If you ever wondered what Kosher wine or the Mevushal process is, well I made a post these many years ago and nothing has changed about those facts, because kosher wine is kosher wine! The Mevushal process has evolved a bit over the years but the premise is still the same and the best craftsman in this space are Hagafen Cellars and Herzog Wine Cellars.
Royal Wine Europe does a good job as well, though from time to time, the white wines do not show as well after they go through the Mevushal process. The red wines are indeed done very well as I saw this past November 2021.
The whole premise for Mevushal wine is really a U.S. concept. Europe and much of Israel do not care for or need the wine to be Mevushal to serve at restaurants or events. The USA Rabbinic leaders think that there are too many issues and potential concerns at events and restaurants – given the vast number of servers being non-Jewish. As such, they demand Mevushal wines be served at the events. I have been to events where the pourers were all Shomer Shabbat Jews and that is what they do in Europe and Israel, but those are far and few between, here in the USA.
Overall, the 10 Mevushal wines below are not great, they are not bad, but not great. Now, this is not a cause and effect – meaning Mevushal does not ruin the wines. Mevushal – done incorrectly absolutely does cause damage to wine, and I have had many a “cooked” Mevushal wine. However, Herzog and Hagafen do not have these issues. Royal Europe, does a good job, but not as good as the previously mentioned wineries. Last year’s mevushal list would have had lovely wines as it would have included the 2018 Herzog wines! Also, we do not have examples of Mevushal wines that scored 95 points that are mevushal, again this is not a cause and effect but rather the issue that people do not yet Mevushal Pontet-Canet! Mind you, as I stated before, it is not from a lack of desire, on behalf of Royal Wines, they would boil anything to be able to sell more Mevushal wines. Still, so far, of the top wines that I have scored, the highest scored Mevushal wine is 2014, 2016, and 2018 Herzog Chalk Hill Cabernet Sauvignon.
More and more wines are being made Mevushal to meet the needs of restaurants and caterers that want high-end Mevushal wines for their venues and events. The theme of the wines here is mostly Hagafen or Herzog with some smattering of European names as well.
Here is my list of the top 10 Mevushal wines that are available here in the USA. They are listed by score and after that in no particular order. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:
2019 Chateau Le Crock, Saint-Estephe, Bordeaux (M) – Score: 92+ (QPR: WINNER)
This wine is a blend of 59% Cabernet Sauvignon and 41% Merlot. While I liked the 2018 vintage some did not, but this is a nice wine either way.
The nose on this wine is perfectly balanced, with lovely fruit, loam, dirt, smoke, bright and ripe plum, black and red fruit, with ripe dried strawberry, Tisane tea, and rich mineral. The mouth on this medium to full-bodied wine is ripe, layered, beautifully controlled, with rich smoke, saline, lovely loam, beautiful graphite, pencil shaving, sweet oak, mouth-draping tannin, blackberry, dark plum, strawberry, elegance, and control, that gives way to some extraction, with sweet tobacco, and mineral. The finish is long, green, loam, dirty, rich, and yet elegant, with roasted meat, smoke, draping elegance, incredible richness without the show, really a wine to hold but one that can be enjoyed now. Drink from 2027 until 2036. If you must have it now decant for 2 hours. (tasted November 2021) (in Paris, France) (ABV = 13%)
2019 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Reserve, Lake County (M) – Score: 92+ (QPR: WINNER)
This is a lovely wine, it reminds me of the 2017 lake County Cabernet Sauvignon, just a tad less ripe and more fruit-focused. The nose on this wine is lovely. This is a classic Cabernet Sauvignon, in all the right ways, screaming mineral, insane graphite, pencil shavings, with ripe green, black, and lovely red fruit, with tar, loads of roasted herb, and classic garrigue. The mouth on this full-bodied wine is softer than the 2017 vintage, with nice acidity in the middle, wrapped by intense tannin, nice extraction, blackberry, juicy raspberry, hints of boysenberry, and loads of minerality, all coming together quite nicely. The finish is long, green, mineral-driven, but black and blue, with leather, sweet spices, with mineral lingering long, sweet smoking tobacco, and juicy boysenberry staying long. Bravo!!! Drink from 2023 until 2030. (tasted April 2021)
Well, it is official, 2020 continues to take, and though my annoyances are minor in comparison to the pain others are feeling, it still has impacted my routine, which I guess is the story of 2020. For the past three years, I have been tasting Royal’s latest wines with the man in France for Royal, Menahem Israelievitch. Sadly, this year, no matter how much I planned and tried, it is a no go. So, for the first time, in a long time, the tasting will be here in Cali and it will only be a small part of the 2018 and 2019 wines, such is life.
So, no there will not be a picture with all the wines, and some of the wines from last year are still not here right now! But, I will post here what I did taste so far, and my overall feeling of the 2018 and 2019 vintages.
In a previous post about the most recent French wines (at that time in 2017) that were arriving on the market – I already spoke about pricing and supply, so there is no need to talk that over again in this post.
While the 2015 and 2016 vintages were ripe, and the 2017 vintage was not ripe at all, the 2018 vintage makes the 2015 ripeness look tame! Now that is a very broad-stroke statement that cannot be used uniformly, but for the most part, go with it!
I see no reason to repeat what Decanter did – so please read this and I will repeat a few highlights below.
