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My top kosher 25 wines of 2015

wall of wineWell, I have posted my year in review, and now I wanted to get to my top wines for 2015. Please beware that I know I missed many wines and that this list does not include wines that I have tasted that are not available on the open market – like older Covenant Wines and the sort.

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 was scored an A- or higher. Anything less would not be on my list.

On an aside, there continues to be a whole mess of madness around wines notes and scores, even the Jewish Week weighed in on the matter. So, let me explain this really simply – go look at some of my recent blog posts – they talk about some nice enough wines, but wines I would not specifically buy. They have all the nice words and such, which were all true and to the point. But without the final value score, I can tell you a Cabernet is full bodied with good fruit and spice – and you may say cool I want that – but then I would say well, yeah but it was not complex or layered. You could try to reason that out of the words I wrote, because the words complex and layered are missing. However, the simple fact that it was scored a B+ or whatever, would have told you that it is not always a wine worth going after (unless it is the Terrenal or such where it gets a QPR moniker).

My point being that wine notes – without a proper context (AKA a real score) – is like looking at a wedding hall through a slit in the window. Sure you can “see” the hall, but are you really sure you want to get married there? I never scored wines to tell people to listen to my score. I score wines to set the context and to always read the notes to see if that sort of wine works for you!

OK, enough of the darn score rant for the day, back to the matters at hand, being wines of the year. The list is long – get over it. It is a list of wines that I would buy, have bought, and will buy again – simple enough I hope. I did not differentiate by another other criteria or aspect – if it was solid (A- or higher) it made the list. I hope you enjoy!

2013 Elvi Wines Clos Mesorah – Score: A- to A
This is the flagship wine of Elvi Wines (though the Herenza Reserva may have a word to say about that) and it is a blend of 50% Carignan, 30% Grenache, and 20% Syrah. Elvi Wines makes 7K of these bottles. The wine was sourced from vines that are 20 to 100 years of age. The nose on this wine is insane and intoxicating with aromas of watermelon, root beer, ripe boysenberry, blueberry, along with chocolate and black fruit. The mouth on this full bodied wine hits you with layers of concentrated fruit, with an attack of blue and black fruit, balanced perfectly, showing great elegance, along with mad mineral, graphite, slate, rich and freshly tilled earth, along with deeply concentrated black fruit. The wine is the perfect example of elegance and balance with ripe fruit that flows into a plush mouth made from mouth coating tannin and rich fruit structure. This is truly a wine speaks for itself. The finish is long and intense, showing rich roasted animal, lovely mushroom, and floral notes. With time, the wine shows mad barnyard, mushroom, and even more loamy dirt. Bravo!!!

2010 Elvi Wines Herenza Rioja Reserva – Score: A- to A
There are only 4K of these bottles made and each one is a true gift! The wine is closed and slow to open, but with time and a fair amount of decanting, the nose shows of mad soy sauce (like the 2009 Herenza Reserva), chocolate, richly tilled earth, loam, along with crazy mushroom and mad mineral. This wine is the epitome of umami, showing intense layers of umami with white summer fruit, cranberry, craisins, blackberry, pomegranate, and tart cherry in the background with mounds of earth. The finish is intensely long and dirt filled, with  dark chocolate, licorice, blueberry and red fruit. BRAVO!!!!

2012 Chateau Haut Condissas, Medoc – Score: A- (and much more)
The 2011 was very nice, but the 2012 a slight step up. The nose on this wine is rich and redolent with lovely dirt, dark black fruit, barnyard, earth, and mushroom. The mouth on this full bodied wine is rich, ripe, and in your face with nice chocolate, mad toast, mouth drying tannin, all wrapped in crazy acid, but bigger and riper than the 2011, almost Israeli in nature, but classically French-controlled, with blackberry, raspberry, plum, with mineral and graphite. The finish is long and dirty, with hits of herb, along with layers of concentrated fruit, more mad mineral/earth/dirt/mushroom with dried raspberry, and rich garrigue. WOW! BRAVO!

