysuckle, raspberry, honeyed fruit, and tart lemon. Nice job, the mouth on this medium-bodied rose is tart, right on the money, well priced, with lovely strawberry, sweet pomelo, mango, with searing acidity, tart lemon, lemon pith, sweet peach, and nice refreshing acidity to bring it all together – nice! The finish is long, ripe, and well-balanced, with slate, acid, and good fruit. Nice! Drink now! (tasted November 2021)
2020 Chevalier De Marmorieres Blanc, Vin de France – Score: 90 (QPR: GOOD)
The nose on this wine is very fruity, smells a lot like Viognier, with white peach, apricot, funk, guava, and sweet fruit. The mouth on this opens slowly, with nice acidity, that is slow to fully show, nice acidity, with guava, ripe peach, Pomelo, sweet honeysuckle, honeyed tropical fruit, and ripe melon. The finish is long, tart, ripe, and well balanced, with more funk, saline, mineral, and slate. Nice! (tasted November 2021) (in Paris, France) (ABV = 12.50%)
Another round of QPR (Quality to Price ratio) Hits and Misses
It has been a few months since my last QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) post and 10 or more people have been emailing me about the EPIC 2019 terra di Seta Chianti, that I said, I had to pump out another post ASAP!
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 superstars like Elvi Wines’s new 2017 Clos Mesorah and many others. It goes to show that when wineries reasonably price wines, even 70 dollar wines can be a QPR winner!
We have quite a lovely set of QPR WINNERS:
- 2017 Elvi Wines Clos Mesorah
- 2019 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico
- 2019 Cantina del Redi Pleos Toscana Sangiovese
- 2019 Capcanes Peraj Ha’abib Pinot Noir
- 2019 Chateau D’Arveyres Bordeaux Superieur
- 2016 Chateau La Clare Grand Vin de Bordeaux
- 2018 Vieux Chateau Chambeau Reserve
- 2018 Hagafen Cabernet Franc
- 2018 Hagafen Cabernet Sauvignon
- 2019 Hagafen Riesling, Off-Dry
There were also a few wines that are a slight step behind with a GREAT or GOOD QPR score:
- 2016 La Chenaie du Bourdieu Grand Vin de Bordeaux
- 2018 Secret des Chevaliers Grand Reserve
- 2020 Bartenura Prosecco Rose
- 2019 Golan Heights Winery Riesling
- 2020 Sheldrake Point Gewurztraminer
- 2020 Unorthodox Sauvignon Blanc
- 2016 Hagafen Merlot, Prix, Reserve
- 2016 Hagafen Cabernet Sauvignon, Prix, Reserve, MJT
- 2018 Hagafen Merlot
There are a few wines that got a QPR Score of EVEN – meaning expensive or average:
- 2019 Hajdu Montepulciano – a nice wine but very expensive
- 2019 Domaine du Castel Petit Castel – nice enough but very expensive
- 2019 Golan Heights Winery Pinot Noir, Gilgal (Gamla) – not interesting but cheap
- 2020 Gendraud Patrice Chablis – nice enough and expensive
- 2020 Vitkin Israeli Journey
2020 Gush Etzion Sauvignon Blanc
2020 Domaine De Panquelaine Coteaux Du Giennois
2020 Bat Shlomo Sauvignon Blanc – OK or even nice enough but expensive
The others are essentially either OK wines that are too expensive, duds or total failures:
- 2016 Hagafen Pinot Noir, Prix, Reserve
- 2017 Chateau de By, Grand Vin de Bordeaux
- 2019 Hajdu Grenache
- 2019 Hagafen Don Ernesto’s Ah-Ha!
- 2016 Hagafen Melange, Prix, Reserve
- 2017 Herzog Quartet
- 2019 Flam Classico
- 2019 Twin Suns Pinot Noir
- 2019 Vanita Nero d’Avola
- 2018 Tabor Eco, Red
- 2017 Segal Cabernet Sauvignon, Dishon
- 2016 Tabor Merlot, Adama
- 2017 Tabor Shiraz, Adama
- 2018 Matar Stratus
- 2018 Matar Cumulus
- 2018 Celler de Capcanes Peraj Ha’abib (Mevushal version)
- 2020 Shiran Chardonnay
- 2017 Hagafen Chardonnay, Prix
- 2018 Tabor Eco, White
- 2019 Covenant Lavan Chardonnay
- 2020 Domaine De Panquelaine Sancerre
- 2018 Pascal Bouchard Chablis, Le Classique
- 2018 Binyamina Chardonnay, The Chosen
- 2019 Chateau le Petit Chaban
- 2019 Chateau Mayne Guyon Grand Vin
- 2019 Covenant Cabernet Sauvignon
Some things that made me stand up and take notice (AKA QPR WINNERS):
The first BIG takeaway for me, was that Hagafen Wine Cellars is back, at least in regards to red wine! I was there to taste some wines with Gabriel Geller and I was impressed by the 2016 and 2018 red wines. There were some misses as well but overall, 2 QPR WINNERS and 3 QPR GOOD to GREAT scores – that is good stuff!!! There is also the very nice, but expensive, 2018 Hagafen Sauvignon Blanc, Prix. It is really fun and while it is oak-driven, it is a nice wine and it just needs some time.
