Another round of QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) Hits and Misses, Nineteen QPR WINNERS – May 2023
First off, this is not the largest roundup I have written – there is a larger one from October 2021. Sadly, that one only had 6 QPR WINNER. This post has 19! Also, we have a shockingly high number/percentage of EVEN QPR score wines, 26 to be exact. Either the price or the quality pushed them to this level. So, without further ado, the 62 wines I tasted over the past few months.
QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) Wines
It has been four months since my last QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) post and many people have been emailing me about some unique wines I have tasted and some lovely wines that are worth writing about.
Thankfully, no matter how much garbage and pain I subject myself to, we are still blessed with quite a few wonderful QPR wines out there. This post differs though, this is the first time I have seen so few N.A. or POOR/BAD QPR scores! This is not because things are getting better as much as I am selectively picking wines to taste recently. Still, many of these notes are from KFWE in Los Angeles, so it does represent a proper distribution, IMHO. We have 19 WINNER scores and a few GOOD/GREAT scores. A shockingly large number of EVEN scores, which could have snuck into POOR/BAD, and only 8 POOR/BAD.
Thoughts on the wines
Harkham is back!!!
My interest and love for all things Harkham is well known. I loved discovering the Aziza in Australia, some 13 years ago! I missed Richie that day, but I made up for that many times afterward. I thought the two Shiraz, imported by Kosherwine.com, were solid entries into the Kosher US market. The 2021 vintage was tough in Australia and these wines show Richie’s drive and passion! Looking forward to even more stuff!!
Missed Bordeaux Wines
Between my Royal Wine tasting and the rest of the wines that Avi and I tasted, we covered most of the 2020 vintage in Paris, in Nov 2022. However, we missed the 2020 Chateau Fayat and the 2020 Chateau Meyney. That has now been rectified. The Fayat is an AWESOME WINNER, while the Meyney may come around, otherwise, it is still a solid wine.
Michael Kaye continues to strive to make wines that are unique while also interesting. Some are hits and some are close but either way, he continues to impress. Hopefully, as he scales up production, the cool and refreshing wines will continue to roll! His website is up and running – Invei WInes.
My dear friend Josh Rynderman continues to pump out great wines. The rose and Emunah are prime examples. I liked the rose, it is refreshing and puts a smile on my face. The Emunah is nice, not as balanced as in the past, but a solid next play. I hear more fun stuff is coming soon. Looking forward!
A couple of weeks ago, I was at Covenant Winery to taste the Hajdu wines with my friend Elk. Elk eventually showed up, but either way, it was great hanging out with Jonathan Hajdu and seeing Elk, eventually! The wines that I tasted were all balanced, refreshing, and enjoyable. The rose and Pinot Blanc were lovely wines. The reds were balanced as well.
I tasted these wines at the KFWE in Los Angeles and also some were sent to my home to taste. Overall, I was shocked by how good the 2021 Baron Herzog Pinot Grigio and Gewurztraminer were. Balanced, tart, and refreshing, and for the price! WOW! The 2020 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley is a hit as always, on even vintages. 2019 was not bad, but not this good!
Overall another nice list of QPR WINNERS. I can always look at these kinds of lists and say there are only 19 wines I would want to buy from this entire list, but that would be a defeatist attitude. The correct way to classify this list is we have 19 more wines available to us and in the end, as I have stated many times now, I cannot buy all the WINNER wines even if I wanted to. There are just too many good wines out there and that is what we should be focused on!
The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:
We have a nice list of QPR WINNERS:
- 2020 Chateau Fayat, Pomerol – Stunning wine! Enough said
- 2020 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, Special Reserve – Great wine!
- 2021 Hajdu Proprietary Red, Napa Valley, CA – Big and bold wine, but balanced
- 2020 Chateau Meyney, Saint-Estephe – This wine scares me but it may eventually come around
- 2020 Terra Di Seta Guiduccio, Toscana – Same with this one, it scares me but should come around
- 2020 Elvi Wines El26, Priorat – Big, bold, but far more balanced than others here
- 2021 Hajdu Menagarie, California – Nice wine
- 2021 Harkham Hark Angel Shiraz – Harkham is back in the States! Lovely wine!
- 2021 Hajdu Barbera, Sierra Foothills – Nice, tart, and balanced wine
- 2020 Hagafen Rose, Brut, Napa Valley, CA – Nice bubbles!
- 2022 Invei Gewurztraminer, Dry, Clarksburg, CA – Huge ABV but you do not feel it – loved it!
- 2020 Chateau D’Arveyers, Bordeaux Superieur – Great Mevushal Winner!
- 2022 ESSA Liv & Luv Rose, Durbanville – Not bracing with acidity, but balanced and refreshing.
- 2021 Dalton Sauvignon Blanc, Reserve, Galilee – A nice Sauv Blanc – enjoy!
