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Assorted wines tasted these past few weeks

Well, I have finally caught up on my main wine themes throughout these past few weeks – but I also realized that I had missed a few wines here and there, and so I am creating a catch-all post to track these last few wines that have slipped through the cracks.

They are a hodgepodge of wines that I have tasted, but people were asking for the notes – so the easiest way to get them all up is to put them here in one post

The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

This is fun, a really lovely nose, with white pepper, hints of funk, with good sweet notes, mounds of crazy honeysuckle, honey, showing pineapple, mango, and nice grapefruit, and lemon sorbet. The mouth on this medium bodied is where things go slightly off course, this wine is not as dry as I had hoped, with good acidity, but too much sweet notes, with good balance, showing more of crazy floral jasmine notes, with blossom as well, giving way to sweet citrus, and tropical fruit. The finish is long and tart, crazy acid, with slate, rich sweet notes, and tart fruit. This is more of a very good dessert wine to me than a “dry wine”, but a fun one either way. Drink Now.

2014 Saporta Rioja – Score: B+ to A-
We also tried to taste the Saporta Crianza, but it was corked 😦
This is a lovely wine, with a nose of bright fruit, fresh and vibrant, with good notes of coffee, tar, earth galore, dark cherry, vanilla, and nice spices. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is well made, with good acid, very nice dried and almost candied fruit, with herbs galore, mint, rosemary, and sage, with nice earth, dried raspberry, and more cherry. The finish is long and acidic with a good core of mineral, spice, nutmeg, and tobacco. Nice! Drink by 2019.

2001 Herzog Syrah, Special Reserve – Score: A- (not mevushal)
Lovely wine, I am shocked it is still alive, with crazy white and black pepper, with lovely roasted meat, with mushroom, and truffles. The mouth is layered and quite alive, with good acid, still nice tannin, rich and still richly layered, impressive and attacking with great focus, with lovely juicy fruit, showing green notes of tobacco, menthol, and herb. The finish is long and green with crazy spices, nutmeg, cinnamon, with lovely herbal notes, and tar galore. Bravo!! Drink up!

2014 Hajdu Counoise, Eaglepoint Ranch – Score: B+
The nose starts off hot, with lovely pepper, warm spices, lots of sweet oak, sweet dill, with hickory notes, roasted meat, and black fruit abounds. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is deeply extracted with more of the sweet oak, lots of rich searing tannin, that gives way to blackberry, blueberry, hints of peach, and white fruit, followed by raspberry, and crazy heady spice. The finish on this lovely wine is spice first and tobacco second, with nice mineral, earth, leather, and rich black tea. Nice Drink by 2019

2010 Damien Gachot-Monot Bourgogne – Score: A- (Crazy QPR)
I must admit I was expecting more old world notes to start from this wine, it starts off more Cali in style than Burgundy, but as it opens it literally transforms within 10 minutes to a classically old world wine, insane, with clear sweet notes of dill, herb, and dried cherry, to start, but with time that changes to rich loam, dirt, earth, with mounds of saline, mineral, and lovely sweet juicy raspberry, dried red fruit, and lovely spice. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is clearly sweet, and Cali in style to start, but with time, it opens to classical Burgundy, old-world notes of hints of sweet notes, but far more balanced, with mushroom, hints of barnyard, candied life saver, all wrapped in mouth drying tannin, that flows into smokey oak, charcoal, and lovely tilled earth. The finish is super long, richly balanced with impressive acid, with more smoke and mushroom lingering long, with almost hints of smoked meat, spiced plum, and candied fruit. A fun experience and a crazy good price! Drink by 2019

2014 Capcanes Peraj Petita – Score: A- (Crazy QPR)
This wine is a blend of 60% Grenache, 15% Tempranillo, 15% Merlot, and 10% Syrah. The nose on this wine starts off fruitier and more accessible than previous vintages, showing a more new world in style. With more time that changes a bit and straddles the two worlds, with nice roasted meat, mounds of smoke, mineral, hints of mushroom, dirt, and tar, with sweet spices, and lovely blue fruit. The mouth on this lovely wine is still very controlled even with its new world leanings, but it is clearly fruitier than previous vintages, with mounds of blueberry, boysenberry, wrapped in searing and draping tannins, that give way to dark cherry, dried herb, menthol, and forest berry that are cocooned by sweet oak, and balanced by lovely acid and dirt. The finish is long and searing still with more tannin, but well balanced with green notes of tobacco, foliage, mushroom, and mounds of mineral, graphite, and black olives. A very fun wine indeed! Drink by 2020

2014 Shirah One-Two Punch – Score: A-
This wine is a blend of 50% Grenache and 50% Syrah. The nose on this wine is lovely, with black and blue fruit, showing cherry, blueberry, and lovely earthy and spicy, cloves, all spice, really impressive and fun, with coffee and vanilla. Lovely medium body with great spice, with great acid and focus, showing nice blueberry and raspberry and spicy oak with coffee and candied currant. The finish is long and spicy, with mineral, and dill with smoke and candied fruit. Drink by 2020.