For a start, the drought came later in 2018,’ says Marchal, pointing out that early July saw less rain in 2016. ‘But when it came in 2018, it was more abrupt, with the green growth stopping across the whole region at pretty much the same time’. He sees it closer to 2009, but with more density to the fruit. … and high alcohols!
Alcohols will be highest on cooler soils that needed a long time to ripen, so the Côtes, the Satellites, and the cooler parts of St-Emilion have alcohols at 14.5-15%abv and more. I heard of one Cabernet Franc coming in at 16.5%abv, but that is an exception. In earlier-ripening areas, such as Pessac-Léognan and Pomerol, alcohols are likely to be more balanced at 13.5% or 14%abv, as they will have reached full phenolic ripeness earlier.
‘Pessac-Léognan did the best perhaps because it’s an early ripening site,’ said Marie-Laurence Porte of Enosens, ‘so they were able to get grapes in before over-concentration. If you had to wait for phenolic ripeness, that is where things could get difficult’.
The final averages per grape, according to Fabien Faget of Enosens, are Sauvignon Blanc 13.5%abv, Sémillon 12.5%abv, Merlot 14.5%abv, and Cabernet Sauvignon 14%abv’.
The Mevushal push, from Royal wines, is continuing for the USA labels, a fact I wonder about more and more. Look, if you are going to force Mevushal wine down our throats, why not import BOTH? If you look at the numbers for wines like we will taste in the post, the majority of the buyers are not restaurants or caterers. Sorry! No matter how much Royal Wines wants to fool itself into thinking. Throw in COVID and FORGET about this INSANITY, please! I beg of you!
There is no denying that it affects the wine, it does. I have tasted the Chateau Le Crock side by side, the Mevushal, and non-Mevushal and while I feel that Royal does a good job with the boiling, it is still affected. If you want to have Mevushal wines in the USA, then bring them BOTH in! Royal does this for Capcanes Peraj Petita and the undrinkable Edom and others in Israel. So what Royal is saying is – that could not sell the Chateau Le Crock numbers that they import into the USA without boiling it? Why else would they feel forced to boil it and import it if not otherwise? To me, it makes me sad, and in a way, it disrespects what Royal is trying to do to its French wine portfolio, IMHO. They should, at minimum, import both! Allow for the caterers and restaurants (like anyone needs that nowadays – HUH???) to have the Mevushal version and sell the non-mevushal version to us, as you do with Edom and Petita. There I have stated my peace, I am 100% sure I will be ignored – but I have tried!
The Mevushal wines from France for the 2018/2019 vintage will be, the 2018 Barons Edmond et Benjamin de Rothschild, Haut-Medoc, 2018 Chateau Greysac, 2018 Chateau Chateau de Parsac, 2018 Les Lauriers, Des Domaines Edmond de Rothschild, 2018 Chateau Le Crock, 2019 Chateau Les Riganes, Red, 2018 Chateau Genlaire, along with the whites wines, the 2019 Bourgogne Les Truffieres, Chardonnay, the 2019 Les Marronniers, Chablis, and the 2019 Chateau Les Riganes, Blanc.
Now does mevushal impede the long-term viability of aging in regards to the wine? Well, that too is not something that we have scientific proof of. I have tasted a mevushal 1999 Herzog Special Edition and it was aging beautifully! So, would I buy the mevushal versions of the wines I tasted below – yes! Would I age them? Yes, I would hold them for slightly fewer years.
Other than the mevushal aspect, there are no differences between the European version of the wines and the USA version of the wines. While that sounds obvious, I am just stating it here. The wines will be shipped now and the temperature issues that affected Israel’s wines of old, have not been a factor here.
The “other” wines not here yet or I have not had
There is the just-released 2018 Château Cantenac Brown Margaux (will post that when I get it), along with these yet unreleased wines. The 2019 Chateau Gazin Blanc (2018 was/is INCREDIBLE), 2018 Chateau Fourcas Dupre, 2018 Château Meyney Saint Estèphe, 2018 Chateau Giscours, 2018 Chateau Lascombes, 2018 Chatyeau Tertre, and 2018 Chateau Royaumont.
I understand this is a sub-optimal situation and blog post. It does not cover Royal’s 2018/2019 European wine portfolio. Still, it covers what has been released (or very close to it), here in the USA, and hopefully, it will help you. One day soon, I hope and pray, things will return to some semblance of normalcy, and we will all travel around again. Until then, this is the best I can do. Stay safe!
Final comments, disclaimer, and warnings
First, there are a TON of QPR winners but there are also a LOT of good wines that I will be buying. Please NOTE vintages. The 20016 Haut Condissas is a disaster while the 2017 vintage is fantastic! So, please be careful!
These wines are widely available in the USA, so support your local wine stores folks – they need your help! If you live in a wine-drinking desert, like California, support the online/shipping folks on the side of this blog. They are folks I buy from (as always – I NEVER get a bonus/kickback for your purchases – NOT MY STYLE)!
Sadly, there was no plane trip, no hotels, no restaurants, nothing. So, no trip to talk about – just the wines and my lovely home! Stay safe all and here are the wines I have had so far. I have also posted many scores of 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018 wines which are still for sale here in the USA. My many thanks to Royal Wine for their help in procuring some of these wines. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:
Well, my part of California is locking us away for another month and I thought it was high time to talk a bit about the kosher wine industry in light of the situation we are all facing – the Coronavirus.
