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Pinot Noir wines, Kos Yeshous wines, and red and white QPR winners

Well, Yom Tov is now over, and the Jewish Holiday fall season is over. I will keep this very short, I tasted lots of wines and not all of them are themed or per winery, so here they are. Some were really good, like the impressive but not widely available Kos Yeshuos wines from Josh Rynderman, who continues to impress me and whose wines truly belie his youth.

Besides Josh’s fun wines, I tasted the Gachot Manot Pinot Noir wines from the 2010 vintage. Of the four I have now tasted, the only ones I would buy now is the 1er cru if you can find it. The plain Bourgogne is in drink now mode, it has a year left at most in the tank. The other two wines, the Cote de Nuits-Villages and the Gevrey are really not that interesting and are in serious drink up mode.

Sadly, the 2012 Pacifica Pinot Noir dropped off the cliff, it is in serious drink NOW mode, or you will be left with water. There is a new 2016 vintage, I hope to taste it very soon.

Also, bravo to Menahem Israelievitch and the Royal Europe group. They have created two QPR wines that are nice. The best of the bunch by far is the 2016 Chateau Riganes. It is very cheap, at less than 10 dollars on kosherwine.com, and it is mevushal!! Finally! Finally! We are starting to see real wines in the kosher market that are not jacked up. The Chateau Trijet is nice as well, but more fruit forward than I would like.

Finally, I had the chance to taste the 2016 Capcanes Rosat and it did not crack the top roses of 2017, which is a shame. The new 2016 Goose Bay Sauvignon Blanc is a real winner and a QPR winner to boot!

We were in a huge rush so my notes are shorter than usual. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

Kos Yeshuos Wines

2016 Kos Yeshuos Grenache, Mokelumne River, Lodi – Score: 90 to 91
The nose is really fun and feminine, with vibrant fruit, juicy strawberry, hints of blueberry, with intensely floral notes showing rose hip and nice sweet baking spices. The mouth on medium bodied is fun, vibrant, and zesty, and with a great backing of good acid that makes it a fun food wine, with good fruit focus showing tart cherry, with a good tannin that carries the wine, with lovely strawberry, and cinnamon at the start that gives way to cloves, allspice, and then great almond pith. The finish is long and spicy, with earth, really fun saline, floral notes, and a backbone of acid that really carries this wine well. Nice! Drink till 2020.

2016 Kos Yeshuos Syrah, Mokelumne River, Lodi – Score: 92
What a lovely Cali nose, a real joy, controlled, fruity, big and bold and really meaty, with really great boysenberry, blueberry, roasted meat, backed by nice floral notes (not weak Australian style – but really rich and floral), with mounds of chocolate, lovely graphite, mineral, and sweet oak. The mouth on this full bodied wine is rich, layered and inky, a real joy, wow, this is a wine that belies Josh’s young career as a winemaker, a wine with great control and finesse, a true food Syrah (not because it is undrinkable without food, it has ZERO date or sweet issues), but this wine is a beast, it cannot be enjoyed on its own, unless u are a glutton for punishment, showing rich cassis, blackberry, followed by blue fruit galore, juicy and ripe, yet not over the top, wrapped in spicy and sweet oak, with rich ribbons of mineral, earth, and great baking spices to bring it all together. The finish is long and mineral based, with great graphite, rich saline, green and black olives, along with hints of other umami to come, but meaty, blue, mineral, and black lingering long. Bravo! Drink from 2018 to 2023. Not available anymore – I think sold out.

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Tzuba Winery – the Winery Incubator / grape capitalist of the Judean Hills

As we drive the 395 to get to Kibbutz Tzuba the winery’s vines grace our approach – they stretch from the bottom of the hillside along the valley below and all the way to the entrance of the Kibbutz. The Kibbutz is a high tech Kibbutz, building bulletproof glass and other protective shielding, a thriving business in these trying times.

