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Four Gates Winery’s January 2023 new releases

As you all know, I am a huge fan of Four Gates Winery, and yes Benyamin Cantz is a dear friend. So, as is my custom, as many ask me what wines I like of the new releases, here are my notes on the new wines.

I have written many times about Four Gates Winery and its winemaker/Vigneron Benyamin Cantz. Read the post and all the subsequent posts about Four Gates wine releases, especially this post of Four Gates – that truly describes the lore of Four Gates Winery.

Other than maybe Yarden and Yatir (which are off my buying lists – other than their whites and bubblies), very few if any release wines later than Four Gates. The slowest releaser may well be Domaine Roses Camille.

Four Gates grapes versus bought grapes

It has been stated that great wine starts in the vineyard, and when it comes to Four gates wine, it is so true. I have enjoyed the 1996 and 1997 versions of Benyamin’s wines and it is because of the care and control that he has for his vineyard. That said, the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes he receives from Monte Bello Ridge show the same care and love in the wines we have enjoyed since 2009.

I have immense faith in Benyo’s wines which are sourced from his vineyard and the Monte Bello Ridge vineyard. The other wines, that he creates from other sources, are sometimes wonderful, like the 2010 Four Gates Syrah that I tasted recently, and I would have sworn it was a Rhone wine, crazy minerality, acid, and backbone, with fruit NOT taking center stage, though ever so evident, the way is meant to be! Others, while lovely on release may well not be the everlasting kind of Four Gates wines.

One new wine

This year we have the return of Petit Verdot is from the Santa Clara Valley AVA, and another Malbec from the same vineyard as in 2019, in Santa Cruz, but not from the Four Gates vineyards. There is a new Cabernet Franc, all the way from Santa Barbara County, not a location I normally associate with Cabernet Franc, but it is a REAL WINNER, in all ways!
That ends the list of wines I call – not Four Gates wines. I state this because the Four Gates Cabernet Sauvignon, is also not from the Four Gates vineyard, but for all intent and purpose, of what I care about, the quality is as good or better than the Four Gates vineyard and it has proven itself as such for more than a decade!

The rest of the wines are the normal suspects, though this year’s crop feels riper than the 2017s, still, the Cabernet and Merlot are incredibly beautiful wines. There are two Chardonnay and they are both sold under the Four Gates label, there is no Ayala this year. Next, you have the 2019 Pinot Noir, a bit riper than I like it but a solid wine. Then you have the 2018 Merlot and the 2018 Merlot, La Rochelle, both are beautiful wines! The true star of this release is the 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon, a shockingly ripe but true wine, the fruit is clean, expressive, and true to its nature, a lovely and very unique wine. Finally, there is the 2018 Frère Robaire, which while nice, is a step back from what I expect from a Frère Robaire.

Prices and Quantities

I have heard it over and over again. That I and others caused Benyo to raise his prices. First of all that is a flat-out lie. I never asked for higher prices, but when asked about the value of his wines, the real answer I could give was more than 26 dollars.

Let us be clear, all of us that got used to 18/26 dollar prices and stocked up on his wines in those days should be happy. The fact that he raised prices, is a matter of basic price dynamics, and classic supply and demand. Four Gates has been seeing more demand for wines while the quantity of what is being made is slowing down.

The law of Supply and Demand tells you that the prices will go up, even if you beg for lower prices.

Four Gates Winery is one of the few cult wineries in the kosher wine world that releases wines every year. Sure there have been crazy cult wines, like the 2005 and 2006 DRC wines, or some other such rarities.  His wines are in a class of their own, especially when it is his grapes, and there is less of it out there.

This year, the prices reached their highest Zenith, and it took some 30 minutes to fully sell out. The lower-priced wines sold out in the usual 8 or so minutes while the Cabernet and Merlot and Frère Robaire were the last to go. Still, the crazy prices people paid for the Auction wines that just finished selling this past Sunday show the intense demand for Four Gates wines.

My thanks to Michel and Sima Rynderman for hosting the tasting and for putting up with me and Benyo crashing their home and keeping them both up far later than we should have!! Also, Michel’s awesome Apple phone was used to take lovely pictures – thank you, sir!!!

The notes speak for themselves. Again, this year, I “liked” all the options for sale, though I did not buy the Malbec in case anyone is asking. The wine notes follow below, in the order, they were tasted – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:

2021 Four Gates Chardonnay, Cuvee Rishon, Santa Cruz Mountains, CA – Score: 92 (QPR: WINNER)
This is a very unique wine from Four Gates. This is a Chardonnay that was picked early, hence the “Cuvee Rishon” name. It is very different than previous vintages – very cool! The nose of this wine is fruity, not oak-bomb, with rich gooseberry, guava, melon, and Asian Pear, very fun, with rich saline, orange blossom, jasmine, and spice. The mouth of this medium-plus-bodied wine is not in line with the nose, with a lovely mouthfeel, great acidity, sweet oak, spice, orange, nectarines, green/yellow apple, Asian pear, and lovely sweet oak, sweet baking spices, and more saline. The finish is long, tart, ripe, balanced, and refreshing, with lovely vanilla, cloves, nutmeg, sweet oak, and yellow blossom lingering long. Bravo!! Drink until 2030. (tasted December 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 14.2%)

2021 Four Gates Chardonnay, Santa Cruz Mountains, CA – Score: 91.5 (QPR: GOOD)
The nose of this wine is fruity, not oak-bomb, with rich guava, melon, Asian Pear, honeydew, rich saline, orange blossom, jasmine, and spice. The mouth of this medium-plus-bodied wine is more in line with the nose, with a slightly fuller mouthfeel than the Cuvee Rishon, nice acidity, sweet oak, spice, orange, lemon/pomelo, yellow apple, Asian pear, and lovely sweet oak, sweet baking spices. The finish is long, tart, ripe, balanced, and refreshing, with lovely vanilla, cloves, nutmeg, sweet oak, and yellow blossom lingering long. Bravo!! Drink until 2028. (tasted December 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 14.2%)

2020 Four Gates Petit Verdot, Santa Clara Valley, CA – Score: 91 (QPR: EVEN)
This is what Petit Verdot should smell and taste like, clean lines, not over the top, and well-balanced. The nose of this wine is lovely, with bright fruit, smoke, herbs, lovely baking spices, roasted animal, soy sauce, lovely violet, rosehip, and nice black, red, and blue fruit. Nice! The mouth of this medium to full-bodied wine is layered, and lovely, with ripe boysenberry, raspberry, ripe strawberry, and ripe plum, all wrapped in sweet tannin, cedar, smoke, and intense acid, well balanced, with gripping tannin, and nice fruit focus. Bravo! The finish is long, bright, tart, ripe, and balanced, with more smoke, leather, roasted meat, and great fruit. Drink until 2026. (tasted December 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 14%)

2020 Four Gates Malbec, Santa Cruz Mountains, CA – Score: 88 (QPR: POOR)
The nose of this wine is too ripe for me but this will hit the spot for those that like this style. The nose of this wine changes quickly and turns very fruity, too ripe, with zinberry, ripe blackcurrant, leather, meat, smoke, tar, and over-the-top fruit. The mouth of this full-bodied wine is too ripe for me, almost fig-like, with dried fig, blackcurrant, smoke, dried plum, and mouth-draping tannin with nice sweet oak. The finish is long, ripe, over-the-top, and smoky. Drink by 2026. (tasted December 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 15.2%)

2020 Four Gates Cabernet Franc, Santa Barbara County, CA – Score: 92.5 (QPR: WINNER)
This wine is sourced from Santa Barbara County and it shows. The nose of this wine starts with nice bell pepper, spice, cloves, cinnamon, gravel, hints of jalapeno, and nice red fruit. The mouth of this medium-bodied-plus is ripe, with nice ripe strawberry, raspberry, plum, and hints of elderberry, with a bit too much green notes, nice acidity, good fruit focus, nice acidity, refreshing, with good mouth-draping tannin, and some elegance, nice! The finish is long, tart, ripe, and fruity, with good acidity, nice leather, vanilla, and good red/blue fruit. Drink until 2030. (tasted December 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 14.2%)

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My top 25 kosher wines of 2022, including the Wine of the Year, Winery of the Year, the Best Wine of the Year, and the Best Mevushal wines of the year awards

Like last year, I wanted to make this post short and sweet – so the criteria are simple. I could care less about price, color, or where it was made. All that matters is that it is/was available this year sometime to the public at large and that I tasted it in a reliable environment, not just at a tasting, and that it scored a 93 or higher.