Kosher Wine business
This is not rocket science, us jews are not drinkers. Relax, I know some of you are tipplers, but the vast majority of the kosher wine world drinks on the weekend, no matter how much certain people complain about it.
Now, that is predicated on the theory that we are home and such. However, when we are invited to a party, wedding, dinner, etc. (remember those things where we actually sat next to someone that was not your wife or child)?? Yeah, in those settings we drink, it is simple, and yes, we may drink more than we expect, because well, we are out for an occasion. It is the common trait of most Jews I know. Throw in a dinner, event, party, and yeah, Jews drink, but we are still moderates.
Now, throw in restaurants, business dinners, evenings out with your wife or friend and we get a fair amount of wine/alcohol action.
Sadly, these events, these dinners, they do not come back when this insanity is over, we cannot make up for it. This is lost revenue that is not coming back. The longer people stay in the house, the longer we are locked up, the longer caterers, restaurants, and wine producers/importers will be in pain. The weddings may come back, those Mosdos/organizational dinners you hated going to may also make a rebound, but I do not see it coming back to the levels we saw in the past any time soon. Restaurants may not come back either and I think two things will change for the next few years:
- Mevushal wine will take a hit. This is not a new thing IMHO. The kosher wine world has been pushing this so hard recently that I think many have either become numb to it or have given up hope for change. With the lack of public occasions for the next two years, minimally, we will see a huge drop in Mevushal wine interest, and I feel no sadness, it is time for the kosher wine world to move on. This will affect Israeli Mevushal more than say the few Cali or french that exist. Cali means Herzog and their Mevushal is irrelevant IMHO, I buy their wines and I never think Mevushal at all. Israel though will feel this the most I fear.
- Home Delivery is on the rise and it will not stop anytime soon. The recent events will seriously change the way people see wine buying in the future. No, the average New Yorker will still go to his/her local shop, but there will be fewer. I have heard it over and over by the online wine guys – NYC was a large buyer these past months, and that will not come to a screaming halt in the future. It will slow, but there will be lingering and residual folks who continue buying online, and that is a GREAT thing. The power of the local wine shop is seriously bad and it is time for the kosher wine industry to be further democratized, with better information and better selection. I see this in the USA and not so much in Israel for many reasons. Europe has been delivering wines for decades already and I do not see a huge shift there either.
- No matter how much wine you THINK you are drinking and no matter how much you think you are buying, the wine importers are in pain. There is ZERO need to cry for Royal wines, they could care less about what is happening, they have the food business and they are run with extreme efficiency.
We do need to care about what happens next for the other importers. The majority of the wine they sell is not to people’s homes. It is for dinners, restaurants, caterers, and so on. With all that out of commission, for the time being, we really have to pray for the welfare of the kosher wine importers, if this goes on for as long as I fear we may lose a few and that is not such a good thing when all that means is that Royal will get bigger.
- QPR will mean more going forward. Look, I have received a fair amount of feedback from my last post, and thanks. That said, I have heard from more than a few about how their ability to buy has been curtailed and that they are on a tighter budget than in the past. People are suffering unless you work in grocery, healthcare, hi-tech, they are in a less comfortable place. Lawyers have fewer clients, the same goes for CPAs. The famous Jewish jobs are not all they are cut up to be in this particular environment. Many business owners have no access or ability to run their businesses. This is a crazy world we live in and people will be looking for more affordable wines.
Hence, QPR is the answer and yes, I think as I roll it out more you will see wines that you did not expect to be so interesting become more valuable, given where some are today financially.
- Wine sales will slow on the higher prices and the French wines will sell but even slower. Look now, 2016 is on the shelves everywhere when 2017 in the vintage in question. The 2015s are almost all gone and a few of the higher-priced 2014s linger. This will pass, but I hope it does not impact Royal and others. The main goal is to have wines for sale not to be sold out of wines.
Having an empty warehouse of fewer French wines is not a victory it is a loss for all. Making less of the wine, producing controlled amounts, numbers, where everyone gets a shot to buy but also balancing the book, is the correct manner to approach a sustainable longterm business in the world of wine that lasts a generation.
We have Royal, IDS, and others to thank for the plethora of great wines to enjoy. This will be a blip on the long term screen of life, a painful, unfortunate, sad episode, but a blip none the less. One cannot make a year-by-year decision on wine production, especially, when you have such good relationships with wineries and the industry as a whole.
Overall, the industry will change and people’s buying habits may shift a bit, but a time will come when importers will need to look at the non-kosher world and ask, why do they sell 2014 and 2015 vintages of Giscours at the same time? Because they are different wines, very different, and buyers know it. Soon, Royal and IDS will have a pipeline of continuous vintages from some wineries in France and elsewhere throughout Europe, and having vintages back to back on the shelf is a badge of honor not a badge of shame or poor salesmanship.
The kosher market does not need to blaze new trails we need to start to appreciate what we have and what wonderful worlds of wine we have been given the chance to enjoy.
I hope everyone is well, healthy, safe, and taking a moment to appreciate the family we have around us. Prayers continue for those less fortunate and I hope they are all answered quickly with good tidings.
I continue to lament the lack of QPR wines. If there was ONE thing I wanted on my year in review than anything else, it was lower prices. To be fair, this year’s list of QPR wines is longer than last year, and the scores are higher, but I also moved the QPR price bar up a bit to 40 dollars. So, what we are seeing here is price inflation for QPR, at least the higher-end QPR wines.