As we drive up to the winery, which is to the left, after you enter the Kibbutz gate, the winery is straight ahead, and Paul Dubb was there to greet us. Paul is the wine maker for the Tzuba Winery and has been growing grapes for the Castel Winery, and some other 10 wineries, since 1996.

Actually, Tzuba is a winery whose history and very existence is intrinsically intertwined with Castel Winery, and many of the other big boys of Judean Hills. How you ask? Well, it all started in 1996 when Kibbutz Tzuba made a highly fortuitous and almost prophetic decision to plant some 110 acres of grape vines! That was only a year after Castel’s maiden release of its Grand Vin, and only a few years after Ronnie James started Tzora Winery, also in the Judean Hills. The crazy thing is that the Kibbutz decided on doing this even before they had actual contracts to sell these grapes. Further, they planted more than just the classic noble grapes. Of course they planted Cabernet, Merlot, Chardonnay, Shiraz, but they also planted Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Sangiovese, Petit Verdot, Malbec, Grenache, Mourvedre, and Nebiolo! The winery has three sets of labels for its wines (levels if you may): the top-of-the-line Metzuda that is produced only in selected years; Tel Tzuba of varietal and blended wines, and the popularly priced Hamaayan.

Yes, that is the setup, but how is Tzuba Winery intertwined with Castel and other Judean Hill wineries? Simple, where did these wineries get their grapes? Who had vines back in 1999? Tzuba! Who was the vineyard manager in 1996? Paul Dobb. Who was the vineyard manager for Castel in 2000 till 2004? Yes, Paul again. What is Castel named after, the old Belmont Castel fortress that Eli Ben Zaken named his winery after! The very same castle/fortress that over looks the Tzuba Winery! The very same fortress that the Metzuda (the fortress) wine label is named after. The same fortress that the Belmont wine label uses. In so many ways the Catsel winery is deeply intertwined with the Tzuba Winery. In a way, you could say that Kibbutz Tzuba and the Tzuba Winery are the grape capitalists of the Judean Hills.

With all that said, this is NOT to say that Tzuba is Castel’s second label, rather Tzuba is many ways is the purveyor of Castel’s very blood, its grapes. Further, Tzuba’s approach is actually 100% counter to Castel’s approach. Mr. Ben Zaken will be happy to tell you that his desire is to recreate Bordeaux, without its terroir flaws (climate and temperature). In many ways Ben Zaken has been successful in his desired transportational affect, but that is not what Mr. Dobbs is looking for. Actually, Mr. Dobbs is looking for Mediterranean styling in his wines. He desires the very fruit, mineral, and rich herbs that drench the hillsides of the Judean Hills to be transported into the very body and nose of Tzuba’s wines.

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Tzuba Winery Visit and Wine Tasting

Ancient Wine Press at Tzuba WineryOn Friday in early August, my friend and I, drove around the winding roads of Route 3965 (Sderot Hahotsvim) up from Highway 1, past the Sataf junction, and on and up Route 395 to Kibbutz Tzuba.  At the entrance of the kibbutz, drive past the gate and take the second left and follow the sign to Yekev Tzuba.  The winery’s rectangular and unassuming building lies to the back of the kibbutz overlooking a bluff and an ancient wine press from the first millennium.  As you drive up to the building you can see the vineyards to the right and Tzora Winery’s vineyard to the north.

We met Paul Dobb – the head winemaker, at around 8AM in the morning, and we moved upstairs to the understated but quite lovely tasting room that overlooks the ancient wine press.  Paul said, he has plans to spruce up the winery with a deck and a tasting bar, which sounds nice, but I found the current setup quite enjoyable.  The winery is growing since we last visited them, and they are releasing new single varietals.  The first new varietal is the 2007 Pinot Noir.  A lovely French Burgundy look-alike with Israeli attitude.  Besides the new Pinot Noir, Tzuba is shipping some of their wines to the USA through Royal Wines (the largest importer of kosher wines).  Tzuba has sold all of last year’s wines except for their top of the line Metzuda series, which they are in no real rush to sell to distributors, because it is a wine that is just coming into its own, and has more life left in it.  So, the 2005 vintage of the Metzuda blend can be found both locally in the US and in Israel, while the rest of the lineup, which is long and impressive are only available locally in Israel. Read the rest of this entry