We are returning with the “wine of the year”, “best wine of the year” “Winery of the Year”, and “Best White wine of the year”, along with a last year’s new addition the – “Best Mevushal wine of the year”. Wine of the year goes to a wine that distinguished itself in ways that are beyond the normal. It needs to be a wine that is easily available, incredible in style and flavor, and it needs to be reasonable in price. It may be the QPR wine of the year or sometimes it will be a wine that so distinguished itself for other reasons. The wines of the year are a type of wine that is severely unappreciated, though ones that have had a crazy renaissance, over the past two years. The Best Wine of the year goes to a wine well worthy of the title.

The Mevushal wine of the year is something I dread. I understand the need for a wine that can be enjoyed at restaurants and events, but when we start seeing Château Gazin Rocquencourt and Chevalier de Lascombes go Mevushal – we know we have a problem. As I have stated in the past, if this is what needs to happen, then please sell both options as many do with Peraj Petita/Capcanes, Psagot wines, and many others. Still, it is a wine and as such, it needs a best-of-the-year moniker, so we do it once again!

This past year, I tasted more wines than I have ever, in the past. Now to be clear here, I did not taste many Israeli wines as they have proven to me over and over again, even with the much-ballyhooed 2018 vintage that they are not worth my spending my money on. Still, I did taste a large number of Israeli wines both in my home and at KFWE events. I spent a fair amount of time tasting all the French and European wines I could get my hands on and I feel that is where I added the most value, IMHO. For those that like the Israeli wine style – other writers/bloggers can point you in some direction. This past year, was a return to an above-average year but not as good as last year’s list because last year’s 2019 wines were incredible and precise.

Last year’s list was star-studded and was driven by the incredible 2019 vintage. This year’s list is solid and will highlight a few top 2020 wines, but the clear winner will highlight a 2019 wine that missed making last year’s list because it was released later.

There are also interesting wines below the wines of the year, think of them as runner-up wines of the year. There will be no rose wines on the list this year. If last year, I thought the roses were pure junk, this year, you can add another nail in the coffin of rose wines, IMHO. Last year’s list was stronger with some 123 WINNER wines, this year we had 95. Still, another overall solid year.

Royal Wines continues to impress with the wines they make or import. However, slowly, more lovely wines are being made from other sources though they are harder to find in the USA or outside of Europe.

Now, separately, I love red wines, but white wines – done correctly, are a whole other story! Sadly, in regards to whites, we had no new wines from Germany, still. Thankfully, we have some awesome entries, from the incredible 2020 Chateau Malartic Blanc to the lovely 2021 Covenant Solomon Blanc, to the beautiful 2021 Jean-Philippe Marchand Meursault.

Finally, this year is the year of the Clos! Between the awesome Wine of the Year – the 2018 Clos Mesorah and the Clos Lavaud from Domaine Roses Camille, the Winery of the year, long live the Clos!!!

The wines on the list this year are all available here in the USA, and in Europe, and a few can be found in Israel, as well. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:

The 2022 Kosher Winery of the Year

This award continues to get harder and harder each year. The sad cold, hard truth is that there are too few great kosher wineries. When I started this award, some 4 years ago I thought it would only get easier. Sadly, there are a few truths that limit my ability to give out this award.

First, as much as we have been blessed with great Kosher European wines, in the past 6 years, most of those blessings come under the auspices of single-run kosher wines. Chateau Leoville Poyferre, Château Smith Haut Lafitte, you name it, are all based upon kosher runs. What we have in Europe, kosher-winery-wise, is Terra di SetaCantina Giuliano, and Elvi Wines (including Clos Mesorah). Along with this year’s winner, Domaine Roses Camille. Officially, Domaine Roses Camille only became 100% kosher in 2020, but for all intent and purpose, they have been producing the vast majority of their wines in kosher, since 2011.

The requirements to receive this award are simple, the winery must be kosher, not a kosher-run, the quality must be consistent, and the wines must be readily available. The last requirement is the main reason why Four Gates Winery has yet to win the award, but at this point, it is only a matter of time, as kosher wine availability is becoming less of an issue overall, given the sheer number of cult-like kosher wineries that exist today.

Domaine Roses Camille was one of those cult-like wineries at the start when they produced a stunning 2005 Pomerol. It hit that cult status when the late Daniel Rogov called it the best kosher wine he had ever had, at that point, anyway.

As always, my disclaimers. The U.S. importer of Domaine Roses Camille is Andrew Breskin, of Liquid Kosher, and a person I call a friend. This past week I spent two days with him tasting many a wine, that post will follow my year-in-review posts, along with the Four Gates Winery new releases post.

Domaine Roses Camille’s winemaker is Christophe Bardeau. I have had the honor of meeting him a few times and he always comes across as a kind and professional person. While the main two wines, Domaine Roses Camille and the Echo Roses Camille come from Pomerol, he also makes wines from other regions in Bordeaux, like the Clos Lavaud (Lalande de Pomerol), Chateau Moulin de la Clide (a wine that took on its cult-like status as it was sadly a one and done run), Chateau Marquisat de Binet, and others.

Now, to be clear, the Domaine Roses Camille, Echo Roses Camille, and Clos Lavaud – which are all in Pomerol are made in Domaine Roses Camille winery, the 2022 Winery of the year. The one-off Moulin de la Clide and the lovely Chateau Marquisat de Binet were/are made in those Chateaus. Christophe Bardeau made/makes all the other wines but I named them here for completeness.

Pomerol is a lovely location and the wines of Domaine Roses Camille continue to impress. The Clos Lavaud is a year-in-year-out QPR WINNER along with the Echo Roses Camille. They are both perennially great wines and wines we all are very lucky to have in the kosher wine market! The flagship wine, Domaine Roses Camille has never had a bad year, it is the model of consistency, and the only years it was not made kosher was during the lean years of the kosher wine market in France, 2007 – 2010 (inclusively). It does come in at a higher cost than other kosher Pomerol wines but the high-end quality of Domaine Roses Camille matches the prices and longevity potential of other high-end quality kosher wines that cost much more than the DRC does. Yeah, there, I slipped, we all call the Domaine Roses Camille, our kosher DRC, but yeah, we all know what the real DRC is and that is a different wine region and price, all together!

So, with mad props and great happiness, and hope for even more success, I say Bravo to Christophe Bardeau and Andrew Breskin for all the hard work and lovely wines. The quality of the wines that are here and will be coming, in the future (I tasted many of them over this past week), are impressive and I wish them only continued success!

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Another round of QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) Hits and Misses, Four USA QPR WINNERS (two more for France)– January 2023

I hope you all had a wonderful Gregorian Calendar New Year! This will be my last post for my blog’s Calendar year. As usual, my QPR posts are a hodgepodge of wines but thankfully we have some nice QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) wines.

For all those asking for my yearly Four Gates Winery post – that will have to wait till after my year-end posts. No worry, the sale will end in 14 minutes so get your wines, everyone!!

QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) Wines

It has been three 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 includes some nice wines and some OK wines with the usual majority of uninteresting to bad wines.

The story of 2021 Israel whites and roses is very unfortunate, it started with a bang. Matar and a couple of others showed very well. Sadly, after that, every other white and rose wine from Israel was not as impressive. They all show middling work and product, very disappointing indeed. Since then, there have been more hits and misses, but overall the 2019 and 2021 vintages look good enough.

My thanks to Ari Cohen for helping me again with some of these wines! The 2007 Chateau Peyrat Fourthon La Demoiselle D’Haut Peyrat, 2013 Porto di Mola Aglianico Roccamonfina, Aglianico, and the 2021 Domaine Bousquet Alavida, Mendoza were all thanks to him!