Once again, Royal has some crazy good wines, even from the 2017 vintage, but the prices are high. Yes, there are some nicely priced wines, but to get the 2017 Montviel or the 2017 Gazin, you will be in the 50 to 70 dollar range.
Also, in my top wines of the year, there was only ONE wine that clocked in at 95, and yeah, that wine is priced accordingly, at 140 dollars.
Netofa Wines are finally back and it shows! They are all over this QPR list. This list is not a list of wines that are meant for cellaring, though many can withstand a few years. The idea here is to enjoy these wines now while you let the long-term wines cellar and age. We all have that interest to drink interesting wines and while I agree with that, that is NO excuse to raid the cellar when u have a hunkering for a complex nose or flavor. Many of these wines will scratch the itch while the beasts’ lie and settle.
This year, the list came to a total of 26 names, and none had to dip below 90 in the scores, which is a large number and better scores overall than last year, but again, the pool from where they are culled continues to grow, and the diamonds in the rough are getting harder and harder to find.
I have added a few new things this year. The first is QPR for France, the prices for many wines there, are dirt cheap! Maybe, Avi Davidowitz, from kosher wine unfiltered, can create a list like that for Israel, this year, a bunch of wines became available there, and a proper QPR list would be worthwhile!
Finally, some of these wines are hard to find and they may have different siblings – but they are worth the effort. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:
The 2019 Red QRP kosher kings
2017 Chateau Royaumont, Lalande de Pomerol – Score: 93 (QPR Superstar)
The wine is a blend of 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc. I liked the 2016 vintage but this one may be better! The nose on this wine is pure hedonism, with incredible soy sauce, mushroom, and loads of umami, with crazy smoke, blueberry, earth, mineral galore, and black fruit, with herbs. WOW!!! The mouth on this wine carries the umami madness, with a richness in the mouth that is plush, and layered with less mushroom and more truffles, with loads of blackberry, blueberry, raspberry, smoke, mineral, all wrapped in a rich, layered, umami madness, with tobacco mineral, graphite joy, wow!! Incredible. The wine is ripe, and the voluptuous mouthfeel comes from the combination of oak, ripe fruit, mushroom, and mineral, it will be fun to see this one in three years. The finish on this wine is nuts, layered and ripe, with smoke, mushroom, and tobacco, graphite, charcoal, and more mushroom. Bravo!! Drink from 2021 until 2028. This can be drunk almost now, but it needs time to really be appreciated.
2017 Les Roches de Yon-Figeac, Saint-Emilion, Grand Cru – Score: 93 to 94 (QPR Superstar)
This is great, the Royaumont is mushroom and soy sauce and the Les Roches de Yon-Figeac is mushroom and barnyard heaven, it is insane. The nose on this wine is crazy barnyard, mushroom, forest floor, with freshly tilled earth, followed by a stick of graphite right in the eye, with crazy salinity, and loads of black fruit, wow! The mouth on this medium to full-bodied wine is really fun, layered, with squid-ink notes, with layers upon layers of plush and rich fruit structure, with incredible acidity, salinity, and graphite core, with crazy blackberry, blackcurrant, with dark berries, and smoke, with graphite taking center stage, followed by intense acid, and more mineral, with layers of earth, and lovely roasted herb, and screaming tannin structure that will last for a long time. The finish si long, green and ripe, with mineral at its core, followed by more squid ink, plushness that belies the searing tannin, and a fruit structure that lasts forever. Incredible! Bravo! Drink from 2023 until 2030. (the price is a bit too high to make it on this list and it is not in the USA, but it is so good, I cannot ignore it)
2015 Clos Lavaud, Lalande de Pomerol – Score: 92 to 93 (QPR madness)
The nose on this wine is lovely, far more controlled than the 2014 vintage while also being richer and brighter, showing notes of dark fruit, followed by loads of incredible mineral, with saline, graphite, forest floor, and mushroom, with dark red fruit, and loam that goes on forever. The mouth on this wine is ripe, but in such an old-world manner, with rich loam, bright fruit, great acidity, mouth-draping tannin that is elegant, well-structured, and a focal point for the layers of elegant blackberry, smoke, blackcurrant, dark ripe cherry, wrapped in plush tannin, sweet cedar notes, with incredible saline and mineral, with a plush forest floor that will give way to mushroom madness in the future, with an elegance that is really impressive, and a wine that is now just starting to show its potential. The finish is long,m green, with garrigue, foliage, more forest floor, with a plush yet velvety structure that is vacked with core-acidity and mineral, dark chocolate, licorice, leather, and fine spices. Bravo!! Drink from 2021 until 2028. Read the rest of this entry
So, I tasted a bunch of these at the KFWE in Miami and I spent my entire time there tasting through wines that made me cry. I mean they were so painful, all I could write was NO. Some I wrote nice and some I wrote good stuff. Overall, the Israeli wines were undrinkable and so painful that I had to go back to the French table just to clean my palate. It continues to make me sad to see such potential thrown out to meet the absolute lowest common denominator – fruity, loud, and brash wines.
Sadly, Cellar Capcanes continues its downward spiral. The 2018 Capcanes Peraj Petita is not very good at all. Far better than 2017 or 2016, but that is not saying much. So sad, to see such a storied franchise being thrown away for what I can only guess is the need for a new winemaker to make her mark.