- 2021 Baron Herzog Gewurztraminer, California (M) – Impressed by this wine, refreshing
- 2022 Hajdu Pinot Blanc, Anderson Valley, CA – Floral and joyous
- 2022 Hajdu Rose, California – Nice, and refreshing
- 2021 Baron Herzog Pinot Grigio, California (M) – Another impressive Herzog Baron that is tart and refreshing
- 2022 Goose Bay Pinot Grigio, South Island (M) – One of their best Pinot Grigio, tart and refreshing
A unique tasting of Kosherwine.com exclusive wines – nice options that range outside of my QPR because of their small production
As always, I am happy to taste wines that are sent to me or that I buy, I do not normally call them out, per se, unless they are at a tasting, like with Royal, IDS, M&M, and others. This is one of those examples, where Kosherwine.com (KW) sent me 24 wines to taste. I have also added some that I bought, exclusive to KW, the Slight of Hand, and Doubleback wines. There were also, the Harkham wines that KW started to bring in, I also bought those, but I just have not had the time to taste those yet. I remember well my time in Australia when I was one of the first people to post about the incredible Harkham Azziza Shiraz! WOW! So much fun! Even more enjoyable was hanging out with Richie at the tasting in L.A., I truly hope KW will start to import the Semillon as well soon!
Kosherwine.com’s Exclusive wines
I have spoken about exclusive wines, exclusive wine clubs, and the sort in the past. While I have no issue with them, per se, they do tend to drive up pricing. They do not drive up the price because the exclusive merchant makes a bigger cut, the prices go up because of smaller production and exclusivity.
When you make lots of small wine runs or work with small producers that are OK with exclusivity, it tends to lead to higher prices because of how the product is made. Whether it is wineries in Israel like Shiran, Ghito, Mia Luce, or Slight of Hand from Washington State. They are all small wineries with small productions or one-off runs and that leads to higher prices.
In the end, the way I define QPR (Quality to Price Ratio), still revolves around price! So, whether the price is higher because of small production, single runs, or exclusivity, the end goal for QPR is to get a wine that meets the quality and the price of its competitors.
You will see some nice wines below, wines that I would drink, but given the pricing, I could not put the QPR WINNER tag on them. Nonetheless, if you remove the exclusive thing and just stick to the fact that these are a bunch of wines that are nice to well, Israeli reds, the tasting was fun! In the end, that is what matters.
Top Scoring wines
If I was a betting man, and I am not, I would wager that most people will find the Ghito whites to be highly enjoyable. I only had two of them to taste the Uphaz and the Soreqa, but I may well get some other 2021 whites to try.
The Mia Luce white was also quite enjoyable, along with the Yaacov Oryah Chardonnay.
For red wines, the Doublback was quite nice, it had green notes that threw me but overall a very nice wine.
Seven 90 or 90+ scored wines
There were also seven 90 or 90+ scored wines. These included another Ghito white, the Shiran Chardonnay, Mia Luce Syrah, a pair of Domaine Herzberg red blends, along with a Sheldrake sweet wine, and the 2019 Slight of Hand Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Magic.
Overall not a bad lineup of good wines, the prices, as described above keep the QPR scores lower than I would have liked. Still, there are options here for those that want to try new wines, new blends, or unique stories. In the end, KW has done its homework, I hope that as they work on the overall product line, they can maybe also work with their partners to get the prices down.
My sincerest thanks to Dovid Riven for sharing their wonderful wines with me. The wines are listed in the order I tasted them. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:
2021 Festa d’Estate Pinot Grigio, Provinicia di Pavia (M) – Score: 87 (QPR: EVEN)
The nose of this wine is correct with green grass, straw, quince, yellow apple, and herbs. The mouth of this medium-bodied wine feels stunted, less vibrant than it should be, the apple is bruised, the pear is browning, the fruit is not crisp, and a bit sweet, and there is good acidity, but it is just not refreshing, with some citrus, and herb. The finish is long, balanced, and with good acidity. Drink now. (tasted March 2023) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 12%)
2021 Shiran Winery Chardonnay, Gush Etzion – Score: 90 (QPR: EVEN)
The nose of this wine is the best part of this wine with some muted fruit, not as crisp as I would hope, apple blossom, muddled red apple, muddled pear, and flint. The mouth of this medium-bodied wine feels all over the place, it has acidity but feels hollow in the middle, with red apple, pear, some citrus, and flint. The finish is long, not as refreshing as it should be as the muddled fruit detracts from the overall effect. Drink now. (tasted March 2023) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 13%)
2020 Yaffo Image White, Judean Hills – Score: 88 (QPR: EVEN)
The nose of this wine feels muted with more muddled apple and pear, peach, some smoke, and flint. The mouth of this medium-bodied wine is balanced, it feels almost refreshing, with good acidity, but the fruit is where things take a step back, the muddled peach, pear, and apple, are nice enough, but what I want is crisp and refreshingly tart fruit and I feel this is a bit lacking there. The finish is long, balanced, and fruity, with pith, flint, and some smoke. Drink now. (tasted March 2023) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 12%)
2020 Mia Luce Blanc, Galilee – Score: 91 (QPR: EVEN)
The 2020 vintage in Israel was tough, this wine has fresh fruit, the issue is there is very little of it, which is shocking for me to say about an Israeli wine! The nose of this wine is fresh and bright with tart green apples, flint, hay, funk, tart pink quince, and peach. The mouth of this medium-plus-bodied wine has a lovely weight, even a bit elegant, with refreshing and fresh fruit, and lovely acidity, I wish there was more fruit, with peach, yellow apple, quince, nice funk, and lovely flint. The finish is long, refreshing, and almost oily, with nice acidity, and some elegance. Drink by 2024. (tasted March 2023) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 12%)
2021 Yaacov Oryah Chardonnay, Singe Vineyard, Yaacov’s Playground, Judean Hills – Score: 91(QPR: EVEN)
This wine is a bit closed to start it needs a few hours to fully open up. The nose of this wine is fresh and refreshing with good apple, pear, grapefruit, citrus blossom, a hint of wood, and tart pink quince. The mouth of this medium-bodied wine has lovely acidity, with a lovely mouthfeel, good citrus, quince, lemon/lime, and a nice mouthfeel, crème Fraiche, sweet oak, and nicely refreshing! The finish is long, tart, and refreshing with loads of citrus, oak, and sweet spices lingering long. Drink until 2026. (tasted March 2023) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 12%)
A tasting of M & M Importers’ latest imports – March 2022￼
Well folks it has been too long since my last post, Passover, life, lots of work, anyway, I have a lot of notes to post, so look for them to be coming very soon., For now, I need to post the lovely wines I received from Ralph Madeb, president and CEO of M & M Importers. These are all Italian options and some of them can be found in Europe from Honest Grapes while most of them are here in the USA from some stores in and around NY and NJ.