We have a nice list of QPR WINNERS:

  1. 2021 Domaine Bousquet Alavida, Mendoza – Fun, cheap, and enjoyable wine! Bravo!
  2. 2013 Porto di Mola Aglianico Roccamonfina, Aglianico – Maybe this was the first kosher Aglianico ever!
  3. 2007 Chateau Peyrat Fourthon La Demoiselle D’Haut Peyrat, – this has been popping up all over Paris – DRINK UP!
  4. 2019 Chateau Royaumont, Lalande de Pomerol — A little too ripe for me but solid, BEWARE there is no 2020
  5. 2019 Barons Edmond & Benjamin de Rothschild – Another solid wine!
  6. 2020 Netofa Tel Qasser, Red, Galilee – A lovely Rhone-style wine that shows finesse

There were also a few wines that are a slight step behind with a GREAT or GOOD QPR score:

  1. 2021 Chateau de Cor Bugeaud, Blaye-Cotes de Bordeaux (M) – A nice 2021 wine that is mevushal
  2. 2021 Barkan Chardonnay, Galilee (M) – A good Barkan Classic
  3. 2019 Gush Etzion Cabernet Franc, Lone Oak Tree, Judean Hills – A solid Cab Franc, with balance and a bit of elegance
  4. 2022 Rimapere Baron Edmond de Rothschild Sauvignon Blanc, Malborough – A sad shadow of the 21 vintage
  5. 2021 Pescaja Solei’ Arneis, Terre Alfieri (M) – A nice wine but the acidity is lacking
  6. 2019 Rocca di Frassinello Le Sughere di Frassinello, Maremma Toscana – Nice enough wine but lacking acidity
  7. 2021 Bat Shlomo Sauvignon Blanc, Israel – Nice but expensive and simple SB
  8. 2021 Dalton Sauvignon Blanc, Fume, Galilee – A nice enough SB
  9. 2021 Eola Hills Wine Cellars Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon – A nice enough New-World Pinot
  10. 2021 Rothschild Flechas de Los Andes Gran Malbec, Mendoza – A ripe mess but many will like it
  11. 2019 Domaine du Castel Raziel, Judean Hills – A solid wine but too expensive

There are a few wines that got a QPR Score of EVEN – meaning expensive or average:

  1. 2021 Vitkin Pinot Noir, Judean Hills – A simple Pinot Noir
  2. 2020 Chateau Le Crock, Saint-Estephe (M) – One of those bad years for the Crock, such is life!
  3. 2020 Netofa Tel Qasser, White, Galilee – It is here because of the price, nice wine but too expensive
  4. 2021 1848 Winery Cabernet Franc, Judean Hills – A ripe wine that will make some happy
  5. 2017 Capcanes La Flor Del Flor Samso, Montsant – A ripe but controlled wine that is too expensive
  6. 2021 Chateau Le Petit Chaban, Bordeaux (M) – A simple enough but pleasant wine

The others are essentially either OK wines that are too expensive, duds, or total failures:

  1. 2021 Cantina Cignozza il Generoso, Toscana – A poor wine that is also expensive
  2. 2021 Raziel Rose, Judean Hills – A good enough rose that is crazy expensive
  3. 2017 Villa Mangiacane Magnificus, Toscana – A Super Tuscan that is oaked and overripe
  4. 2020 Domaine Du Castel Grand Vin, Judean Hills – An average wine that is far too expensive
  5. 2019 Flam Noble, Israel – Another Israeli wine that is simple enough but crazy expensive
  6. 2021 Tzora Shoresh, Blanc, Judean Hills – Another Israeli wine that is too expensive for its quality

Some things that made me stand up and take notice (AKA QPR WINNERS):

In this group, the best wine is the Chateau Royaumont, though this vintage is ripe, and will take a long time to calm down. There is no 2020 Chateau Royaumont, FYI.

The 2020 Netofa Tel Qasser, Red, is a lovely wine and one that will be here for a while.

The 2019 Barons Edmond & Benjamin de Rothschild, Haut-Medoc is the mevushal version they sell here in the USA and is quite lovely, with great balance and enough complexity.

The 2021 Domaine Bousquet Alavida, Mendoza is the TRUE WINNER to me, it is available in a few places here in the USA and it is lovely! Throw in the fact that it can be found for 12 dollars here in the USA and BRAVO!

The other two wines, 2013 Porto di Mola Aglianico Roccamonfina, Aglianico, and 2007 Chateau Peyrat Fourthon La Demoiselle D’Haut Peyrat, are in France, popping up here and there in shops, nice wines, drink NOW!

Other wines of note (AKA QPR GREAT or GOOD):

This group is not a group of wines I would buy and some are not even wines I would drink if given the chance. They are Ok wines but there are far better options out there. The two that did surprise me were the 2019 Gush Etzion Cabernet Franc, Lone Oak Tree, and the 2019 Domaine du Castel Raziel, Judean Hills, both were solid wines that I did not expect.

Wines that are either good but too expensive or average (AKA EVEN):

Three wines need a comment here. The 2017 Capcanes La Flor Del Flor Samso, Montsant, finally had a decent vintage, it is a nice wine but I would buy limited to none and drink it soon.
The 2020 Netofa Tel Qasser, White, Galilee is a lovely wine, nothing like the 2017 or 2018 vintages, but the price lands the wine here.
Sadly, the 2020 Chateau Le Crock, Saint-Estephe is just an average wine and that is why it is here.

The rest of the wines are not interesting to me and are on this list because of either quality or price.

Wines that are either OK but far too expensive or bad wines (AKA POOR/BAD):

This round this list is just duds and I will just leave you to peruse the names and scores down below.

Roundup

Overall another nice list of QPR WINNERS. I can always look at these kinds of lists and say there are only 6 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 6 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:

2019 Chateau Royaumont, Lalande de Pomerol – Score: 92.5 (QPR: WINNER)
This wine is a blend of 70% Merlot & 30 % Cabernet Franc. At the opening, the wine shows its femininity, with lovely floral notes, violet, and ripe fruit, shortly after it shows a far riper expression with an intense perfume of fruit, nice loam, dirt, green notes, eucalyptus, roasted mint, and minerality. This shows you that some wines can be fruity but you can see the reality of the makeup and understand its final place. This contrasts Israeli wines whose nose and mouth are so over the top that it never comes around. With even more time the wine does return to its feminine side with lovely floral notes, still, the ripeness is there and while it is controlled it does worry me, with plum, rich loam, smoke, earth, mint, eucalyptus, and lovely fruit. The mouth of this full-bodied wine is ripe and balanced, yet also lovely and feminine with expressive floral notes, violet, plum, cherry, rich and dense mouthfeel, not extracted yet complex, somewhat layered, mouth-drying tannin, elegant, and complex, nice sweet oak, menthol, more mint, basil, and lovely smoke. The finish is long, dirty, earthy, smoky, and ripe, with more tannin, mineral, scraping graphite, green notes, violet, and leather. BRAVO! Still, the ripeness abounds and takes over the mouth and nose it is scary. Drink from 2024 until 2032. (tasted December 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 15%)

2020 Netofa Tel Qasser, Red, Galilee – Score: 92 (QPR: WINNER)
The nose of this wine is lovely, it starts a bit slow but with some air, the wine opens to show bright fruit, herbs, smoke, roasted meat, tar, blue and red fruit, and a lovely floral bouquet, jasmine, violet, bravo! The mouth of this full-bodied wine is ripe, and controlled, with lovely acidity, ripe boysenberry, juicy strawberry, raspberry, and rich saline, with lovely sweet oak, mouth-draping tannin, and nice minerality, nice! The finish is long, tart, ripe, balanced, and refreshing, with watermelon, root beer, floral notes, and coffee. Drink by 2028. (tasted December 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 13.5%)