Domaine Netofa continues to crush it and thank goodness it is selling well here in the USA, so that means I can stop schlepping Netofa from Israel! The 2015 Chateau Tour Seran was also lovely while the Chateau Rollan de By was OK, while the 2015 Chateau Haut Condissas showed far better than it did in France. The 2018 Pacifica Riesling, Evan’s Collection was nice but it was less of a WOW than the 2017 vintage, at least so far anyway.
At the tasting, the 2017 whites and 2018 roses were all dead, please stop buying them. Heck, even many of the simpler 2018 whites were painful.
So, here are my last notes before the year-end roundup and best of posts that I will hopefully post soon! These wines are a mix of wines I tasted at the KFWE Miami and other wines I tasted over the past month or so since my return from France. I wanted to keep this simple, so the wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:
2018 Capcanes Peraj Petita – Score: 87
This wine is a blend of 50% Grenache, 20% Tempranillo, 15% Merlot, and 15% Syrah. This wine is ripe really ripe, with dark blackberry, with loads of dark brooding fruit, floral notes, and herb, and heather. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is sweet, ripe, and date-like, with dark cherry, sweet candied raspberry, smoke, candied black fruit, and sweet notes galore. The toast, earth, sweet fruit, and smoke finish long. Move on.
2018 Capcanes Peraj Petita – Score: 89 (Mevushal)
This wine is a blend of 50% Grenache, 20% Tempranillo, 15% Merlot, and 15% Syrah. This wine is far better than the not-Mevushal version. This wine is actually showing less ripe, with dark blackberry, with loads of red fruit, floral notes, and herb, and oak. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is much less sweet, with dark cherry, sweet raspberry, smoke, candied black fruit, with nice tannin, and good acidity. The finish is long, slightly green, smoky, and herbal, with toast and red fruit. Very interesting how the mevushal is less ripe, go figure. Drink now.
2018 Domaine Netofa Latour, White – Score: 92+ (Super QPR)
Wow, what a lovely wine, this wine is 100% Chenin Blanc aged 10 months in oak barrels. The nose on this wine is pure heaven, but it is slow to open, once it does, the wine is lovely with loads of floral notes, yellow flowers, orange blossom, rosehip, and lovely white fruit, pear, peach, and smoke/toast. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is lovely, with great acidity, clear and present, with layers of sweet and dry fruit, with candied and toasted almonds, hazelnuts, with hay and straw, followed by floral notes, tart melon, lemongrass, citrus galore, yellow apple, quince, baked apple, and dry grass and earth, lovely! The finish is long, dry, tart, and butterscotch-laden, with toast, smoke, ginger, and marzipan, Bravo!! Drink from 2021 until 2025.
2018 Pacifica Riesling, Evan’s Collection – Score: 90 (QPR)
This is a drier wine than the 2017 vintage but it lacks the petrol level and funk of 2017, still a nice wine.The nose on this wine is almost dry, with lovely notes of floral notes and loads of melon, sweet fruits, and stone fruit. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is nice with lovely pith, hints of saline, with hints of petrol, dry flowers, with lovely peach, guava, and loads of citrus and mineral. The finish is long, dry, with hints of sweet notes, funk, and pith that is fun. Nice. Drink by 2022. Read the rest of this entry
Our story begins in 2003 and bombs are exploding up and down the state. Residents are worried to leave the house, and the wine industry is taking a severe hit, as overall morale is down. As the state steps up, and brings its considerable weight to bear on the problem, private individuals start to wonder how to remove the malaise from among the populace. Up steps Avi Ben, an owner of a successful chain of wine stores, who comes up with an idea to kill two birds with one stone. So Avi sat down with a few local wine marketers, and organized the first Jerusalem Wine festival. In his own words, as described by Jerusalemite.net – We decided to organize a fair that would bring wine distributors to Jerusalem. We picked a great location, the Israel Museum, and once they agreed to house the festival, all the planning became easier. People loved the location, they loved the idea, and it was a huge success. Under this backdrop, my friend and I were more than happy to attend the 6th annual Jerusalem Wine festival, which was once again located in the Israel Museum, Jerusalem.
As we gave our tickets to the attendant (previously bought at the Nahalat Shiva Avi Ben store for 60 NIS) and slowly walked our way to the sculpture garden in the back, we could already take in the night’s air. It was filled with the smell of olive trees, pine trees, open wine bottles, and the initial sense of excitement. As we got closer to the open air arena, that hosts the 33 wineries that were presenting their wares for the evening, we were greeted by a table of glasses. The glass was ours to use during the evening, one that would be our ever present partner to the evening’s soiree, and one that we could take home after the long evening. I paused at the opening to the garden, and took in the spectacle that was in front of me. Beyond the dim lights, the 33 wineries that rimmed the garden and the center as well, essentially creating a pair of concentric circles, what was evident was the lightness of the evening. This was not going to be a wine snob event, or an event that would require heavy wine talk. Instead it was a casual affair, accentuated by the dress code of many of the attendees – shorts, tee shirt, and flip flops. But even more evident was the electricity, the life, the joy (even if alcohol fueled), that powered the evening and lit up the night’s sky. It was almost ethereal yet real, and one of the most exciting aspects of the evening.