2010 Chateau Fourcas Dupre, Listric – Medoc – Score: A- (and more) (CRAZY QPR)
This wine is on the list for its insane value and its goto ability above all wines from France for the price! The 2010 was a nice wine – but the 2012 is even better! The nose on this wine is lovely with rich dirt, cherry, crazy tart and juicy raspberry, followed by more dirt and mineral galore. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is lovely and still young but give it time, the acid is impressive along with nice spice, mouth coating tannin that is gripping along with lovely blackberry, cassis in the background, along with crazy mushroom, and layers of fruit and earth and forest floor that come at you and do not give up. The finish is long, with insane acid and more mouth drying tannin, more earth, dirt, tart lingering fruit, and lovely mineral/graphite. The fruit and mineral lingers long – BRAVO!!!! Read the rest of this entry

Hagafen Winery Visit

The day started out as a lovely and sunny Sunday, the last one of 2009.  We took a long and enjoyable last look at massive Clear Lake, which our hotel wrapped around, and headed south on CA-20.  As we closed into Lower Lake, we were supposed to continue south on CA-29, but plans are just that – plans!  Instead, we took the road less traveled, the Knoxville-Berryessa Road (lovely pictures of the road linked here from a motorcycle rider).  It is so called because, it is a road that runs through government-owned land, counted some 5 or so structures from Lower Lake until Berryessa Lake.  For some 30 or more miles, at a rate of maybe 35 mph, we saw no one – period.  Truly a road less traveled.  Finally, and blessedly, right before Lake Berryessa, we came upon a truck, and two folks fishing (actually, I think that was not public knowledge :-), and they told us where we were.  I guess this teaches us, that if we do not want a GPS or expensive phone contract (with GPS on it), and instead want to go retro, we should act retro, and carry around a map or two!

Well after a fair amount of driving, we came to the Hagafen Winery, a bit late, at a not so warm time of day.  It was some 40 degrees outside, and we went inside to meet Josh Stein, Hagafen Winery’s Brand Manager.  I stated the temperature, because Josh started the winery tour outside where every vintage starts – in the vineyard of course!  I asked about the way the vines are managed, and Josh quickly replied that the vines have been managed using CCOF (California Certified Organic Farmers) rules for many years now, but they are now in the second year of their CCOF certification, and hope to be certified within a year.  Of course, as we have spoken about this topic many times, the wine will NOT be organic, but the vineyard will be.  There are three full time employees, Ernie Weir, the owner and founder of Hagafen Winery, who is also the manager of the winery.  The other two full time employees, manage the winery’s most important other asset, the vineyards.  The winery started some 32 years ago, after Weir had made wine, at a custom crush site in Napa, CA, for a couple of years.  He decided to start making kosher wine.  He started his production with 25 cases and a single SKU.  Today, Hagafen makes some 8000 cases of wine, under three labels, and 30 or more SKU.  Hagafen started with no vineyards, and then in 1986 they bought the land that the winery sits on presently.  The vineyard in those days was planted with Pinot Noir and Chenin Blanc, but it was replanted in 1997 with what stands there today, 12 acres of clone 7 and clone 337 Cabernet Sauvignon, named the Weir Family Vineyard II.  The Weir Family Vineyard III came online later with 9 acres, 3 acres of Cabernet Franc, 3 acres of Syrah, and 3 acres of White Riesling.  Many of Hagafen’s wines are labeled as Estate Bottled, though they are not actually on their estate at all, as seen here on Hagafen’s vineyard map.  They source grapes from vineyards as far south as Fagan Creek, and as far north as Soleil and Moskowite vineyards.  So, how are they allowed to use the term “Estate Bottled” on their labels?  Well, the rules are a bit more simplistic, though not well known.  As described here on the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), the Estate Bottled tag line has three requirements to be added to your label.

  1. The vineyard must either be owned by the winery or under the winery’s 100% control
  2. The vineyard to be in the same viticultural area
  3. The grapes are crushed, fermented, aged, and bottled in the winery or on the winery grounds

Hagafen has continued to expand its own vineyards, while perfecting their relationship and processes with its many vineyard partners.  They have long term contracts with the vineyards, and have recently taken control of many of the coveted blocks within the upper echelon of Napa Valley vineyards. Read the rest of this entry

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