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2013 Jewish Week kosher wine tasting at the City Winery in New York City

City Winery PictureAs I stated in my previous post, my heart was in the Shabbos but my mind was on my trip that I was taking to New York. All the thinking did not help make the trip any less miserable. Once again I have proven to myself that flying to New York is hard enough, doing a stop in between is miserable and downright idiotic. Lets take a step back here and explain the situation. The Jewish Week holds a wine tasting every year, showing of the top kosher wines they thought made an impression to the wine judges. This past year, they tasted through some 400+ wines and came up with a long list of wines, many of which I like and some I did not like. Anyway, the tasting was this past Sunday, the 3rd of March, 2013, at 1 PM. To get there from the west coast, it would mean either sleeping in NY for Shabbos (not an option), or flying out Saturday Night.

I LOVE Jet Blue, but they canceled flying out Saturday night from San Jose airport, and now only fly out Saturday night from SFO – AHHH!!! So, the only other option was Delta, which I should never have done, because it meant a stopover in Atlanta. The idea was to fly out by 10:45 PM, have an hour in Atlanta and hop on the 9 AM flight to NY. That all sounded OK, no storms in the forecasts, no crazy storm trackers or watcher on the news – so it looked like I was in the clear! Not so fat, turns out that there may not be Godly reasons to not fly – but Delta is more than capable of creating man-made disasters – all by itself!

I arrived to the airport with an hour to go, and by the time we took off, I was in the airport for some 3 and a half hours! AHH!! Yep, you guessed it Delta screwed up and lost a tire on landing so the plane could not take us to Atlanta. By the time they fixed the plane, the man fixing it broke another part and we had to deplane and get on another plane – a gate over. By the time that plane was fueled and had everyone’s bags repacked – we were two+ hours behind. I slept like a baby on the plane, but by the time we arrived in Atlanta – I knew I was cooked. The connecting flight was 5 terminals over and the “plane train” could not get me there in time to save my bacon. So here comes the best part – I arrive at the gate and the plane was not departed, but the man would not let me on – no matter how much I screamed and begged. However, he gave me a printed ticket (I have not sen one of those in years) and told me to run to the next terminal where the Laguardia flight was boarding. I ran like a mad man, and in the interim broke my hand luggage! One thing after another – I know! Anyway, as I get to the gate the lady tells me that there is no such flight, I say what – the man told me there was a plane boarding now! She says – oh sure – that is one gate over, the dude gave me the incorrect gate number! Anyway, she walks me over and I start talking to the gate agent who tells me – once again – sorry the gate is closed and the plane is leaving. This is when the other gate woman turns into SuperWoman! She says – OH NO – this poor man has been through enough. She swipes her card, opens the gate door, walks me down the jetway – and bangs on the plane door! Seriously! She screams – open this door!

Now – let me please recap, I have a ticket – printed ticket, for JFK. I am trying to board a plane for which I have NO TICKET – none whatsoever! Actually I have a ticket for a totally different airport! Think of me as one of those lost souls dropped on a plane. That was me! Of course, I have no checked luggage – for two days, but still, this is COOL! The unflappable stewardess, behind a massive closed door replies; the door is closed. The gate attendant is equally unflappable, and she fires back (sorry bad use of verbage) open the door, you forgot this guy! Will you believe – the stewardess blinked and opened the door! Heck these folks were half way through the security demonstration! I was told grab any seat – we need to move. I grabbed the first window seat I could find, and promptly went back to sleep! WOW!! By the time I land in Laguardia, I had two hours to go and once I finished davening, I hopped in a taxi and found my way to the City Winery. Read the rest of this entry

Israel wineries I visited in the north and the state of Israeli kosher Wines

I just returned from a long and wonderful trip to Israel where I visited a total of 36 wineries in less than three weeks. To be fair, I was set to visit more, but let us just say that a family member, who will go nameless, slowed me down just a wee bit – LOL!!! All the same, it was great visiting the wineries, meeting the wine makers and owners, and getting a far deeper feel for all things wine in the land of Israel!

Yes, I brought back many bottles, and I had friends and family who helped me schlep in even more bottles. In all some 30+ bottles or so made it back to the diaspora, and I will be enjoying them in due time. Many of them are NOT available here in America and some were just too good to pass up on.

