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Kosher Sparkling wines for the end of 2020 – WINNERS from Drappier and Yarden

With 2020 coming to a close, I am posting the top sparkling wines, but to be clear, I drink sparkling wine all year round! We have been blessed recently with Yarden selling their Gilgal Sparkling wine for under 20 dollars a bottle! Honestly, there is no better deal out there and that is why they were the wines of the year last year! Yarden continues to impress with their 2014 entries and they are the sparkling wine producers to beat, for anyone entering this market.

How is Sparkling wine made?

There are many options – but the vast majority of sparkling wines fall into three categories:

  • Le Méthode Champenoise (Méthode Traditionnelle)
  • Methode Ancestrale
  • The Charmat Method

Le Méthode Champenoise (Méthode Traditionnelle)

So, what is Champagne and how do we get all those cool bubbles? Well, it all starts with a grape of some sort, in most cases, Chardonnay, but we will get back to the other varietals further down. For now, like all wine on planet earth, Champagne starts with a grape. It is picked (often early to lower alcohol and increase acidity), then crushed, pressed, and allowed/encouraged to go through primary fermentation, exactly like all white wines on planet earth. At this point, most houses ferment the base wine in metal tanks or barrels. Some still use wood, but they are the minority.

Of course, like much of France (Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne), especially in Champagne, the wine can be chaptalized after racking, until an 11% ABV. Now before the heat waves that have covered much of this earth (call it what you wish), Bordeaux and Champagne prayed to hit their desired mark of ABV, and therefore they used to add sugar to bring up the ripeness on their fruit. Nowadays, Champagne is picking earlier and earlier, and Chaptalization is not a common thing anymore, as mother nature is taking care of the fruit’s ripeness all on her own!

Once the wine has been fermented the next question arises, should they let the base wine go through a wine’s second natural fermentation called Malolactic Fermentation? Most allow the fermentation to take place and require it, a fact that is easy nowadays with controlled winery environments, though some do not like it at all. Finally, the barrels/tanks are blended or in the rare case, kept aside as a Vintage Champagne, meaning the base wine used in it, is sourced from one vintage and not a blend of a few vintages.

So, at this point what we have is base wine, and while it may be an OK wine, it is far from what the final product will be like. Most base wines are nice enough, but it would be like licking on a lemon, these wines are highly acidic, and not normally well balanced at that point.

The next step is to bottle the wine, with yeast and basic rock sugar, which causes a second fermentation. The actual amount of the two added ingredients is a house secret. The wines are closed with a simple beer bottle cap. You will notice that ALL wines made in this manner have a lip around the top of the bottle, where the cap is attached to. Again, if the year is exceptional then the wine becomes vintage champagne and is aged for at least three years. If the vintage is normal then the bottle’s content is a blend of a few vintages and is aged for at least one and a half years.

All the while during this second fermentation process, the wine is aged and the wine becomes more complex from the yeast. The yeast breaks down as it eats the rock sugar, adding the effervescence, and while the yeast breaks down, it adds a lovely mouthfeel and rich complexity. This process is known as autolysis, releasing molecules that are slowly transformed as they interact with those in the wine.

The process is a dual transformational process. First, the yeasts are broken down, but if that occurred in a 100% hermetically sealed environment, we would have SERIOUS issues, like HS (Hydrogen Sulfide) and mercaptan (think nasty rotten eggs). Oxygen is a two-edged sword, with too much a wine oxidizes, and with too little, you get HS and nasty foul egg smell. So, the cap that covers the Champagne bottles as they rest for 18 months to 3 years in these cool racks, actually allow for a certain amount of oxygen to flow through, the caps are not hermetic seals. The special stoppers, AKA caps, allow the wine to mature on the lees, with a very slow feed of oxygen coming through, thereby allowing the wine to mature at a rate that is best for it. You can mature them quicker, with a different cap, but you would lose the value of a wine sitting long on the lees.

According to Wikipediathe effects of autolysis on wine contribute to a creamy mouthfeel that may make a wine seem to have a fuller body. The release of enzymes inhibits oxidation which improves some of the aging potentials of the wine. The mannoproteins improve the overall stability of the proteins in the wine by reducing the number of tartrates that are precipitated out. They may also bind with the tannins in the wine to reduce the perception of bitterness or astringency in the wine. The increased production of amino acids leads to the development of several flavors associated with premium Champagne including aromas of biscuits or bread dough, nuttiness, and acacia. As the wine ages further, more complex notes may develop from the effects of autolysis.

Finally, it is at this stage, after the bottles have matured their proper time, based upon their label (blend or Vintage), we get to the final stage of Champagne, remuage (or “riddling” in English) and Dosage. To get rid of the lees (the dead yeast cells and other particulates), the bottles are hand or machine manipulated to convince the lees to move towards the cap. Then the neck of the bottle is frozen, and the cap is removed, the lees come flying out in a frozen format, and then the bottle is recapped with the famous champagne cork, but not before it is dosed with more sugar. This very last step is the reason for this post, but let’s leave that till further down in the post, for now, let’s talk varietals and color/style.

Color/style and Varietals

So, we have covered the how part of Champagne (well almost more on Dosage below), and now we need to talk color and grapes. The base grapes for Champagne are Pinot Meunier, and Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay. There are very few houses that also use Arbane, Petit Meslier, Pinot blanc, Pinot Gris. Champagne, like the rest of France’s wine industry, is controlled by the AOC (appellation d’origine contrôlée).

So, for Blanc de Blancs Chardonnay, which is white from white, Chardonnay is the only grape allowed. Meaning, that the juice from Chardonnay is 100% of a BdB Champagne, or in rare occasions from Pinot blanc (such as La Bolorée from Cedric Bouchard).

For Blanc de Noirs, the Champagne is made from either Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier, or a blend of the two. Finally, for Rose Champagne, it can be a blend of the three grapes.

Late Disgorgement

This has been all the rave recently, LD or Late Disgorgement. All this means is that the house or winery (outside of Champagne) kept the bottles capped for a longer time. So the 2007 Yarden Blanc de Blancs was sold in 2014 or so. It is a lovely wine and recently Yarden released a 2007 LD Yarden  Blanc de Blancs. It is the same wine, just held longer in capped format (another 4 years or so), and then recently they disgorged the wine, more on that below, and put in the dosage and the Champagne style cork and released it now. Essentially, for all intent and purpose, Yarden aged the Sparkling wine 4 more years and released it later on. The interesting thing will be to taste the two wines (the LD and normal 2007 Yarden BdB and see how 4 extra years of lying on lees helped/hindered/or did nothing). I will be doing that soon enough.

Read the rest of this entry

The first Rose QPR WINNER, along with two other QPR Winners, and even more roses and whites from 2019, and a few Sparkling wines as well!

Sorry, it has been so long before I have posted here, but I am back and lets start with a few good wines and well, the rest of the 2019 wines white and rose wines that I could find.

QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) is the non-qualitative score I have been giving to wines recently. In my last update to QPR, a week after I posted the QPR revised methodology, I defined the QPR score of WINNER. A QPR score of WINNER is defined as a wine that scores a qualitative score of 91 or more, a score I define as a wine I would buy happily while also being a wine that is cheaper than the respective median wine category.

This week we have a mix of 27 wines 10 whites and 14 roses, and 3 Sparkling wines. One of the whites I have already posted about, a winner of the QPR GREAT score, the 2018 Domaine Netofa, White. The wine is a bit hit and miss and I wanted to update folks about it.

However, the absolute clear QPR WINNER of this week’s post is the FIRST 2019 Rose that gains the QPR WINNER title! Bravo!!! The wine is the 2019 Carmel Rose, Appellation. There were two other Sauvignon Blanc WINNERS, the 2019 Goose Bay Sauvignon Blanc (being released soon), and the 2019 Hagafen Sauvignon Blanc (Just released). 2019 white wine WINNERS are ALL Sauvignon Blanc and I am stocked!