The simpler wines have a new label, gone is the Botteotto brand and now we have the wines under the original winery’s brands. A few of these wines are Mevushal and while I have my issues with the need for Mevushal in our lives today, it seemed to have little to no effect on the wines themselves.
Also, I finally had the chance to taste the 2016 Tassi Brunello di Montalcino Franci, Bettina Cuvee, Brunello di Montalcino, for a second time. I had it in France last year, and while I liked the wine it did not blow me away, as I was expecting. I am happy I had the chance as I felt the wine did not show well in pairs. Sure enough, the wine was indeed better and the revised score and notes can be found below.
The wine list is another example of why Italy is a wonderful wine region to find QPR stars. This entire list is either GOOD to WINNER. No duds. Overall another great list from M &M Importers.
My sincerest thanks to Ralph and his partner at M & M Importers for sharing their wonderful wines with us all! The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:
2020 Cristallo Pinot Grigio, Colline Pescaresi, IGT (M) – Score: 89 (QPR: GREAT)
This wine is fun, it is simple but fun, refreshing, funky, and enjoyable.
The nose of this wine is funky, with notes of straw, rosebud, rose petals, green apple, slate, white flowers, and more hay!
The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is fun, simple, refreshing, well-balanced, with lovely acidity, nice weight, good fruit focus, orange notes, nectarine, tart lemon/lime, and citrus, but what sticks with you is the refreshing weight and salinity.
The finish is long, green, tart, balanced with good acidity, hay, straw, violet, and long lingering tart green fruit with minerality. Lovely! Drink now. (tasted March 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 12.5%)
2020 Illuminare Dry Moscato, Colline Pescaresi, IGT (M) – Score: 89 (QPR: GREAT)
This wine reminds me of the other dry Muscat wine I know of on the market – Michael Kaye’s lovely wine. Michael’s wine is fruitier, this wine is lean, very floral, but also shows tart/dry tropical notes, really very different but also similar and equally fascinating.
The nose of this wine is intoxicating, it pulls you in and grabs you, showing tart and dry pineapple, intense jasmine, white flowers, tart green and yellow mango, lychee, smoke, flint, and more floral notes. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is fun, showing lovely saline, refreshing, tart, with great acidity, sweet Mandarin orange, pineapple, sweet pear, Meyer lemon, honeyed notes, and lovely honeysuckle.
The finish is long, tart, green, yet nicely ripe, very floral, with good saline, minerality, and more fruit. Bravo! Drink Now (tasted March 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 12.5%)
Lovely white wines to enjoy now – Jan 2022 Tasting
Now that I am done with my Paris posts it was time to finally catch up on many wines I have been tasting since I came back from hiking Kilimanjaro, in December. I know it is cold and wet outside, but white wines belong in everyone’s cellar/wine fridge for when you want to enjoy some easy-drinking wine with your soup, salad, or fish. I love to enjoy it with Tahini but to each their own.
So, as in the past, I will keep this post super short, really just a bunch of notes and I hope you enjoy the three QPR (Quality to price ratio) WINNERs as much as I did. It was really fun tasting 2021 wines in 2021! The two Hagafen wines were both unique and enjoyable. The fact that they were released within the same calendar year that they were produced, just makes it more enjoyable.
The Tzora white wines were quite nice, not quite a return to the early Aughts, but still, well-made wines and ones I would buy, if they were not so expensive. I finally had a Binah wine that I almost enjoyed, the Gruner Veltliner, but even that was missing something and not where I hoped it would be.
Goose Bay continues to crush it. Interesting note, they did not produce wine in 2020, because as you know, they are in the Southern Hemisphere. Harvest time there, for white wines, is around March, give or take a week or so. March 2020, no one was allowed to enter New Zealand, and the OU uses outside kosher wine supervisors. So, they could not produce kosher wine in 2020. I read the OU story of the Masgiach that was in Samoa and had to do crazy travel plans just to get back home. O’dwyers Creek, which is also in New Zealand, and uses the OU, as well, used local folks that Zoom’ed with the OU daily and they managed to produce a LOVELY 2020 Sauvignon Blanc. I was surprised to a 2020 O’dwyers Creek, so I reached out to the OU and that is what they told me happened, very cool, IMHO. Finally, because New Zealand is in the Southern Hemisphere, getting the 2021 wines here in December is not as unique as tasting a California 2021 wine. Either way, the wines were all quite enjoyable from New Zealand and Hagafen.