Terra di Seta Continues to CRUSH it! Two more EPIC wines at QPR WINNER status, we need a super QPR WINNER status! Fear not I am joking. Anyway, the 2019 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico is beautiful, more elegant than previous vintages, but without the sheer power of the 2018 vintage. The 2016 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico, Riserva, is a sheer powerhouse, but one that is far more accessible than previous vintages, this may well be the best in some time!
Royal has another Italian QPR WINNER with the 2019 Cantina del Redi Pleos Toscana Sangiovese, yes another Sangiovese, and no, it is not better than the TDS and it is a bit more expensive, and it is not Mevushal, so I am not sure how it fits into the Royal portfolio puzzle, but hey, that is not my job to worry about!
The 2019 Capcanes Pinot Noir is on point a very nice wine – the 2019 vintage, from all over the world, has given us a bounty of choices for Pinot Noir!
Finally, there are more French QPR WINNERS, like the 2019 Chateau D’Arveyres Bordeaux Superieur. The previous vintages were bad to horrible, but this one returns to its old form. The 2016 Chateau La Clare, Grand Vin de Bordeaux also is very nice, it continues its theme of well-priced Bordeaux wine for a reasonable price, and it is Mevushal. I would happily drink this or 2015 at a restaurant – no questions asked. Finally, the 2018 Vieux Chateau Chambeau Reserve is a nice wine for the price, though it is harder to find, it may be worth the effort.
Other wines worth of note (AKA QPR GREAT or GOOD):
I am happy to say there are other solid wines – and many are European. I found some of these at NYC stores (not online) and others online.
The 2016 La Chenaie du Bourdieu Grand Vin de Bordeaux, is not a new wine for me, I had it at Taieb in 2019 and I was happy to see it here in the USA. Another nice wine was a new one for me, the 2018 Secret des Chevaliers Grand Reserve, a simple enough wine but at the price, it has a SOLID QPR.
I was shocked to finally find a Prosecco I could taste without physically making me ill. I have had a few in the past, but this one is the best of the bunch, for now. I am talking about the 2020 Bartenura Prosecco Rose, solid if this is your kind of wine. For me, there is no better QPR WINNER or bubbly, for the price, than the Yarden and Gilgal (AKA Gamla) wines.
Talking about Yarden, the 2019 Golan Heights Winery Riesling is nice, not my cup of tea, but for those with a sweeter tooth than mine – BUY THIS or the Pacifica Riesling.
The same can be said for the 2020 Sheldrake Point Gewurztraminer. I liked the 2020 Sheldrake Point Riesling and scored it a WINNER, the Gewurztraminer is not as good, but that is fine, this is another wine made for those with a sweeter tooth.
The shocker for me, in my previous tastings at home, was the 2020 Unorthodox Sauvignon Blanc! Look, I have had their wines for years, and they have all made me unhappy. This is, honestly, the first Unorthodox wines, of any sort, that I have liked. Solid deal.
The rest of the good to great QPR wines are all Cali. There were three more wines from 2016 and 2018 at Hagafen that I liked but not as much as the ones above. The 2016 Hagafen Merlot, Prix, Reserve, 2016 Hagafen Cabernet Sauvignon, Prix, Reserve, MJT, and 2018 Hagafen Merlot, are nice enough wines. They lack complexity and tug to make me more interested.
Wines that are either good but too expensive or average (AKA EVEN):
The only wine I wanted to highlight is the 2019 Hajdu Montepulciano. It is a lovely wine that while I enjoyed it is just too expensive for the value.
Wines that are either OK but far too expensive or bad wines (AKA BAD):
I wanted to highlight the 2019 Covenant Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2019 Covenant Chardonnay, Lavan. They are nice enough wines but not like the days of old, and expensive. The same idea can be said for the 2017 Hagafen Chardonnay, Prix.