The 2019 Teperberg Rose, Essence is another wine that got close to WINNER status, yet sadly, it did not, as the price is too high. This is a wine that should sell for less, like so many others from Isarel, yet that is just not the case.

The 2019 Herzog Rose, Pinot Noir, Tasting Room Reserve was a lovely wine for me. The weight and the acidity and the refreshingness of it really made it quite a fun wine indeed!

I continue to stand by my opinion that 2019 is one of the very WORST vintages for white and rose wines in the last 10 years for Israeli wines. I continue to dream of the 2013/2014 vintage for Israeli whites. Some of the very best Israeli whites came from the 2013/2014 vintages. Yes, I have not had as many of the 2019 whites and roses from Israel, as I would normally have had by now, sadly, the current circumstances do not let me do that. There are many roses still in France and Israel that I have not had, but of the ones I have had from Israel so far, I am fine with my statement.

Roses have continued to disappoint. We finally have a QPR WINNER for Rose, from Israel, but the vast majority of them this year have been an absolute letdown. There are now 8 QPR winners in whites (plus two in this post, and one from this post), it is clear as day to me that white wines are the way to go this summer.

Probably the saddest and maybe controversial wine note in this post is my score of the 2019 Chateau Les Riganes Blanc. What can I say, I did not love the wine. I LOVED the 2018 vintage! That wine had it all! The 2019 is just not as good and that is life sadly. I was really hoping for a repeat, like the 2019 Goose Bay Sauvignon did.

Finally, Royal has just released THREE newly disgorged Drappier Champagne! In this post I give you the score – it is AWESOME, I hope to taste the other two soon!

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

2019 Hajdu Rose – Score: 90+ (QPR: EVEN)
The 2019 Rose market has been so weak, it is nice to see Jonathan Hajdu and the Shirah brothers picking up the slack with their 2019 Roses, even if the QPR score is not as good as I would have wished for.
The nose on this wine is classic Cali rose notes, bright, sweet, ripe, yet well-balanced notes of blueberry, yes blue fruit, followed, by pomegranate, with raspberry, and sweet plum notes, this sounds riper/sweeter than I like, but it is more tart fruit than it is ripe fruit. The mouth on this medium-bodied plus rose is really fun, truly tart, refreshing, with great acidity, along with balanced sweet fruit, of blue fruit, tart strawberry, raspberry, grapefruit, sweet/tart collage of nice plum, strawberry, sweet and tart strawberry, and really tart red peach. The finish is long, sweet, tart, with nice mineral, body, freshness, and refreshing qualities that are truly a lovely summer wine – Bravo!

2019 Shirah Rose – Score: 90 (QPR: GOOD)
This is a nice wine, and with my new QPR scoring even though it is more expensive than the median price for rose wine, it garner’s a quality score that is in the 2nd quintile, so the math says the QPR score is GOOD.
This rose is a blend of Grenache, Nebbiolo, Cabernet Franc, and Aglianico, using the Saignee method. The nose on this wine shows nice notes of peach, sweet and juicy strawberries and creme, along with cranberry, cotton candy, and vanilla, with a touch of heat, and rhubarb. The mouth on this light to medium-bodied wine is well balanced, with good enough acidity, showing little in complexity, but this is not a pure fruit bomb, it has acidity and pith to bring the wine around, with sweet notes of grapefruit and pomelo, with hints of orange, sweet orange pith, and flint. Drink now.

2019 Teperberg Rose, Essence – Score: 91 (QPR: GOOD)
This is a nice wine, and with my new QPR scoring even though it is more expensive than the median price for rose wine, it garner’s a quality score that is in the 2nd quintile, so the math says the QPR score is GOOD.
This is the best of the three roses with Grenache and Barbera. This wine is a blend of 45% Grenache Noir, 35% Mourvedre, and 20% Barbera. The nose on this wine is fruity, it has clear sweet notes of candied strawberry, and lychee, with bright melon, gooseberry, and passion fruit, with hints of white flowers. The mouth on this wine is a REAl winner, lovely acidity, the acid hits you like a ton of bricks up front, though the finish, at this point, is a bit shallow, with clear and lovely notes of strawberries, rhubarb, loads of gooseberry, pink grapefruit, and lovely overall refreshing mouthfeel and a bright and easy-going freshness that has enough complexity for me to make this the best Israeli rose by far, that I have tasted this year. With time, the finish fills out and then you get lovely rocks, slate, saline, and more tart and bright red fruit, with flowers, and crazy lemon/lime lifesavers lingering long on the bright and floral finish. BRAVO!!!

2019 Five Stones Rose, D vs G – Score: 86 (QPR: BAD)
This is a wine that is just good enough, but with my new QPR scoring it is one quintile more expensive than the median rose price and it is not as good as the median score so that is why this wine gets a BAD on the QPR score.
The nose on this wine is fruity, too fruity for me, the fruit needs to be there, but when it is so obvious it feels like overkill, The wine is a blend of 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. While I liked the 2019 white D vs G, the rose is not interesting to me.The nose on this wine is fruity, showing clear sweet notes of candied plum, red fruit, and too much heat for me, at 13% ABV. The mouth on this light to medium-bodied wine is flat, not showing a lot, really lacking, there is a nice hit of acidity, but then it falls apart in the middle and disappears at the finish. The mouth is just acid and crazy fruity fruit, with candied and overly ripe strawberry, grapefruit, and melon, bummer. There is some refreshing notes if you like fruity wines to this extent. Drink now!

2019 Herzog Rose, Pinot Noir, Tasting Room Reserve – Score: 91 (QPR: GOOD)
This is truly a lovely wine but it is a bit more expensive than the Median. With my new QPR scoring, it is one quintile higher in price than the Median, however, it scores in the 2nd quintile, so that makes it a GOOD QPR score.
I have liked this version of their rose lineup for a long time now, yes it has oak, and yes it is a fuller-bodied wine, but it is also very enjoyable!The nose on this wine is classical in its rose styling, with lovely dark strawberry notes, with lovely red fruit, and peach, with citrus, and sweet cedar. The mouth on this full-bodied rose, yes I wrote that is actually quite fun, the acidity is lovely, maybe their best acid showing in this wine so far, with crazy Kirche cherry, tart grapefruit, plum, and sweet notes of cedar, followed by saline, gooseberry acidity, and very tart pomegranate. The mouthfeel is tart, juicy, with great weight, but yes so very refreshing! The finish is long, tart, with lovely acidity, with sweet watermelon, hints of candied fruit, but really impressive precision with the acidity and refreshingness. Bravo!!! Drink now.

2019 Chateau Sainte Marguerite Rose – Score: 87 (QPR: POOR)
Sadly, this wine is right on the Median line for quality and it is more expensive than the median price, so this lands it as a POOR QPR wine.
Lovely nose with classic leanings for a Provence rose, showing lovely mineral, rosehip, citrus, gooseberry, classic ripe and juicy strawberry, and red fruit, but I am shocked by the ripeness/sweetness of the fruit on the nose and mouth. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is ripe, and while there is a load of pith, it lacks the acidity to make this work, it has crazy pith and hints of tannin, the mouth shows sweet peach, apricot, guava, and strawberry, with lemon, and yet more pith. That is about it, mineral-wise it is loaded, but the lack of acid is really surprising, IMHO. In regards to my refreshing scale, this one is low, now acidity and the pith is more aggressive than it is balancing. Drink now.