Finally, the two Viniferia wines were quite enjoyable and well priced. The new 2019 vintage of the Chateau Guiraud G, Blanc-Sec, is quite lovely and would be a QPR WINNER, except for its higher than median pricing.
The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:
2020 O’Dwyers Creek Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough (M) – Score: 92 (QPR: WINNER)
The nose on this wine is classically New Zealand in style, cat piss, green notes, gooseberry, passion fruit, fresh-cut grass, and bright fruit all over the place. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is lovely, showing nice flint notes, smoke, rock, saline, gooseberry, lemongrass, guava, lychee, and crazy acid, that comes at you in waves, so much fun! The finish on this wine shows more saline, rock, flint, smoke, mineral, gooseberry, freshly cut grass, and intense acid, so much fun!!! BRAVO!! Drink until 2024. (tasted December 2021) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 12.50%)
Easy drinking white wines for 2020 – better than I expected
Well, the roses from the 2019 vintage, so far, are not inspiring, and initially, I thought the same for the white wines, thankfully, as I tasted through the last 15 bottles of wines things shifted. There is a reason why I have been pushing Price in relation to its quality, AKA QPR (Quality to Price Relationship).
For this tasting, I tasted more than 70 wines, however, I posted only some 49 wine notes here. Rest assured, the others were either not worthy or I did not have detailed enough notes to make it here on this post.
Interestingly, initially, I had zero hope for the white wines, much as I felt about the roses. However, all of this is data-driven and other than my wines notes, the rest is all prices defined by the USA market. The more, I tasted, the more I felt that there are options in the simple white wine category. I was really ready to give up hope, but thankfully, folks like Shirah, Kos Yeshuos, and other Europen wines really pulled their weight. Sadly, of the top 27 wines, there were a total of 11 from 2019. Of them, only two were from Israel. The rest hailed from California, France, and New Zealand. In the end, so far, the vast majority of the Israeli white wines I have tasted from 2019 are also highly uninspiring.
With that said, the median price for the wine category of non-aging white wines is going up! There lies in my over-arching issue, prices keep going up!! The median price for non-aging white wines, here in the USA, is now 24 dollars! Seriously!! COME ON!! This is crazy! As the kids say, total Cray Cray! Turned around, the total number of wines below the median price of 24 dollars that received a 90 or higher was 12, and many of those are our QPR WINNERS. Overall, 2019 is still a dud in Israel, of those that have made their way to the USA, and Califonia is saving the day, so far.
All the wines here are scored both quantitatively, AKA using my classic wine score described here, and using the newly revised QPR score described here. So, yes, there will be more of the QPR discussion that will arise from this post. Thankfully, we have a good number of wines, 7 from my count, that received the QPR score of WINNER, sadly, they are mostly from 2018. Therefore, I repeat again, I am highly unimpressed with how many 2019 white wines I had and how many are subpar. Please be careful with the ones you buy.
Finally, in order of price, the first of the 7 QPR WINNER wines come in at wine #38, sorted by price! That means there are loads of other wines far less interesting than the 2018 Ramon Cardova Albarino, the most expensive of the 7 WINNER QPR wines. This is the kind of data that makes me scream. This is what needs to change! Wineries are willing to produce wines that are more expensive and less interesting, than more than HALF of the wine I tasted! This is what needs to change, kosher wine has gotten out of control, price-wise.
Do yourself a favor, check the price, you do it for everything else you buy! Check the wine, check the price, and then decide!
The wine note follows below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:
2018 Ramon Cardova Albarino, Rias Baixas – Score: 92 (QPR: WINNER)
This wine is in the 2nd quintile of quality scoring and it is just below the median price line, so this wine SHOULD get a score of GREAT for QPR. However, it is ALSO one of the few white wines that score at least a 91, and that has a price that is below the median price line, so this wine gets the coveted score of WINNER for QPR. Bravo!!!
The 2018 vintage of this Albarino, in its second vintage, shows less tropical and ripe than the first vintage, 2017. This bottle also had the thermal active label, and it shows up when the bottle is at the proper drinking temperature. My only REAL and serious complaint is the cork, why would Royal waste the money and my money of a real cork? Use a Diam or any other amalgamated cork, like almost everyone else is. I really hope I do not hit a bad cork for the wines I have.
The nose on this wine is better than the 2017 vintage, Lovely nose of rich mineral, with loads of straw, with which salinity, and lovely peach and dry pear, with honeysuckle, gooseberry, along with green notes galore. Lovely! The mouth on this lovely green and acid-driven wine has a more oily mouthfeel than the 2017 vintage, showing rich salinity, green olives, with lovely dry quince, green apples, more peach, green apple, but also with lovely lime and grapefruit, no sense of guava or melon-like on the 2017 vintage, with a tinge of orange notes. The overall mouth is lovely and it comes at you in layers. The finish is long, green, with gooseberry, tart fruit, with an incredible freshness, and orange pith, slate, rock, and incredible acidity lingering long. Incredible!! Bravo!! Drink until 2022.
2018 Hagafen Dry Riesling – Score: 91 (Mevushal) (QPR: WINNER)
This wine is in the 2nd quintile of quality scoring and it is below the Median price line, so this wine gets a GREAT score for QPR. However, it is ALSO one of the few white wines that score at least a 91, and that has a price that is below the median price line, so this wine gets the coveted score of WINNER for QPR. Bravo!!!