There are also, many duds to losers and I will just leave you to peruse the names and scores down below.
The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:
2017 Elvi Wines Clos Mesorah – Score: 94 (QPR: WINNER)
This is a super elegant, floral, and feminine wine, bravo!! The nose on this wine is beautiful, showing floral notes of violet, white flowers, with blueberry, black fruit, smoke, roasted duck, earth, and loads of smoke, dirt, and loam. The mouth on this full-bodied wine is so elegant, layered, concentrated, earthy, fruity, smoky, and richly extracted, with boysenberry, blackberry, dark cherry, plum, smoke, earth, loam, and lovely sweet cedar, with green notes, sweet tobacco, sweet basil, and lovely acid. The finish is long, green, with draping elegant tannin, sweet smoking tobacco, dark chocolate, white pepper, and anise. Bravo!! Drink from 2025 until 2035. (tasted April 2021)
2019 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico – Score: 92+ (QPR: WINNER)
The nose on this wine is lovely, with ripe notes, which is classic for a Chianti so young, with classic notes of burnt rubber, balsamic vinegar, rich smoke, incredible mineral, dark red fruit, menthol, and roasted animal, with loads of roasted herbs. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is lovely, richly extracted ripe, and layered, with incredible acidity, this has to be the highest acid we have ever tasted on Terra di Seta wines, the body is lighter than previous vintages, with incredibly ripe fruit, at the start, but the crazy acidity makes it work, with dark plum, rich ripe cherry, menthol galore, with incredible minerality, showing saline, rocks, charcoal, with light tannins, showing beautiful mouthfeel but after a short time the mouthfeel goes thin and the fruit-focus is gone, this is a strange wine indeed! The finish is a bit short, with lovely smoke, mineral, dark chocolate-covered espresso, with more dried herbs, oregano, and dried mint. Drink by 2027. I am surprised by this wine, I will need to see where this goes, for now, I like it, and I will buy more, but it may not be for long holding.
OK, so that was the notes after opening the bottle and tasting. The next day – the wine evolved into the classic wine we all take for granted! Now the nose is intoxicating, the ripeness has calmed down greatly, as I expected, but now the nose is dominated by lovely dried porcini mushrooms, dense fruit, menthol, smoke, roasted duck, and soya sauce galore, wow what a nose!! The mouth has evolved beautifully, and while the tannins are still gentler than in previous vintages the wine is lush, plush, and mouth-filling, the hole or shortness is gone, and now it is everything I want in a wine, though the weight has not filled out and I think this is just a lighter wine but the tannins are draping and mouth-filling, elegance is clear and the wine is lovely. This is a wine that can be enjoyed earlier than previous vintages, the minerality on this one is off the charts! 2018 is richer and fuller, while 2019 is more elegant, simply stated. Bravo!! Drink from 2022 until 2029, if you want it now, decant for 5 hours or take a glass, close it and enjoy it the next day. (tasted April 2021)
2019 Cantina del Redi Pleos Toscana Sangiovese – Score: 91+ (QPR: WINNER)
The nose on this wine is classic, dirty, earthy, smoky, with controlled ripe fruit, nice structure and loads of earth, lovely floral notes of rose and violet, and dark fruit in the background. The mouth on this medium to full-bodied wine is ripe, and concentrated with nice extraction, showing nice acidity, rich fruit-focus, with black plum, strawberry, dark raspberry, hints of blackberry, with an intense acid and mineral core, showing richness, with layers of fruit, dirt, earth, charcoal, rosehip, mouth-draping tannin, and lovely structure. The finish is long, dark, with hints of green, mushroom, red and dark fruit, tannin, more floral notes, and earth lingering long, with coffee, and leather. Nice!! Drink until 2026. (tasted March 2021)
Three nice Italian wines from Cantina Giuliano, including a QPR WINNER
I recently had the chance to taste three wines from Cantina Giuliano one of the few kosher wineries in Europe, along with Terra di Seta, and Elvi Wines. In the past, I have found the Cantina Giuliano wines to be nice but not wines I would buy. Last year I liked the rose enough to buy some and drink them right away. However, this year, Eli & Lara Gauthier have made some nice wines and I hope this goes up from here!
I was able to taste the 2020 rose and Vermentino along with the 2019 Merlot, all of them are sourced from Tuscany. The Rose was lovely but the Vermentino was fun, while the Merlot is a GREAT find and one that is a wonderful quaff.
