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

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

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

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

Barkan Winery – a Pheonix Rising quickly in Hulda

The Barkan Winery is one of the largest wineries in Israel; actually it is the second largest in Israel. It is located in Kibbutz Hulda, where the vineyards that provide the grapes for the Classic range of wines surround it.

Barkan is one of those wineries that have been part of the latest Israeli Winery revolution, that being the modernization and quality improvement of the massive commercial wineries. The winery officially started in 1889 and did not start to get serious about quality wine until 1990, when Yair Lerner and Shmuel Boxer bought the winery that was clearly struggling and whose previous owners were playing hot potato with the winery assets and life. From 1889 till 1990, the winery had changed hands four times and was once again on the rocks and in need of experienced management and wine expertise.

In 1988 the winery started construction of a new facility in the Barkan Industrial zone, near the city of Ariel, to replace the aging plants in Petach Tikva and Netanya. The first order of business for Boxer and Lerner was the modernization of the winery’s processes, winemaking abilities, and vineyards, which they saw as the key to the production of fine wine and expansion of the company.

By 1999, it was clear that the Barkan facility was too small for the quantities of premium grapes that would be soon come on line from the newly planted vineyards. The most obvious location for the new winery was Kibbutz Hulda, where Barkan’s largest vineyard was located. Hulda is also centrally located, close to all the major arteries and enough removed from urban areas as well. The winery’s location allows the grapes to be quickly transported to the winery, to insure freshness and to maximize quality. In addition, the strategic location was optimal for distribution of the bottled wine to market. The new winery received its first harvest in 2000. The bottling line was moved to Hulda in 2003 and the offices were moved there in 2004. A large warehouse was completed in 2007, and with that last addition all of the Barkan Winery operations were officially moved to Kibbutz Hulda.

Till this day, Barkan continues to buy or plant vineyards, including the largest vineyard in Israel, the 300 acre vineyard that surrounds the Hulda winery. Read the rest of this entry

NV Yarden Brut, Segal Rechasim Dishon Cabernet Sauvignon, and other OK wines

I will keep this one short, as I want to get to my top wines of the year post. However, my wife and I spent the first part of Saturday night prepping, breaking down, and rolling 60 sushi rolls filled with Hamachi, Salmon, Tuna, and julienned vegetables. All I will say is that there was little to none of it left before the evening was over.

We enjoyed some lovely still and sparkling wines, along with some very not so great wines as well. The wine notes are iffy, as I was not taking serious notes, except for one wine that was the clear winner of the evening.

The wine notes follow below:

NV Yarden Brut – Score: B+ to B++
The first interesting thing to note about this sparkler is that it was produced in 2001 and not produced again, so we are talking about a 10 to 11 year old wine made from equal parts Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The nose on this straw to pink colored wine is rich with citrus notes, peach, tart green apples, fresh flowers, and brioche. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is effervescent with a lovely mousse of many small bubbles, creamy and delicate attack of tart green apple, citrus, and acid backbone that is definitely not dead in any way.  The finish is long, creamy, and moussy with brioche, toast, tart apples and lemony goodness. Fun stuff that works great with sushi.

2007 Segal Rechasim Dishon Cabernet Sauvignon – Score: A–
The nose on this black colored wine is super rich with rich cedar, tobacco, cassis, rich ripe plum, licorice, raspberry, and chocolate. The mouth on this rich and medium bodied wine is mouth coating with lovely tannin, raspberry, rich ripe plum, cassis, integrated tannin, and cedar. The mid palate is rich and lovely with good acid, tobacco, cassis, chocolate, tobacco, and cedar. The finish is long and rich with sweet cedar, tobacco, cassis, ripe plum, chocolate, and tobacco. This is a rich and concentrated wine that has just enough to grab your attention but is also a bit played out with its not so unique flavor profile. Still a fun and rich wine that has two or so years left in its legs.

Baron Herzog Brut Champagne – Score: B-
Sorry this wine did not make the mental cut for me – the flavors do not meld in any way that makes sense to me.