2019 Carmel Rose, Appellation – Score: 91 (QPR: WINNER)
This wine is in the 2nd quintile of quality scoring and it is RIGHT on the median price line, so this wine SHOULD get a score of GREAT for QPR. However, it is ALSO the ONLY rose from the 2019 vintage, so far, that scored at least a 91, and that has a price that is at or below the median price line, so this wine gets the coveted score of WINNER for QPR. Bravo!!!
This wine is a blend of 65% Marselan and 35% Grenache. The nose on this wine is really fun, truly Provence in style, with loads of mineral, red forest berry, yellow flower, rosehip, citrus galore, and passion fruit. This is a fun and funky wine, I like how the Israeli Rhone varietals, used ina rose style wine, get funky in the right ways, with a lovely core of screaming acid, followed by luscious and tart strawberry, raspberry, currants, loads of rosehip, floral notes, with mineral, dirt, and crazy fun and refreshing acidity,  it may well be the best rose from Israel. The finish is crazy long, refreshing, with saline, slate galore, and pith to round out the attack. On the refreshing scale, this one is off the charts, showing the best so far maybe for 2019! Bravo!!! Drink Now

2019 Binyamina Rose, Grenache Barbera, Reserve – Score: 75 (QPR: NA)
This wine is a blend of 90% Grenache and 10% Barbera. Let us start off by the fact that those two varietals do not belong together, at least not by any territory. In regards to this rose, it is up for debate. The nose on this wine is funky, and no, not like the funky aromas, I mean the aromas are all over the place, with sweet fruit, yet tart, with dark aromas, and also peach-like aromas, there is no clear approach of style here. Like I said, up for debate.
The nose on this wine is sweet, almost like it has some RS, with peach and apricot notes, followed by raspberry, and very ripe and maybe too-ripe strawberry, with floral notes, and almost a peach perfume. Ok, this mouth is not for me, sorry, the nose is maybe debatable, but this is really unbalanced, and the RS is really off-putting, throw on the oak, and goodbye. The mouth on this wine is unbalanced, it is really all over the place like a kindergarten kid hopped up on adrenaline and Adderall. Sure there is some fruit, loads of RS, and much of the nose’s fruit, along with Pineapple, and guava, essentially, not a wine for me, though the acid is OK. Drink now.

2019 Yatir Rose, Judean Hills – Score: 84 (QPR: BAD)
This is a wine that is honestly not even good enough, so with my new QPR scoring it is one quintile more expensive than the median rose price and it is not as good as the median score so that is why this wine gets a BAD on the QPR score.
This wine is a blend of 53% tempranillo and 47% Mourvedre. This wine does not work for me, sorry, first it has sweet, I mean really sweet notes, even if it comes in at 12.5% ABV, this wine is ripe! The nose on this wine is ripe, with over the top and fruit-forward notes of blackberry, raspberry, and mulberry, with nice floral notes. The mouth is OK with the acid, but right after the acid front, the mouth behind it is sweet, unbalanced, with currant, mulberry, and black fruit, that is really not put together. The finish is ripe and it does not work. Drink Now.

2019 1848 Rose, 2nd Generation – Score: 78 (QPR: NA)
This is the 2nd blend of Grenache and Barbera of the tasting and the third from Israel, with the lovely Tepperberg also using that blend. This one is a blend of 85% Grenach and 15% Barbera.The nose on this wine is far more put together than the Binyamina but not nearly as good as the Teperberg. The nose shows notes of mineral, red forest berry, and floral notes, the noes is less expressive than I would have liked. The mouth though is highly expressive and once again, this blend reminds me of a hopped kindergarten child, it is a mess. It has more acidity than the Binyamina and a bit of funk, the acid is really intense, but wow, this is all over the place and no, it is not refreshing. It is a hard pass.

2019 Pacifica Rose – Score: 89 (QPR: GREAT)
This is a nice enough wine, but with my new QPR scoring it is still is not as expensive as the median and its score is also above the median, so it is a GREAT QPR, though not a wine I would run after. Still, for the heady prices of rose today, this is a solid buy if you like this kind of wine.
This may well be the highest scoring off-dry rose I have ever scored. The nose on this wine is sweet and IMHO it is the PERFECT sleeper agent rose to get people to like roses, it is super bright, well balanced, and respectful to both sides of the fence here.
The nose on this wine is ripe, and sweet, with nice pineapple, guava, and red fruit, followed by tart gooseberry, and lovely floral notes. The mouthfeel on this medium to full-bodied wine is lifted by the RS and sweetness, but it has crazy good acidity and the fruit and winemaking style respects the concept of rose, with lovely sweetness, followed by much of the fruit in the nose, along with crazy pineapple again, passion fruit, and intense grapefruit, and pith. The finish is long, sweet, and well done with sweet pomelo, and its citrus pith lingering long. Nice!

2019 Tulip White Franc – Score: 75 (QPR: NA)
I know, this is not an official rose, I get it, blanc de noir, I get it, but it looks rose, so in the rose list it goes, but sadly, rose or white, this wine misses the mark. Look at the 2019 Pacifica, which is off-dry but hits the mark well. This one is semi-sweet/off-dry, who cares, it is just off.
This wine is a blend of 60% Cabernet Franc and 40% Sauvignon Blanc. This wine tastes like they tried to pair sweet Cabernet Franc fruit with dry Sauvignon Blanc fruit, and for me, it is once again a crazed kindergarten child running all over the place. No focus and no approach. The nose on this wine shows intense fruity and sweet aromas with pineapple, guava, and gooseberry in the background, followed by flint, and pear. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is indeed all over, with sweet and tart fruit trying to meld together, but all I get is the sweet pear and apple with the pineapple fighting horribly with tart gooseberry and apple. Sorry, this one does not work.

2019 Dalton Rose, Alma Coral – Score: 86 (QPR: EVEN)
This wine is below the Median line for quality and it is below the median price, so this lands an EVEN QPR score.
The nose on this wine is nice enough with red and white fruit, showing some citrus, with floral notes, and hay. The mouth on this wine is boring, with no acid, a little fruit, and some mineral. Bummer. Drink now.

2019 Jerusalem Hills Rose – Score: NA (Mevushal) (QPR: NA)
This wine is a rose from Cabernet Sauvignon. The nose on this wine is sweet and cooked rosehip, followed by cooked strawberry, sweet cherry, and candied and sweet fruit galore. This wine may win the award for the worst rose from 2019, it is pure evil, there is nothing but cooked cherry compote and residual sugar sweetness. There is some acidity, but the wine is painful.

2019 Hagafen Don Ernesto Beret Rose – Score: 89 (QPR: POOR)
While this wine is nice enough it is two quintiles higher in price than the median and as such even with a quality score higher than the median the price pulls it down to a POOR QPR score.
This wine is a rose of Syrah. The nose on this wine is lovely, showing bright yet ripe fruit, with good strawberry, somewhat dull pear, melon, and jasmine flowers, with compote of rhubarb. The mouth on this medium-bodied rose has a nice weight and enough acidity, but again I wish it had more, with a lovely pith and sweet fruit mouthfeel, that is still refreshing with jasmine, strawberry/raspberry compote, followed by candied grapefruit, and tart melon. The finish is long, sweet, with red fruit, dried flower petals, and rosehip, and sweet red fruit. Nice. Drink Now.

White Wines

2019 Hagafen Sauvignon Blanc – Score: 91 (QPR: WINNER)
It was awesome tasting this side-by-side the 2019 O’Dwyers Creek Sauvignon Blanc – they are REALY close, with the O’Dwyers Creek winning by a nose. This is tropical but so well balanced! Another white wine WINNER for the 2019 vintage!
The nose on this lovely Sauvignon Blanc is crazy tropical and almost over the top, but still well controlled, and really fun, with lovely notes of gooseberry, pineapple, intense and aromatic passion fruit, and lovely smoke/slate, wow, fun! The mouth on this wine is equally enjoyable and refreshing, with nice acidity, wish it had a drop more, with nice fruit of passion fruit, grapefruit, tart melon, and rich saline, with gooseberry, and slate/flint. The finish is long, green with lemongrass, ginger, and overall fun and refreshing approach. Nice!!! Drink now.