The nose on this wine is tropical and sweet fruit-focused, with pineapple, guava, melon, peach, but now THANKFULLY the petrol is in full gear, and it commands your attention, with the tropical fruit still very present, along with some nice mineral. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is fun, tart, nice acidity, with more petrol funk, showing nice balance, with good acidity, still, the mouth is sweet and ripe, the petrol and tart notes help, with green apple, tart grapefruit, tart stone fruit, and slate galore, with waxy notes, and tart pineapple. The finish is long, green, with intense mineral, slate, flint, and lovely petrol that gives way to nice acidity, and hints of tannin. The wine has indeed come around and now petrol is more present and the hole in the middle is gone. Drink until 2024. Read the rest of this entry
Kosher New Zealand wines
Here is a funny fact, go to New Zeland, like we did earlier this year, and you have less of a chance to taste a current New Zealand Kosher wine than if you were on the east coast. Do not even start me on elsewhere in the USA, there are still 2014 Goose Bay wines at shops still. I have no idea why people continue to push old wines when it comes at the detriment of the customer and the shop! Yes, the wine store is a business, but pushing bad wine is not good business either. Someone needs to eat that cost, a theme I keep hammering again and again.
Anyway, in New Zealand, there is 2016 Goose Bay Sauvignon Blanc and not much else, and that was in Auckland, which has the largest Jewish community. Sad. They also had the 2016 O’Dwyers Sauvignon Blanc, but that is on its way down. The 2016 Goose Bay, is slowing down, but still drinkable in a tight pinch.
The first week we were there we got by on grape juice and beer, the beer in New Zealand is great! The last week we were there, Goose Bay was able to send us the latest vintages they have and I am really in their debt, as another Shabbat of grape juice was really asking too much!
In the end, there are just two real players in the New Zealand scene. There is Goose Bay, a winery that is a sub-brand of the much larger Spencer Hill winery. It is a winery you can visit in the south island, but sadly we had far too much to see and too little time to do it, while we were in New Zealand. There is also O’dwyers Creek winery, a crush facility that makes Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay. It is the only kosher single estate-grown wine, from New Zealand’s world-renowned Marlborough region
For me, Spring and summer have always included Goose Bay Sauvignon Blanc. Recently, the O’dwyers has been a wonderful addition to my summer white wines. Both O’dwyers and Goose Bay make their wines mevushal and they are both massive QPR wines. I find they have both done a very good job at bringing kosher wine to the public at a very high quality while being reasonably priced!
The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:
2018 Goose Bay Pinot Grigio – Score: 88
Love the screw tops, we need to embrace screw tops for one-year wines. Lovely gooseberry, bright fruit, citrus galore, with apples, citrus flowers, and mineral. The mouth on this light to medium bodied wine is fun, nice acid, with Asian pear, apple, and lovely hints of orange, with loads of grapefruit, lemon and green notes with a refreshing bright makeup. The finish is long, green, and tart, with lemongrass, slate, and citrus galore. Nice. Drink now
2018 Goose Bay Pinot Noir Rose – Score: 88
The nose on this wine is very cherry driven, and while it has a good body and mouthfeel, the residual sugar on it is a bit too much for me. The wine overall is nicely made as always, and the acidity is nice, but it feels a bit too round for me.
2017 Goose Bay Sauvignon Blanc – Score: 90 to 91 (QPR)
Love the screw tops, we need to embrace screw tops for one-year wines. I do not have full notes on this wine, but I truly enjoyed it, it showed a lovely gooseberry, citrus nose, and mouth, with very good acid and mouthfeel, with salinity and mineral notes, and orange pith on the finish. Nice! Drink now!
2018 Goose Bay Sauvignon Blanc – Score: 91 (QPR)
Love the screw tops, we need to embrace screw tops for one-year wines. The nose is classic, with gooseberry, passion fruit, cat pee, and straw with mineral. The mouth on this wine holistic, while the group was nice but lacked this complexity and overall acid structure. The mouth on this wine is crazy fun, really bright, with rich gooseberry, citrus, grapefruit galore, with incredible bright fruit structure, that blends well with the fruit powerful not not out of place, with layers of acid, tart ripe tropical fruit, with impressive lemonade and pink grapefruit candy that gives way to tart lemon, fun. The finish is long, green, and crazy tart, with slate, flint and really fun. Bravo! Drink this year.
2018 Goose Bay Pinot Noir, Small batch – Score: 90
Love the screw tops, we need to embrace screw tops for one-year wines. The nose is less ripe and more controlled, with lovely classical cherry notes, with raspberry, earth, and lovely Smokey and toasty notes. The mouth on this wine is ripe, with a nice balance showing rich red fruit, cranberry, cherry, ripe but balanced with great acid and tart fruit that gives way to chocolate and coffee galore with toast and a nice mouth coating tannin structure. Nice. Drink by 2020.
2017 O’dwyers Creek Sauvignon Blanc – Score: 91 (QPR)
Love the screw tops, we need to embrace screw tops for one-year wines. The nose on this wine is beautiful, with classic cat pee, gooseberry, passion fruit, and really green notes. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is great, classic, lovely, with screaming tart fruit, tart citrus, more guava, passion fruit, and pear. The finish is long and green and lovely and tart.
