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Sukkot 2011 – first days…

This past Sukkot we hung out with family and enjoyed a bunch of great wine and food. It was a potluck of sorts, each one of us bringing some food, and it was a grand ball. Sukkot is one of those truly happy times of the year, all the heavy and deep inner inspection is over and now you get a chance to let loose of all of your pent up concern and angst. In its place you find joy and contentment from your efforts over the past 6 weeks, a time truly made to be shared with friends and family.

For our part, we brought the second chunk of meat that we cooked for Rosh Hashanah (and froze immediately after the holiday) and some lovely brisket. We also brought a BUNCH of wine! Hey it is a let loose holiday – right? I was in such a rush to get the wines that I went to my local wine shop and all they had were Galil and Yarden wines – so we brought Galil and Yarden wines. Many turned out really nice, and others were OK, but they were all enjoyable. In case it is not obvious, Yarden and Galil Wines source their grapes from the Galilee. This tasting was a true Israel Galilee tasting. We also went through some 6 bottles of Sara Bee Muscat. Galil is one of the top QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) wineries in the kosher market. Yarden is an OK QPR winery, especially in their basic line, but some of their upper echelon wines are so out of reach that they lose a bit of the QPR luster.

So, here are all my wine notes – enjoy and remember, wine is not just about the flavors, it is also about the happiness and memories you get to keep when you enjoy them with friends and family.

The wine notes follow below:

2005 Galil Mountain Winery Yiron – (Israel, Galilee) – Score: A-
This is a seriously lovely and opulent and redolent wine that is initially hot out of the bottle, but quickly shakes off the alcohol coat and shows super rich and ripe black plum, toasty cedar, black cherry, blackberry, vanilla, tobacco, chocolate, and herbs. The mouth on this rich and concentrated black colored wine is screaming with what initially feels like searing tannins, but then quickly your mind gives way to the true source – toasty cedar, blackberry, black cherry, and super ripe plum, all wrapped up is a velvety package that cuts through almost anything you throw at it. The mid palate is packed with black cherry, cedar, chocolate, tobacco, and nice integrated tannin. The finish is super long and very spicy with rich plum, toasty cedar, blackberry, chocolate, tobacco, black cherry, and a nice dollop of vanilla. The black cherry, vanilla, tobacco, chocolate, blackberry, and herbs linger.

2006 Yarden Syrah – (Israel, Galilee, Golan Heights) – Score: A-
The nose on this purple to black colored wine is not a classic syrah, excepting for the roasted meat, along with blackberry, ripe cassis, chocolate, plum, raspberry, cherry, and oak. This wine starts off super hot and need a good hour to open up and blow off its coat of alcohol. I must admit that I enjoyed this with friends in a house that was being used as a barbeque pit, as the outside was too wet, still, the nose showed well with the black and red fruit, along with the oak and chocolate. The mouth on this rich and muscular black wine was opulent and powerful with more blackberry, inky black, ripe and rich cassis, and plum, and tannins that are still finding their way around the house, but are slowly learning the premises. The sinews rippling on this bad boy easily handled the char broiled meats that were superb! The mid palate was balanced with acid, chocolate, nice oak, still tight tannins, and more inky black. The finish is super long and crazy spicy with a hint of leather, chocolate, blackberry, ripe plum, and more inky black density. 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.

Harkham Winery and the Sydney Skyline make for a wonderful shabbos in Australia

We left for Australia on Monday night, and we arrived Wednesday morning – 14+ hours in an airplane!  Thank God we slept most of the flight.  I must say that kosher airplane food has become so inedible, that it is an honest to God disgrace.  Really, does the food have to be so bad?  Thank goodness my wife brought food along, so we were covered.  Anyway, this trip was not about wine, it was all about seeing this wonderful country and a bit of relaxation.  Really, you are in a country for two weeks, that is the size of the 48 contiguous states, and you are still wondering why it takes so long to drive to that mountain range or walk to the beach.  The place is huge, it is the fourth largest exporter of wine, yet as much as we drove, we never saw a vineyard.  Sure they exist, and we saw signs for wineries, but nary a vineyard in sight.  It is like saying I drove through all of California on the main highways (5 or 101), and I visited San Francisco, and Los Angeles, and I did not see a single vineyard.  Yeah, because the place is huge and that is NOT where they are!!  Anyway, the country is gorgeous, the people are so nice, the only real issue I had with the place was that everything other than casinos, some restaurants, and a tiny number of supermarkets, everything closes at 5 or 5:30 PM sharp!  Are you kidding me!

Anyway, we arrive in Sydney on Wednesday, and take in the sights of the Sydney harbor, the rocks, the botanical gardens, and much more.  By the time we get back we are dead to the world, but we have to shop for shabbos, as we were staying in the city, and not going to Bondi beach (where most of the Jews in Sydney live).  Our friend was SUPER nice and picked us up from the hotel and took us to the area to shop for food.  There too everything was closing already, but we got the chance to go into the local kosher market and other than a few items, we left empty handed.  The prices are crazy high, and the value was nowhere to be found.  I took a quick peek at the wines there, and none were very interesting or good (base line Barkan and the such), and again the prices were out of control.  So we went to Katzy’s to wait for our friend, who was getting his kids to sleep, and then coming by for dinner with his wife.  We had not seen him for some 11 or so years since he left the bay area, so it was great catching up with him.