2019 Barons Edmond & Benjamin de Rothschild, Haut-Medoc (M) – Score: 91.5 (QPR: WINNER)
This wine is a blend of 85% Merlot & 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. The nose of this wine starts with lovely notes of ripe red and blue berries followed by rich loam, funk, rich mineral, wet dirt, tar, and green notes/foliage. The mouth of this medium-bodied wine is less weighty than the 2018 vintage with lovely notes of smoke, dirt, loam, dark raspberry, currants, blueberry, Elderberries, rich funk, foliage, lovely mouth-coating tannin, a bit too many green notes, and searing acidity. The finish is long, dirty, earthy, and mineral-driven, with lovely smoke, toast, pencil shavings, graphite, more green notes, dark chocolate, and lovely tension. Drink until 2028. (tasted December 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 14%)

2021 Domaine Bousquet Alavida, Mendoza – Score: 91 (QPR: WINNER)
The nose of this wine is floral, ripe, balanced, and enjoyable, with violet, rosehip, saline, green notes, dark cherry, raspberry, and smoke. The mouth of this medium-plus bodied wine is very fun, floral, ripe, well balanced, fun, with good mouthfeel, organic and without added sulfites, showing ripe plum, blackberry, raspberry, with nice mouthfeel, great acidity, balanced and fun, with lovely ripe and jammy fruit. The finish is long, ripe, balanced, and good, with smoke, mineral, roasted meat, and more floral notes. Lovely! Drink by 2024. (tasted November 2022) (in Paris, France) (ABV = 14.5%)

2013 Porto di Mola Aglianico Roccamonfina, Aglianico – Score: 91 (QPR: WINNER: France)
This wine is crazy, it has almost no fruit on the nose or the body but it has fruit in the structure to keep it alive with rich acidity and a lovely mouthfeel. The nose of this wine is lovely, dirty, earthy, smoky, with lovely barnyard, and rich mushroom, with hints of violet and rose. With time the wine opens to a new world. The mouth of this medium-bodied wine is ripe, with dark fruit, blackberry, raspberry, smoke, elegance, rich tannin, smoke, mushroom, and lovely tea. The finish is lovely, tannic, and herbal, with lovely barnyard and floral notes, lovely. Drink now!!! (tasted November 2022) (in Paris, France) (ABV = 12%)

2007 Chateau Peyrat Fourthon La Demoiselle D’Haut Peyrat, Haut-Medoc – Score: 91 (QPR: WINNER: France)
This wine is 15 years old and it does not evoke happiness in me, sure it is a perfectly good wine, it is not dead, not oxidized, but it has also not evolved. This reminds me of a recent post by my friend, Avi Davidowitz, where he said something I said often to Benyo about the early day Baron Herzog wines, they survive, but they do NOT evolve as time passes. The wine is enjoyable, but I would prefer another option.
The nose of this wine is perfectly balanced, well made, and professional, but also just OK, at this point, showing little to no evolution into tertiary notes, there are mushrooms, and there is no barnyard, but the tertiary is more in the background.
The nose is nice with good mushrooms, nice dirt, earth, with red fruit, and nice smoke. To me, the nose is dominated by dirt and the surprising fruit, and the rest is in the background.
The mouth of this medium-bodied wine is where things become far less interesting, sure the acidity is impressive, and the mouthfeel and tannin cover the palate with the aid of good acidity, but the wine is just there, it has not evolved, the raspberry and cherry are nice, with good minerality, and more rich loam.
If one was, to sum up, this wine, dirt, and mushroom with some fruit would be a solid descriptor. The tannin is devolving. The finish is long, and green, with enough tannin to keep it interesting, with nice mushroom, and graphite. Drink now!!! (tasted November 2022) (in Paris, France) (ABV = 12.5%)

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Another round of QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) Hits and Misses, Eight QPR WINNERS – October 2022

I hope you all had a wonderful Jewish Holiday season! We are now back to the grind and I have a bunch of wines that need to be posted. As usual, my QPR posts are a hodgepodge of wines but thankfully we have some nice QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) wines.

QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) Wines

It has been two 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 includes some nice wines and some OK wines with the usual majority of uninteresting to bad wines.

The story of 2021 Israel whites and roses is very unfortunate, it started with a bang. Matar and a couple of others showed very well. Sadly, after that, every other white and rose wine from Israel was not as impressive. They all show middling work and product, very disappointing indeed. Thankfully, this round has one Israeli WINNER and it is from the 2021 vintage.

We have a nice list of QPR WINNERS:

  1. 2021 Shirah Rose, Central Coast, CA (A nice solid rose)
  2. 2021 Covenant Israel Rose, Blue C, Israel (lovely color and great acidity)
  3. 2018 Allegory Pinot Noir, Duvarita Vineyard, Santa Barbara, CA (Another nice Pinot from Cali)
  4. 2020 Chateau Montviel, Pomerol (Perennial winner)
  5. N.V. Drappier Carte d’Or, Champagne (Best of the 4 Drappier Champagne)
  6. N.V. Drappier Brut Nature, Zero Dosage, Champagne (Lovely but drink now!)
  7. 2020 Chateau Piada, Sauternes (Not their best but solid)
  8. N.V. Drappier Rose de Saignee, Champagne (Nice brut rose, hard to find outside of Yarden)

There were also a few wines that are a slight step behind with a GREAT or GOOD QPR score:

  1. 2021 Shirah Bro.Deux, Blanc, Santa Ynez Valley, CA (A nice wine just missing a bit)
  2. 2021 Yatir Mount Amasa Rose, Judean Hills (Not bad)
  3. 2021 Or de la Castinelle Rose, Cotes de Provence (Another solid vintage for this new rose)
  4. 2021 Vitkin Israeli Journey, Red, Israel (Simple but nice)
  5. 2021 Laufer Tokaji Late Harvest, Tokaji – Simple but balanced
  6. 2018 Allegory Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford (too ripe for me but good)
  7. 2019 Vitkin Grenache Blanc, Galilee (A step back on this vintage sadly)
  8. 2018 Ma’ayan Cabernet Franc, Shomron (A lovely wine just too Israeli for me)

There are a few wines that got a QPR Score of EVEN – meaning expensive or average:

  1. 2019 Shirah Nebbiolo, Paso Robles, CA (A bit too ripe for my tastes)
  2. 2021 Flam Camellia, Judean Hills (Less interesting than previous vintages)
  3. 2018 Allegory Meritage, Paso Robles, CA (weakest of the Allegory wines)
  4. 2021 Laufer Tokaji Ice Wine, Tokaji (Not enough acidity to make it work)

The others are essentially either OK wines that are too expensive, duds, or total failures:

  1. 2021 Jezreel Valley Rose, Sharon (Not very good)
  2. 2020 Yatir Darom, Red, Israel (Just trying too hard with so little)
  3. N.V. Drappier Rose, Brut Nature, Champagne (Not a good idea IMHO)

Wine sets that I tasted

This tasting includes three sets of wines.

  1. Shirah Rose and white wines
  2. Allegory and Ma’ayan wines (from The Cellar wine store in Lakewood)
  3. Four newly disgorged Drappier Champagne
  4. The rest of the assorted wines I tasted over the last 1+ months. I tasted more but I am waiting to post them later.

Some things that made me stand up and take notice (AKA QPR WINNERS):

The largest WINNER group of the sets of wines I had came from the Drappier Champagnes. Three of them were dead on and the fourth, the brut nature rose, is just a bad idea, IMHO.

The other two sets are all made by the Weiss brothers from Shirah wines. The Shirah Wines are made under the Shirah brand and the Allegory wines are Cali wines made for the Cellar wine store in Lakewood.

The Shirah Rose and the Allegory Pinot Noir, two wines made by the Weiss brothers are solid to lovely wines.

Covenant keeps popping out lovely wines and the 2021 Israeli Rose is another example of what care brings you!

The other two wines are the 2020 Piada and Montviel, two more WINNERS for Royal Wines. The Montviel is sheer joy and the highest-scoring wine of this post while the Piada, while nice enough, is a step back from previous vintages.