2019 Hagafen Riesling, Lake County, Robledo Ranch – Score: 89 (QPR: POOR)
Sadly, this wine is right on the Median line for quality and it is more expensive than the median price, so this lands it as a POOR QPR wine.
The nose on this slightly off-dry Riesling is too young to get those lovely petrol notes. Petrol takes a good year to really evolve in the bottle. The nose on this lovely wine is sweet, but very bright, with bubblegum, watermelon, with tiny hints of mineral and petrol, followed by lovely honeysuckle, lemon, lemongrass, with lovely melon, hints of pineapple, and rich saline. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is screaming for more acidity, but it is still nice, with lovely sweet notes of pineapple, sweet guava, honeysuckle, honeydew melon, and more watermelon in the background, with sweet pomelo, and nice salinity. A nice wine with a good saline/tart citrus finish but a bit simple and uni-dimensional. Drink now until 2023.

2019 Hajdu Vermentino – Score: 90 (QPR: EVEN)
The nose on this wine is fun, it takes a bit to open, but with time, say an hour, the nose is really fun, showing notes of orange, orange blossom, daffodil, with lovely citrus, ginger, and hints of nectarines. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is really fun, with good acidity, showing a slight miss in the mid-palate, that is covered up by the nice acid profile, with a nice almost oily texture, with orange, pink grapefruit, lime, and sweet yellow apple. The finish is long, really tart and green, with lovely acidity, slate, mineral, and more sweet fruit notes. Very nice! A shockingly good balance for a 14.5% ABV white wine!

2018 Goose Bay Chardonnay – Score: 88 (Mevushal) (QPR: POOR)
Sadly, this wine is right on the Median line for price and it has a lower quality score, so this lands it as a POOR QPR wine.
The nose on this wine is clearly showing its oak at this point, with a nice toasty approach, followed by lovely yellow apples, melon, and nice oak spices. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is nice e enough but it is too simple, it has a nice weight, but the overall package is lacking, with a very simple focus, but nice enough, with more apple, quince, creme brulee, and a bit of the creamy notes one gets from oaked Chardonnay. The finish is sadly short, it is hidden behind the nice acidity of this wine, but that is not enough to make up for the short length. Drink by 2021.

2019 Psagot Viognier, M Series – Score: 83 (Mevushal) (QPR: BAD)
This is a wine that is just not good enough, and with my new QPR scoring it is one quintile more expensive than the median price and it is not as good as the median score so that is why this wine gets a BAD on the QPR score.
This wine has real potential, sadly this was cooked and it feels it. The nose on this wine starts off nice, but within a minute of opening the bottle, it has that slightly extra-fruity note that is not from the fruit. The nose on this wine is a nice Viognier, showing really tart and well-controlled peach, apricot, perfumed jasmine, and loads of yellow flowers and honeysuckle. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is nice, excepting for that ripe fruit that sticks out from this lean and sleek profile, with an annoying spike of ripe honeysuckle, followed by peach, apricot, and honeyed and sweet mango, with nice grapefruit, and an overall sweet mouthfeel. The finish is long, green, in a way, yet sweet, with pomelo and citrus, along with apple, slate, and absurd pith on the long finish. Drink now.

2019 Chateau Les Riganes Blanc – Score: 86 (Mevushal) (QPR: EVEN)
This wine is below the Median line for quality and it is below the median price, so this lands an EVEN QPR score.
I was hoping for another home run from this chateau, and sadly this vintage lacks the acid of 2018. The nose on this wine is lovely but closed with orange pith, orange notes, apple, and orange blossom, ginger, with mineral in the background. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is nice but flat, with no acid, what it has instead is a load of pith and mineral, followed by gooseberry, straw, mineral, and more floral notes, with orange, nectarines, and more pith. Drink until 2023.

2019 Goose Bay Sauvignon Blanc – Score: 91 (Mevushal) (QPR: WINNER)
This wine is in the 2nd quintile of quality scoring and it is well below the median price line, so this wine SHOULD get a score of GREAT for QPR. However, it is ALSO the another Sauvignon Blanc from the 2019 vintage that scored at least a 91, and that has a price that is at or below the median price line, so this wine gets the coveted score of WINNER for QPR. TWO years in a row for Goose Bay Sauvignon Blanc! Bravo!!
The nose is closed and does not show the classic creaming notes, right now the notes are subdued but they are present, with time the wine really opens up, with cat pee, gooseberry, straw, grass, mineral, and Asian pear. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine needs a few minutes and with time it shows a far more restrained version but still quite enjoyable, with intense acidity, followed by loads of pith, straw, cut grass, mineral, dirt, and lovely orange, nectarines, citrus, Asian pear, and lemongrass. The finish is long, green, with passion fruit, more gooseberry, and mineral galore, straw, pith, slate, and flint. Bravo! With time the fruit will come out from under the pith and straw haze. Drink until 2023.

2019 Recanati Yasmin, White – Score: 87 (Mevushal) (QPR: EVEN)
This wine is below the Median line for quality and it is below the median price, so this lands an EVEN QPR score.
This wine is a blend of Chardonnay and 40% Sauvignon Blanc. The wine is all over the place with the Chardonnay being so sweet that it takes over and really makes this wine unfun. The mouth and nose are too all over the place. Not fun, but the Sauvignon Blanc is nice and tart with good gooseberry and straw, but the sweet Chardonnay fruit showing apple, pineapple, and nectarines make the wine a bit of a mess. Drink now.

2019 Recanati Sauvignon Blanc – Score: 86 (QPR: EVEN)
This wine is below the Median line for quality and it is below the median price, so this lands an EVEN QPR score.
This wine is overall boring, with no complexity, but it ha enough acid and fruit to make it a bit interesting. The nose is really not interesting, but the mouth has acid, some good fruit of citrus, lemon, orange, and gooseberry, make it a bit interesting. Drink now.

2017 Pascal Bouchard Chablis, Le Classique – Score: 88 (Mevushal) (QPR: BAD)
This is a wine that is good enough, but with my new QPR scoring it is two quintile more expensive than the median price and it is not as good as the median score so that is why this wine gets a BAD on the QPR score.
The nose on this wine is nice enough, showing notes of smoke, green notes, green apple, quince, lemongrass, and pear. The mouth on this light to medium-bodied wine is nice enough, but the fruit is less focussed, though the acid is nice, with orange pith, orange notes, and the mineral of saline and slate, is nice. Drink until 2024.

2018 Domaine Netofa White – Score: 90 to 91 (QPR: GREAT)
I keep trying to figure out this wine and I think I finally understand it – this wine has crazy bottle variation, plain and simple. Some bottles, like the one I am greatly enjoying now, is ROCK solid and an easy 91. Then I can have a bottle that is tropical and lacking all the acidity I love. If you look at the past posts, this is what I have written:
The good version looks like this – it is evolving in a great way, showing even more hay and plum. The nose on this wine shows a lovely nose of straight-up hay, mineral, and fruit, with apple and quince galore, and lovely fruit and blossom. The mouth on this wine is crazy good, with a clear ripe backbone, yet steely tart and bright with crazy saline and herb, with mineral galore, with crazy apple, and rich quince, with an incredible tension between the ripeness and the tart/dry fruit and minerality. The finish is long and green, with slate, more hay, and lovely freshness and minerality! Bravo! Drink by 2021.
The bad version looks like this – at this point, the nose on this wine has moved past the mineral and into pure tropical notes, with apple and quince galore, and lovely fruit and blossom. The mouth on this wine has lost a step, with a clear ripe backbone, and the steely backbone is barely keeping it afloat, nice quince, with what used to be an incredible tension between the ripeness and the tart/dry fruit and minerality. The finish is long and green, with slate, more ripeness than I would desire, and minerality! Drink up!
What can I say, this is hit and miss. When it is a hit the wine is so good, showing great minerality, saline, hay, straw, and yellow plum, with citrus and quince. So, here is wishing you a good one!