California Wines and friends make for a great combination!

Well as you can tell from my previous post about this last shabbos, this past week or so was all about California wines in my household. Friends from New York came in for a visit, very much akin to the EY visit in 2012. They came in last week and it was all Cali all the time!

So, these are the wines I took out for the two evenings we were at the house. One of these was my last bottle and it is still showing well, the 2008 Shirah 1-2 punch – beautiful! The 2004 Hagafen melange was the most famous Kosher wine for some time, till the 2006 Yarden Rom was released. I never cared for the Rom, but the 2004 Melange was lovely! Elegant and refined. The rest are also doing well, thank goodness, no duds!

The wine notes follow below:

2004 Hagafen Prix Melange Reserve – Napa Valley – Score: A- to A
What can I say, this wine is mesmerizing, it is soft and intense at the same time with structure and finesse, with power and elegance. WOW! The nose on this wine is sick with layers of black and red fruit, what a crazy perfume of sweet notes, chocolate covered cherry, sweet dill, and sweet plum. The mouth on this full bodied wine hits you in layers of sweet concentrated fruit, plum, sweet cedar, chocolate, intense tannin, layers of fruit, and oak all working in perfect harmony with balancing acid and sheer perfection in a glass. The finish is long and sweet and perfectly balanced with chocolate, cinnamon, roasted herb, spice. Crazy! What a wine!!! Double Bravo!!!

2011 Shirah Coalition – Score: A-
The 2010 blend was dominated by the Touriga, while in this blend it plays more of a mop up roll, with the Zinfandel taking center stage. The zinfandel adds more insane spice that is the hallmark of the Coalition blend, but also adds more heft. The wine loses the blue fruit (from the lack of Syrah), but the white fruits show up from the small but still important role that the Touriga plays! The wine is more ripe and richer than the 2010, making for a fuller body and a more extracted madness.

This wine is a blend of 60% Zinfandel, 12% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc, and 8% Touriga Nacional. The wine is a unique blend, just like its older 2010 vintage. The nose explodes with crazy wine aromas – the kind of attack that only the Weiss brothers can bring you, heavy notes of blackberry, burnt raspberry, watermelon, and spice. The mouth on this crazy full bodied wine is ripe, concentrated, extracted, and layered with control and style, with mad acid, insane zinberry, black cherry, and cranberry, (no more showing any note of date) that almost creates a platform upon which the other fruits stand, ripe zesty raspberry, apricot, white peach, mounds of tannin, and sweet cedar. The finish is long and spicy with cloves, black pepper, insane mouth coating tannins that linger long, nice coffee, zesty strawberry, candied currant, fig, tobacco, and mineral. This is a wine that is ripe and full bodied, but balanced with crazy tart fruit, great acid, balance, and citrus fruit!! The last time I had this wine, I seemed to have sensed date, there is NONE of that here now. BRAVO GUYS!!!

2014 Covenant Mensch White – Score: B+ to A- (mevushal)
This is a mevushal wine that is closed and not fun to start, but with time shows nice tropical and stone fruit. This wine is 85% Roussanne and 15% Sauvignon Blanc. The nose is tropical with guava, citrus, wet grass, straw, hay, and nectarine, and citrus. The mouth on this lovely wine is ripping with good acid, pith, grapefruit, orange blossom, floral notes, with sweet oak, and mineral, with sweet herb, and spice. The finish is long with slate and spice and mad pith.

2012 Shirah Rosé – Score: A- (and more)
This wine is still killing it!!!! WOW!! What a rose! This wine is 100% rose of Grenache. The nose is bright and tart with crunchy roasted herb, forest floor, garrigue, red fruit, strawberry, black currant, and spice. The mouth is insane on this medium bodied wine, it starts with an attack of red currant, followed by blue fruit, tart blackcurrant, and crazy acid. The finish is long and attacking with mad acidic tart summer fruit, kiwi, candied strawberry, intense slate, mineral, and crazy tart zinberry that lingers forever, long after the wine is gone. The acid is so intense it is awesome and the fruit is ripe and expressive – BRAVO!!! This wine has not lost a step!

2008 Syraph One | Two Punch 50% Grenache & 50% Syrah – Score: A- (and more)
This was my last bottle, and it started off funky in the nose, but that blew off quickly and now the blue nose is perfume – AHH how I adore you! This wine is so unique in its nose and wine notes – that it is heresy to write them down! LOL! I am not sure if this will last for days like the previous bottle two years ago, but we will see.
The nose on this purple-black colored wine is truly unique and very hard to pin down. Where before the wine was not consistent in its style and notes, this wine is now showing consistent perfume and redolence that is not normal. The wine starts off with lovely sweet cherry, blueberry, juicy raspberry perfume, lovely floral notes, candied fruit, INSANE milk chocolate, and bramble. The mouth on this medium bodied wine forced me to write this acronym down for a second time in days – AYFKM (Are You Freaking Kidding Me)!! OMG and silence. The mouth is now not tart anymore, it is more round and ripe, and rich, crazy watermelon, with CRAZY ripping acid, mango, tropical fruit, followed by massive spice, ripe plum, coffee machine innards and grinds, sweet cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, other baker spices, and rich mouth coating tannin that linger long. The finish is long and luscious with sweet cedar, tobacco, crazy blue fruit that appears after sometime, and jam that lingers long. BRAVO!!