Other wines of note (AKA QPR GREAT or GOOD):

This group is not a group of wines I would buy and some are not even wines I would drink if given the chance. They are Ok wines but there are far better options out there. The one that did surprise me was the 2018 Ma’ayan Cabernet Franc, Shomron. It is a wine that was close and nice but still too Israeli for me.

Wines that are either good but too expensive or average (AKA EVEN):

This list is also boring, the only real wine to call out, is the 2021 Laufer Tokaji Ice Wine. It should have been a better wine but the wine is a mess, it is all over the place and lacks acidity, sad.

The rest of the wines are not interesting to me and are on this list because of either quality or price.

Wines that are either OK but far too expensive or bad wines (AKA POOR/BAD):

This round this list is just duds and I will just leave you to peruse the names and scores down below.

Roundup

Overall another nice list of QPR WINNERS. I can always look at these kinds of lists and say there are only 7 or 8 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 7 or 8 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:

2020 Chateau Montviel, Pomerol – Score: 93 (QPR: WINNER)
This wine is a blend of 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc. The nose of this wine is incredible, this is what I dream about when I smell wine, dirt, earth, smoke, loam, elegance, fruit, and mushroom, yum!!! The mouth of this full-bodied wine is balanced and soft, it comes at you in layers, showing raspberry, plum, rich loam, earth, sweet spices, and forest floor, all wrapped in a silky and elegant plush mouthfeel, with lovely acidity. It is a silky seductress. The finish is long, green, herbal, dirty, loam, and more forest floor that really comes out, with sweet tobacco, dry meat, and lovely green notes. Bravo!!! Drink from 2025 until 2034. (tasted September 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 13.5%)

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Covenant Wines’ latest releases – September 2022

Last week, California was overrun by a nasty heatwave, besides breaking records and driving me and everyone else crazy, it meant my entire week was open as mountain climbing was off the table. That left lots of time to go see Jeff Morgan (founding winemaker and co-owner of Covenant Wines) and family (Jodie and Zoe), literally, and Jon Hajdu at Covenant Wines. They were already taking in fruit for the 2022 harvest and it was extremely kind of them to carve up some time for me during this busy time of year.

I remember well the time I was in Canada with Jeff for a vertical tasting of all the Covenant Cabernet, at that time, it was a wonderful experience and tasting! I have said many times, that Covenant Winery is one of the original California wineries that makes solid wines, especially in the Cabernet Sauvignon space. I found some of the wines taken a step back in recent years. The white wines were always enjoyable, like the Sauvignon Blanc and the Lavan white, but that changed recently from what I see in this tasting.

Tasting

I was at the winery in March for a local RCC (Rosh Chodesh Club) and I got to taste one of the wines but it was not a setting to write notes and appreciate wines. I do remember the wines we had and one wine, in particular, did not show nearly as nicely as it did at our tasting last week. So, I am happy for many reasons to have driven up to Berkeley, CA to taste the 7 wines. All of them were quite enjoyable.

First, we tasted the Covenant Solomon Blanc a new white wine on the Covenant label and the only white wine on the Covenant Solomon level. The 2020 Covenant Solomon Blanc was the wine I tasted back in March and it showed far superior last week. It finally came out of its shell and had fully integrated with the sweet oak, it was a lovely wine indeed! The 2021 vintage, which was newly bottled was a drop better, showing a bit more acidity and an overall complex mouthfeel that did remind me of the 2019 Chateau Gazin Rocquencourt, Blanc. Both showed lovely gooseberry and ripe fruit but also bracing acidity and controlled yet lovely oak, very well made.

After the lovely Sauvignon Blanc wines, we moved to another white wine the 2021 Covenant Lavan, Chardonnay. I am being honest here, I have been falling into the new version of ABC (Anything But Chardonnay). It is new but old, the same old same old, fat, blubbery, overoaked, under-acidified, flat wines. ABC was a thing in 1995 when the MY Times wrote a piece on it and it is coming back with a vengeance again. Much akin to the date juice fiasco in the kosher wine market, Chardonnay is also moving to its old roots and they are being made into oak-driven apple juice that is honestly boring and uninteresting. Thankfully, we have been saved by the two incredible Burgundy Chardonnays for the Meursault region, by Taieb Wines, and by IDS. Those wines are clean and correct, they speak to the place and the time they were made. So, when I had the lovely Sauvignon Blanc wines it further solidified my belief in what I desire, clean and well-made ABC wines. With that as a disclaimer, the 2021 Covenant Lavan Chardonnay, was properly made. It was well balanced and showed a fruit focus that would make an ABC drinker, like myself, enjoy and drink the wine.

Five Red Wines

After the three white wines, we moved the line along to 5 red wines. In some ways, white wine is harder to make than red wine. White wine has fewer places to hide as a winemaker though I am far harsher, as a wine taster, in the land of red wine, simply because I am sick and tired of lazy winemaking or worse, purposeful and mindful winemaking that removes the grapes from their natural state of being and place to make fruit juice that is sweetened by whatever actions the winemaker has in his/her arsenal that week. Wineries will tell you it sells better but to me, that is just selling out and I have no time or interest in tasting wines like that. So, when I see 5 red wines, I am thinking, like I always do, even in Europe, I hope there is a desire here to let the fruit talk. Sure enough, the team has pulled the winery along into an impressive place where you can find some lovely wines and even some that garner the QPR WINNER score along with quality scores that make me want to buy and drink the wines. Bravo!

The first wine was a lovely Pinot Noir from under the Landsman label. The 2021 Landsman Pinot Noir had just been bottled and it showed no bottle shock. The lines on this wine were clean, with red juicy fruit, floral, earthy, and smoky. No baby fat, just clean lines, and good fruit. Nice! Another WINNER from the Carneros wine region in Sonoma County. Carneros has the moderating influence of the San Pablo Bay, the northern portion of the greater San Francisco Bay, which keeps Carneros cool and windy, but not too cold. We then moved to two Syrah followed by two Cabernet Sauvignon, the flagship wines of the winery.

The first Syrah was the 2020 Landsman Syrah, Santa Rita Hills, Robert Rae Vineyards. This was a new one for me, I was unaware that Syrah grew well in the Santa Rita wine region. Of course, I love the Santa Rita Pinot Noir from the Herzog Reserve line and their more exclusive Eagle’s landing wine lines. So, when I tasted the Landsman Syrah from 2020, I was not surprised to find it more of an old-world style wine than the next wine we would be tasting. The Landsman Syrah reminded me of the Shirah Syrah from 2013, a dirty, earthy, smoky, meaty animal that was more old-world than new from Santa Barbara County. This wine is comparable if not a bit better, here the fruit is more controlled, yet very present, focused, and precise, I bought what was left – one bottle, maybe Jeff or Sagie can scrounge another one or two up. Either way, lovely wine!

Finally, we tasted a new wine on the Covenant label, the 2020 Covenant Syrah, Bien Nacido Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley, Santa Barbara County. This is one of the most famous vineyards in Santa Barbara County, very difficult to get into and even tougher to keep. In 2020 some folks were too worried about smoke damage and bailed on their allocations. Covenant found out about the availability and jumped on it, there is no smoke taint on this wine, it is smoky, but from the lovely french oak used to age the wine. A lovely wine, one that is balanced, but a bit too new-world for my taste. This is a perfect example of how new-world wine can be made to its place and its fruit without turning it into an abomination. Here the team took beautiful fruit and let the fruit speak to its true nature, lovely! Hopefully, there will be more of this wine being made, it shows great potential.

Two big yet elegant Cabernet Sauvignon wines

The tasting ended with two lovely Cabernet Sauvignon wines from Napa Valley, the Covenant Cabernet Sauvignon, and the Covenant Solomon, Lot 70. I claimed, in a previous post, that the crown for the best red 2019 kosher wine had been given to Chateau Smith Haut Lafite, with the disclaimer that I had yet to taste the Four Gates or Domain Roses Camille wines yet. I should have added that I had also not yet tasted the 2019 Covenant Solomon, Lot 70. The Solomon, as nice as it was, did not eclipse the Chateau Smith Haut Lafite or the Chateau Pontet Canet, but it is indeed up there on the list of top wines of 2019.