2014 O’dwyers Creek Pinot Noir, Limited Release – Score: NA
This wine was OK a few years ago, not a wine I would buy, but nice enough. Its main issue back then was the mevushal process ruined it IMHO. If you have it, drink up. Otherwise, wait for the 2018 Pinot Noir that is on the way to the USA.
Top kosher White and Sparkling wines that I have tasted in 2017
Over the past three months, I have been trying as many rose, white, and sparkling wines as I could find and it is time to post what I think of them. In the grand scheme of things, 2016 is not much better of a year than 2015 was. The white and rose wines from the 2015 vintage in Israel were a complete disaster. I have stated that many times and that is why I did not post this list last year at all. I was almost not going to post this list this year, but what the heck – it will not be very good information – as many of the wines were boring to painful with a few good exceptions.
To recap, red wines overall from Israel are a total letdown and nothing has changed in that department. However, the 2015 and 2016 vintages for whites and roses have overall been a huge disappointment, in regards to either lack of focus in the wines or lack of acid.
I have covered Rose – many times now, but the latest and last was here and a few French roses that were not worth much as well. The whites and sparkling wines were what I needed to post – so I guess it is time to post them already.
The State of Israeli wines from the 2016 vintage
Israel really got me excited about the rose and white wine potential, but the last two years have totally squashed those aspirations. I really hope 2017 brings it back. Sure, we can always count on Domaine Netofa and Tzora Winery for great wines. Netofa has released some brand new wines and I look forward to being able to taste those wines very soon. The new 2016 Tzora white wines are now in the USA and they are lovely wines that have a good few years in their tanks. The new 2016 Psagot are also quite nice.
Of course, Yarden winery continues to be the best kosher Sparkling winery in the world. Sure, there are great sparkling wines from France and even some nice one from Spain and the USA, but for the price, quality, and enjoyment – you cannot beat the Yarden Sparkling wines. Their white wines are very professional, they may not blow you away, but they are always clean, well balanced, and fun to drink, which is what matters. Their lower level labels (Gilgal here in the USA), have had some issues in the white wines, and Galil Mountain Winery has also been slipping a bit, which is sad.
In regards to Israeli red wines, nothing new here. A great red Israeli wine has gone the way of the dodo bird. Other than Tzora, Netofa, Mia Luce, and some others here and there, I cannot safely recommend reds from Israel to my friends.
Two years ago when I last compiled a cross varietal white wine list, I was praising Israel for its wonderful whites and rose – sadly that was the wonderful 2014 vintage! It was and is still crazy good for some wines like Matar and Tzora. Then we had 2015 and 2016! While the 2016 vintage is better than the 2015 vintage, well anything would have been better than 2015, it is still severely lacking.
My cellar has gone primarily to the USA, then France, then Spain, and then stuff here and there. The USA, mostly because I love all things Four Gates Winery, and a bunch of others as you will see below. That is a sad state of affairs, but it is one that has been created by the Israeli wineries themselves. They always have the chance to change back, till then I will enjoy the wines made in California, Spain, France, and wait for bell curve to shift like it has in France and California. I hope Israel is only slightly behind them, but from what I had over the past couple of years now, things are still going the wrong way in the world of kosher Israeli wines. Read the rest of this entry
Lueria Winery and the latest releases
Well, I have finished all the KFWE posts, and my past personal wine tastings posts, and now it is time to get back to posting about wineries I visited on my last trip. To remind you, I came to Israel for Sommelier 2017, then flew to Paris and back the next morning for the Bokobsa tasting. Upon my return to Israel, I drove north for a day, before coming back to the Jerusalem area, and then flying home. I have already posted all the wineries I visited in Israel’s North, excepting for my visit with Gidi Sayada at the lovely new visitor tasting room of Lueria Winery. We tasted all the new releases and as always, it is a joy to sit down and taste wines with Gidi.
The wines that Gidi makes use the grapes that were planted by his father, Yosef Sayada some 22 years ago. The vines were planted on the hills surrounding Moshav Safsufa. Interestingly, Safsufa is an Aramaic word meaning – late ripening fruit. The burial place of the revered kabbalist Rav Yitzchak Luria, who was one of the foremost Kabbalist experts in his time, overlooks the vineyards. It is in his honor that the winery is called Lueria Winery.
Lueria Winery has been growing slowly but surely, going from a few thousand bottles in 2006 to more than 100K bottles in 2016. Most people would not think that Lueria Winery is pumping out that much wine, but since Gidi started making wine, after learning winemaking in Israel, and cutting his teeth with Tal Pelter of Pelter Winery (not kosher) and Matar Winery, it is clear to see that he has found his own way now. With the abundance of his father’s grapes to choose from, some 45 acres, comprising many classic varietals, like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, along with some more Mediterranean varietals, like Syrah, Sangiovese, Barbera, and Roussanne.
This winery, like many throughout Israel, is not afraid to make half of their wines – white wines. Why? Because contrary to the USA palate, Israelis have finally found the love for all things white and rose! Sadly, this year, Gidi did not make a rose. In its place, he started a new label, the 2016 Roussanne! Also, gone is the pure dry Gewurztraminer that we had a few years here and there. Now, he is making some dry Gewurztraminer and placing it into the lovely, Lueria White wine. The white varietals used in the winery are Gewurztraminer, Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, and Roussanne. There are very few wineries in Israel making Pinot Grigio, the ones I know of are Dalton (a five-minute drive from Lueria Winery), Lueria Winery, and Yarden Winery. Each wine is stylistically different from each other. The Dalton PG is all about acid and fruit and is light on the mineral. Shockingly, the Yarden PG is less about fruit and more a balance between the fruit and mineral. Finally, the Lueria Winery PG is smoky and mineral rich, with nice fruit as well. Get them all and then taste them in a blind tasting!