2011 Makom Carignan – Score: A-
This is a Hajdu wine – Makom is one of his labels, that he started in conjunction with Yitzchok Bernstein. The nose on the Carignan wine is rich with toast notes and bushels of red fruit, ripe fruit, hints of blue fruit, roasted herb, and nice baking spices. The mouth on this medium plus bodied wine is screaming with lovely acid, ripe fruit, blackcurrant, cranberry, and sweet boysenberry, all wrapped up with lovely mouth coating tannin and sweet oak. This wine is not slowing down at all, the tannins are searing, the acid is pumping, and the wine structure continues to impress! The finish is long and tart with ripe blackberry, watermelon, and lovely layers of spice, white pepper, sweet vanilla, lingering tart red and black fruit, and sweet tannin – lovely!

2012 Shirah Bro.Deux – Score: A- (and then some)
This is a lovely wine and one that is a bit better than the epic NV (AKA 2010) Bro.Duex. The wine starts off with a nice mineral nose with black fruit. The wine shows a nice medium body with fleshy fruit and layers of green and red fruit and black berry and currant. With sweet cedar and spice. The finish is long and acidic with graphite and slate and crazy mouth coating tannin with nice sweet notes and spice, tobacco and chocolate. Over time, the nose opens to lovely ripe and fleshy strawberry, sweet spices, and blue notes. On the mouth the tannins come out and the fruit does as well, with blackberry, blackcurrant, concentrated fruit, lovely extraction and good fruit structure. The acid is true and good. Bravo!

Shirah, Four Gates, and a French wine for Shabbos Passover

2010 Shirah CoalitionTruly Passover Shabbos was a two fold event, the chance to taste through my Shirah wines that I had been yearning to get to and the chance to taste a barrel sample of wine sent to me by Andrew of Liquid Kosher (a high-end kosher wine merchant). Andrew warned me that I needed to air the puppy out so indeed, I opened it Friday morning and it was still kicking Saturday night.

As, I already documented here, about all things Shirah, I was talking with Gabriel before Passover and we agreed that we would both open Shirah wines over Passover. To me, it was time to see if the Coalition, which I thought was severely lacking in the finish and mouth, had come around. Humorously, there are some that think my article on Shirah wines was a cheerleader post – but such is life, I really did feel passionately about the Weiss Brothers and I really do like their wines. We tasted through four of the Shirah wines that I had around, the two coalitions, from 2010 and 2011 and the 2008 10-2 punch and the 2010 Counterpunch. All four of the wines were truly unique, but the winner of the four was the 1-2 punch and the 2010 Coalition – the very wines, I though was truly lacking – how funny life can be sometimes.

Benyo came over for the Shabbos and brought over two oldie but goodies – 1996 Four Gates Merlot and 1996 Four Gates Chardonnay. Now, as you all know Four Gates Winery was “officially” founded in 1997, but that dos not mean he did not make wine in 1996 – actually he made a fair amount of wine in 1996, and all of his friends and family were the beneficiary of his abundant kindness! To me, the wines rival the 1997, 2003, and 2006 vintages. Though his best wines so far are still the 2012 releases (year wise – not vintage). Anyway, the 1996 Chardonnay was so good and clean and ripe, the real shocker was the color – pure light gold color, like a 2006 or a 2012 Chardonnay! Quite impressive as always – his older 1996 Chardonnay wines are truly unique. I did not take notes – sorry, but this one was not the soft, honeyed, caramelized Chardonnay that I come to expect from his stash of 1996 Chardonnays. This was bright and expressive – really like its color! Blind, I would have thought it was a 2000 or 2010 wine!

After that we enjoyed a march of red wines, one after the other, each one unique in their own right, with really no duds or holes, it was a really fun night. Friends brought over some wines, but none of them made the table, as I really wanted to taste through the Shirah wines, the Frenchie, and one Israeli wine. They brought over a Peeraj Habib – nothing to slouch over AT ALL, but I was single minded on my plan, and I did ask forgiveness afterwards. Read the rest of this entry

Shirah Winery (AKA Weiss Brothers) – sensory overload in a kosher wine bottle


Benyo, the Weiss brothers, and graig at ADSAfter having a quiet set of days at my friend’s homes and at our house, without any guests, it was time to open the wine spigots and see what we could get going. It has been too long since we enjoyed some Shirah Wines – wines from the now famous Weiss Brothers. The winery is in Southern California, but the wines are now very easy to buy, as they are being sold in NY and Chicago, (distributed by River Wines – thanks Ami!!) The wines are also online at (where you can get some of the now sold-out 2010 Coalition), Gotham Wines, and

It almost seemed like Shirah Wine became famous after my original post about the Weiss brothers (all I did was give them their due and rightful respect – their wine did the rest!). They are two wine hell bent (in the right way) brothers who went out on a ledge, and almost went over it, to make great kosher wine and spirits! Throughout all the crazy tribulations they continued and believed in themselves, a truly rare and awesome trait – if I say so myself.  You have to have a very strong internal compass and self-belief to build a wine when all seems to be going against you. I really do have great respect for the two of them, but that does not bias my feelings about their wines – they just happen to make damn good wines!