My many thanks to Eli & Lara Gauthier from Cantina Giuliano and Shai Ghermezian from Allied Importers. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:
2020 Cantina Giuliano Vermentino – Score: 91 (QPR: WINNER)
This feels like what I always wanted from a Vermentino, acid, fruit, crazy mineral, and more mineral, just lovely! The nose on this wine starts off a bit strange, let it air out, with 20 minutes or so, the nose turns into mineral and fruit heaven, with notes of lemon blossom, Meyer lemon, lime, and stone fruit, with intense mineral, flint, and smoke, really fun! The mouth on this mineral-laden and acid core wine is lovely, showing intense mineral, acidity, with lovely saline, olives, peach, apple, and searing acidity – wow! The finish is long, green, fun, with intensity, refreshing, saline, Meyer lemon/lime, and olives. Bravo! (tasted March 2021)
2020 Cantina Giuliano Rosato – Score: 90 (QPR: GREAT)
This wine is lovely, not as epic or as minerally laden as the 2019 but a lovely rose, in a vintage where there are so very few Rose I would drink. The nose on this wine is lovely, bright fruit, tart, with bright aromas of red fruit, strawberry, and crème, bright passion fruit, citrus, with lovely orange blossom, and orange rind notes. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine has a nice weight, shows a good fruit focus, with nice strawberry, tart, and juicy raspberry, bracing acidity, well-balanced, refreshing, showing saline, olives, and a nice mineral focus. The finish is long, green, mineral, slate, and tart, refreshing, and fun! Nice! Drink now! (tasted March 2021)
2019 Cantina Giuliano In Campagna Merlot – Score: 90 (QPR: GREAT)
While this is not a WINNER from a QPR score, it is a winner from the fact that is a nice wine for under 20 dollars, Italy continues to impress at this price point! The nose on this Merlot is lovely, floral, with notes of lavender, toast, earth, nice loam, red and black fruit, paraffin notes, and roasted herb. The mouth on this medium to full-bodied wine is layered with nice red and black fruit, showing dark raspberry, strawberry, plum, dark cherry, smoke, with lovely dirt, loam, earth, and nice acid to bring this wine together, with mouth-draping tannin, and foliage. The finish is long, with green notes, showing red fruit, herbs, more smoke, wax, meaty notes, all backed by crazy acid, nice tannin, and good fruit focus. Bravo! Drink until 2025. (tasted April 2021)
Herzog Wine Cellars continues to impress with red wines from 2018, 2019, and now the 2020 vintages
In case you missed the last Herzog Wine Cellars post – please check that out here, I see no need to repeat all of the same content! That said – wow! The 2017 vintage was tough, it was tough for all of Cali, it was a bad vintage. Thankfully, 2017 is past us, and we have 2018 and 2019 looking mighty fine, given the scores/notes from the last post and the ones from this new tasting. Throw in ONE 2020 red wine, the 2020 Herzog Choreograph, which is fun, extremely well balanced, and literally what I wrote – fun!
The other wines in the tasting are from 2018 and 2019 and they garnered QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) WINNER, GREAT, GOOD, or EVEN scores. Still, the most impressive wines, from this tasting, came from the 2019 vintage, the 2019 Herzog Pinot Noir, Reserve, and the 2019 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Reserve, Lake County. There were also two 2018 wines, the WINNING 2018 Herzog Merlot, Special Reserve, Alexander Valley, a return after almost 20 years of hiatus. Along with the 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Reserve, Napa Valley. The 2019 French and American Oak wines were not as good as in previous vintages. Also, the 2019 Lineage Pinot Noir was not as good as previous vintages, though I liked the Lineage Chardonnay.
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 Herzog Merlot, Special Reserve, Alexander Valley (M) – Score: 91 (QPR: WINNER)
This is the return of the Alexander Valley Merlot – Miles is dead (not in real life but you get the gist)! The nose on this wine calls to mind a Zinfandel more than a Merlot, which is helped by what I think is sweet American Oak, followed by hickory, sweet sugar/toffee notes, followed by blue and red fruit, licorice, with violet notes, and smoke. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine, to start shows more like Zinfandel than Merlot, with enough complexity to grab you, followed by fine tannins to start, but they grip and drape with time, strawberry, boysenberry, cranberry, and hints of pomegranate, with intense garrigue, sweet zin berry notes, and everything that makes me want to say this is a Zinfandel. The finish is long, green, red, smoky, and gripping with tannin, boysenberry, leather, and more violets. You see why I think this is a Zinfandel! With more time the wine does not change, in the end, it is a nice wine that does not taste like a Merlot to me. (tasted March 2021)