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Wines I enjoyed over Passover 2017

Well, I have been off for too long, that is for sure. First Passover, then travels to Japan and more work. Finally home for a bit, Passover was great as it was enjoyed with family and that is what makes the holidays so great!

I will keep this short and sweet – the wines were mostly good to great, except for one wine that I was really looking forward to tasting – sadly it was clearly not stored well. Other than the single disappointment – the rest of the wines were solid wines.

I also had the opportunity to enjoy some wines with friends at EZ’s house, with BC and CG. It was a lovely evening and we enjoyed 6 wines – the best of which was the 2012 Domain Netofa Latour Red, followed by 2010 Hajdu Grenache, 2011 Netofa Red, the 2004 Chateau Montviel (which is in drink up mode at this point), and the 2011 Hajdu Grenache. Many thanks to EZ and his wife for hosting us so graciously.

The wines are listed below – and I hope you had a great Passover as well:

2012 Herzog Petite Sirah, Clarksburg, Prince Vineyard – Score: A-
I found this wine to be showing better than the Hajdu PS, at least for now. Lovely blueberry jam and crazy black plum, with mounds of fresh vanilla, sweet cedar, with lovely floral notes, and sweet spices. Lovely full body wine with still searing tannin and lovely acid showing rich extraction and crazy spices with boysenberry and blackberry with rich sweet spices and elegance at the same time, along with ribbons of charcoal, and mineral. The finish is long and jammy, with rich leather, and mounds of mineral and black tea, with sweet tobacco, and sweet fruit lingering long. Drink by 2020.

2012 Hajdu Petite Sirah, Brobdingnagian – Score: A-
This wine was really a wine I was looking forward to tasting again, and it is either in a real funk, or it has taken a step back from its earlier stature. The wine opened quickly, it was not as closed as in the past, showing ripe blackberry, blueberry, and lovely dirt, and earth, with root beer galore and spice. The mouth on this full bodied wine is rich, but lacking the impressive extraction of old, with rich layers of blue and dark fruit, sweet oak, and tannin that does not let up. The finish is long with layers of dark fruit, leather, spice, Swiss mocha, boysenberry, and nice tart, and sweet fruit. This wine is on target, but lacking the complexity of old. Drink by  2021.

2007 Yarden Blanc de Blanc – Score: A- to A
Same as last time, deep, mineral, and attack that is almost hedonistic.

NV Gamla/Gilgal Hashmura Brut – Score: A- (crazy QPR)
This is the new vintage (which is now out of stock in most places). The way to know it is the most recent vintage is to check if the wine says extra dry – otherwise, it is a previous vintage and not as fun, the wine is mostly 2011 grapes. The nose on this bubbly is sick with lovely quince, apple cider, with straw and tart citrus. The mouth is full and an attack force of small mousse bubbles, followed by yeast and rich undertones, followed by layers of pear and madly refreshing with crazy acid and pith, and more bubbles that do not give up. The finish is long with dried fruit, nice dry mouthfeel, that flows into nice dried herb, and rich white tea. BRAVO!!!!

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Ella Valley Syrah and Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon- oldies but goodies

2006 and 2007 Ella Valley SyrahThis past week we were enjoying some steak for shabbos, so I reached for for two wines that I thought would go well with a hunk of meat. I have been talking a bit about the state of israeli wines and their over ripe wine drunken stupor. Yes, I have clearly moved from the sweet, bold, 2×4 wines of old, but the good news is that there are wines from before 2009 that continue to age well and show well.

So, it was time to see how the 2006 Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon was showing. I also wanted to see where the 2010 Herzog Petite Sirah, Prince Vineyard. Last week, the Herzog PS2 was DOA. I stated there that PS is one of those finicky wines, they can be big, burly, and in your face one day and DEAD the next. We have spoken about Durif before, yes the official name of Petite Sirah. Petite Sirah is a moniker/marketing scheme name that was used in the US, as Durif made no sense, and also because some thought it was related to the Syrah grape, at least until UC Davis disproved that. We have had two vertical tastings of PS, here and here, and each time we find it not an overly complex wine, but one that is very enjoyable. With the release of Recanati’s PS and Hajdu’s PS, along with Ella Valley as well, I have found that you can find complex in the world of PS.