The red wine labels have been cleaned up, in both appearance and names. Now it is just two blends Rosso and Terrace at the first level, followed by two single varietal dominated wines, Shiraz, and Cabernet Sauvignon. With the Grand Vital being the flagship wine of the winery, which is a blend of the best barrels from each vintage. Its parts change each year but it’s mostly dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon, along with some Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Sometimes Syrah is added as well, but in the past many years that has not been the case. I think the streamlining and simplification of the labels, along with cleaning them up a bit as well, really makes for a lovely lineup of wines.
Vitkin, Tzora, and Flam Winery tastings along with 2015 rosé and whites from Israel
Well, I am back, landing the day before the Shabbat preceding Shavuot. I was there for my Nephew’s wedding and we stopped off in Paris for two days – that post can be read/seen here. From there we jumped on an EasyJet plane and we were in Israel, but those kind of things do not just happen. In hindsight I would use EasyJet again – simply because there really were few other options. The direct flights were these (listed in cost order); Transavia (I wonder if the count sleeps in luggage), EasyJet, Arkia (Israel’s second largest airline), El Al, and Air France. I tried to use miles on AF – but they were crazy high. So, in the end, EasyJet it was.
EasyJet is one of those airlines that will nickel and dime you all the way to and in the plane. But the best plan (since I had no checked luggage), is to pay for seat assignment and then you get a roll on and backpack. I was stressing about my rollon, it was a bit heavy, and I was worried they would nickle me to death. In the end, the dude at the counter was very nice and they took the rollon – asking to check it, which was fine with me. The trip was fine, as there is a lounge in the CDG terminal, and what we really wanted was just a place to be normal in a land of madness.
Once we got to the gate they were boarding us only to leave us in the gateway for a good 25 minutes – no idea why. Once we boarded, I was asleep, which was a blessing. I had lots to watch – but sleep was what I craved. Once I awoke we pretty much landed, with maybe 20 minutes or so before landing anyway. Once we landed we disembarked quickly, and then well – no one was there at security check. There were loads of people backing into the anteroom. It would be another 20+ minutes before folks actually arrived and started to cut through the backlog.
Once we got through our bags were there already and we were off to get our car – or try! Look I like Budget in Israel, they normally treat me well, but this trip was horrible! They made us wait 1 hour or more and then they treated us in classic Israeli style and gave us a car that was smaller than what we ordered/paid for and then told us to leave them alone! Love people like that!
Anyway, we were off and really that is what I cared about – I wanted to be home! After that, I can say that the trip was really about tasting late 2014 released wines and 2015 wines. Before, I get into that – let’s recap the state of 2015. As stated here, this is what happened in 2015 and after tasting some 40+ wines from 2015 – nothing has changed my opinion.
Well after two world-class vintages in 2001 and 2008, 2015 was a huge letdown. The white and rose are for the most OK, and nice. The white and rose wines are not at the level of 2014 (more on that below), but they are very respectable. The 2015 reds on the other hand is an entirely different subject.
A few things going on here – first of all the weather was perfect through August – looking like yet another blockbuster Shmita vintage. Wet winter, tons of rain and no deep freezing, followed by very moderate spring (making for good bud formations). This was followed by temperate highs and nice cool evenings throughout the summer, except for a few spikes here and there, that was all until August! In August nature took a very dark view on Israel – starting with some of the worst highs in the history of Modern Israel, and power consumption that peaked for an entire week that broke record after record. August continued with crazy heat – but it was early September when all hell broke loose. September saw a return of the epic sandstorm – but this time it reached almost biblical proportions in September. Just look at these satellite images – they are crazy!
Overall, the season was not what it was meant to be. The sand storms brought even higher temps, it all unravelled at the end. The funny thing is that – the wineries that pull early, AKA do not produce date juice, were affected far less – like Recanati and Tabor. The ones who pull later or pull from the Galilee – even if they are great wineries – were affected. In some ways it will mean that lower level wines at wineries will have normally better fruit. It will also mean that many wineries will have less of their flagship wines. Of course this is all from what winemakers and wineries have told me so far. Only time will tell to see what really comes out, but agriculturally, it was not a great year. Read the rest of this entry
Meatballs, Panade, Linguini, and a bottle of Binyamina Zinfandel
On the weekend of August 12th we were laying low with a continued hunkering for meatballs. I cannot truly explain why I am constantly tinkering with my meatball recipe. I guess I can only say that I like to tinker, and I like to play with recipes. This one went very wrong! I normally add in shredded vegetables to make the meatballs softer, instead of using a panade. What is a panade and what do you use it for? According to Cook’s Illustrated: “A panade is a paste of milk and bread that is typically used to help foods like meatballs and meatloaf hold their shape and moisture. Starches from the bread absorb liquid from the milk to form a gel that coats and lubricates the protein molecules in the meat, much in the same way as fat, keeping them moist and preventing them from linking together to form a tough matrix. Mixing the beef and panade in a food processor helps to ensure that the starch is well dispersed so that all the meat reaps its benefits.”