The two Cabernet wines were quite lovely though the Solomon was a step above the Covenant Cabernet Sauvignon. The Solomon was so elegant, powerful, and yet precise, with great fruit focus and control, quite a lovely wine that deserves your attention and a place in your wine cellar for many years from now! I say that, but Mr. Morgan will tell you it is just lovely now as well, and while I wholeheartedly agree with him, get a few and enjoy one now, if you must, and then enjoy the rest later!

My many thanks to Jeff Morgan, Sagie Kleinlerer, Jonathan Hajdu, and the rest of the Covenant team and family for setting up the meeting, sharing their wines with me, and taking time out of their busy harvest schedule to meet with me. The wine notes follow below in the order they were tasted – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:

2020 Covenant Solomon Blanc, Bennett Valley, Sonoma County, CA – Score: 92.5 (QPR: WINNER)
This wine is from the Moaveni Vineyard, in Bennett Valley, Sonoma County.
The nose of this wine is a perfect blend of sweet oak and sweet fruit, showing lovely peach, apricot, bright fruit, green apple, sweet orange marmalade, orange blossom, sweet melon, and sweet Asian pear. The mouth of this medium-plus-bodied wine is incredibly fun, with screaming acidity, lovely minerality, and so refreshing, with lovely sweet oak, lovely green apple, orange marmalade, yellow Asian pear, peach, apricot, and cloves. The finish is long, tart, and balanced, with sweet fruit, incredible balance, loam, flint, and lovely sweet smoke and orange peel. Drink by 2027. (tasted September 2022) (in Berkeley, CA) (ABV = 13.90%)

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Herzog Wine Cellars’ latest releases – August 2022

Like much of my posts I am a bit behind, I received these wines in June 2022 and sadly, it took until this week to post them. The truth is that the notes are written quickly, but the delay is caused by the amount of time spent writing the post, with all the metadata in and around the post and the images.

In case you missed the last Herzog Wine Cellars post – please check that out here, the story and background around Herzog Wine Cellars is truly imperative to better appreciate what they have accomplished these many years! One large change since the last post would be the hiring of David Galzignato as Director of Winemaking and Operations. Joe Hurliman is now Winemaker Emeritus. As always I have incredible respect and appreciation for what both Joseph Herzog and Joe Hurliman have done for Herzog Wine Cellars. Their vision, drive, and continued passion for improving the wines and the winery are truly incredible and one that we should all aspire to learn from.

In shortened story form Herzog Wine Cellars is a fascinating story. It started with Eugene Herzog immigrating to the US from Czechoslovakia in 1948 after the war and after communism took over his winery. He worked for a small winery in NY, and by 1958 he became the majority owner of it. In deference to his grandfather, they called it Royal Wines, as he was given the title Baron in Czechoslovakia. By 1985, the family decided that they needed a California presence, and so they hired the famous Wine Maker Peter Stern, to build their initial footprint in the world of high-end wines. After that, they moved to Santa Maria, hired Joe Hurliman, and leased space from Coast Wine Services (CWS), all the while knowing that they needed a place that they could call home. In the end, Joe went looking for a plot of land, that was as close to a Jewish Community as possible (for the Kosher Wine managers) and landed on Oxnard. Not a classic place to house a winery, but one that is close to the highways to truck in the grapes and one close enough to a Jewish Community to allow for full-time Jewish supervision. The winery opened in 2005, and three years later it started hosting the International Food and Wine Festival. In my last post about this year’s KFWE I threw down a gauntlet, I wonder if anyone read/saw it, I think it is time for Herzog Wine Cellars to bring back IFWF, in the summer for a throwback! Time is ticking – the ball is in your court guys!

Now to the wines. The 2017 vintage was tough, it was tough for all of Cali, it was a bad vintage. The 2018 vintage was far better, but still not as good as the 2016 or 2014 vintages. We were all interested in the full 2019 vintage to see if Herzog could break the odd-year curse that has hung over them since the nice 2013 vintage. I guess I will have to say, the answer is maybe. There are clear QPR WINNER wines, but they do not shine as bright as in the even years of 2014, 2016, or 2018. They are riper and less focused, and while they show minerality, it feels/seems secondary to the larger picture.

Generally, when we look at Herzog, and their success for a year, we use the big three, the Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Reserve, Alexander Valley, the Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Edition, Warnecke Vineyard, and the Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Edition, Clone Six. However, there is also the burgeoning Lake County Cabernet Sauvignon, and of course the lovely Edna Valley and Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noirs, from both Eagle’s Landing and the Reserve line. There are the second-level wines from the Variations collection, which also weigh in a bit on a successful year for Herzog, IMHO, but the main wines drive the success ratio the most.

Still, Herzog is never resting on their laurels, in the past they were driving hard with a yearly Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, to add to the Cabernet Sauvignon rotation. However, in 2016, they paused the Single Vineyard Program. The good news is that starting in 2021 the Single Vineyard program is back online! After that, they started sourcing Stag’s Leap fruit in 2018 and then expanded the Special Edition line with Oakville and Rutherford.

One final statement around two wines in the lineup. One is Choreograph, it is a wine that has been around for a long time, started in 2016, the earlier name Camouflage started in 2014. It is a serious sleeper in the Mevushal Lineage line. In the first few years, the wine tasted like the makeup of the wine a hodgepodge of grapes, one of the classic issues with large field blends. The larger the number of fruit the harder it is for them to all get together and make the wine work. However, in 2020 and 2021, whatever Herzog is doing, they have been hitting a home run for the price. This is the absolute PERFECT BBQ wine, IMHO. Mevushal, served cool, with meat, chicken, or even fish, all will work if grilled or smoked, just a perfect wine with great acidity and balance.

The other sleeper is the Lake County Cabernet Sauvignon. Napa is either at max or close to the max price, at least for now, though everything was high, price-wise in 2021 and the Napa fruit prices may max out in 2022. They are not pretty! Many a winery has dropped serious money into Lake County, look at Andy Beckstoffer, AKA, Mr. Tokalon. He bought into Lake County in 1997 and continues to invest. This line has been showing great promise from the start and every year the wine improves or keeps the previous vintage’s quality. Bravo! It is not at the quality yet of Alexander Valley Cabernet, but it quickly making its way into that quality level.

Finally, this is more of a PSA, please cool your red wines in the fridge, for say thirty minutes before enjoying them, if they are at, what we call room temperature. If the room is at 75 degrees Farenheight, 20 to 30 minutes in the refrigerator will help to bring the red wine temperature down to what it should be enjoyed at, which is 60 degrees, or so.

There will be no 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon from Stag’s Leap, but interestingly, there will be a 2020 vintage, as it was picked just before the fires. There will also be a bit of 2020 Alexander Valley and Rutherford. Overall, 2019 turned out to be the best odd-numbered year in a long time, and while it does not rise to the quality of 2014/2016/2018 it is a solid showing for a not-so-good vintage.

The wine notes listed below shows seven wines that garnered the QPR (Quality to Price) WINNER score. That is a lovely list of wines the majority of them are 2020 or 2021 wines. There are two 2019 QPR WINNER wines, and they are the ususal suspects, the Alexander Valley and the Warnecke Vineyard.

I will keep this short, so my many thanks to Joseph Herzog, David Whittemore, Joe Hurliman, and Alicia Wilbur for answering my many emails and calls. Be well all of you! 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 Herzog Sauvignon Blanc, Lineage, Lake County, CA (M) – Score: 91 (QPR: WINNER)
The nose of this wine is more restrained than other Sauvignon Blanc out there, it is less ripe, it is dirtier, with mineral, floral notes, violet, rose, lemon, lime, yellow plum, and dryer sheet notes. The mouth of this medium-bodied wine is fun, refreshing, tart, acidic, and enjoyable, with green notes, lemon, lime, wet grass, mint, lemongrass, saline, hints of passion fruit, and otherwise, green notes, herbs, spices, flint, and rich mineral. The finish is long, green, spicy, and flinty, with saline, smoke, roasted herb, grass, and hay. BRAVO! Drink now. (tasted May 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 14.5%)

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The 2022 Kosher rose season is open and I am underwhelmed – part 1

I started tasting some of these wines in January and February of this year and at the start, some of them were nice to GREAT. Since then it has been downhill for almost all of the options. As you peruse this list you will see there is a SINGLE QPR WINNER, JUST ONE! That is worse than last year when we had two WINNER roses!