The first time we tasted their wines, was indeed at the now famous Benyamin Cantz (Benyo of Four Gates Winery) and Rabbi Naftali Citron Shabbaton, where they shared with us the just bottled 1-2 punch and Syraph. Since then we re-tasted the 2008 Syraph again along with the 2009 Power to the People and it was truly a joy tasting them side by side the much heralded and hot Israeli Ortal Syrah from Yarden, which to me felt underwhelming in comparison!

The Weiss brothers, is not just a saying or moniker, they are actually brothers! They consist of Shimon Weiss (the hands and crazy good palate of the pair) and Gabriel Weiss (newly married with a family) is the winemaker. However, they really are the “brothers”, nothing gets done without the two of them. I recently visited the Agua Dolce Winery, where the Shirah Winery is currently stationed, on the way home from the 2013 IFWF, and Shimon was going to Israel in the next few days. To get ready for his departure, they had to get everything bottled and ready to go for the Passover sales. Why? Because the bottling line, labeling, and the entire complex minutia that goes into bottling a wine after the wine is made, was being handled by Shimon at that time. That included bottling the new 2011 Coalition and the new 2010 Single V. Thompson, Syrah/Mourvedre, both of which I tasted and blogged about at the 2013 Jewish Week City Winery tasting.

It all started in 2004 when Gabriel moved from the east coast to the other side of the country to work for Herzog Winery. He worked as a cellar rat (person who moves around wine, cleans out barrels and tanks, etc.) there for almost a year before the opportunity to make wine almost literally fell into his lap! The 2005 season was a bumper crop and in November, the vineyard, from where they sourced the grapes, still had grapes on the vines! The vineyard owner told Gabe to come on by and harvest all the Syrah grapes he wanted – free of charge! So, in 2005 Gabe made the first ever Shirah wine, a wine label that would go dormant for three years, but not forgotten! The wine was made with a bunch of friends in a garage! Now that is what I call Garagiste wine! Read the rest of this entry

Beef Bourguignon made from eye chuck roast and a plethora of Syrah wines

Well after a long hiatus I have finally been able to grab some time for myself and this blog. I have of course been writing wine notes (at cellartracker), just have had no time to get them placed here. So, I rewind us to July 29th, when we had the true joy of many of our friends sharing a meal around our table. The meal started with a lovely bottle of Four Gates Pinot, which was filled with classic CCC (Chicka Cherry Cola) and lovely bramble. The wine was lovely for the first course, which consisted of smoked salmon, spicy hummus and dips.

For the main course we made Beef Bourguignon made from eye chuck roast. I must say that this was the first time we used chuck eye roast, a more expensive cut of the chuck, but it was well worth it. The meat was well marbled, which allowed the meat to stay moist after being cooked for so many hours. I used this recipe, from Daniel Rogov’s culinary site.

Unfortunately, the recipe calls for some fatty goose to be the fat flavor booster (as pork is not kosher), but we had none of that. So, we went with some cubed sausages instead. The main trick is really to allow this dish to happen very slowly. The more time you give the ingredients to marinate, cook, and or cool the better the flavors will come together. The meat was awesome as was the dish, as we had almost no leftovers. The only thing we messed up, was not to remove more of the fat, which we will do next time.

The amount of time it takes to brown 4 pounds of cubed beef is crazy long, and that is why this is one of the easier yet long preparation dishes that we make. We paired the Beef Bourguignon with brown basmati rice, a lovely fresh green salad and some roasted green beans.

The wines we poured that matched this dish were three syrahs that I have been dying to try. The first was the 2008 Syraph One | Two Punch, which we tasted twice back in 2010. This wine did not disappoint us in any way. The wine is still kicking just fine and still has the insanely unique flavor of chocolate mocha covered espresso beans is quite fun and went very well with this hearty dish. That was followed by the 2007 Tishbi Organic Shiraz which was not tasting nearly as well as it did some 5 months ago when we tasted it in the winery. I brought this bottle back myself, and it was a slight disappointment. The nose was crazy good but the mouth was weak and not there. Finally, we had a bottle of the 2004 Yiron Syrah, which is going nowhere anytime soon. This wine is still a massive powerhouse and has at least a few more tannic years under its belt.