The grape was always a blending grape adding mad tannin, color, and mineral (in some cases) to a blend. However, it is a soft and accessible wine if created for the mass market, like Dalton and other do. Still, I would not hold on to these wines for too long, even the complex one, because you are just asking for trouble. They tend to fall off the cliff very quickly, depending on the grape quality, vintage, and length of time held. That said, after 5 to 6 years for the top line wines, at least the kosher ones, I would drink them up.

The 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon from Yarden was sweet, that is undeniable, but its complexity, structure, and overall balance made for a wine that was truly enjoyable. The Ella Valley Syrah were beyond enjoyable! Not a sense of sweet notes at all, the 2007 even had barnyard on it. Sure, it was breaking down, but it was luscious and rich, while the 2006 was beautiful, extracted, blue and black and crazy earth. If you have either – drink NOW! Enjoy! The wines this week were all winners – I hope you enjoyed great wines as well.

The wine notes follow below:

2007 Ella Valley Syrah – Score: A-
This wine is at peak so drink NOW! The nose on this dark purple colored wine has ZERO bricking – but has brown halos, with rich tar, licorice, spice, sweet wood, and roasted herb. The mouth on this full bodied wine is massive, rich, concentrated, and richly extracted, showing lovely blackberry, plum, dark tart cherry, along with crazy roasted herb, sweet cedar, and lovely tannin that are well integrated. The finish is long and spicy, with leather, hints of barnyard, black pepper, citrus pith, and tart black fruit on the long linger. This wine was ready to go out of the bottle and what a joy! Bravo to Doron!

2006 Ella Valley Syrah – Score: A- (and more)
The nose on this garnet colored wine is rich with crazy roasted animal, tar, mad charcoal, blueberry, and lovely just smoked dark chocolate. The full bodied wine is rich, layered, and extracted with lovely mouth coating tannins that are still gripping, along with anise, blackberry, mint, and with crazy earth, literally like eating a fist full of dirt, and dark cherry that carries the mouth, with layers of Mediterranean herbs and sweet spices. The finish is long and charcoal and chocolate, with mounds of dirt, great acid, licorice, and mad spice. What a joy! This wine is at peak and has at least another year or two in its tank – BRAVO DORON!!!!!

2006 Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon – Score: A-
This wine is not going to sneak up on you – it is more like a combination of a sledge hammer and a two-by-four hitting you right between your eyes. The nose on this massive, complex styled wine explodes with super ripe blackberry, raspberry, chocolate, herbs, rich oak, licorice, plum, tobacco, and sweet cedar. The mouth on this massive full bodied wine is now showing softly integrating tannins that give the wine a super lovely mouth feel, along with clear sweet fruit, ripe sweet black plum, but tart fruit as well that balances out the date notes. The dates give way to sweet cedar and good acid. The finish is super long and spicy, with nice spice, cassis, date, oak, chocolate, tobacco, and still gripping tannins.

2010 Herzog Petite Sirah Prince Vineyard – Score: A-
The wine is at its peak and is really ready to drink. It still needs a bit of air, but I do not see this wine lasting for another year in this state. The nose started off nicely with good floral and violet notes, along with blueberry ribbons, smoky aromas, mint, green notes of bell pepper. The mouth is medium in body with layers of concentrated strawberry notes, dark cherry, and spiced plum, all wrapped up in a cedar box with lovely mouth coating tannin and anise. The finish is long with smokey notes, vanilla, white pepper, oriental spice, licorice, and mineral. The wine was in slumber before, but now it is ready to go. Air it for an hour an enjoy.

Petite Sirah – it is not Petite, it is not Syrah or Shiraz, rather it is another name for Durif

Petite Sirah grape (image from Israeli Wine website)

This past weekend I was really excited to go through all the kosher Petite Sirah (PS) wines that I have. Before you ask, Petite Sirah is NOT a Syrah or Shiraz grape in any way. I hope that was informative – LOL!! You see, PS is NOT a Syrah grape with a stupid name. Rather , it is a hybrid of Syrah and an obscure grape called: Peloursin. It has some similarities to Syrah and to many it is considered more Syrah than Rhone, but it is not a Syrah grape. Dr. Carole Meredith and her colleagues at UC Davis, in 1998, ran DNA tests on thousands of grape vines throughout California and came out that PS and Durif are one the same.

But first off, I have already given away the punch line, here is the story. In the last 10 or so years petite syrah has veered from its path of being a great blending grape, to one that is a very popular and successful single varietal.

