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2005 Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon and a few other Purim Wines

2005 Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon_This past weekend we enjoyed a lovely a simple meal by sauteing browned sausage, browned onions, zucchini, and mushrooms. That paired with Basmati rice, fresh green salad, and a bowl of chicken soup.

The wine I drank was a bottle of the 2005 Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon and it is a wine that is OK now and not going anywhere, but it new world styling was a bit too much for me. The wine did tone down over time, but lost its complexity, so I am not as in love with it as I was with previous vintages. I think the new world styling of Yarden wines are not to my likings, but that only happens when the sweetness is over the top. In this case the wine was overly sweet to start, but did also show nice black and dried fruit. Those fruits stayed, the dates receded, but it lost some complexity – which is a shame, but I fear it is a problem with my manic hatred for all things dates.

Wine notes follow below:

2005 Golan Heights Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Yarden Kosher – Score: B++ to A-
The nose on this wine is screaming with black fruit to start with black cherry, blackcurrant, some green notes, and eucalyptus, over time the wine opens its nose to mounds of graphite and dirt. The mouth is rich and ripe with a bit of date, along with cassis, black plum, crushed herb, bell pepper, concentrated fruit, all wrapped up in sweet cedar and sweet mouth coating tannin. The finish is long and spicy, with tons of malt chocolate, leafy tobacco, licorice, and vanilla.

2008 Weinstock Cabernet Sauvignon, Cellar Select, Napa County – Score: A-
From the score you can see that I liked this wine a bit more than the 2005 Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon, simply because it lacked the new world sweet notes. It is a ripe Cabernet with crazy tobacco notes that make you think you are literally in a Cuban cigar factory (hyperbole never been to one). Still, the control is there and the ripe fruit with chocolate and really good charcoal and pencil shavings. This wine is well worth finding and enjoying. Open the bottle, taste the wine and than leave it to air for an hour and taste again – interesting change in the wine.

The nose explodes with blackberry, cherry, cassis, rich smoking tobacco, like in a cigar factory, and sweet cedar that almost dominates the nose. Over time the wine calms down and the tobacco recedes, with graphite and mineral slate taking control. The mouth is rich, layered, and unctuous, with clear black fruit attack, layered with cedar and concentrated black plum, all wrapped together in a sweet tannin shell – quite nice. The finish is long and spicy with black pepper, herb, and tons of minted malt chocolate. Read the rest of this entry

2013 Kosher Food and Wine Experience (KFWE) lived up to all its billing

For years I have always sported a purple colored beaming grin when I finish my tasting at the IFWF (International Food and Wine Festival) in LA, which hid my grumbling stomach’s discontent. Like I have documented for years, I never get to eat at the events, even as the entire food court mocks me, attempting to pull me into their warm, delicious, and very present embrace, with their wafting and intoxicating aromas. Still, I stand strong and I taste through the night until my teeth are purple and my stomach is close to rioting on the lack of food. Truth be told, I am not that good at taking notes when eating – the flavors of the food cover up and belie the flavors and aromas of the glass that beckons me closer with its “come hither” look and aromas. So every year, after the event I go to dinner at Jeff’s Sausage (down the street from the new location of the IFWF). Which is sheer madness of course, here I have half the Pavilion at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza, filled with food from one of the best kosher restaurants in the world – Tierra Sur Restaurant, and I pass on that for the spicy and homely fare of Jeff’s Sausage. In no way is this a slight to the joy of Jeff Rohatiner’s cookery and food. Rather, it has been my conscious tradeoff, throughout my many year experience at IFWF to drink through as much of the world-class wine I can before my taste-buds shutdown, rather than give them to the food court, no matter how wonderful it is.

This year was a massive shift for me, gone was the purple grin and my mutinous stomach, as I visited and added the New York KFWE to my travel dates. To say the KFWE was different than the IFWF would be an extreme understatement, the IFWF has close to 1000 people at the show, while the KFWE has closer to 2000 people. Further the event hall at Pier 60 is some 2 to 3 times larger than the Pavilion tent at the Hyatt Regency. Also, there were many options for lunch and dinner from the myriad of NY restaurants that all share half the hall, all clamoring to share their wonderful fare with great fanfare. The Pier 60 overlooks the Marina and Harbor and many folks were outside braving the cold to grab a smoke, but at least they had some comfort of looking at the marina and its waterfront.