Now, I was still minus a bottle of wine for shabbos, and the proprietor of Katzy’s was kind enough to point out that most of the things we would want for shabbos could be bought at the rare (yes it exists) 24 hour Coles supermarket at Bondi Junction.  We went to the store later in the evening, after dinner, and it had tons of kosher items, which is nice, but they had no wine, as in Australia wine, beer, and spirits are NOT sold in most stores.  Rather, they are sold at shops called Bottles Shops, and they too are not allowed to be open too late.  Anyway, while waiting at Katzy’s for our friend, I did what can only be called a David.  Yep, my wife has named my behavior after my name.  I walked up to a person waiting in line at the restaurant, and asked them “Where can I find a decent bottle of wine around this area”?  The person turned around and said, no, but maybe this guy does, pointing to a young man to his right.  Who did this person turn out to be, the son of Menashe Harkham, the owner of Harkham Windarra Winery!!!  Yep, by “sheer luck” I fell upon the winery. The young man sold me a bottle of 2009 Harkham Windarra Winery Aziza’s Shiraz Preservative Free.

The winery was initially called Windarra Winery, which started in 1985 and produced wine and liquors.  The wines slowly went down in quality and the winery was finally sold to the Harkham family in 2005.  Initially, they produced no wines or liqueur, after taking the winery over.  However, Richard Harkham, the winery’s GM, one day entered into the winery to help the old owner, and never looked back.  Soon after that he won his first award for his 2007 Shiraz.  The first kosher wine was the 2008 vintage, which sold out to restaurants and wine stores.  The 2009 vintage (which is on the web page) was splintered in a way.  The entry level wine – the 2009 Shiraz was sold out to Royal Wines, who has just imported the wine into the USA, and is mevushal.  As we finally sat down for dinner with my friend, Menashe swung by the table, and kindly offered us a glass of the 2009 Harkham Shiraz (Mevushal), and we kindly accepted.  I was so tired from the trip that I could not really taste the wine, from a tasting perspective, but it came over a bit lighter than I expected with pepper, floral notes, and a distinct mevushal taste.  It may have been me or the wine, but I will be doing a more official tasting of it, when it arrives in US stores.  I never got to taste the 2009 Shiraz Reserve, as it too was 100% sold to restaurants and shops.  When I contacted Richard a few days before our departure, he was super kind to point me to the lovely wine shop in Vaucluse (a suburb of Sydney) called Vaucluse Cellars.  We picked up a couple of bottles of the Aziza to take home and try again in a few months.  The Aziza’s Shiraz was also sold 100% to shops and restaurants. The Aziza’s Shiraz is named after Richard’s Grand Mother who passes away in early 2009.

The Harkham Winery has been doing extremely well in Australia, with rave reviews and a continuous stream of people knocking on their door for their wines.  The super cool thing is that the wine is NOT known as the ONLY kosher wine produced in Hunter Valley, but rather as a really good winery that produces wine in Hunter Valley.  The kosher symbol is almost impossible to find on the bottle, and that is fine.  It brings back memories of the first time I heard about Capcanes Peraj Ha’Abib (from Montsant Spain) from a friend of mine who received Robert Parker’s newsletter – the Wine Advocate.  The newsletter called the Peraj Ha’Abib the best kosher wine (at that time), and one that no one knew about, as it was not yet imported by Royal at that time.  So I went scurrying around to find a few bottles, and I called the then importer Eric Solomon of European Cellars, and asked which wine stores you sold the wines to.  He gave me a wine store in NY (no not Gotham), and when I called them I asked them if they had the kosher wine from Spain?  That was a mistake.  They had no idea that Capcanes was even kosher – and for good reason – because the wine was killer whether it was kosher or not.  Anyway, same here, the nice man who sold me my bottles of Aziza’s Shiraz, could care less if the wine was kosher or not (though he knew); he just really liked the stuff.  In fact so does many wine stores and bars in Sydney! Check out these non-kosher restaurants and wine bars that pour the wine!  Yulli’s Bar, Number One Wine Bar, The Bentley Bar, Seans Panaroma and Bilsons.

All this and I have yet to mention the other amazing facts of this winery.  They are the only winery in Hunter Valley that has produced sulfite and preservative free wines!  No not quite Alice Approved, as it used oak and yeast, but the oak is not so pronounced in the wine, as the notes below will show, but the yeast is a non-starter 🙂  Richard is the co-wine maker, but he uses the expertise of one of the renowned flying wine makers; Beaune (Burgundy) based Christian Knott.  It is a win-win situation here.  Think about it, February and March are pretty dull in Burgundy, not much going on wine wise, except for maybe some bottling.  However, in Australia it is harvest season and the wine maker is busy full time.  This of course works great for the flying wine makers.  They work half the time in France and half the time in the southern hemisphere, either South America, South Africa, or Australia.  Christian clearly brings a Burgundian approach to the wine with bramble and mineral, but it still has the massive pepper and crazy dark complexity that says Hunter Valley.