Petite Sirah has more in common with syrah and shiraz grapes then just phonics. They share viticulture roots that we will unearth as we unfold the legend of the syrah and petit sirah grapes. Our journey starts in Shiraz – a large city in the southwest of Iran. Known as the Garden City of Iran, as it flows with fruits and grapes, Shiraz was thought to be the birthplace of the shiraz/syrah grape. Winters are mild here, and its summers are moderate – which makes for an ideal climate for grapes. Legend has it that a Frenchman named Gaspard de Sterimberg took grapes he found here while crusading through Iran in the 13th century. Upon his return to southeastern France, he
planted his sapling on a rolling hill near the Rhône River. He established a sanctuary on the hill and settled down in hermit-like seclusion – from where we get the Hermitage AOC (Appellation d’origine controlee) today. This is how syrah was supposed to have become dominant in this region.

There are many different syrah wines in the Rhone Valley, but each is named for its specific place and not the grape. The wines of the Hermitage region (mineral and tannic in nature) have different styles and characteristics then syrah wines from the Cote-Rotie region (fruity and perfumed in nature). Since the 1800’s Hermitage has been one of the most famous Syrah wines in the world, though recently, syrah from Australia, California and Washington state have gained worldwide fame.

Unfortunately, the Shiraz legend is just that – all myth and no fact. In 1998, research at the French National Agronomy Archives in Montpellier and the University of California at Davis (UCD) cut through the romantic marketing and discovered the real source for the shiraz/syrah grape.

Carole Meredith from UCD and Jean-Micel Boursiquot of France tested syrah grapes. They found that syrah grapes were, in fact, indigenous to France and not a transplant from Iran. Our story of syrah ends here, but the story of petit sirah is just beginning. In the 1880’s, Dr. François Durif promoted a cross of syrah and peloursin to combat syrah’s biggest issue – powdery mildew. Dr. Durif named this grape Durif eponymously. Then In the 1890’s phylloxera decimated the syrah crops within California. When replanting started in the
late 1890’s, much of the new acreage was of this Durif. The first importer started calling the Durif grapes ‘petite sirah’, for no particular (or known) reason. It was planted because of its dark color, fragrance, and abundant yields. It became the main blending grape for the top red wines in the state. It was not until the very same Professor Carole Meredith’s study, published in 1998, that it was conclusively established that about 90 percent of the old vines known as Petite Sirah in California are actually Durif and not Syrah, Shiraz, or Sirah. Read the rest of this entry

International Food & Wine Festival (IFWF) in Oxnard brings back great memories!

These past two weeks have been what the Jews call the 9 days that are rather famous for the infamous events that have occurred in this specific span of time. Thankfully, once they were passed Herzog Cellars and Royal Wines put on an encore event of the IFWF (International Food and Wine Festival), this time in the Herzog Winery itself, to celebrate the winery’s 25th year in the industry! What an event and celebration it was! It brought back memories of the old IFWF events that were held in Oxnard, since the inaugural IFWF event in 2008.

Sure there were some 200 or so in attendance, but with the fully expanded setup, including an enclosure in the back that housed the French wine table, dessert table, and room to hunker down, it felt spacious and very comfortable.

In many ways, this event felt like an almost exact replay of the first International Food and Wine Festival. The crowd size was perfect, there was room for you to hunker down and taste wines and there was room for you to huddle up and talk with friends or people of like or dislike opinions.

Besides the layout and crowds, the food was absolutely fantastic, just like in previous events here. Once again, Todd Aarons and Gabe Garcia created wondrous delights that were so wrong in all the right ways! Of course, I came to the food area too late to partake of all of the goodies, but I still got to taste many fantastic culinary treats, including the absolutely stunning puffed chicken nuggets topped with incredibly tasty barbecue sauce.

Unfortunately, I came a bit late to this event because of what I came to call parking lot A and B (405 and 101 respectively). Whenever, I watch the Dodgers or the Angels, I can now understand why the crowds are so empty for the first three innings, because everyone is parked on one or more highways! My guess to why they all leave by the 7th inning is that after the folks get so aggravated waiting in the traffic, they get tired and want to go home. Quite clearly getting to and from any event in LA adds a few hours to the overall time and that is aggravating and tiring. However, like I, once the guests arrived they had to almost physically throw us out. The place did start to peter out in the last hour, but the place was still humming and drinking until the last second. Read the rest of this entry

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