To really appreciate the event you had to come to it with a game plan, and there were many guests who had a few of their own. The event started at Noon for those in the trade, a new thing that the KFWE started last year and something that the IFWF has been doing from the start (though initially with a smaller trade time). The trade event was crowded but there could not have been more than a thousand folks there, so access to wine was not a problem in any way. The event hall can easily handle 1000 people, it is a bit more complicated when the number swells to two thousand people, but still there was no pushing or shoving going on even at the end of the public tasting, when the number of guests was at its maximum. But I digress; the trade tasting allowed me to focus solely on wine and the winemakers, which was great. Read the rest of this entry

2008 Capcanes, Peraj Petita, Montsant

This past week I had the need to enjoy a wine with some non-animal based food, a vegan chili, and I fell upon the desire to try some of the 2008 Capcanes Peraj Petita. The wine is a blend of three classical Spanish grapes; mostly Grenache, along with Tempranillo, and Carignan. The wine starts off closed as tight as a steel drum, which is saying a fair amount for four years. After an hour or two the wine starts to open up, but the time you have available once it does open is short – so be careful. This is definitely a wine upon which you want to keep a close eye. Why? Because not withstanding the still gripping tannin this is a wine that will drop like a cliff once it hits the wall. I mean this wine will go from gripping tannin to absolutely DOA – so again be careful.

The wine was quite enjoyable and though I loved it like no one’s business a few months ago – it has taken a step back or down since that time. The wine has less oak influence showing and less traction in the mouth. Now, the wine is showing a pale side though one that was quite nice. Personally, I will be drinking this wine through the next year or so and then after that – you are playing with fire.

The wine note follows below:

2008 Celler de Capcanes, Peraj Petita, Montsant – Score: B++
This wine has watered itself down a bit since the last tasting in February. The nose starts is expressive with cedar, espresso coffee, raspberry, cranberry, nice spice, and herb. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine shows mouth coating tannins that are now integrated, along with pomegranate, blackberry, currant, herb, and a clear sense of green beans, along with nice dirt and wood that ties the mouth together. The finish is long with more espresso, sea salt, mushroom, cloves, spice, and a nice dollop of chocolate. Drink in the next year or so. Also, this wine needs a good hour to properly open up and lasts only a few hours after that.

2012 Herzog International Wine Festival – a feast for all the senses under the big top!

This past week I was under a big top enjoying kosher wines from around the world and Chef Aaron Todd’s sumptuous splendors were available for all to enjoy. The event was the 2012 Herzog International Food and Wine Festival (IFWF) that was being held at the stately Hyatt Regency Century Plaza in Century City. Last year’s event was held at the state-of-the-art Herzog Winery, in Oxnard CA. The intimate lighting and setting was lovely last year, but the combination of the Royal’s larger wine portfolio, the wonderful food, and the growing crowds made it feel like the event was getting too big for its britches. So, with much dismay we waited to hear where the event was going to move to. When the word came out that the event was going to be held at the legendary Hyatt Regency Century Plaza in Century City – the event became the must attend hot ticket event for everyone who enjoys food and wine in the LA area – which is about all Los Angelenos.

Now before anyone thinks the event was held in the stately Los Angeles Ballroom – it was not. Actually, it was held in the lovely Plaza Pavilion, whose name does not even begin to give the unique 9,000+ square foot space its due. The event was moved from the somewhat cramped, yet intimate, setting of the winery to a beautiful tent that is a permanent fixture in the hotel and the social calendar of many a LA party hopper. Actually it is with good reason, if I may say so, as the room is a long rectangle with sufficient yet dim-able lighting and enough space to host the many food and wine stands that the 500 or so attendees partook of. Never during the evening did I feel cramped or claustrophobic like I did last year. Further, while the smell of charring wood and meat is a huge turn-on (for me), it totally messes with my olfactory abilities, which when attending a wine tasting (not drinking) event – really bites! There were copious examples of carnivore delights, which were all prepared on site, but the smells did not permeate the walls of the pavilion. The larger space allowed for more vertical sitting spaces with round tables, in case you were not heads down like I was tasting wines. Also, the ability to stroll out of the pavilion and sit in the reception area, a few feet away, made for a far more roomy feeling event. Finally, the pavilion’s lovely champagne, antique gold and chocolate-brown colors, along with the chandeliers and wall-to-wall carpeting made for an evening of sheer elegance and grandeur. Just an aside, while the surroundings were indeed attention grabbing, the guests who attended the event were equally well draped. Some came with tails and a top hat, others dressed to kill in evening ware gowns and suits. I of course, jeans and long sleeve shirt, however, the majority of the crowd were clearly channeling the elegance of the evening.