Sparkling Wines

NV Drappier Brut Nature – Score: 92 (Mevushal) (QPR: GOOD)
This wine is a Brut nature, and as such, it does not have the added fruit or liquor as other Champagnes have. This shows extremely clearly in the notes. This is a clean, austere, grown-up approach to Champagne while having a downside as well, which is these do NOT last long. This wine has a disgorgement date of June 2020, meaning this wine is crazy fresh. Look at the bottom of the bottle – below one of the labels (back or front) and you will see a date etched into the bottle.
The nose on this wine is EXACTLY that, crazy fresh with lovely green and yellow apple notes, followed by bright citrus, lemongrass, waxy notes, and of course, loads of yeast. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is dry, rich, and super focused, with incredible saline, quince, and yellow grapefruit notes, intense acidity, with loads of graphite, and hints of tannin, with an incredibly focused small bubble mousse, that comes at you in layers and lingers forever. The finish is so long, so tart, with more mineral, dirt, saline, graphite, and quince/apple/citrus lingering long – Bravo!!! Drink until June 2021. You know my feeling about Brut Nature wines, they are NOT for holding, drink them NOW!

2017 Hagafen Rose, Brut – Score: 87 (Mevushal) (QPR: POOR)
The nose on this wine is very inviting with tart cherry, ripe strawberry, with some heat on the nose, loads of rosehip, and rhubarb. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is tart and refreshing but it has no complexity and is uni-dimensional in nature, with tart fruit, rhubarb, fine mousse bubble attack, and nice mineral. The finish is long and fruity, with mineral, hints of tannin, and loads of bubbles and acidity on the long refreshing finish. A very nice quaff. Drink until 2024.

2015 Hagafen Brut Cuvee, Reserve, Prix – Score: 89 (Mevushal) (QPR: POOR)
70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay, late disgorged recently. The nose on this wine has a lovely aroma of baked rhubarb pie, balanced well with citrus, earth, dirt, and lovely smoke, followed by minerals, strawberry, and some oxidized notes. The mouth on this medium-bodied bubbly starts off with a shot of mushroom, oxidized fruit, followed by lovely strawberry, and then some lovely citrus, tart raspberry, baked apple, and pear pie, and some more rhubarb, with a  lovely small bubble, nice focus. Nice. The finish is long, tart, green and red, and loaded with smoke and almonds. Drink now.

A Horizontal of 2013 Pinot Noirs and other top Pinot Noir to buy now

A few weeks ago, Benaymin Cantz from Four Gates Winery and friends came over for a Friday night dinner, and I thought it was a good time to open my 2013 Pinot Noirs that I have been saving. I must say, in hindsight, I should have done it earlier, as some of the wines were already past their time or DOA.

My love for all things Pinot is well known, and I had such high hopes. Overall, the night was fine, it was just not at the level I had hoped for. Thankfully, Benyo brought two extra wines, and they made the night super special! They were, a 1997 Four Gates Pinot Noir and a 2005 Four gates Merlot. M.S.C.

It is funny how the media can change people’s perspectives, and in some cases twist it in a way that we would not expect.  Say Pinot Noir and most wine drinkers will think of the enigmatic anti-hero Miles Raymond, and his explanation on his love for Pinot Noir; “…It’s, uh, it’s thin-skinned, temperamental, ripens early. It’s, you know, it’s not a survivor like Cabernet, which can just grow anywhere and thrive even when it’s neglected. No, Pinot needs constant care and attention. You know?…“.  Pinot is a complicated grape – but not to its own detriment.  Listen to Miles throughout Sideways and you may come to think that Pinot is fleeting, flinty, thin, and complicated. In the end, as you watch that horrible movie, you quickly realize that Miles was simply projecting in a fire fueled rambling and using Pinot Noir as his conduit.

To the French, Pinot Noir is called Burgundy – following the tradition of French wineries to name their wines after the region where the grapes are grown. Americans have had success with Pinot – in California, Oregon, and Washington State. New Zealand, has really taken the lead in bringing the grape into the 21st century. The French Burgundy has its terroir (earthy dirt flavors, sometimes barnyard flavors as well). The New Zealand and American Pinots show characteristics that are more akin to Syrah then Burgundy – fruit forward, meaty wines with soft caressing tannins. The rest of the world is choosing sides. Though true terroir flavors are hard to replicate outside of Burgundy, many countries have been successful at bringing out the true fruit characteristics that the land is willing to share and are creating wonderful Pinot Noirs. Israel was starting to come into its own with Pinot Noir, now all I would buy from Israel, in regards to Pinot would be from Gvaot. Even if the 2013 Pinot was DOA, I have had good success with Gvaot Pinot Noir. Right now, the best bet is France and the USA, with a drop from Israel, and after that, we are on empty.

Sadly, Pinot Noir to me is one of those wines that is so badly mangled in the kosher wine world, that it is no shock that most kosher oenophiles, turn face when u say Pinot Noir. Not on account of the Pinot Noir grapes themselves, but rather on account of the pathetic state of kosher Pinot Noir wine on the market.

Say, Pinot Noir to me, and sadly I can only think of:

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Kosher wine and food madness – New York style

2004 Ella Valley RR, 2007 Carmel Shitaz Kayoumi Single Vineyard, 2007 Ella Valley Cab Vineyard Choice, 2005 Yatir Cabernet Sauvignon, 2003 Malartic LagraviereBack In March I had the opportunity to spend some time in NYC and hang with some friends. It was three days of wine tasting in foodie heaven and I wanted to post about the wines and the food, because some of it was just spectacular! It all started on a Monday night after the very average City Winery event, I made my way to SB and DF’s home and continued the wine tasting there. Sadly, I seemed to have misplaced my notes for two of the wines; namely the 2007 Ella Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Vineyard Choice and the 2004 Ella Valley RR, Vineyard’s Choice. The RR, if I remember correctly was all over the place and on the other side already in puppy heaven. The 2007 VC Cab was rocking, with rich layers and lovely barnyard, but for some reason I do not have the notes, no idea why! Of what I do remember the 2007 Cab VC was very old world in style with barnyard and lovely dirt and mushroom notes, with blackberry and plum, lovely! The 2007 Carmel Kayoumi Shiraz started off OK, but went all over the place quickly and went into blackcurrant madness and lost all balance, sadly. The 2004 Castel C was DOA, not fun at all. In the end, the first night was ruled by the epic 2007 Hagafen Late disgorged Brut and the 2007 Ella Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Vineyard Choice.

After that, it was off to bed, as we had a long day ahead. I woke up pretty much on time the next day, and we were off to see a wine store in the area, where I picked up a few bottles for the next few nights festivities and then it was back to the house to enjoy bubbly and some insane meat along with two wicked red wines; the 2005 Yatir Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2003 Malartic Lagraviere, Pessac-Leognan. Both were insane, but the Malartic is an entirely different world wine, with filthy layers of fruit, tannin, and barnyard – madness!!! Still, the 2005 Yatir Cabernet (their first varietal cab) was really impressive and had no flaws.