2006 Rotheberg Cellars Pinotage – Score: N/A
DOA, OK but really not that interesting.

Kalamata Olive and White Bean Soup, Yellow Tail Sushi, Yarden Viognier, and some assorted Purim Wines

This past weekend we had a lovely and enjoyable double whammy! A Shabbos on Saturday and the Purim holiday on Sunday. The festivities started with a lovely bowl of Kalamata olive and white bean soup, followed by a bunch of Yellow tail, avocado, cucumber Sushi rolls. The funny thing about sushi rolls is that even if you eat a bunch of them, you end of being hungry. To meet that concern, we eat a bunch of fresh green salad topped with some Italian Vinaigrette. The fish did taste a bit metallic and that was unfortunate, almost to the point where I was not enjoying it that much. We bought the fish at 5 or so PM and ate it at 7:30 PM, so it was really not cool, that the fish was not perfect. Personally, the next time we make sushi rolls and go to the store to buy the fish, I will ask to taste the fish before I buy it. The soup was a killer hit again and one I really think it is a recipe that you MUST find and make a batch.

To pair with these dishes I chose a fun and vibrant white wine; the 2006 Yarden Viognier. It is a lovely wine that is showing more honey notes than earlier and clearly a wine that needs to be drunk up very soon. It is not actually showing age or faults; rather it is showing weaker fruit, more honey, oak, and butterscotch.

On Sunday Purim arrived and with it some chances to taste more wines that were quite nice and some that were OK. I did not take serious notes after a while, but at least some heads up are in order.

2008 Golan Heights Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Golan Kosher (Israel, Golan) – Score: B to B+
This is an OK wine but not one that really grabs you. The nose on this dark garnet colored wine has dark cherry, blackberry, vanilla, and oak. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is soft with integrated tannin, blackberry, and cherry. The mid palate is balanced with acid, soft tannin, and light hints of oak. The finish is long and spicy with more black fruit, vanilla, and some crushed herbs.

2006 Casa Da Corca Douro Reserva (Portugal, Douro) – Score B+
I drank this wine again recently and the notes are holding well. The nose on this dark ruby to garnet colored wine is screaming with coffee, smoky notes, black cherry, raspberry, blackberry, fig, crushed herbs, mint, and oak. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine turns full in the mouth after a bit of time, along with blackberry, plum, and dark cherry. The mid palate transition has a quick note of what I can only call a combination of green bean/fig/mint, along with acid, oak, nice tannin, and coffee. The finish is long and spicy with plum, nice oak, tannins that linger along with vanilla. This is a nice wine that should be bought once to open your mind to what the heat of Spain can bring you with its unique fruit and terroir.

N.V. Elvi Wines Adar Brut Cava (Spain) – Score: B+
The notes on this wine are consistent with my last tasting. The nose on this bubbly and effervescent light pink colored wine, is hopping with strawberry, lemon, and cherry. The mouth on this light to medium bodied wine is packed with small bubbles that are active and alive; they mingle well with the strawberry and cherry. The mid palate is alive with bracing acidity. The finish is medium long with core acidity, strawberry, bubbles, and a lemon burst at the very tail end. Drink UP!

2006 Yarden Viognier (Israel, Galilee, Golan Heights) – Score: B++
This wine has lost a step or two and is now on its way down. It does not taste like a lost puppy, but clearly one that is looking for its owner. The nose on this dark gold colored wine is filled with floral notes, along with petrol/gasoline flavors, toast, honey, butterscotch, melon, pear, peach, and oak. The mouth on this full bodied wine is oily in nature with almost glycerol viscosity, showing rich honey, melon, pear, and peach flavors. The mid palate is nicely balanced with acid, oak, and floral notes. The finish is long and tenacious with more floral characteristics, oak, a hint of butterscotch, and a heavy dose of honeyed mead like flavors and pear.

