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My top 25 kosher wines of 2017 including wine of the year and best wine of the year awards

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 was scored an A- to A or higher. Also, there are a few lower scoring wines here because of their uniqueness or really good QPR. I also included some of the best wines I tasted this year – they are at the bottom.

This year I am adding the “wine of the year”, and “best wine of the year”. Wine of the year will go 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. This year, it is not the QPR King of 2017, that went to the 2016 Chateau Des Riganes. No, this year “the wine of the year” is indeed a QPR superstar, but not the king, it is the 2014 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Reserve, Alexander Valley. The best wine of the year, well that was easy, it is the 2015 Chateau Leoville Poyferre. So, yes, that means that the top wines of the year are both made by Royal wines, such is life, and I could care less for the most part.

Again, the list is missing wines I have yet to taste, like the 2015 Chateau Pape Clement, which I am sure would have been on this list if I had tasted it, or the 2015 Hajdu Proprietary Red. 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 – blame that on the poor crop or rose wines overall, they did not even crack the interesting list. Also, this year, we were given a bounty of top wines and finding the list this year was really a task of removing then adding.

The supreme bounty comes from the fact that Royal released the 2014 and 2015 French Grand Vin wines within the same year! The 2014 vintage wines were released in 2017 and the 2015 wines were released (in France in 2017 as well)! Throw in the incredible number of kosher European wines that are coming to the USA and being sold in Europe and this was truly a year of bounty for European kosher wines.

Now, separately, I love red wines, but white wines – done correctly, are a whole other story! Sadly, in regards to whites all we had this year that were exceptional, were epic Rieslings from Germany (Von Hovel) and the fantastic sweet wines from Sauterne and Yaacov Oryah. But dry white wines from elsewhere in the world was sadly lacking. There were a few exceptions, and they were all Chardonnays, but to me, the winner in that story (dry white wine that was not a German Riesling), was the 2015 Herzog Chardonnay, Reserve, Russian River. It does not rate in the wine of the year list, but it is in the interesting wines below. The new Chablis is also nice, as is the Shirah Whites.

Some of these wines are available in the USA, some only in Europe, and a few only available in Israel.

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 2017 kosher wine of the year!

This one was a no-brainer to me. The 2014 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Reserve, Alexander Valley is a crazily affordable wine that got rave reviews from me and from the press. Congratulations to Herzog Winery and Royal Wines.

2014 Herzog Cabernet SauvignonSpecial Reserve, Alexander Valley – Score: 92 to 93 (QPR Superstar)
Lovely nose, impressive elegant and old world nose, peaking with a blackcurrant showing blackberry and lovely smoke and tar. The mouth is old world, wow, give me a break, in ways the wine is crazy better than the Warneke (Special Edition), but with years the Warneke will pass it. The mouth on this medium body, is great layered and rich, green, spicy, and rich with concentration, with sweet oak and sweet dill galore, with green notes, loads of foliage, showing dried strawberry, ripe raspberry, black forest berry, all wrapped in mouth coating and drying tannin, with earth and spice. The finish is long, and richly green, with nice spicy notes, leather and scraping mineral, showing bright and ripe fruit that is impressive, elegant, rich, and layered, with licorice, graphite, and forest floor that lingers long. Bravo!! Drink from 2020 till 2030.

The 2017 best kosher wine of the year!

This one was really tough. First of all, the one I chose is not available yet for purchase in the USA. Also, in terms of score, it did not beat out the Von Hovel Rieslings of 2014 or the 2014 Tour Blanche Sauternes, or the 2015 Chateau Giscours, or the 2014 Chateau Smith Haute Lafite. In the end – for its sheer awesomeness it beat out a very crowded field. In the end, the winner of the BEST kosher wine of 2017 goes to the 2015 Chateau Leoville Poyferre, and it deserves the crown – bravo!!