The next day I jumped on a bus and made my way to Brooklyn where I hung out with friends of ours, and for dinner I made my way to YC’s house, where a crazy dinner was being setup. By the time I arrived, YC and YB were going mano-a-mano, side by side, with varying types beef tartare, and rib roasts, while YB handled the burgers exclusively. Humorously, looking back at the dinner it really turned out to be an entire night of uncooked fish and beef tartare – really! When I arrived I was famished so we ordered in a LOT of Sushi for the guests who were already arriving, while the two cavemen “prepared” the meat, there really was no cooking going on here! Once we had inhaled the sushi (or most of it) and were accepting of a time-out, I ripped through a few of the white and bubbly wines described below, for note purposes only (they were not that enjoyable) and then we were ready for the serious food, cooked or not! On a total aside, the sushi came from an establishment called Five day sushi! Now, I am not into marketing, seriously, but who the heck came up with that name?? Do you think anyone who looks at that name, would care that fish were created on the fifth day of creation?? NOT ME!! All people looking at that name, for the most part, will think they sell sushi that is five days old, how safe or appetizing do they think that sounds?? With that said, the sushi was great, albeit the horrific name.

The meat evening started with two courses – one made each by YC and YB – of beef tartare, YC’s was more Dijon mustardy and spice, while YB’s had smoked tongue rilletes, oil, and lots of herb – if I remember correctly. From there they went to rib eye two ways, which was essentially raw meat with a  slight sear – LOL!!! Actually, YB brought this sick looking chunk of meat and that went on the girl for about 30 seconds, maybe a drop more! The inside was still moving and blue while the outside was well seared, as I said raw meat night! Next, there were burgers, of which I cannot remember, but again it was well seared raw beef patties, really beef tartare but in a ufo shape! Finally, YC brought out a huge chunk of rib eye meat (AKA roast) and I grabbed the bone, and finally there was actual cooked meat! However, to be honest, by then I was cooked, I was not spitting much and the raw meat was fermenting in my stomach and I was out for the count.

While the food was lovely, and equally beautiful to look at, the true stars of the evening were the wines. I started with a bottle of Rambam Prosecco, which was drinkable, I spat that one! The next was another white wine, a bottle of 2012 Giersberger Riesling, and it was nice enough, clearly the best of the lineup they bring to the US, but a B+ at best. Next we moved to the 2007 Yarden Pinot Noir, and while it is nice, it is nowhere near the epic 2008 PN. The 2007 was a solid B+ wine that is in drink up mode. Next was the 2012 Hajdu Cabernet Franc, which is a lovely wine, but it is starting to show a bit more ripe than I remember last, and while it is not flawed it did not show well that night. That was followed by two wines that are clearly lightning rods for me. I posted before about the two new Lewis Pasco wines, and while they are clearly ripe, some do not think they are over the top. To me, they have power but they are unbalanced and not wines I would stock up on. The 2012 – project #1 is going sweet, so watch out. The Liquidity 2012 is sadly over the top, and when I had it in 2013, from barrel, at sommelier it was beautiful. When I had it in 2014, from bottle, at sommelier – I posted that I thought they were over the top. I wanted to get a bottle here in the USA and get a chance to sit down with them and taste them over a dinner or more, and sadly after doing so, my opinion of them is worse than it was in Israel. Yes, I am in the minority, and I have no issue with that. I find them rich and extracted and unctuous, but also too ripe, unbalanced, and date like. I understand this will not be accepted well by many, but these are my notes, for my tracking, and do with them as you see fit. Read the rest of this entry

California Wines and friends make for a great combination!

Well as you can tell from my previous post about this last shabbos, this past week or so was all about California wines in my household. Friends from New York came in for a visit, very much akin to the EY visit in 2012. They came in last week and it was all Cali all the time!

So, these are the wines I took out for the two evenings we were at the house. One of these was my last bottle and it is still showing well, the 2008 Shirah 1-2 punch – beautiful! The 2004 Hagafen melange was the most famous Kosher wine for some time, till the 2006 Yarden Rom was released. I never cared for the Rom, but the 2004 Melange was lovely! Elegant and refined. The rest are also doing well, thank goodness, no duds!

The wine notes follow below:

2004 Hagafen Prix Melange Reserve – Napa Valley – Score: A- to A
What can I say, this wine is mesmerizing, it is soft and intense at the same time with structure and finesse, with power and elegance. WOW! The nose on this wine is sick with layers of black and red fruit, what a crazy perfume of sweet notes, chocolate covered cherry, sweet dill, and sweet plum. The mouth on this full bodied wine hits you in layers of sweet concentrated fruit, plum, sweet cedar, chocolate, intense tannin, layers of fruit, and oak all working in perfect harmony with balancing acid and sheer perfection in a glass. The finish is long and sweet and perfectly balanced with chocolate, cinnamon, roasted herb, spice. Crazy! What a wine!!! Double Bravo!!!

2011 Shirah Coalition – Score: A-
The 2010 blend was dominated by the Touriga, while in this blend it plays more of a mop up roll, with the Zinfandel taking center stage. The zinfandel adds more insane spice that is the hallmark of the Coalition blend, but also adds more heft. The wine loses the blue fruit (from the lack of Syrah), but the white fruits show up from the small but still important role that the Touriga plays! The wine is more ripe and richer than the 2010, making for a fuller body and a more extracted madness.

This wine is a blend of 60% Zinfandel, 12% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc, and 8% Touriga Nacional. The wine is a unique blend, just like its older 2010 vintage. The nose explodes with crazy wine aromas – the kind of attack that only the Weiss brothers can bring you, heavy notes of blackberry, burnt raspberry, watermelon, and spice. The mouth on this crazy full bodied wine is ripe, concentrated, extracted, and layered with control and style, with mad acid, insane zinberry, black cherry, and cranberry, (no more showing any note of date) that almost creates a platform upon which the other fruits stand, ripe zesty raspberry, apricot, white peach, mounds of tannin, and sweet cedar. The finish is long and spicy with cloves, black pepper, insane mouth coating tannins that linger long, nice coffee, zesty strawberry, candied currant, fig, tobacco, and mineral. This is a wine that is ripe and full bodied, but balanced with crazy tart fruit, great acid, balance, and citrus fruit!! The last time I had this wine, I seemed to have sensed date, there is NONE of that here now. BRAVO GUYS!!!

2014 Covenant Mensch White – Score: B+ to A- (mevushal)
This is a mevushal wine that is closed and not fun to start, but with time shows nice tropical and stone fruit. This wine is 85% Roussanne and 15% Sauvignon Blanc. The nose is tropical with guava, citrus, wet grass, straw, hay, and nectarine, and citrus. The mouth on this lovely wine is ripping with good acid, pith, grapefruit, orange blossom, floral notes, with sweet oak, and mineral, with sweet herb, and spice. The finish is long with slate and spice and mad pith.

2012 Shirah Rosé – Score: A- (and more)
This wine is still killing it!!!! WOW!! What a rose! This wine is 100% rose of Grenache. The nose is bright and tart with crunchy roasted herb, forest floor, garrigue, red fruit, strawberry, black currant, and spice. The mouth is insane on this medium bodied wine, it starts with an attack of red currant, followed by blue fruit, tart blackcurrant, and crazy acid. The finish is long and attacking with mad acidic tart summer fruit, kiwi, candied strawberry, intense slate, mineral, and crazy tart zinberry that lingers forever, long after the wine is gone. The acid is so intense it is awesome and the fruit is ripe and expressive – BRAVO!!! This wine has not lost a step!