The meal was a hit as were most of the wines served. There were a few experimental and barrel wines served, but those notes are not listed here. The wine notes follow below:

2007 Tishbi Organic Sirah: (Israel, Galilee, Golan Heights) – Score: B++
The nose on this purple colored wine is clearly its strongest suite, it is clean, rich cedar, exploding with plum, strawberry, raspberry, black berries, roasted meat, tobacco, chocolate, a hint of tar, and vanilla. The nose is rich and full, and sadly its best feature. The mouth on this medium bodied wine does follow the nose, but has a blatant flaw,; that being is clear lack of balance. The mouth is mouth coating with nicely integrated tannin, raspberry, black plum, black berries, chocolate, and fig. The mid palate is unbalanced with what can only be called strawberry zest, black pepper, dirt, tar, and tobacco. The finish is nice and long with integrated tannin, dirt, black pepper, black plum, chocolate, rich cedar, tobacco, roasted meat, and vanilla. Cedar, tobacco, chocolate, vanilla, and plum linger long. This wine is DRINK NOW mode, please do not wait any longer.

2008 Syraph One | Two Punch 50% Grenache & 50% Syrah – (USA, San Luis Obispo Counties) – Score: A-
The nose on this purple-black colored wine is truly unique and very hard to pin down. Sometimes it smells like coffee and sometimes it smells like chocolate. I think it is actually a blend or maybe a mocha espresso, along with ripe blackberry, blueberry, plum, vanilla, smoky, oak, along with crushed herbs. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is layered and concentrated with blackberry, blueberry, vanilla, mocha espresso, nice tannin, and plum. The mid palate spikes with acid, oak, and vanilla. The finish is super long and spicy with chocolate, vanilla, black fruit, tannin, oak, and herbs. Quite a unique and fun wine. This wine has calmed a bit since last year, but the tannins are still not fully integrated.

2004 Galil Mountain Winery Syrah Yiron Kosher – (Israel, Galilee) – Score: A- to A
To start I opened this bottle because I was told it was drink now time, personally, this beast is going nowhere fast in my opinion. The nose on this purple to black colored wine is exploding with rich and concentrated aromas, rich cedar, baking chocolate, leafy tobacco, hints of tar, heaps of black pepper, smoky notes, coffee, raspberry, blackberry, cassis, plum, crushed herbs, and eucalyptus. The mouth on this super rich and concentrated wine hits you in layers upon layers of still not integrated tannin, licorice, black pepper, blackberry, plum, chocolate, and cedar. The mid palate is balanced with sweet cedar, nice acidity, more nice tannin, tobacco, and chocolate. The finish is super long and spicy with crazy rich cedar, blackberry, crushed herbs, plum, tobacco, chocolate, figs, a hint of tar, with a dollop of vanilla. Black pepper, crushed herbs, chocolate, tobacco, plum, and vanilla linger super long. This wine is in no hurray to be drunk, but is lovely now.

Rosh Hashanah 2010/5771 – First Night

RoshHashanah (literally translated “head of the year”) has come and gone again, and once more I am reminded that it is a holiday that is more about your relationship with God than your gastronomic relationship with friends and family. Yes of course it is not a fast day like Yom Kippur, of course, but still the frivolity needs to be toned down a bit, and the attention placed on the fact that we are all being judged at this time of the year. So with that frame of mind, yeah too many early morning Selichot Services kind of kill the mood, my wife and I set out to make our menu and meals.

This year we hosted the first meal. We invited friends and family and it was quite awesome! Like last year, we had the same simanim (literally translated to “signs”), except that we added sesame to this year’s lineup, for reasons I do not fully understand. The simanim are a play on words and are a very basic Jewish tradition of using word play to bring out symbolism and actual changes or good tidings.  Our friends brought over two of the simanim, and we took care of the rest.  The simanim are a yearly rite of passage, and one of my favorite Jewish traditions.  Many of the recipes have been changed to protect the innocent.  The customary recipes from my mother recipes consist of 4 basic ingredients, oil, more oil, honey, and some vegetable, and one cooking style – frying.  We decided that this tradition was awesome, but that it needed to be toned down such that it could be enjoyed for years to come and not just for the few where we are vertical.  So it called for some baking and less oil.  We ordered the symbolic food in the order of Sephardic Jewry, and here they are:

  1. Dates or Figs (Tamar in Hebrew)
    1. The symbolism here is that God should end our enemies
  2. Broad Beans coated with a mixture of olive oil, cumin, and garlic (Rubya in Aramaic)
    1. The symbolism here is that God should increase our merits
  3. Leeks – prepared masterfully by our friends, sautéed in oil and spiced Italian (Karti in Aramaic)
    1. The symbolism here is that God should cut down our enemies
  4. Spinach Roll and Spinach Pastry Puff – prepared masterfully by our friends (Salka in Aramaic)
    1. The symbolism here is that God should remove our enemies
  5. Sweet Butternut Squash – sliced butternut squash, sprayed with oil and covered with honey, then baked in an oven set to 400 degrees (Kra in Aramaic)
    1. The symbolism here is that God should tear up our evil decrees and read before him our merits
  6. Pomegranate seeds (Rimon in Hebrew)
    1. The symbolism here is that our mitzvot (observance of the Jewish laws) be as plentiful as the pomegranate seeds
  7. Sweet apples dipped in honey
    1. The symbolism here is that God should grant us a New Year as sweet as honey
  8. Fish head – Salmon head poached in white wine and water
    1. The symbolism here is that in this New Year we should be at the head of the class and not at the tail

We always joke that we should try to bring out a head of a lamb instead of a fish head and freak out everyone there.  It would be totally epic, but while it is the preferred manner of implementing the head symbolism, it would fly in the face of “behaving”. The good news is that we did FAR better than last year on the wine parade, which was not too difficult!