2006 Herzog Merlot, Special Reserve, Alexander Valley (Mevushal) – Score B++ to A-
The nose on this dark garnet to purple colored wine is packed with black fruit, blackberry, raspberry, currant, oak, cherry, chocolate, and tobacco. The mouth on this full bodied wine is soft, rich, and mouth coating from lovely integrated tannin, along with blackberry, currant, and cherry. The mid palate is balanced with acid, rich oak, lovely tannin, and tobacco. The finish is long and spicy with black fruit, raspberry, oak, and tobacco. Drink up.

2006 Rothberg Cellars Pinotage – DEAD! Drink up or cook with. The wine was not oxidized or faulty, just showing insane cooked flavors that essentially make it undrinkable.
2009 Binyamina Cabernet Sauvignon – Petit Verdot, Yogev (Israel) – Score: B to B+
I have a couple of these and will taste them again soon. For now, the wine tasted OK with clear and strong upfront black currant fruit along with cherry, crushed herbs, and raspberry. I hope to taste this again and give more data.

Purim 2010 Wines

This past Purim my friends and I enjoyed a wonderful meal at the synagogue, along with a few wines that I brought along, and a couple of wines that were brought by some other congregants.  Some of the wines I tasted have notes, while others have just feelings or memories, sorry, this was Purim after all.  My friends still give me a hard time for the one time that I actually took notes on Purim.  To me, tasting wine is about friends, memories, along with a bit of a job.  To others, especially on Purim, it is about friends, memories, and a bit of a buzz.

Anyway, the wine notes follow below in the order that they were tasted:

Tzuba Port Style Wine – Score: A-
This is a wine that I brought back from my last trip to Israel, one that I bought during my visit to the Tzuba Winery.  The nose on this dark garnet to black colored wine shows rich loamy dirt, bright oxidation, rich spicy oak, ripe fig, blackberry, and spice.  The mouth on this full-bodied and mouth filling wine, starts with a concentrated attack of spicy oak, rich sweet and ripe blackberry, and fig.  The wine is layered and concentrated with ripe fruit and spicy oak, yes I repeated that because it is so nice.  The mid palate is filled with nice acidity, integrated yet still gripping tannins, and spice that flows into a lush loam and oak forest.  The finish is crazy long with rich chocolate, oak, mounds of spice, rich and ripe black fruit, and a lingering palate of oak extraction, spice, and more black fruit.  A nice bottle that can handle just about any sweet desert you throw at it.

2004 Four Gates Rishona (375 ml) – Score: A-
Well, we tasted the larger format of this bottle last week and this week we opened the 375 ml size, which was the originally released format.  We still loved it and it is still drinking really well, though the color throws you and the flavor is a bit dingy, the rest of the wines notes are exactly as the previous tasting, and listed here.  The color on this brown tinged/dark ruby colored wine, was hopping with chicken cherry cola, coffee, mature oak, fig, and raspberry.  The mouth on this intense and full-bodied wine was layered with bright black cherry, coffee, and oak.  The mid palate was bracing with bright acidity and oak.  The finish was long and tantalizing with more cherry, oak, and coffee, layered under a canopy of mature flavors.  This is clearly a wine that needs to be consumed now, but to some, this was one of the winners, which was shocking given the list of wines we enjoyed.

2006 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon Special Reserve, Napa Valley – Score: B/B+
The wine was OK, but it had a huge hole in the middle with almost no acidity to be found.  It was OK, but uni-dimensional with almost no fruit and a bit of oak.  Not fun.

2006 Baron Herzog Cabernet/Zinfandel/Syrah Special Reserve – Score: B++
Yummy, fruity, acidic, rich, with black fruit showing well from the Cabernet, while standing tall with enough oak and tannins from the Syrah.  Nice and one that is probably at or close to its peak.

2006 Hagafen Merlot, Napa Valley – Score: A-
I remember loving it that night for its classic Hagafen soft yet layered mouth feel, along with rich and ripe black fruit and chocolate.

2007 Barkan Classic Petite Sirah – Score: B/B+
This is a nice and lively wine with rich blackberry and smoke on the nose and mouth, along with a firm and structured mouth feel that allows the wine to stand up to meat and rich sauces.  A nice and simple wine that is enjoyable by all.