2008 Syraph One | Two Punch 50% Grenache & 50% Syrah – Score: A- (and more)
This was my last bottle, and it started off funky in the nose, but that blew off quickly and now the blue nose is perfume – AHH how I adore you! This wine is so unique in its nose and wine notes – that it is heresy to write them down! LOL! I am not sure if this will last for days like the previous bottle two years ago, but we will see.
The nose on this purple-black colored wine is truly unique and very hard to pin down. Where before the wine was not consistent in its style and notes, this wine is now showing consistent perfume and redolence that is not normal. The wine starts off with lovely sweet cherry, blueberry, juicy raspberry perfume, lovely floral notes, candied fruit, INSANE milk chocolate, and bramble. The mouth on this medium bodied wine forced me to write this acronym down for a second time in days – AYFKM (Are You Freaking Kidding Me)!! OMG and silence. The mouth is now not tart anymore, it is more round and ripe, and rich, crazy watermelon, with CRAZY ripping acid, mango, tropical fruit, followed by massive spice, ripe plum, coffee machine innards and grinds, sweet cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, other baker spices, and rich mouth coating tannin that linger long. The finish is long and luscious with sweet cedar, tobacco, crazy blue fruit that appears after sometime, and jam that lingers long. BRAVO!!

2011 Makom Carignan – Score: A-
This is a Hajdu wine – Makom is one of his labels, that he started in conjunction with Yitzchok Bernstein. The nose on the Carignan wine is rich with toast notes and bushels of red fruit, ripe fruit, hints of blue fruit, roasted herb, and nice baking spices. The mouth on this medium plus bodied wine is screaming with lovely acid, ripe fruit, blackcurrant, cranberry, and sweet boysenberry, all wrapped up with lovely mouth coating tannin and sweet oak. This wine is not slowing down at all, the tannins are searing, the acid is pumping, and the wine structure continues to impress! The finish is long and tart with ripe blackberry, watermelon, and lovely layers of spice, white pepper, sweet vanilla, lingering tart red and black fruit, and sweet tannin – lovely!

2012 Shirah Bro.Deux – Score: A- (and then some)
This is a lovely wine and one that is a bit better than the epic NV (AKA 2010) Bro.Duex. The wine starts off with a nice mineral nose with black fruit. The wine shows a nice medium body with fleshy fruit and layers of green and red fruit and black berry and currant. With sweet cedar and spice. The finish is long and acidic with graphite and slate and crazy mouth coating tannin with nice sweet notes and spice, tobacco and chocolate. Over time, the nose opens to lovely ripe and fleshy strawberry, sweet spices, and blue notes. On the mouth the tannins come out and the fruit does as well, with blackberry, blackcurrant, concentrated fruit, lovely extraction and good fruit structure. The acid is true and good. Bravo!

A wonderful horizontal tasting of older kosher Cabernet Franc wines

This past weekend saw us enjoying a lovely round of Cabernet Franc wines and our patented Herb encrusted gefilte fish loaf, which was followed by sausage stew. What can I say, I have a true soft spot for GREAT Cabernet Franc, and thankfully there are a few VERY good options. When I think of Cabernet Franc, top on my list is Four Gates Winery followed by Ella Valley Winery. After that, there is Hagafen Winery, Carmel Winery, Psagot Winery, and the new comer is Teperberg Winery’s 2011 Cabernet Franc – that is off the charts!

Many have spoken about the demise of Merlot and the rise of Pinot Noir from what is now called the “Sideways Effect.” Miles (the movie’s protagonist) proclaims his hatred for Merlot and his love affair for Pinot Noir, in the movie Sideways.  While this has been confirmed by many trusted sources, what has been glossed over is the hammer blow that Miles delivered to Cabernet Franc.  In the very same movie, Miles is poured a glass of Cabernet Franc, he smells it, sips it, and ceremoniously pours out the glass into the spit bucket, while dropping an anvil on all Cab Franc fans, as he states “”I’ve learned never to expect greatness from a cab franc, and this is no exception”.  “Ouch!” This is the exact kind of snobbery and lack of appreciation for the varietal’s unique qualities, mentioned earlier, that has kept the masses away from Cabernet Franc. In the end of the movie, we find Miles drinking his vaulted and prized bottle of 1962 Cheval Blanc, which is composed of 66% Cab Franc, 33% Merlot, and 1% Malbec!  We do hope that the irony is not lost on you, as it was certainly not lost on the producers!

Ask a winery why they do not sell Cabernet Franc, and they will start by disparaging it as a blending grape, and then add that it is not a noble variety.  What’s so funny is that the vaulted Cabernet Sauvignon – the archetype noble grape, is actually a cross between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc – go figure! You see, perception (and a lack of marketing) is reality, and while many have complained that Cabernet Franc is a thin and green flavored wine, that has more to do with the vintner’s and vineyard manager’s incompetence than it has to do with the grape.  Cab Franc needs a fair amount of heat to bring it to its true potential, but too much heat, and it gets toasted.  Poor viticulture is the grape’s Achilles Heel.  Still, the wine’s olfactory charm and bright fruity composition makes it a clear contrast from today’s fat and fruit forward wines.  Sure, you find wineries styling the poor Cabernet Franc grape into a Cabernet Sauvignon by suffocating it in oak and tannins.  However, the wine’s true beauty lies in its clean lines, bright red fruit, and it’s crazy floral/fruity nose, that may be accompanied by some bell pepper, which causes many a wine critic to turn up their noses to this wonderful wine.

Even further is that many a winery, including one from the tasting will say that they would rather have a Cabernet Franc that lacks green notes than one that shows it. Why? Because truly Cabernet Franc started as a grape grown in France, and in a region that does not get very warm, namely Bordeaux and the Loire Valley. Napa and Israel, on the other hand, do get warm, and some in Napa would like their wines to taste along the lines of their preferences, namely less green notes. Green notes normally arise from the lack of ripeness, think of vegetal notes you sometimes taste in fruit when the fruit is less than ripe. As the fruit ripeness, the Pyrazines within the grapes are killed off by the sunlight and ripe flavors appear. I love green notes in Cabernet Franc and am not turned off by them, in my opinion of course.

That said, Hagafen works hard to get the green out of the Cabernet Franc, saying the green is seen as a flaw and they work hard to make sure it does not appear in the wine. Sure, many wineries feel the same way, but Franc is green – it is the definition of the grape – but this is the new century and I guess it is time to evolve the Franc ideal, but in my books it is wrong.

The interesting fact is that Ella Valley is really the hot bed for all things kosher and Franc and I was happy to showcase two very different styles of the wine from the same winery. The 2006 Vintage is all fruit and green, while the 2009 vintage is all about the tannin and spice and fruit, with the fruit taking a back stage presence. That will change as the wine evolves and the tannin and mineral recede to show the fruit, but for now the two wines could not be more different – which is why it is so IMPORTANT to age Franc!

If you are interested in getting into the Franc scene, the best options now are:

  1. The 2010 Carmel Cabernet Franc (or the 2009 as well)
  2. The 2010 or 2009 Ella Valley Cabernet Franc
  3. The 2009 Gush Etzion Cabernet Franc
  4. The Teperberg 2011 Cabernet Franc (2010 with its new age label is good enough as well)

Well, here are the wines we had, the crowd was meant to be larger, and I was supposed to get to a Psagot and a Gush, but such is life. The Four gates Francs were not meant to be on the menu – we had them last year, at our previous Franc horizontal. The wine notes follow below:

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A lovely wine evening with new and old friends in NY last year

Table
Well, as I posted here, those of us lucky enough to have “special” or older bottles are really responsible for their well being, besides just owning them! What is the use of having many great bottles and watching them all die?? So, in that light, a friend of mine decided to start a monthly tasting evening, where your entry fee is a good bottle of wine and he would take care of the rest.