<slight tangent about kosher issues>
Unfortunately, I must take a moment to talk about what I can only now explain as a kashrut problem surrounding the whole evening. As much as I loved the festival, those of us who are Orthodox practicing Jews, had a few problems that we faced that evening. They were:
- Shmitta wines for those of us who live in the Diaspora. The 2008 vintage is a shmitta year, and many of the wineries use a loophole called heter mechira, where they sell the grapes to non-jews. This is a not so accepted practice in the modern era, and so most Orthodox Jews do not drink those wines. The only way to know is to pick up the bottle and read the back label, where things of this nature are spelled out. The wines from Yarden, Galil, and some others, use a more accepted practice called Oztar Beit Din, and so I happily enjoy Yarden and Galil wines from the 2008 vintage.
- As lovely as the Spieglau glasses were, they were not “toveled” – ritually immersed, which Orthodox practicing Jews do, before making use of the utensil.
- 99% of the wines served that night, were non-mevushal wines. Meaning they were not pasteurized, which sounds great, because why would you want to pasteurize wine for goodness sakes, this is not milk with volatile bacteria. Well, because “mevushal” wine can be handled by non Jews, while non-mevushal wines cannot be. Furthermore, if a non Jew were to touch my wine glass or bottle, I cannot drink that wine anymore. The law is not very PC to say the least and truly requires a long post to analyze it better (which I will be doing soon God willing), but my belief system is based on faith and not one that I can turn on and off when it suits me or my friends. Now, I do not bring this up to disparage the Jewish lineage of those that were pouring the wines. Rather, I bring it up because the rules around the open bottle were lax to say the least. The open bottles, from which the wine was being poured was touched by many a passerby, and of their lineage, I have no idea.
My feeling is that the next time I go to this event; I would probably attend, but not drink any wines.
</end tangent 🙂 >
Once we were finished taking in the scene/madness that was swirling before us, we moved our way to the booth of one of Israel’s most exciting wineries – Yatir Winery. It has captured the imagination and attention of many wine lovers including myself. I have been lucky to visit the winery twice before, and each time I am in awe of their progress and continual assault at the wine world’s malaise and opinion of Israel’s wine industry. Just this past year they were awarded one of the highest scores for their flagship wine by Robert Parker and Mark Squires of the Wine Advocate. There I had what can only be described as a brain freeze, when I tasted one of the best white wines of Israel – the 2008 Yatir Sauvignon Blanc, before I realized that the wine was produced using heter mechira. I was mistaken at that time, and once more unfortunately, and is the main reason that I did not enjoy more of the whites that evening, as they were either produced by non kosher wineries, or because they were the 2008 vintage and used heter mechira. That said the 2008 Sauvignon Blanc was wonderful, but was clearly not opened long enough to get its legs under it. Still, it showed a nice tropical fruit flavor along with a bit of cut grass and some lychee. From there we moved on to the Galil Mountain Winery‘s booth, where we were hoping to be able to taste the highly acclaimed Galil Meron. Unfortunately, it was not available for tasting till 9PM, so we were “forced” to partake of their other showings until the hour passed. I was happily distracted by the Galil Pinot Noir, which is a more classical take on a French Burgundy, than those recently produced by Israeli wineries. Still, the wine has enough facets – like its soft oak and coffee flavors to throw you off the French scent. The other two wines I tasted while waiting for the grand moment, were less than enthralling. The 2008 Galil Rose, was bland and flat, and the 2007 Galil Barbera was but a glimpse of its older brother’s power and depth. Where the others disappointing, the Galil Meron did not. It was a wine well worth the wait and one that I highly recommend for those in Israel (the US allotment will not be available till 2010, probably for Passover).
We next visited the booth of Dalton Winery, where we tasted a dud of a wine and a real nice winner. The Dalton Rose, made of 100% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes was an average quaffer, with a rose petal flavored mouth and a raspberry nose. Nothing to write home about or post about. The winner was the 2007 Dalton Shiraz – WOW! A solid blockbuster of a wine and one worthy or your attention. We then weaved our way on over to the booth of the Binyamina Winery, where we took in a nice 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve. While some booths had massive and expressive signs – note the Yarden Golan Heights Winery’s sign, other small wineries had zero signage. Yarden being one of the biggest wineries in Israel had a sign to match their importance and prestige. Heck, forget the sign, they had a whole platform. The sculpture garden is lovely and expansive, but the floor is rock and dirt, which while native to Israel and Jerusalem, is a bit too native for many of the folks standing and walking around for the 4 to 5 hours that the event was open for. Yarden and another winery had a lovely platform, with soft padding, great lounge chairs, a few tables, and awesome wines (which is obvious). I cannot seem to find a picture of the platform, but take my word for it :-). Anyway, we once again weaved around and through the crowd, and moseyed on over to the booth of Tzuba Winery. We have spoken before about Tzuba, and we had the extreme pleasure of visiting their lovely winery before. They are a winery with a long lineage of managing vineyards of the Judean Hills. The wines were a nice selection of the wines available from the winery, within Israel, and yet another reason for us of the Diaspora to do Aliyah! Yes, they export some wines, but the vast majority sells fine within Israel. We enjoyed a lovely 2007 Belmont (55% Sauvignon Blanc and 45% Semillon) which showed nice dirt, lychee, grapefruit, and peach. The 2006 Tel Tzuba Merlot was also quite nice. The 2006 Tel Tzuba Cabernet was a bit off, so I did not write it up, the bottle tasted over ripe or oxidized.