The rest of the meal started with some lox and simanim left over’s. The main course consisted of shoulder pot roast with festive vegetables, brown rice, and fresh vegetable salad.  The festive vegetables were cooked with the roast, but at different stages of course.  The shoulder roast was coated with a spice mix and flour, and then seared on all sides, and then removed.  Diced onions and garlic were then placed in the hot dutch oven and were caramelized until nice and brown.  The meat was returned to the pot, along with half a bottle of wine.  After the meat and wine turned into a nice piece of meat, the potatoes and carrots were added.  Twenty minutes later peas and green beans were added and cooked for a few minutes and then all of this was poured into a shallow pan to cool off and sleep overnight in the chill chest.  After some 24 hours, the meat was removed and sliced, and then placed back in the pan with all of the juice and vegetables, where it would lie until it was warmed up the next day.

Finally, for dessert our friend once again brought us a magnificent specimen – a peach cobbler, which was consumed in totality, and it was awesome! From my family to all of yours – May God write and seal you all in the book of life, one filled with good tidings, health, and happiness.

One last pair of notes about the wines (yeah yeah – I will keep it low key). I finally had a chance to try the Syraph One Two (1-2) Punch for more than a single sip or two. I first tasted it a couple of times during the Carlebach Shabbaton at the Four Gates Winery. On Rosh Hashanah I had the chance to open another bottle and sip it slowly and it watch it open in the bottle, glass, and my senses. It was so cool to watch it truly open and express its layers and unique characteristics. We also had a chance to truly enjoy a bottle of the 2003 Four Gates Syrah – Webb Family Vineyard. That wine is kicking still and continuing to blow me away, rich, expressive, layered, and big – quite a joy.

The wine notes for the evening follow below in the order they were enjoyed:

2002 Gaston & Pierre Ravaut Ladoix (France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Ladoix) – Score: B-
The nose on this browning ruby colored wine is smoky with vanilla, coffee, strawberry, cherry, plum, herbs/mint. The mouth on this light to medium bodied wine has strawberry, plum, and cherry notes. The mid palate is acidic with fading tannins. The finish is medium long with cherry, coffee, strawberry, and mint. It is a wine well past its peak, and one that should be used up or tossed.

2008 One | Two Punch 50% Grenache & 50% Syrah (USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara) – Score: A-
The nose on this garnet-black colored wine is truly unique and very hard to pin down. Sometimes it smells like coffee and sometimes it smells like chocolate. I think it is actually a blend or maybe a mocha espresso, along with ripe blackberry, plum, vanilla, smoky, oak, along with crushed herbs. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is layered and concentrated with blackberry, vanilla, mocha espresso, nice tannin, and plum. The mid palate spikes with acid, oak, and vanilla. The finish is super long and spicy with chocolate, vanilla, black fruit, tannin, oak, and herbs. Quite a unique and fun wine. Look for the tannins to slowly calm down and add to the mouth feel along with richness.

2003 Four Gates Syrah, Special Reserve, Santa Clara Valley – Score: A- to A
WOW! This is a killer wine. The first thing that hits you when you open this bottle of wine and peer into its purple-black stare is the ripe blueberry notes that come screaming out at you, along with blackberry, cassis, plum, tobacco, chocolate, tar, and rick oak. The mouth on this full bodied, mouth filling, concentrated, and structured wine comes at you in layers with fruit that follows the nose, ripe blackberry, plum, blueberry, tar, and oak. The mid palate is balanced with acid, oak, tobacco, and chocolate. The finish is super long, black, and spicy, with rich oak, chocolate, tobacco, tar, and blackberry. This is a truly wonderful wine that is highly structured with lovely tannins and a wine that still has a few years left under its belt. The nose is killer with the lovely ripe blueberry and blackberry, along with the oak, tar, chocolate. It follows through with the mouth till its tantalizing finish. Quite a powerful that has its sea legs beneath it and bright horizon ahead.

Carlebach Shabbaton at Four Gates Winery

This past week saw me hanging out with Benyo at his house for his yearly Carlebach Shabbaton. For some 15 or more years Benyamin Cantz has very kindly offered his home and space to some 40 or so souls who wish to spend time with each other and Rabbi Naftali Citron (who is currently the Rabbi of the Carlebach Shul in NY). Starting in the mid nineties, Benyamin kindly agreed to host a group of Rabbi Citron’s follower’s for a shabbaton – Carlebach Style.