It was with this in mind, I entered with a 2006 Four Gates Cabernet Franc, which was not in tune with the evening’s theme, but was entry fee enough to let me partake of the festivities. The wines and food enjoyed that night were:

Wines and Food Enjoyed

Golan Heights Winery, Yarden, Blanc de Blanc, 2005

Golan Heights Winery, Yarden, Blanc de Blanc, 2007

Appetizers

Home Cured Bresaola

Panko Crusted Chicken Strips

80-hour Sous Vide, Dry Aged Prime Short Ribs

Rustic Cornbread, Beer Braised “Bacon” Baked Beans, and Red Cabbage Slaw

Wine List

Château Léoville-Poyferré, Saint-Julien, 2001

Château Léoville-Poyferré, Saint-Julien, 2003

Château Léoville-Poyferré, Saint-Julien, 2005

Carmel, Limited Edition, 2003

Galil Mountain, Yiron, Syrah, 2004

Golan Heights Winery, Yarden, Katzrin, 2000

Golan Heights Winery, Yarden, Katzrin, 2003

Golan Heights Winery, Yarden, Katzrin, 2004

Hagafen, Prix Reserve, Cabernet Sauvignon, MJT Block, 2002 Magnum

Hagafen, Prix Reserve, Cabernet Sauvignon, MJT Block, 2005

Wine Cellaring and what it means

All the bottles Read the rest of this entry

The great kosher California and Israeli Zin-off (Zinfandel Challenge)

Over this past Rosh Hashanah, I challenged myself to gather one of my favorite wines and enjoy them all in a controlled and non-drink-off manner. As explained in my last post, I did not want to make the wine the center of my attention on Rosh Hashanah, the day where we and the world are judged. So, I slowly enjoyed bottles through the 6 meal event (Friday night was attached to this year’s Yom Tov schedule making for a three-day festival set).

So, the first night we enjoyed the Alvi Ness Blanco, the next day we opened another bottle, but more on that one in a separate post to follow this one. The rest of the wine we enjoyed from there on were all Zinfandel wines, culminating in the true Zin-off on Friday night, following the Jewish New Year! On the Shabbos, I let my hair down a bit, and we enjoyed tasting 6 Zinfandel wines, all blind, all kosher, in a classic wine-off.

To be honest, I have never had the chance to taste the “real” California Zinfandels, Ridge, Ravenswood, Rosenblum, and Turley. Why? because NONE of them are kosher, which is a real shame. So, I tried to get together whatever kosher Zinfandels I could. The largest producer of kosher wine, Israel, has a very poor track record when it comes to Zinfandel, and neither of the wines we tried from Israel, both from Dalton, made it into the top 5. California continues to be the kosher Zinfandel producer and even in the non-kosher world, California continues it reign over the world that includes Italy and Croatia.

Originally, Zinfandel was thought to be an American grape, but recently that theory has been dispelled by the likes of U.C. Davis, who have done DNA testing and found out that Zinfandel and Primitivo (a grape of Italian origin) to be one the same. With even more efforts from UCD professor Carole Meredith, it was found that Crljenak Kaštelanski (“Kaštela Red”) appears to represent Primitivo/Zinfandel in its original home, although some genetic divergence may have occurred since their separation. Meredith now refers to the variety as “ZPC” – Zinfandel / Primitivo / Crljenak Kaštelanski. While, the true origin of Zinfandel grape may be Croatia, California owns the title of the best Zinfandel wine – the world around.

As we started to enjoy these wines we realized a few things. First that the flavor profiles were not anywhere the same – and they varied by wine and winery. Also, we realized that the Zinfandel grape can have heat (alcohol flavors) but can also have beautiful moments if they are done correctly. Read the rest of this entry

Petite Sirah Round Two and a few very nice wines

2006 Four Gates Merlot, M.S.C-small_Two weeks ago, before I left for all of the Royal wine events, I went searching through my cellar for more Petite Sirah wines to make up for the sleeping beauties (at least they were beautiful before) I had to endure two weeks ago. Two weeks ago I posted about my failed attempt to find great Petite Sirah wines. Why? I do not know, these wines used to be great and I doubt they are dead, but rather in deep sleep. So, I tried to open all the Herzog Petite Sirah wines I had to see if they were any better. We did have a Herzog petite Sirah two weeks ago – the newest Herzog Petite Sirah that has been released, the 2010 Princeville PS, and it too was so-so, again I think something was wrong with my bottle or I and the rest of the table had an off day.

So, I tried a different table of people (mostly) and a different set of wines, and these came out better, but not awesome, other than the 2009 Baron Herzog Petite Sirah P.S. Limited Edition! That was a beast of a wine and lovely. The clear take away here is that these wines need a lot of time in a decanter and only then are they ready to play. Along with PS wines we also enjoyed three older wines from the Four Gates Winery, and a bottle of the 2005 Galil Yiron.

There was talk that the 2005 Yiron was going down hill, and I can say that the wine is fine and going nowhere but it was shocking when tasted side by side the 2005 Four Gates Merlot M.S.C. The Merlot was bracing with black fruit and acidity, while the Yiron was full of black fruit but flat in terms of acidity, and I think that is what people are concerned about the Yiron. The Yiron is much like many of the older Yarden or Galil wines, they are flabby, oaky/cedar, and black ripe/sweet wines.

It is a continued theme in Israeli wines, the sweet notes and ripe fruit that overpowers the palate and takes away from the other attributes of wines. Having tasted many Israeli wines during my trip to Israel, I have found many wineries who have found a way to calm the sweet or new world notes and show more bright and ripe flavors without overpowering sweetness or fruitiness. The Yiron wines are not one of those, they normally show sweeter notes, and planks of cedar, but they continue to be bold and enjoyable. This one was no different, very enjoyable but the wine’s clear lack of acidity was truly shocking. Read the rest of this entry

Elliot and Micheal’s Excellent Northern California Kosher Wine Adventure

If you look at the kosher wineries in California, the majority exist here in Northern California. Down south you have the famous Herzog Winery in Oxnard, CA, and a pair of wineries that I call ADS (Agua Dulce & Shirah), for the Agua Dulce Winery and Shirah Winery, both housed in the Agua Dolce Winery. While this is great, Northern California one-ups them with Four gates Winery, Hagafen Winery, Covenant Winery, and the Brobdingnagian Winery. Of course you can actually combine all the California kosher wineries (except for Herzog) into Herzog’s parking lot (a nod to Disneyland and Disney World).

Well the adventure started late last week, when Elliot (Eli) and Michael (Yoav) both visited Benyo and Four gates Winery without me – go figure! However, on Monday I met both Elliot and Michael at my house and we started driving our way north. For this fabulous adventure our chariot of choice was a lovely Buick La Sabre, which before you start laughing, is a crazy and sick car to drive and drive-in. This car was appointed in soft leather, all kinds of toys and warning systems and a great navigation system that got us to and from our desired destinations, in comfort and style, and on time.

The first stop was Covenant Winery where we were going to meet Jeff Morgan and Jonathan Hajdu, Winemaker and associate winemaker of Covenant Winery, respectively. When we arrived, Mr. Hajdu greeted us and we had the chance to taste a few barrel samples of some 2011 Brobdingnagian Wines. We started with some lovely black and blue 2011 Brobdingnagian Syrah, with nice spice, root beer, and good vanilla finish. From there we moved on to a taste of the 2011 Brobdingnagian Grenache, which keeps on giving – what a lovely wine indeed! With the 2011 season being so miserable, to get a wine so redolent and ripe is quite impressive! The nose was rich and ripe with more blue and black fruit, but this time more ripe and sweet and yet controlled with good extraction, sweet cherry drop, watermelon, and citrus peel. Then Jonathan let us have a taste of some wonderful 2011 Brobdingnagian Bordeaux Blend, which stood out to me so well because the fruit was as sweet as the Grenache and maybe even more than the Syrah, yet so perfectly controlled with a nice core of red and black fruit, nice graphite and minerality, and along with spice and green notes that really balance this whole wine out – Bravo! Read the rest of this entry

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