So, let us start with the facts – there are five wine regions in the land of Israel, and I visited wineries in all of them. According to Yossie’s Israel winery page that is a mash up of Google maps and his winery data, there are some 70+ kosher wineries. The kosher wineries are bunched up in the Judean Hills, Shomron, Samson, and the Galilee. There are wineries in the other wine region; the Negev, but other than Yatir, which is really the southern tip of the Judean Hills, there is no winery that I wanted to visit in the Negev (dessert – southern wine region of Israel).

I started my wine adventure in the north and went to every kosher winery that would let me visit. One of the first things I realized about wineries in Israel is that it is a business. To me, wine and wineries are like candy and big candy store. To top it off – they are kosher and in a land I love. So, when I visit a winery, I want to know everything about it and why it exists. Others see me as a pain or as a lack of dollars and cents and as such, are not so receptive to my interests. That is fair, and as such, if I was received well I will state it and if not, or I got to taste a single wine or less, I will simply state what I tasted and move on.

The first day, I dropped my stuff off at friends in the north and drove up to Tabor Winery. Tabor Winery ha recently been bought up by the Coca-Cola company of Israel, and as such has seen a fair amount of investment in both vineyards and winery facilities. Tabor Winery-smallThey have some of the coolest high-tech gear out there, though a few others do rival them, including Yarden (which I did not visit this time), Yatir Winery (visited and loved it!), Shiloh Winery, and of course Carmel and Binyamina (because their size allows for more toys). I was really shocked there and then by the cold blue fruit that exists if you look for it. By cold blue fruit I mean that wines (Syrah, Malbec, Cabernet – YES CAB, Petite Verdot, and Petite Sirah) exhibit blueberry, boysenberry, and other blue colored fruit when controlled in a cold enough climate. They had some lovely wines there, though no WOW wines (wines that get an A- to A or higher score). Still, a very nice and wonderful winery well worth the visit, if you can handle the drive all the way up there.

Now before you laugh at one winery in a day, driving north from Jerusalem, even with highway 6, is a large haul and in the pouring rain, I rest my case. While driving my way up there – I noticed another aspect that I have not spoken about in the past – Israeli drivers. I think it was my nephew who brought this to my attention; they drive cars like they have no tomorrow, without hesitation, and without fear – almost like war. Drivers in Israel are more than happy to pass you going uphill, on a curve, in the pouring rain! In no way was this a singular or rare occurrence! If you drive in Israel and you blink or hesitate, you may well find yourself forced onto the other side of oncoming traffic by a public transit bus! I am not kidding – and in a not so hospitable location to boot! My point is, if you wish to drive in Israel, and to get to all the wineries in and about Israel, a car is required (or a tour guide), my best advice is pray a lot, and be very careful. Also, get full coverage on your rental car. Read the rest of this entry

Seared Black Pepper Crusted Salmon with a Green Pepper/Sweet Onion/Fig sauce, and a few wines

This past week saw me at my family in Chicago, for a mix of business and fun.  Being that I was crashing at my brother’s house, I was happy to nominate myself to do the fish, which was a TON of fun.  I did two fish recipes and a sauce.

The first fish dish is one that we have made a few times, the baked gefilte fish loaf recipe.  It came out well except for the fact that the fish loaf was a Passover one, and so had no binding other than potato starch, which is a poor substitute for flour 🙂

The other fish dish was one I once made a couple of years ago, and it was a massive failure because it was under cooked.  You see I seared the fish nicely, but I did not finish it in the oven, so we had more of a half cooked sashimi, than a fully baked fish.  So this time, I cracked the multi-colored peppercorns using a low to medium grind, which left the corns cracked into chunks that could be consumed easily.  I purchased a lovely half side of a Salmon that was filleted and boned.  It did not fit in a pan of any sort.  So I cut the fish in half and then liberally applied olive oil on it and then applied a liberal amount of the cracked pepper.  Once oiled and peppered, I placed it into a lightly oiled pan and waited 5 minutes before taking it out, and placing it in a roasting pan, pepper side up.  I did the same with the second piece of fish and then placed it as well into a roasting pan.  I put a wee bit of water/wine into the pan as well, and placed the pan into a pre-heated oven at 350 degrees, for 5 minutes.  Then remove the pans and leave covered for another few minutes, and then uncover and let cool.