Steaks can handle being eaten medium rare, my favorite temperature, because the bacteria does not penetrate the solid surface of a steak too deeply. However, ground meat can have or attract the bacteria and now it has the potential to get into every nook and cranny of the meatball or burger – which can be painful or far worse. The answer is to fully cook the ground meat dish and still have something edible in the end, which is no small feat. The panade gives you a cushion or life jacket because it allows you to cook the ground meat right to the end and maybe a bit more and not end up with ground up shoe leather.
So while the panade does wonders for ground meat recipes, it does not work in a kosher home – given the whole “meat and milk thing”. That leaves us with a need to get a substance that starts off dry and ends up soft – vegetables! This is not the first time we have made meatballs with vegetables, however, it is the first time we have done it with vegetables that I did not squeeze out! Ouch! I was lazy and tired and did not want to bother – big mistake.
The meatballs came out fine, but they were overly soft. I should have seen it when I made the mixture. A few rules about meatballs:
1) NEVER over mix them – the more you slam them around the harder and more gummy they get
2) A mixture that is correct should feel more like a stiff dough than a soft one – that is where I messed up
3) Cook the meatballs until they float in the pan (if you are braising them). They will sink to start, and the second they bob up to the surface, yank them out.
4) To be sure they are not ready, make sure to not overstuff the pan and the braise, so that the meatballs have freedom to rise to the surface when ready
There you go – I hope you all can learn from my mistakes and, lets be honest – bobbing for meatballs is so much more enjoyable than rotten apples!
To pair with this lovely tasting, albeit overly soft, meatballs, we cooked up a pot of linguini and a tossed a fresh bowl of green salad. The wine we enjoyed over the weekend was the 2007 Binyamina Zinfandel. We also enjoyed a few more wines in the same time, so I am adding them here for posterity.
2007 Binyamina Zinfandel Special Reserve (Israel, Galilee) – Score: B to B++
The nose on this dark garnet to black colored wine starts off way to hot, however over time it calms down to expose chocolate, tobacco, cedar, raspberry, plum, blackcurrant, black cherry, crushed herbs, dirt, and mound of black pepper. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is starting to show its age with excessive date flavors that taste oxidized, plush mouth feel from nice tannin, rich loamy dirt, raspberry, plum, blackcurrant, and black cherry. The mid palate is balanced with nice acid, cedar, and vanilla. Th finish is long and spicy with heaps of black pepper, chocolate, tobacco, vanilla, blackcurrant, date, cedar, and herbs. Cedar, black pepper, date, raspberry, black currant, chocolate, and vanilla linger.
2009 Cantina Gabriele Pinot Grigio (Italy) – Score: B
This past weekend I tasted this bottle at our synagogue’s kiddush and it was lacking to say the least. The nose on this wine was totally killer! The nose on this light gold colored wine was exploding with lemon, aroma, pepper, honeyed melon, and peach. Unfortunately, that was where it ended. The mouth on this light to medium bodied wine was dead with light hints of acidity, peach, honey, and melon. The mid palate was totally flat with little bite, more sweet fruit and melon. The finish was average with a bit of bite but it faded quickly leaving only a hint of melon, honey, and light floral notes. I was so hopeful after the nose but so it goes.
2009 Terrenal Cabernet Sauvignon Yecla (Spain, Murcia, Yecla) – Score: B to B+
Still really like this bottle especially given the cheap price. Much has stayed the same but a few new nuances have shown up. The nose on this dark garnet to black colored wine is rich with dirt, cloves, graphite, raspberry, blackberry, crushed herbs, a hint of chocolate, and black cherry. After some time blueberry also makes an appearance, however at that time the wine is starting to degrade. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is heavy with tannin that lends to a nice but crazy mouth feel, along with blackberry, raspberry, and black cherry. The mid palate is bone dry and acidic along with some chocolate and a fair amount of crushed herbs. The finish is long with chocolate, blackberry, black cherry, crushed herbs, mint, and some mineral. This wine is really nice for the price! (103 views)
2007 Binyamina Cabernet-Merlot Yogev Kosher (Israel, Samson) – Score: B
The nose on this garnet colored wine with brown halo has an almost dead nose with chocolate, rich tobacco, dirt, mineral, blackcurrant, blackberry, black cherry, herbs, date from light oxidity, and oak. The mouth on this medium bodied wine starts to show oxidation with date flavors, blackberry, blackcurrant, herbs, soft tannin, and black cherry. The mid palate is balanced with nice acid, spicy oak, more soft tannin, and tobacco. The finish is long with date, tobacco, blackberry, blackcurrant, crushed herbs, and vanilla. This wine dies quickly, drink up or use for cooking.
2003 Four Gates Merlot Kosher (USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains) – Score: B++ to A-
The nose on this electric blue/purple colored wine is vibrant and expressive with rich sweet oak, smoky, vanilla, black candied cherry, raspberry, blackberry, ripe plum, bramble, chocolate, tobacco, crushed herbs, and date. The mouth on this lovely and full bodied wine is concentrated and expressive like its nose, from its fruit and tannin, with slowly integrating tannin, raspberry, blackberry, ripe plum, cherry, and crushed herbs. The mid palate has balanced acid, chocolate, sweet oak, tobacco, and nice integrating tannin. The finish is super long and spicy with acidity, rich ripe plum, chocolate, tobacco, vanilla, long and luxurious finish with dates and vanilla.