When we talk about preservative free, it does not mean organic!  What? You see in the USA, the rules are VERY simple, you CANNOT add any preservatives in ANY manner – as described here, (sorry the data is in a PDF) on the USDA website.  But in Australia, they are allowed to add up to 125 ppm (parts per million) of sulfites to the wine. However, the Aziza’s Shiraz is 100% preservative free, meaning no added sulfites.  As described above, there is almost NO 100% free sulfite wine, unless the sulfites are filtered out.  Why?  Because sulfites happen naturally when wines are fermented.  Further, to be called organic in the US or in Australia, the grapes must have been grown and maintained organically.  The grapes at Harkham Winery are not yet organically grown and maintained, so the bottle cannot be labeled with anything other than 100% preservative free, instead of 100% organic, which would be far easier in Australia to pull off.  That said, there is a push and a market being created by the need of people for 100% preservative added wines – why?  Because there are a small percentage of the world who are allergic or react poorly to sulfites in wine.  How many?  The USDA describes it as 1/100 as stated here.

Well, after enjoying dinner with our friends, we bought a rotisserie chicken from Katzy’s to go, and then our friends kindly drove us back to our hotel.  We also made our way back to Bondi Station on Thursday night to pick up some more stuff for Shabbos and we were set.  The chicken was so-so, not a huge hit with my wife, and the chicken soup that we also picked up at Katzy’s was more salt than flavor, so no winners from Katzy’s for the shabbos.  That said, the hummus and Israeli salad that we made, along with some nice brown rice was a winner and it all worked out in the end.

Many thanks to Richard, Menashe, and his other son, for allowing us to enjoy the wonderful wine from Harkham Winery, and best wishes on more success in the future!  The wine note follows below:

2009 Harkham Windarra Aziza’s Shiraz Preservative Free – Score: A- to A
This wine has two lives it starts with red fruit, but as it airs out, the wine turns black with chocolate.  At first the nose on this dark purple colored wine is redolent with huge floral notes, massive white pepper, rose hips, ripe plum, and fig.  The mouth on this full bodied wine is complex, layered, rich, and crazy concentrated to start with white pepper, a crazy attack of tannins and structure, floral notes, plum, raspberry, and nice oak.  The mid palate flows off the mouth with solid acid, integrating tannins, and oak.  The finish is long with oak, figs, cocoa, plum, and raspberry, and white pepper.  The pepper and intensity flows all the way through.  Once the wine grabs a few gulps of air, maybe an hour at most, the nose of the wine transforms into a black beast, with blackberry, ripe black plum, chocolate, and oak.  The wine turns inky and black in the mouth, with extra ripe blackberry, inky concentration, black plum, more concentrated white pepper (which softens with time), and nice oak.  This wine has a powerful backbone of acid which will hold it in good stead, as there are no added sulfites, which will allow it to lie in the cellar for a few more years at least.  A fun and powerful wine that I look forward to tasting again in a few months.


This past week’s wine…

Not too crazy this week. We stayed home for a quiet shabbos, so we made some yummy chicken along with a very cool Asian chicken soup recipe.  The cool thing about the soup is the crunchy texture of water chestnuts that melds well with the torn chicken and pineapples. Very cool stuff.  I also like the simplicity of the recipe.

Anyway, chose a Chardonnay from the cellar that I thought would work nicely with the chicken flavor and the pineapple flavors of the soup and the spicy accents in our chicken recipe for the main course. I chose the 2005 Golan Heights Winery Chardonnay Yarden Odem Organic Vineyard. as described below, it was great for a bit and then it morphed into something I did not like as much – a shame. Still the food was nice!

2005 Golan Heights Winery Chardonnay Yarden Odem Organic Vineyard – Score: A-
This was a nice wine. It has almost no nose. It started with a strong and aggressive fruit nose – but it blew off very quickly, and all that was left was the wood and butter aromas. The nose initially had aromas of peaches, citrus, asparagus, and strong notes of sweet wood and crazy butter – almost overpoweringly so. As stated the fruit in the nose disappeared quickly. The mouth on this medium – full bodied wine also lost its fruit quickly. It had lovely flavors of citrus and sweet apples that somehow broke through the fog of dense wood and butter flavors. The finish lingered long on the palate with strong flavors of asparagus wrapped in a butter and wood blanket. Even after the fruit blew off, it still was a nice and complex wine that was constantly plays off its butter, wood, and vegetal qualities. It is a thick and almost velvety wine. Would be a smashing success if the fruits would have stayed around longer.

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