While rose wine in the non-kosher market is exploding – especially Rose wine from Provence; a wine region of France, kosher roses have ebbed and flowed. Last year, the kosher market for roses went into overdrive with options and thankfully this year it is slowing down! Some lovely roses are not on this list and while they will not be QPR WINNER they are quite nice. I will be posting those wines when I post my Paris wine tastings. Still, IMHO, who cares, as I have stated a few times, why are we looking at 35-dollar or more roses when we have better scoring whites!

QPR and Price

I have been having more discussions around my QPR (Quality to Price) score with a few people and their contention, which is fair, in that they see wine at a certain price, and they are not going to go above that. So, instead of having a true methodology behind their ideas, they go with what can only be described as a gut feeling. The approaches are either a wine punches above its weight class so it deserves a good QPR score. Or, this other wine has a good score and is less than 40 dollars so that makes it a good QPR wine.

While I appreciate those ideals, they do not work for everyone and they do NOT work for all wine categories. It does NOT work for roses. Look, rose prices are 100% ABSURD – PERIOD! The median rose price has risen a fair amount from last year, some are at 40 to 45 dollars – for a rose! So far, it is around 29 bucks – that is NUTS!

As you will see in the scores below, QPR is all over the place and there will be good QPR scores for wines I would not buy while there are POOR to BAD QPR scores for wines I would think about drinking, but not buying, based upon the scores, but in reality, I would never buy another bottle because the pricing is ABSURDLY high.

Also, remember that the QPR methodology is based upon the 4 quintiles! Meaning, that there is a Median, but there are also quintiles above and below that median. So a wine that is at the top price point is by definition in the upper quintile. The same goes for scores. Each step above and below the median is a point in the system. So a wine that is in the most expensive quintile but is also the best wine of the group gets an EVEN. Remember folks math wins!

Still, some of the wines have a QPR of great and I would not buy them, why? Well, again, QPR is based NOT on quality primarily, it is based on price. The quality is secondary to the price. For example, if a rose gets a score of 87 points, even though that is not a wine I would drink, if it has a price below 29 dollars (that is 7 dollars more than last year – like I said crazy inflation) – we have a GREAT QPR. Again, simple math wins. Does that mean that I would buy them because they have a GREAT QPR? No, I would not! However, for those that still want roses, then those are OK options.

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Another round of QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) Hits and Misses, Nine QPR WINNERS – May 2022

A side note before we get to the QPR list. I just returned, B”H, from Paris and I know many are interested in my notes from the trip, along with all the roses that are NOT on this list. So, for full disclosure, I will be posting the rose list next and then I will be getting to the wines I enjoyed and suffered in Paris. The good news, there are lots of wonderful wines from the Paris tastings and many will be making their way here. Sadly, the rose list is not that interesting at all. Now on to the QPR list, which will catch me up to almost all the wines before my Paris trip, other than the roses.

QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) Wines

It has been a few 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 garbage and pain I subject myself to, we are still blessed with quite a few wonderful QPR wines out there. This post includes some nice wines and some OK wines with the usual majority of uninteresting to bad wines.

I had the fortune of going to Hagafen Wine Cellars with Neal and Elk and the 2018 and 2019 vintages continue to impress. The prices are a bit high but with the price of land and fruit in Napa Valley, the fires, the lack of water, and so much more, the price is what it is. Still, the two QPR winner wines were lovely as were the vast majority of all the wines we enjoyed.

I also had the chance to go to Marciano Estates Winery and the wines showed beautifully there as well. The same can be said about Marciano, in regards to the pricing, both at the price and the reasons for them, so read the notes and make up your minds.

The story of 2021 Israel whites and roses is very unfortunate, it started with a bang. Matar and a couple of others showed very well. Sadly, after that, every other white and rose wine from Israel was not as impressive. They all show middling work and product, very disappointing indeed.

We have a nice list of QPR WINNERS:

  1. 2019 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, Alexander Valley, Sonoma, CA
  2. 2018 Hagafen Pinot Noir, Prix, Napa Valley, CA
  3. 2020 Domaine du Castel Blanc du Castel, Judean Hills
  4. 2020 Ramon Cardova Albarino, Rias Baixas
  5. 2021 Baron Edmund de Rothschild Rimapere, Marlborough
  6. 2021 Matar Sauvignon Blanc Semillon, Galilee
  7. 2021 Gush Etzion Sauvignon Blanc, Judean Hills
  8. 2021 Herzog Sauvignon Blanc, Lineage, Lake County, CA
  9. 2019 Hagafen Cabernet Franc, Napa Valley, CA

There were also a few wines that are a slight step behind with a GREAT or GOOD QPR score:

  1. 2018 Hagafen Syrah, Napa Valley, CA
  2. 2019 Hagafen Malbec, Napa Valley, CA
  3. 2019 Carmel Gewürztraminer, Late Harvest, Single Vineyards, Galilee
  4. 2021 Dalton Chardonnay, Unoaked, Galilee
  5. 2020 Pascal Bouchard Chablis, Chablis
  6. 2021 Tabor Sauvignon Blanc, Galilee
  7. 2020 Matar Chardonnay, Galilee
  8. 2015 Louis Blanc Crozes Hermitage, Vintage, Crozes Hermitage
  9. 2019 Koenig Riesling, Alsace
  10. 2019 Matar Stratus, Galilee
  11. 2021 Or Haganuz Blanc, Galille
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The top 25 QPR Kosher wine WINNERS of 2021

This past year I wanted to drive home the need for QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) wines. So I set out to create what I thought a QPR metric should be! Gone were arbitrary price ranges and such. Instead, I let the market define what the QPR price range should be. I did this by grouping the wines by their type (white, red, rose, sparkling, and dessert) and then further refined the grouping by age-ability within the white and red wines. This gave me the following groups:

  • Drink “soon” White Wine (Simple whites)
  • Rose Wine (always drink soon)
  • Drink “soon” Red Wine (Simple reds)
  • Mid-range aging Reds (4 to 11 years)
  • High-end Red wines (11 and more years)
  • High-end White wines (7 and more years)
  • Sparkling Wine (No need here for extra differentiation)
  • Dessert Wine

I then made the mistake of trying to create an Orange wine range/group – that was a HUGE mistake. Again, the wines themselves were not the issue, the issue revolved around trying to group such a small sample set into its group. They will go into their respective white wine category, next year.

Throughout the year, I posted many QPR posts, for almost all of the main categories. I will continue down this road until I find a better way to categorize and track wines that are QPR WINNERS. Talk about WINNERS, that secondary QPR score was a 2.1 revision to my QPR scoring, and that is explained in this post. All the wines listed here are QPR WINNERS from my tastings in 2021.

This year, the list came to a total of 25 names, and none had to dip below 91 in the scores, which is a large number and better scores overall than last year, but again, the pool from where they are culled continues to grow, and the diamonds in the rough are getting harder and harder to find.

I have added a few new things this year. The first is QPR for France, the prices for many wines there, are dirt cheap! Maybe, Avi Davidowitz, from kosher wine unfiltered, can create a list like that for Israel, this year, a bunch of wines became available there, and a proper QPR list would be worthwhile!

Shoutout to a GREAT wine that is just sitting around!

I am sorry to get on my soapbox before we get to the top QPR wines of 2021. But I have to ask what is wrong with the 2018 Vitkin Grenache Blanc??? Yes, it is a bit expensive, but it is also one of the best white wine on the market currently, hailing from Israel. It is incredible – funky, acidic, rich, and expressive – please folks – try the bottle and then once you find out how awesome it is, buy some!! As always, I get nothing for promoting/suggesting a wine, NOTHING, I am simply reminding folks – great wines still hail from Israel!