2007 Backsberg Pinotage – Score: B++
The nose on this bright purple colored wine is packed with loamy dirt, mineral, rich black cherry, mulberry fruit, spice, vanilla, oak, and pepper.  The mouth on this medium bodied wine is rich and spicy though not complex in nature, along with mulberry, Kirsch cherry, and a hint of strawberry.  The mid palate is bracing and almost tart with code acidity, nice soft yielding tannins, spice, and dirt.  The finish is long with layers of smoke and spice, along with red fruit, and a nice dollop of vanilla.  A nice wine for the price, quality, and its mevushal status.

2006 Rashi Select Barbera d’Alba – Score: B/B+
The nose on this wine moved from being bright and red to rich and chocolate.  Not a bad wine, but one that did not live up to my hopes for it.  The tannins were nice and helped to highlight the soft mouth, bright acidity, and red fruit.  With air the fruit disappeared, the mouth was still bright but turning fast, and the finish was packed with chocolate and vanilla.  I guess it is an OK wine, but drink up fast, and not  a wine worth its cost.

Purim 2008

This Purim I drank wine with friends on Thursday night and at Friday lunch.  After all that, Shabbos was a nice break from wine.  Thursday night I did not take notes.  So these are more memory of what I tasted than actual facts.

Thursday Night:

Rothberg Cellars Pinotage 2004 – This wine exhibits classic Pinotage stylings with a bit of tannin and spicy oak.  The nose was flush with cherries and red fruit.  The mouth was medium bodied and fruity.  The finish was medium long and had a bit of spicy oak.  An OK attempt at a Pinotage – I liked the Welnerberg Pinotage 2005 more, but that is my take.

Cantina Gabriele Sangiovese 2005 – This wine is a classic fruit bomb, and a bit too much for my taste.  The saving grace was that it had enough oak to dull the fruit but it had a bit more tannin than I was expecting.  The tannins actually accentuated the fruit bomb – almost making it worse.  To that I will say that this wine has a chance to age a bit more and maybe calm down.  The fruit forwardness of the wine is evident from the nose – filled with cherries, cherries, and more cherries.  The mouth was medium – full bodied with sour cherry and briar.  The finish is very long with more sour cherry.

Monte Olivo Umbria Rosso 2005 – This wine was a real winner.  Huge nose and an awesome specimen.  For being a house wine this is a real winner.  The wine is reasonably priced to boot.  The wine has a wonderful nose of blackberry and tobacco.  The mouth on this full bodied wine was fruity but the tannins have yet to integrate, but the mouth coating wine will be better over time for sure.  The mouth is filled with blackberries and cassis, the finish is long and loaded with oak and tobacco.

Friday Lunch – with real notes:

Bashan Merlot Eitan 2005 – Score: B+
The nose on this mature garnet colored wine is filled with blackberry, old socks, oak, vanilla, and sour cherry.  The mouth on this medium bodied wine has nice integrated tannins, vanilla, black fruit up front and then a medium finish that is filled with a spicy oak finish.

Bashan Cabernet Sauvignon Eitan 2005 – Score: A-
Notes still hold true to my tasting that we had in Israel in the Bashan Winery.

Mount Meroma Cabernet Sauvignon 1993 – Score: B-
This one was definitely passed its time.  It is a shame because it was ready to go about 5 years ago.  The crazy thing about this wine was 10 minutes after it was opened, it was gone.  Nothing left.  These notes are right when it was opened and seems to have been from its last gasps of life – if that :-).  The nose on this almost brown colored wine has light aromas of oak and red fruit.  The mouth on this medium – full bodied wine has integrated tannins, dirty socks, oak, and raspberry.  The finish was almost non-existent, but had hints of vanilla and mint.

Baron Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon Special Reserve Napa Valley 2002 – Score: A-
The nose on this garnet colored wine was packed with blackberry, cassis, figs, and oak.  The mouth on this full bodied wine starts with well integrated tannins, than the blackberry, cassis, and sweet wood mingle together into a complex blend that is quite intriguing.  The finish is medium long with tobacco and sweet oak.

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