This year many of the old timers were there, along with many new faces, like my own. This was a spiritual experience for me personally. Many of you who know me, know I am a religious person, but still this rustic setting, surrounded by 40 Jews who just want to get closer to God, friends, and the Rabbi, made it that much more special.

It all started on Friday day when I arrived at the winery to help prepare for the upcoming shabbos. Normally a shabbos meal is a breeze for me and /or my wife. However, 40 guests descending upon the hilltop in the middle of nowhere is not quite a normal shabbos. Along with the fact that the housing surrounding the winery and Benyamin’s house made Yosemite’s outback look like small. For as far as your eye could see around the winery there were tents upon tents. As we were preparing folks started showing up looking for a good place to drop their wares and tent. The old timers knew the best nooks, while the newbies, well they were left to fare with the second run spots. Still a hilltop surrounded by a winery, vineyard, friends, and an awesome Jewish experience is hard to call a second run spot. People would kill to be able to just park themselves down and relax among the picture perfect nature that surrounds you. The soaring Redwoods provide shade, the sounds of nature abound around you, the farm life walks about you, including horses (that show up like clockwork during the prayer service), goats, and chickens, along with the wild life as well. The feeling permeates you, no matter what you are doing. Whether I was chopping vegetables, slaving over my vegetarian lasagna, cleaning up whatever was not physically moving, implementing traffic control within the house, managing to catch a glimpse of the whitesox losing to the Orioles, it did not matter. No matter what – it was a ball and there was this palpable level of suspense and awe around the shabbos that was fast approaching. It held so much promise, mystery, and lore, that it was sure to be a grand time.

Of course Benyamin did not just wake up on Friday and start getting ready for the event. As usual, Benyamin is the cog that runs the event, but it was nice to see many step up and pitch in. As night fall quickly approached the window that overlooked the land around the winery was filled with the hustle and bustle of classic Jewish life on a Friday evening. Except here it held itself to an almost different rhythm and cadence, one filled with unbridled enthusiasm of what the wonderful shabbos held in store for them all. Ladies helped check and clean the vegetables of bugs, my most hated task in the entire world. Others made the fish or the myriads of salads that later graced the tables that evening and the following lunch and sholesh seudot.

Finally, shabbos arrived and everyone’s pulse calmed to a stillness that is reticent of a person lying on a beach in the evening watching a meteor shower. True calm and relaxation coupled with awe and excitement, waiting for the next starburst or streak of light in the sky. Things started a bit later as people arranged their lives outside. Soon we prayed the afternoon prayers and started the Kaballat Shabbat. It was at this time that I had my first real glimpse of Rabbi Citron. Until this moment I was either working, getting dressed, or leading the prayers. However, as the shabbos came into fold Rabbi Citron lit up the sky with his relaxed pace and delivery, glistening eyes, and calm and soothing voice laying out how the evening prayers would progress, culminating with a single file walk in the pitch black darkness to the overlook of the vineyard and Santa Cruz below from the peak of the hilltop, to shepherd in the Shabbos Queen, during the completion of Sholom Alechem.

The davening was led by Rabbi Citron using many Carlebach famous melodies, while also masterly weaving in some current ones as well. Once evening prayers were completed, the room transformed into what can only be explained as a version of musical chairs, except utilizing chairs, tables, partitions, and humans, all moving in a wonderful fluid dance, choreographed and masterfully managed by Benyamin and a few very nice old timers.

One | Two PunchThe meal was quickly laid out on the tables, a bounty of food, wine, and beverages. The meal started with Kiddush over a yet to be released Four Gates red wine blend. It was followed by blessing over challah. Soon, we were served an almond/carrot bisque, seasoned with a unique set of spices and flavors, including fennel/anise. This was paired with a never released 2002 Chardonnay, which is screaming with characteristics easily associated with the Meyrieux barrels the wine was aged in. The main course consisted of caper roasted salmon (awesome recipe), with the capers infusing the very flesh of the salmon, fantastic. This was accompanied by a myriad of salads and side dishes that I have honestly forgotten, there were so many! The main course was paired with a wine that I had not tasted up to that point called the 1-2 punch, a 50/50 GS mix of Grenache and Syrah. The wine was so fun, original in styling, flavor, and structure. I do not remember ever tasting a 50/50 kosher GS, so that was cool. The wine was made by Shimon & Gavriel Weiss, who started a garage winery in 2008, and have since moved a couple of times but have expanded their wines and bottle count. I hope to do a more complete write-up on them both very soon – God Willing.