We were off again, and moving towards a booth with a large sign, the Tishbi Winery Booth. It was mostly a waste of a trip, this time around, except to prime the pump for a return trip later in the evening, to taste their wonderful desert wine, when my evening of tasting was done, and my evening of drinking began, but we are jumping the gun! I digress again! After the awful and overripe 2006 Tishbi Shiraz tasting, we ran into a bunch of acquaintances from Rogov’ forum. The inner circle of wine booths did not take up all the possible space, so they filled the empty space with some nice standing tables. I rolled up to the table to augment my wine notes, and as I am of to do, I struck up a conversation with the people around me. Standing there as well was Zvi and his lovely wife. He overheard the conversation I was having (which is shocking given my quiet personality), and quickly surmised that it was I that had blown him off earlier in the evening. We were supposed to meet up at the booth of Assaf Winery. Well that never happened, because we could NOT find the bloody booth! It was one of those booths that had almost no signage, and so made it a bit hard to find, given the swarms surrounding the booths. Anyway, after talking a bit, Zvi pipes up asking “did you get to taste the 2003 Magnum Yarden Merlot”? Well no I say, heck I had yet to stroll over to the booth/platform at all. Given the opportunity, I bid my adu, and head on over to the Yarden “booth”. I nicely asked for a bit of the Merlot, and was rewarded with what can only be described as a drunkard’s convention sized glass of the dark garnet gold! Keeping in the new Hebrew and non-sequitur slang the Merlot was chaval al ha zman (translated literally — it’s a waste of time” in slang — fantastic, wonderful, out of this world, great). I lingered long at the booth while I slowly enjoyed my glass of wine. The Merlot was fat yet not over ripe, red fruit, with a ton of chocolate and tobacco. It almost felt like you were drinking ripe fruit and wood, while smoking a fat cigar and inhaling boxes of dark chocolate – quite a trip to say the least – like I said – chaval al ha zman.
Once I had my chance to talk with the Yarden crowd and enjoy my wine, I found my way over to the booth of Tzora Winery. We have spoken about this winery before, and have also had the pleasure of going to their lovely winery, just before the untimely passing of their founder Ronnie James. Well, the wine has not missed a beat, with the new winemaker Eran Pick. The 2006 Neve Ilan was dirty and lovely. The 2006 Shoresh was a bit lighter, but still quite enjoyable. As I continued my trip around the inner circle, I hit upon Alexander Winery’s booth. The winemaker Yoram Shalom was pouring and his marketing agent was talking – quite a show! The wine that was pouring was the 2007 Sandro (named after Shalom’s brother). We were fortunate enough to meet Shalom the last time we visited his winery in Moshav Beit Yitzchak. The booth was abuzz with the recent award they won in a Spanish Wine Contest (missed the name – sorry) for their top star – 2005 Alexander The Great – Cabernet Sauvignon. The 2007 Sandro was overripe, as I have said before. The wines in the Golan and Upper Galilee can tend towards overripe flavors if not picked at the correct time. The Sandro is a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot. We meandered around a bit, and we found ourselves at the Agur Winery’s booth. There I made my second faux pas, and tasted the 2008 Agur Blanca – which was also a shmitta wine and they use Heter mechira. The Blanca was really nice, though there are critics out there that do not like it as much as I did, oh well :-). I was not as impressed by the 2007 Agur Kessem (40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 20% Petit Verdot, and 10% Cabernet Franc), still a nice wine with a mix of black and red flavors, along with nice toasty oak, earth, and mouth coating tannins.
My friend disappeared by now, and I was moving around alone by now. I swung by the Yarden booth again, to get a taste of the 2004 Yarden Ortal Merlot, which was stunning (I had not tasted this one before). At this point, my palate was shot and I swung by the Tishbi booth once more, to get a taste of the stunning 2006 Jonathan Tishbi Barbera-Zinfandel Fortified Dessert Wine. I absolutely loved it and it reminded me of the Carmel Vintage – which is another desert wine that is quite impressive as well. The evening ended and I picked up some wines to go, in an outside pavilion.
My take away overall was that the festival was well run, while most of the wine purveyors were pushing some light weight wares that met the interest of the majority of the festival customers. There is nothing wrong with that, the average wine consumer likes their wine smooth and easy to drink. Given that trend, the wineries were pouring wines that met the consumer’s interests. The wineries that I highlighted were pouring wines that were quite enjoyable and highly unexpected (Galil and Yarden). Finally, ignoring the wines for a second, the festival’s attendees were all very amiable, courteous, and joyous. Yes they were imbibing alcohol, but alcohol can bring out the worst in people, and that was NOWHERE to be seen, and I stayed to the closing on Tuesday night. There is a lovely saying in Jewish Lore that goes something like this; When alcohol enters the person’s true self comes out. That was more than evident Tuesday night, under the full moon’s sky, the beauty that is Israel, was open for all to see and enjoy.
So, thank you so much to the Israel Museum, Avi Ben and all the wineries that were pouring their wares, the wine notes follow below:
2008 Yatir Sauvignon Blanc – Score: B+
The nose on this straw colored wine is filled with lychee, grapefruit, and tropical fruit, along with a strong sense of brightness, and almost clean steel smell. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is super bright with lychee, grapefruit, and tropical fruit, along with some nice balancing green flavors. The mid palate is bright which leads into a long and crisp finish of more tropical fruit. A really nice crisp Sauvignon Blanc with just a hint of roundness that comes from a bit of time in French barrels.