2015 Chateau Leoville Poyferre – Score: 95
This wine was very close to what we tasted from the barrel. The nose on this wine is rich and black, with floral hints, smoke, mineral, and really pushed for now, but incredible and redolent with a perfume of ripe fruit, chocolate, and green notes. The mouth is rich and layered with an incredible finesse of perfection, richly extracted and incredible with rich mineral and saline that is so perfectly hedonistic it is impressive, with chocolate heaven, showing earth, loam, finesse, and elegance beyond explanation, showing soft yet focused with a tight-mouthfeel, with rich raspberry, blackberry, ripe plum, all focused and concentrated with perfection. The finish is long and rich and paired with an acid and mineral that is never-ending, almost ripe and tart at the same time, with draping tannin, graphite, and charcoal with expressive and focus. Drink from 2022 to 2040.

Rest of the top 25 kosher wines of 2017

2015 Chateau Grand Puy Ducasse – Score: 94
This wine was very close to what we tasted from the barrel. What a nose, this wine is mostly Cabernet Sauvignon and a drop of merlot. This nose is green and red and really mineral focused with dark but red fruit focused, showing lovely elegance, dirt, and herb. The mouth is medium bodied with rich extraction, rich currant, red fruit, with dirt in the background, wrapped in rich and searcing tannin mouthfeel, with roasted herb, and rich tobacco that is backed by elegance and control, blackberry, plum, that gives way to dark chocolate epic control, foliage, and oregano that lingers long with graphite, pencil shavings, and rich leather. Drink from 2024 to 2034

2015 Chateau Giscours – Score: 95
This wine was very close to what we tasted from the barrel. The nose on this lovely wine is super dry, with more of a classic Bordeaux nose, less ripe than some of the previous wines, with the ever classic blueberry notes of Giscours, with black and red fruit galore backed by roasted herb, rich mineral, and lovely saline. The mouth is rich, incredible, massive, full-bodied and incredibly extracted with rich saline, with layers of unstoppable concentrated fruit, with blackberry, raspberry, with blueberry, rich spice, mushroom, and herb. The finish is never ending with green notes, roasted herb, incredible drying tannin, with a deep fruit base followed by the mineral, black fruit, earth, graphite, and rich spice, cloves, and dark chocolate. BRAVO! Drink from 2023 to 2035

2015 Chateau Lascombes – Score: 94.
WOW, how this wine changed from when we tasted it in the barrel. This wine is a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 46% Merlot, and 3 to 4% Petit Verdot. It is the flagship wine of Chateau Lascombes. The nose on this wine is even crazier than the Chevalier, showing more umami and soy sauce if that is possible, with incredible finesse, showing massive power, but great mineral and concentration, with black and red fruit, foliage galore with tar and roasted animal. The mouth is full bodied and incredible with the same style as the Chevalier, but with more finesse, mouth coating soft tannin that is extracted with blue fruit, earth, rich concentration, with more saline and power, yet showing incredible precision that is coating and impressive. The finish is long and lovely, with saline, mineral, tobacco, refined dark chocolate, and rich mushroom. Incredible! Drink from 2022 to 2032. Read the rest of this entry

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2015 St. Urbans-Hof Nik Weis Selection Riesling, Wiltinger, Gefen Hashalom

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Sadly, when I tasted through the horizontal of the Rieslings last week, I had yet to receive the new 2015 Nik Weis Riesling. This Riesling is not the same as the 2014 Nik Weis Riesling. The 2014 Riesling was a SAARFEILSER, which comes from a St. Urbans-Hof vineyard at the Mosel tributary Saar. This vineyard is one of the closest vineyards to the river itself. The SAARFEILSER vineyard has a southern exposure, that allows for the sunlight to reflect off the water, which makes it one of the warmer vineyards in Nik Weis’s portfolio. Last year’s Saarfeilser

Last year’s Saarfeilser wine was made pretty dry, and considerably drier than this year’s Wiltinger style wine. The Wiltinger wines are made sweeter, and more fruit forward, though they have a lower alcohol content. Why? Well, the higher the ABV (alcohol content) the lower the residual sugar. This wine comes in at 9.5% ABV, while last year’s Saarfeilser came in at 12% ABV.

Once again, the world of kosher German wines is very small indeed. Also, I have only had these two, and from what all my friends who know German Rieslings, these wines are what we are meant to hold all other wines to, not the other way around. Sadly, my palate desires drier wines, and as such, the 2015 vintage is not a wine I go gaga for.