The confluence of events that just happened to fall on Wednesday, February 15th, made it feel like the odds were stacked against a successful foray out of Herzog’s home base. First it rained – I mean pouring rain! If any of you saw L.A. Story, I hope you can appreciate how rare that is – even in the so-called winter! Further, POTUS decided to do not one, but TWO drive-bys, bringing traffic to a standstill while people craned their necks to catch a glimpse of the most powerful man in the free world. Still, blessedly, nor rain nor sleet nor traffic (the latter a very common malady that Los Angelenos are used to) can keep good citizens of LA from enjoying some seriously good wine and food. The event to me was a major success for many reasons, but the main reason was the fact that sure the event was attended by Jews interested in seeing what wines to buy for the upcoming Purim and Passover. However, there was a large contingency of party goers who attended the evening festivities to enjoy good food and wine – irreverent to their religious and dietary beliefs (which trust me in LA is saying a LOT)! The opportunity to show the L.A. glitterati that the word kosher does not relegate one to an automatic 15 minute timeout, is serious step forward for the kosher industry. Read the rest of this entry

Kosher wine tasting at the Cask in LA featuring Celler de Capcanes and Shiloh Winery Wines

This past week my friend and I drove down to Los Angeles, CA to taste kosher wines at the 2012 Herzog International Food and Wine Festival (IFWF). The night before the IFWF we called The Cask, a new wine store on Pico, in Los Angeles, and they said they were having a wine tasting. I guess in my life, you can never taste too much wine! Though to get to the Cask, I had to drive for 1 hour to go 4 miles! My goodness, LA is really a nasty place to drive around during rush hour!

The Cask is not the first wine store in LA, but it is the first kosher-only wine store in Los Angeles, catering to the Jewish crowd that geographically surrounds it from all sides. There have been kosher wine stores before in LA, but a store that sells only kosher wine does take serious courage in this economy.

The Cask, the brain child of Michael Bernstein and Sivan Vardi (Sivan has since moved on), opened quietly, and just in time for Passover 2011. It had its red carpet grand opening in June 2011, with a real red carpet for people to show off their love for wine and haute couture. Interestingly, while neither partner has been part of the retail wine business before, the event I was at was well attended and went off without any hitch, from what I could see.

The front of the store, looks like any other wine store you may find yourself in on an early Friday afternoon looking for some wine to go with you cholent and roast chicken. However, the layout is still quite nice and the prices are competitive, from the quick check that I did Thursday night. However, the website is the weakest link. It is missing the social touch that is sorely needed to be competitive in this market, something that Sivan seemed to be doing before she left in September of last year. The prices are not on the site and the daily deals still show a wine from last September.

Clearly, the Cask is not trying to copy or do battle with some dude in his basement who cobbles up a kosher online wine store. Rather the Cask is all about the local touch of a high-end store where you taste and experience the wine with winemakers or wine professionals. Sure, maybe LA doesn’t need another place to go and buy kosher wine, though the Cask fills that admirably. What LA craves is the ability to walk into an establishment that has 200 or more wines and not be bewildered by the selection. The hope of the store is to educate the kosher drinking public about the hundreds of options available, and let them decide which wines best suit their palate or cuisine. Read the rest of this entry

A nice Celler de Capcanes Peraj Petita and a not so great Pasta Sauce

I have been trying to make meatballs with less meat and more vegetables, and finally with a binder that is gluten-free.  I started to research the subject on the web, and I found that you could use well sautéed  onion, mushrooms, eggplant, and zucchini as a binder.  So I thought this was great, until I tried it and well, let’s say that it was nothing short of a disaster.  I believe I added too many vegetables, and used ground turkey (which is softer and less dense than ground cow meat).  So, we threw it all together and tried to make a meat sauce, and well that did not work for me – but heck I tried.  I am not giving up on my dream of building the perfect vegetable and meat ball with a low-calorie gluten-free binder.

We made some nice fettuccine and a nice fresh green salad to go along with the ill-fated pasta sauce.  We pulled a bottle of  2006 Celler de Capcanes Peraj Petita to pair with the dinner.  The wine does not come close to its bigger brother, but nice all the same.  The quest for knowledge does not stop on failure, but still, I am bummed out.  More trials will be coming, but until then, eat we must.

The wine note follows below:

2006 Celler de Capcanes Monstant Peraj Petita – Score: B+
The nose on this ruby towards garnet colored wine pops with cassis, plum, sweet rich notes, raspberry, an almost enveloping nose, with a bit of pepper. The mouth on this medium bodied wine has plum, cassis, and raspberry, with an almost mouth coating consistency, and integrating tannins. The mid palate is balanced with core acidity, a hint of oak, and mouth coating tannins. The finish is long with bright red fruit, vanilla, and a hint of leather.

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