With the fish made I was looking for a sauce to cover it with.  I went through many options and none of them did it for me.  I did not want teriyaki or sweet and sour, or any of the many pairings that exist out there.  So instead, I listened to my sister-in-law to make a sauce that we would come up with.  She recommended that we sauté some onions and green peppers, and then toss in some other stuff.  So, we started with those two things, threw in some fresh garlic and pepper.  Once they were fully browned and wilted, my brother appeared and recommended some dried figs, which turned out to be a great idea.  I cubed the figs into small pieces, and threw them into the pan.  I then emptied half a bottle of a Barkan Shiraz Rose, and waited for the wine to reduce by 50%, and then finished the sauce with a bit of Agave nectar to sweeten the pot!  The sauce was awesome, if I say so myself.  But even better was the combination of the sauce and the pepper encrusted salmon.  The flavor combination does not burst in your mouth, but rather balances themselves so well, that you wonder how you ever lived without this stuff for so long.

Pepper Crusted Salmon
Salmon Fillet
Olive Oil to coat
Cracked Pepper Corn to cover on flesh side (leave skin on and un-coated)
Lightly oiled pan

Sweet Onion and Pepper Sauce
2 or 3 sweet onions
3 or 4 sweet peppers
Few cloves of crushed garlic
7 or 8 dried figs cubed
375 ml of wine
2 tbsp of agave nectar

2008 Santieri Ebraici Dona Gracia Vino Bianco – Score: B to B+
The nose on this light gold colored wine is filled with roasted herbs, lychee, ripe pear, and quince.  The mouth on this light to medium bodied wine is filled with lychee, ripe pear, tart lemon, and quince.  The mid palate is bright with acidity, tart lemon, and dry orange peel.  The finish is long with tart lemon, almond, and orange peel.  After the wine receives more air, the wine softens and losses its harshness and becomes softer, lighter, with ripe pear and tart lemon that linger on the palate, long after the wine is gone.

2009 Mony Kikar HaShabbos (70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Petite Syrah) – Score: B to B+
The nose on this purple colored wine is hopping with cranberry, raspberry, black cherry, coffee, and mineral stones.  The mouth on this medium bodied wine is a bit tight but soft with black cherry, raspberry, and cranberry.  The mid palate is bright with acidity, soft tannins, and coffee.  The finish is long and spicy with soft tannin, black cherry, mineral notes, and coffee.

2007 Odem Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, Volcanic – Score: A- to A
The nose on this purple to black colored wine is screaming with rich blackberry, blueberry, cassis, chocolate, sweet oak, slight mineral, vanilla, and spice.  The mouth on this full bodied wine is firm with a full mouth that comes at you with layers of chocolate, ripe blackberry, blueberry, and still gripping tannins.  The mid palate is balanced and follows the mouth with sweet oak and lovely tannins.  The finish is super long and luxurious with sweet oak, blueberry, blackberry, chocolate, and vanilla.  Quite a wonderful wine that keeps on surprising, the wine keeps coming at you with ripe fruit, nice extraction, and a full body.

Odem Mountain Winery Chardonnay Volcanic and pepper/lemon roasted chicken

This past weekend saw us trying this wonderful Chardonnay and roasted chicken.  My wife whipped up her usual lemon and red pepper roasted chicken.  I made sure there was tons of tart and yummy lemons, thinly sliced, placed all over the chicken.  The thinner you slice the lemons, the more juice is extracted as it roasts and the brighter and tarter they become.  We also had some plain old rice with vegetables that went along quite nicely with the chicken’s lemon infused Jus.

To pair with the lemon I chose a lovely new Chardonnay that has only recently become kosher – the 2007 Odem Mountain Winery Volcanic Chardonnay.  The wine has a lovely almost full bodied mouth feel from the obvious residual sugar and rich oak.

The wine notes follow below:

2007 Odem Mountain Winery Volcanic Chardonnay – Score: A-
The nose on this vibrant light gold colored wine starts off hot, which makes sense given its 14.9% alcohol, but blows off after time, along with butterscotch, lemon citrus, rich oak, butter, ripe melon, peach, and a good amount of straw. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is livened up a bit by its residual sugar, along with its alcohol content, and rich oak, to make for a mouth coating wine. The mouth starts off with ripe peach, pineapple, honeydew melon, and citrus. The mouth flows into a mid palate of butter, oak, and nice bright acidity. To start the acidity hits you hard, but it mellows out as the fruit, oak, and butter open up. The finish is long and glycerol, with more oak, butter, acidity, and spicy cloves that make for a quite impressive package. This is a wine that stands up to roasted chicken and cholent alike, a very impressive job indeed.

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