As I noted in the notes, this wine is still a year away from being ready, if you must enjoy it now, open it two or three hours before drinking time. Also, I would not drink this wine at cellar temp, I would go more with room temperature, as the colder it gets, the more muted is its nose. Truly, if there is one con to this wine, it is its muted and stifled nose. The mouth is well balanced and truly clean. The wine I compare it to, the 2015 Hagafen Riesling with 2% residual sugar, is far more tropical than this wine which is clean and old-style in nature. Still, The Hagafen is richer and more acidic to handle its rich sweetness. The Wiltinger is acidic, no question (once you allow the wine to air out, otherwise from opening it tasted flat), but while it has racy acid, I would crave a drop more.

I bought my bottles from Gary at Taste Co – email him at: info@tastewineco.com or call at (212) 461-1708.

The 2015 vintage is meant to be one of the best in a long time in Mosel and Saar areas (Saar is a sub-region of Mosel). I am thinking of putting a few of these aside along with the 2015 Hagafen 2% and watch them age alongside each other.

My wine note follows below:

2015 St. Urbans-Hof Nik Weis Selection Riesling, Wiltinger, Gefen Hashalom – Score: A- (QPR)
WARNING! This wine needs time, LOTS of it, please do NOT jump to any conclusion about this wine before you have had it open for at least 6 hours and not overly chilled either., the cold mutes the already non-redolent nose.
When you first open this wine, this wine is a complete letdown, but as stated let this puppy open! Still, to a dry wine freak like me, it is a letdown from the 2014 vintage. So, where is it actually? It is sweet, no way around that, but it is very balanced and well integrated. The 2015 Hagafen 2% Riesling is also sweet, but the acid is more in your face and balanced, but it is also far more tropical, while this wine is not tropical in any way.
What is shocking is that this wine has a 9.5% ABV! While the wine has lots of RS, its profile shows clean and lean, which makes for an interesting wine, just not sure how interesting it will really be long term. Right now, I would prefer the Hagafen, but this wine has lots of potential, and its lean markings can make for a fun wine a few years from now.

The nose on this wine is dry, it is in NO way tropical like the Hagafen and other sweet Rieslings, which is very different than its mouth, the aromas are not redolent, like the 2014 vintage, it shows yellow apple, stone fruit, with flint, honeysuckle flowers, and other floral notes. The mouth takes time to open, but with time it does come around, it shows like a wine with 2% RS or more, showing nice integrated acidity, with crazy honeyed fruit, impressive citrus blossom, with sweet-tart lemon, almost like a limoncello, with peach, apricot, nice mineral, slate, with a viscous mouthfeel from the abundant residual sugar, but a wine that is clean, and really focused.
Now, will this wine appeal to many? I think so. The wine freaks who crave the dry 2014 vintage, will like that better. The people who like sweeter wines will find this wine well balanced and all-around a very enjoyable wine to taste and drink, with a plethora of food combinations, from fish, cheese, Asian and spicy dishes, and roasted fowl or fish. Nice!

Kosher Riesling Horizontal Tasting

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It was time to taste all the Rieslings that I had been gathering up for some time. The problem was that I had no time to do it, given all the events I was traveling to, along with some personal needs as well. So, I finally found a day that would work, a week ago Thursday night and we gathered to taste them all.

So let me start with why Riesling and what is Riesling? First, this grape has many names, White Riesling, Riesling, Johannisberg Riesling, and others are real names of the Noble grape, while Emerald Riesling or Welsch Riesling – not so much!

Riesling Grape

Riesling is old, like ancient, it is documented to exist in Mosel dating back to the early 1400s! It is one of the Noble Six grapes that define wine history, but that is all marketing hooey IMHO. In terms of kosher wines, this variety did not really become special until recently, with Hagafen and Carmel doing wonderful jobs with the grape.

Riesling wines can be made in so many ways. The most common are sweet wines, like the impressive Hagafen Rieslings, that Ernie Weir makes every year, or the less impressive Giersberger Riesling, or the even less impressive Gilgal Riesling. These wines all have some amount of RS (Residual Sugar), whether they are called off-dry, semi-sweet, or sweet, they all need a very important component to make them work – ACID! They desperately need acid to balance the sweet notes. Hagafen is the only off-dry Riesling I have ever liked, that I remember anyway.