Tzuba Winery in Judean Hills

Barrels in Tzuba Winery

Barrels in Tzuba Winery

As we drive the 395 to get to Kibbutz Tzuba the winery’s vines grace our approach – they stretch from the bottom of the hill side along the valley below and all the way to the entrance of the Kibbutz.  The Kibbutz is a tech Kibbutz, building bullet-proof glass and other protective shielding, a thriving business in these trying times.

As we drive up to the winery which is right on the left after you enter the Kibbutz gate – Paul Dubb is there to great us.  Paul is the wine maker for the Tzuba Winery and has been growing grapes for the Castel Winery, since 1996.  In 2000 Moti Zamir and Paul founded the winery and started planted vines for their label – while still tending to the vines for Castel.  The 2005 vintage was the winery’s first vintage where they produced some 30,000 bottles.  IN the following years they have ramped up to some 47,000 bottles.  They hope to be ramping production up to 150,000 bottles in the next few years.  They currently are releasing wines from the following varietal: Chardonnay, Viognier, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Sangiovese, Shiraz, and Petit Verdot.

Paul has been around grapes since a youngster – where he grew grapes with his parents and grew a love for grapes and wine.  Paul’s work is evident in the Castel wines – but is also visible in his own wines.  The wines are fruit forward but in a balanced manner.  This he says comes from the way he tends to his vines.  He makes sure that the vines have sun, while keeping them shaded, to minimize over exposure of sun, which tends to show overripe flavors and too much acid in the wine.  The wines are all aged in Hungarian oak and according to Paul – do not tend towards Bordeaux flavors.  The winery is built to bring value wines in the Boutique winery market – something that Paul stressed is one of the selling points about Tzuba.  Finally, the winery is owned in partnership with Kibbutz Tzuba – a partnership that should help the winery to compete in the ever competitive Kosher Israeli wine market.

My thanks to Paul, Moti and the Tzuba Winery for hosting us and showing us around their winery.  Following are the tasting notes which we sampled at the winery.

Tel Tzuba 2006 Chardonnay – Score: A (50% 12 months in oak, 50% Stainless Steel)
Fermented at 55 degrees Fahrenheit – Sur Lie, this wine has a lovely and shimmering straw color.  The nose is filled with Lychees, grass, and citrus.  This medium bodied wine has a long and exciting finish and is not over oaked.  The nose follows in the mouth – with Lychees and citrus flavors covering the mouth and enough acidity to balance the wine out.

Hama’ayan 2005 Sangiovese – Score: B
This ruby red wine has a nose of red fruit.  The medium bodied wine has all the signature flavors of a Sangiovese – cherry, plum and added flavors of oak with soft and integrated tannins.

Tel Tzuba 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon – Score: A-
The deep Bordeaux colored wine has a nose of red fruit and oak.  The medium bodied wine is smooth with light tannins, red fruit, and a long finish that tends to linger in your mouth.

Tel Tzuba 2005 Merlot – Score: B+
This dark ruby colored wine has a nose of plum and cherry.  The medium bodied wine has firm tannins, almost jammy red fruit, a balanced palate and a finish that is medium in length that is accentuated with oak flavors.

Tel Tzuba 2005 Shiraz – Score: A-
This purple colored wine has a nose of fig, pepper, and earth.  This medium bodied wine has jammy flavors, soft tannins, and a long finish that is supported by pepper and oak notes.

Tzuba 2005 Merlot Reserve Metzuda  – Score: A-
This deep Bordeaux colored wine opens slowly.  Over time the wine shows hints of red fruit and oak.  The full bodied wine has strong tannins that show off its acidic core and cherry flavors.  The finish is long and satisfying.  This wine is still quite young and needs time to show its true self off.

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