2007 Galil Pinot Noir – Score: B+
The nose on this dark ruby colored wine is classical in nature with nice terroir notes, along with cherry, cranberry, and raspberry. The nose was hot out of the bottle, and I did not stick around long enough to see when it dissipated. The mouth on this medium bodied wine follows the nose with more cherry, raspberry, and not yet integrated tannins. The mid palate is still tannic and hot, along with coffee and bright acidity. The finish is long and spicy with bright red fruit and an almost toasty flavor
2007 Galil Barbera – Score: B
The nose on this light garnet colored wine is filled with cranberry, plum, oak, and coffee. The mouth on this medium bodied wine has nice light and integrating tannins that work well with the mouth’s plum and cranberry. The mid palate is almost smooth with light tannins, coffee, and oak. The finish is long with bright acidity, coffee, and red fruit. This is not the winner that the 2006 vintage was, and may be too early to really tell where this wine is going.
2006 Galil Meron – Score: A-
The nose on dark garnet to black colored wine is popping with blackberry, raspberry, ripe plum, chocolate, coffee, and rich oak. The mouth on this full bodied and complex wine has layers of blackberry, tar, coffee, and rich plum. The mid palate is layered with oak and integrating tannins that come at you in layers. The finish is super long with tar, pepper, blackberry, and chocolate. This is a real winner and one that is sure to please almost anyone at the table.
2007 Dalton Shiraz Reserve – Score: A-
The nose on this dark garnet to purple colored wine is filled with ripe fruit, plum, blackberry, tar, and pepper. The mouth on this full bodied wine with complex layers hits you often with wave after wave of blackberry, ripe plum, and cassis. The mid palate is filled with tar, oak, and coffee. The finish is long and spicy, with oak, tar, blackberry, and chocolate. Quite a nice Shiraz indeed.
2006 Binyamina Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve – Score: B – B+
The nose on this dark garnet colored wine was hot out of the bottle, with ripe fruit, cranberry, blackberry, and oak. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine has cassis and blackberry flavors. The mid palate is balanced and spicy with oak and bright acidity. The finish is bright and spicy with blackberry, coffee, and oak.
2007 Tzuba White Belmont (55% Sauvignon Blanc and 45% Semillon) – Score: B+
The nose on this bright light straw colored wine has mineral qualities, along with lychee, grapefruit, peach, and an almost toast aroma. The mouth has very ripe flavored fruit that mingles nicely with earthy and mineral flavors, along with grapefruit and peach. The mid palate is tart and earthy. The finish is long with more tart fruit and clean mineral flavors.
2006 Tzuba Tel Tzuba Merlot – Score: B+
The nose on this dark ruby colored wine has nice earthy notes along with raspberry, cranberry, cherry, oak, and vegetal notes. The mouth is medium bodied with integrating tannins, cranberry, and raspberry. The mid palate is balanced with oak and acidity. The finish is accompanied by earth, spices, and round red fruit. This is a wine that can use more air in and out of the bottle and one that will serve you well.
2003 Yarden Magnum Merlot – Score: A-
The nose on this black colored wine (not showing any hint of slowing down or brown), is ripe with rich red fruit, slightly hot, plum, raspberry, cassis, rich oak, and mounds of dark chocolate. The mouth on this complex and full bodied wine was throwing sediment, and comes at you with layers of with rich plum, blackberry, and chocolate. The mid palate is bright and balanced with acidity, integrating tannins, and coffee. The finish is long with tobacco, chocolate, and nice tannins. It almost felt like you were drinking ripe fruit and wood, while smoking a fat cigar and inhaling boxes of dark chocolate, quite a treat indeed.
2006 Tzora Neve Ilan (70% Cabernet Sauvignon & 30% Merlot) – Score: B+
The nose on this dark garnet colored wine is filled with rich earth, blackberry, cranberry, oak, and coffee. The mouth on this medium bodied wine follows the nose with cranberry, raspberry, roasted oak flavors, and something akin to toffee. The mid palate has integrated tannins that flow into a long finish with spice, dirt, and red fruit.
2006 Tzora Shoresh (100% Cabernet Sauvignon) – Score: B+ – A-
The nose on this dark garnet colored wine filled with plum, raspberry, earth, and toasted coffee beans, and oak. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is spicy with somewhat gripping tannins that have yet to integrate, plum, cassis, and raspberry. The mid palate is bright with acidity and oak, and leads into a long and earthy finish with rich oak, coffee, and nice spice.
2007 Alexander Sandro – Score: B – B+
The nose on this garnet colored wine is perfumed with almost overripe fruit, toasted oak, blackberry, and raspberry. The mouth on this full bodied wine is gripping with powerful tannins, cassis and plum. The mid palate is filled with toasted oak and balancing acidity. The finish is long with cassis and plum fruit, and chocolate.
2008 Agur Blanco (65% Viognier & 35% Riesling) – Score: B+
The nose on this electric straw colored wine is perfumed with rich and lively grapefruit, honeydew melon, and peach. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is rich and almost glycerol and oily with ripe peach and honeydew. The mid palate is balanced with bright acidity that leads into a long and rich finish of tart fruit.