It is sad, but while Jews do not seem to enjoy white wines, they do drink sweeter wines, and if there was a bit more acid to balance it out, I think they would show better. That said, I brought this subject up to many a winemaker, and the response was all the same. People like it simpler to drink, so spiking the wine with acid would not sell as well, IE, customers like sweet alcoholic water. Acid tends to discourage gulping or whatever to these people do. Truly sad.

I am finding that Riesling is quickly becoming my favorite white wines. The dry wines from Hagafen, Nik, and Carmel bring a smile to my face. They are rich, layered, oily and balanced, with good acid that makes them enjoyable during almost any part of the meal. That is what makes acid work so well. Food dishes, wine, even dessert, all need some amount of acid to balance out the palate.

There are many other white wines out there for sure, look at my list of whites from 2015. Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Riesling are all noble grapes, and they are all lovely when done correctly. Still, Riesling has something going for it, that none of the other white varietals have, funk!

When the wine is done correctly, and then aged for even a year, the wine starts to display notes of petrol and oil. Some may find that offensive, but to me, it is yet another aspect of how I love mineral based wines. The great thing is that these wines come from all around the world! You can find kosher Riesling from California, France, Germany, and Israel!

Read the rest of this entry

2014 Nik Weis Selection Gefen Hashalom – first exported kosher Mosel Riesling

2014-nik-weis-selection-gefen-hashalom-rieslingThis wine is incredible, really in almost every way that I can describe it. It is a beautiful old world Riesling, its acid is intense, its mineral and saline come at you in waves, and forget about the impressive fruit structure. Yes, the wine is German, and yes I still enjoyed it. I would be the first to admit that I buy nothing German in my home, no German cars, or even shavers. The only German thing I have in my home, I am ashamed to admit was a sink, but that is a story for another day.

But here I am talking about wine, a food item that does not really make me think German as much as it does make me think how wonderful it is. Please do not get me wrong, German anything to a Jew is going to be a touchy subject, I get that, but I wanted to set the stage here first, that I am a Jew that is very much behind the no forgetting camp.

With all that said, yes I bought the wine, a case actually. The wine is incredible, and well worth buying more. That said, it is the first one to come to the USA, and if you try to search for it on Google, you will find NADA! Nothing at all. The closest thing you will find is GG’s wine notes on the wine. That is it!

Why? Well, because it is German, and Jews do not commonly buy German items, and also because the marketing behind it is really not very good! That said, of my friends that I told about this wine, none of them have told me they do not want to buy it. I did ask importers about the wine, and they told me, no thanks – we will stay away from Germany for now. The funny thing is that they are happy to import Alsace wines, a wine region that is separated from Germany by a river. Strasbourg, a major Jewish city, and the capital of Alsace, is a bus ride away from Germany. Still, Germany is Germany to importers, and with that, I will close this subject down.

Now, to the subject of where can I get this wine – well I bought my case from Gary at Taste Wine Company. His number is 212-461-1708. Please give him a call and get wine from him. He is a great guy and he is on the right side of my blog, “Favorite Wine Sites”, because he a friend and also a great person to buy wine from!

In the end, this wine is a true joy and if it is still available I would recommend buying it if it does not offend your Jewishness.

The wine note follows below:

2014 Nik Weis Selection Gefen Hashalom – Score: A- (QPR)
What a wine! This is the first kosher “dry” German Riesling from Mosel that I know about and it is a major hit. This is old world, with a great sweet body. The nose on this wine is insane, showing intense orange blossom, absolutely insane flint and smoke, followed by peach, honeysuckle, lovely green apple, and honeyed notes, with a bit of time the incredible petrol comes through beautifully. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is in your face from the get-go, with impressive floral notes, wrapped in an incredibly oily texture, followed by orange, nectarines, impressive mineral, saline galore, sweet notes, with guava, kumquat, mad ripe and racy grapefruit, and pineapple. The finish is long and really well balanced with ripping acid, great flint and sweet spices on the long and lingering finish. BRAVO!!! Drink now till 2023. I really want to watch this age.

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