The wines on the list this year are all available here in the USA, in Europe, and a few can be found in Israel, as well. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:

The 2021 Red QPR kosher WINNER

The 2017 Clos Mesorah is lovely! It is available in the USA and elsewhere. I tasted the 2018 and 2019 as well, and they are lovely, but I will taste them again on the release here in the USA.

2017 Clos Mesorah, Montsant – Score: 94 (QPR: WINNER)
This is a super elegant, floral, and feminine wine, bravo!! The nose on this wine is beautiful, showing floral notes of violet, white flowers, with blueberry, black fruit, smoke, roasted duck, earth, and loads of smoke, dirt, and loam. The mouth on this full-bodied wine is so elegant, layered, concentrated, earthy, fruity, smoky, and richly extracted, with boysenberry, lovely green olives, blackberry, dark cherry, plum, smoke, earth, loam, and lovely sweet cedar, with green notes, sweet tobacco, sweet basil, and lovely acid. The finish is long, green, with draping elegant tannin, showing a bit more acid than even 2019, sweet smoking tobacco, dark chocolate, white pepper, and anise. Bravo!! Drink from 2025 until 2035. (tasted November 2021) (in Montsant, Spain) (ABV = 14.5%)

The 2021 White QPR kosher WINNERS

These two wines were available before but I fear the 2019 Netofa Latour, White is sold out, and the 2020 vintage is not as good as the 2019 vintage. The 2018 Tel Qasser, White is lovely and available.

2019 Netofa Latour, White – Score: 93 (QPR: WINNER)
The nose on this wine is pure heaven, incredible, refined oak, with a refined approach to the fruit, straw, earth, pear, white apple, and smoke, with creme brulee, awesome! The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is truly impressive, with layers of acidity, elegance, sweet oak, with oak tannin, but the creme brulee and smoke are beautiful, with green notes, pear, tart guava, and sweet apple brioche, wow! The finish is long, green, tart, with sweet fruit, mineral, slate, and more freshly baked goods. Bravo! Drink from 2023 until 2030. (tasted January 2021)

2018 Netofa Tel Qasser, White – Score: 92+ (QPR: WINNER)
The 2018 vintage shows far more of the classic Roussanne reductive aspects than 2017 does today, but it is also far richer, deeper in intensity, and approachable, but I would let this lie. The nose on this wine, like 2017 starts closed, yes, it is open, but please there is so much more here, it is just covered in marzipan, almonds, walnuts, oak, smoke, orange, orange blossom, with rich salinity, big bold and bright fruit hiding, and lovely spice. The mouth on this full-bodied wine is incredible, just WOW, and that is with 10 minutes of air, this wine will improve with a couple of years, but I do see how approachable this wine can feel, and if you want to go ahead, but it will be better in a few years, with layers upon layers of smoke, ripe controlled fruit, with ripe peach, apricot, melon, incredible nutty notes, lovely tannin, green olives, wrapped in an unctuous and oily mouthfeel that feels like being wrapped in a sushi roll of oak, smoke, fruit, and nori – WOW! The finish is so long, I AM VERY HAPPY it was my last wine of the tasting, this is crazy, so incredible, with lingering notes that last forever of almonds, walnuts, nuts, smoke, grip, orange blossom, orange, tannin, acid, rock, hay, and more acid, incredible! BRAVO!! BRAVO to the master! Drink from 2023 until 2027. (tasted March 2021)

Rest of the top QPR Winners (in no particular order)

2019 Chateau LaGrange Grand Cru Classe En 1855, Saint-Julien – Score: 94+ (QPR: GREAT)
WOW, what wine for a 12.5% ABV wine, come on, the next time someone says I need to wait for the phenolics to talk with me, the answer is this wine! This wine is a blend of 80% cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot, & 2% Petit Verdot.
The nose on this wine is lovely and perfumed with rich minerality, dense loam, graphite, smoke, roasted animal, clay, black and red fruit, all wrapped in more dirt, tar, and licorice, wow!
The mouth on this medium-plus bodied wine is beautiful, the acid is perfect, balanced and tart, elegant and layered, with lovely raspberry, plum, dark currants, hints of blue fruit, with ripe cassis, scraping mineral, dirt, loam, roasted herbs, menthol, with sweet vanilla, and lovely licorice.
The finish is long, with draping tannin, scraping mineral, and lovely tar, loam, nice leather, and rich garrigue, really lovely! Drink from 2031 until 2042. (tasted November 2021) (in Paris, France) (ABV = 12.5%)

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A few good red wines along with too many misses – Jan/Feb 2022 Tasting

This is my second QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) WINNER Hit and Miss post of 2022 and while this started in January as a poor showing, I had two more wines in February that made the overall post much better. We started with one QPR WINNER and that grew to three WINNER by February. Still, the star of the show was the first QPR WINNER, the 2016 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico, Assai, Gran Selezione, Chianti Classico!

This post is filled with many more examples of what people are raving about from Israel, the 2018 red vintage, and all I can say is, yes they are not date juice! They are not uncontrolled madness, they are OK, they lack acidity and mostly they are copy and paste of each other with different fruit. Still, an improvement over other vintages. Essentially, much like the 2016 vintage, another highly vaunted vintage, which I described to my buddy EA as: “milk chocolate, either blue or black fruit, loads of cedar and tobacco – copy and paste wines”.

I wish it was better, even when God forces a winery to make good wine by keeping the temperatures at bay, they still make mediocre stuff. Such is life! Thankfully, we are blessed with Terra di Seta, aka TDS, which won my first ever winery of the year in 2019 and a winery that I have been touting for many years now! The newly released 2016 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico, Assai, Gran Selezione, is a stunning wine and maybe their best Assai so far!

The next two QPR WINNER are the 2019 Herzog Winery Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, and the 2020 Chateau Signac Pliocene, Cotes du Rhone. I must say, the 2019 Herzog is shockingly ripe but the level of acidity it has really helped to tamp down the fruit and with time they all work together to make a harmonious wine. Still, it is ripe to start so leave this wine alone for many years. The 2020 Chateau Signac Pliocene, on the other hand, is lovely and ready to go. It is NOT as ripe as the 2018 vintage, but it is nice and very enjoyable for the next few years.

Finally, there is a repeat tasting of the 2019 Pavillon du Vieux Chantre, Puisseguin Saint-Emilion. As I stated in the Moises Taieb post, I needed to taste a few wines a second time and I am happy I did. The 2019 Pavillon du Vieux Chantre showed beautifully and just as I expected it to, after having tasted all the previous vintages. Thankfully, this wine is available in the USA in an easy-to-find location, from Andrew Breskin and Liquid Kosher.

The rest are OK, QPR score-wise, with only one wine garnering a score of GREAT, which is the 2017 Ma’ayan Asis Blend, these are relabeled wines from Tom Winery. The Tzora was nice but overpriced for what it gives.

I also tasted three 2019 Pinot Noirs and the clear winner, of those three, was the 2019 Goose Bay Pinot Noir, Small Batch. It is a lovely wine and one to enjoy over the next couple of years.

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

2016 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico, Assai, Gran Selezione, Chianti Classico – Score: 93.5 (QPR: WINNER)
This vintage of Assai is its best and this wine is 100% Glorious, rich, elegant, focused, balanced, fruity, but tart, refreshing and concentrated – WOW! BRAVO!!! The nose on this wine is pure heaven, it is soy sauce, funk, forest floor, mushroom, fruity, red and black fruit, tar, smoke, violet, very floral, wild herbs, and rich mineral. The mouth on this medium to full-bodied wine is ripe, concentrated, but well-controlled, with ripe plum, dark strawberry, candied raspberry compote, with menthol, licorice, baking spices, all wrapped in dense sweet oak and elegant draping tannins, just incredible! The finish is long, dense, dark, rich, layered, concentrated, yet perfectly balanced, with screaming acidity, rich espresso coffee, mushrooms, almost truffle, forest floor, mineral, charcoal, graphite, and star anise. WOW!!! Drink from 2026 until 2033. BRAVO!!! (tasted January 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 15%)

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