The next day the day started late with a 10 AM start to prayers (give or take a bunch of minutes). The Rabbi started with a short but extremely powerful discussion of theology and the Torah portion from Rav Nachman of Breslov. The words were deep and hit home hard and often, truly wonderful. The prayers carried on for 3 plus hours, and throughout the entire service, there was a cacophony of chopping noise coming out of the kitchen, as the ladies chopped their way to the finish line, with the only proof left over being a compost bin full of vegetable carcasses and massive bowls of fresh green salad and a bunch of assorted salads, just crazy. Mega kudos go to the ladies who did all the checking and cleaning of the vegetables. However, once again it cannot be underestimated the huge round of applause that Benyamin deserves. If you can imagine a bunch of strangers showing up at our doorstep, chasing you out of your home, and setting up shop in your kitchen chopping, cutting, cooking, and cleaning, while you stood by helpless. Now I am not, God Forbid, calling the people who helped this past shabbos thugs, heaven forbid, but to Benyamin having that many people in his kitchen without being able to manage and overlook the work being done, it causes him to be uneasy and some anxiousness, both of which are not fun. Anyone in his shoes would feel the same, essentially giving over the keys to his kitchen, home, land, and sanity for an entire weekend, would drive any many batty. Yet Benyo was the consummate gentleman and host throughout the weekend, so many thanks to you my friend!

Once again the room did a quick change from prayer hall to lunch room! Once again the partitions removed, tables added, chair placements reset, and tables set with eating utensils and loaded high with food. My lasagna was served along with a lovely trout and mounds of salads and dips. The food was paired with more 2002 Chardonnay, the 2004 Yatir mix, a bottle of 2006 Four Gates Merlot, a bottle of the 2005 Red Fern Merlot, and a crazy bottle of Syraph made by the Weiss brothers. This may well have been the highlight of the day for me when everyone around the tables went around and all said a quick word on the Torah portion, or told us history of the event, or just introduced themselves. Either way it was clearly a situation where all the participants opened themselves to the group, making them openly vulnerable by allowing us to see them all in a different light. Once again Rabbi Citron orchestrated the turns, allowing us all to partake and make it a memorable part of the shabbaton.

There was even a clandestine meat cholent after lunch served outside on paper plates of course. The cholent was constructed by Gavriel before shabbos, and I helped a bit cutting the vegetables up. However, he brought the meat and stuffing – it was a killer cholent! The Weiss brothers kindly poured a bottle of 1-2 punch and it was awesome again.

After the meals and the cholent it was time for a pair of classes from Rabbi Citron and they were wonderful. The first parlayed off my daily Daf Yomi studies, while the second was more teachings from Rav Nachman of Breslov. That was followed by Mincha services and are you kidding me – more food!!!! Yep, sholesh seudot! I could barely eat. I ate my requisite slice or two of bread, so no wine consumed.

Finally, the evening came to an end with a lovely havdalah service, once again led by Rabbi Citron. My personal take aways from it all was the warmth, the openness, the nature and the slow pace, the lovely voice and davening of Ra bi Citron, his classes, and all the awesome food. It was a wonderful event and one that I hope will continue so that I can lend a hand again and partake of it powerful messages.

Normally I give notes for wine I taste, but this time, I can only state a few take aways and score for each of the wines. So with my disclaimers stated the wine notes follow below:

2008 One Two Punch (Grenache/Syrah 50%/50% Blend) – Score: A-
The nose on this blue to purple colored wine is screaming with either chocolate malt or espresso coffee (different nose between two bottles), sweet oak, crushed herbs, and lovely red fruit. A medium bodied wine that plays into a bigger wine in your mouth from its mouthfeel of integrating tannins, oak, and chocolate malt/espresso coffee. The fruit peeks out in the mid palate along with acidity that is slightly unbalanced. The finish is long with herbs, more malt/coffee, and oak. The tannins are nicely integrating creating a more plush mouthfeel.

2005 Red Fern Cabernet – Score: Drink up
This wine is in a world of hurt and needs to be drunk now. Not memorable in any way.

2005 Red Fern Merlot – Score: B to B+
After the Cabernet debacle I was not expecting anything from this wine. However, it was barely alive showing nice mouthfeel, along with oak, black plum, and raspberry. Not bad, drink up.

2004 Yatir Blend (40% Cab/40% merlot/20% Shiraz) – Score: A-
The nose on this purple to black colored wine is screaming with tobacco, oak, spice, blackberry, and plum. The mouth on this full-bodied wine is packed with blackberry and nicely integrating tannins. The mid palate is balanced with oak and acidity. The finish is super long with tobacco, spicy oak, blackberry, and plum.

2008 Syraph (85% Syrah and 15% Grenache) – Score A-
The nose on this screaming eagle of a wine is packed with tar, oak, blackberry, plum, pepper, malt chocolate, and spice. The mouth follows the nose with crazy concentration of tar, blackberry, and oak. The mid palate is balanced with oak, nice tannins, and chocolate malt. The finish is super long and elegant with more tar, blackberry, chocolate malt, and pepper. Quite a nice bottle.

For those interested in buying some of the Syraph wine or the 1-2 (One Two) Punch wine please post a comment to get Shimon Weiss email address. I do not want to post it here, as it would just mean more spam for Shimon. I receive ZERO from their business. I am not affiliated or in business with them in anyway. I will reply to your comment via email with Shimon’s email address.

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