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Sommelier 2017 results – sadly few highlights

sommelier-2017To say there were few highlights at this year’s sommelier, would be an understatement. Though, many of the “stalwarts” were absent this year. The consensus was that while Sommelier is a great marketing tool, it does not reach the end consumer well enough, and as such it is really a better tool for startup wineries – to display their wares to professional wine buyers, than bigger and more established brands.

The problem I have with that mentality from these wineries, is that they are missing point of Sommelier! Sommelier is not a wine venue it is a wine promotion vehicle, and there is the rub! More on this in a bit.

A few larger brands were indeed here this year, but they used it for displaying new varietals, like Tabor pouring their Tannat and Marselan wines. Yarden was also at the show, but they were highlighting the 2008 Blanc de Blanc bubbly, which makes little sense to me, as it is a past vintage in Israel, they are now on 2009 in Israel, though the 2008 is available in the USA and Duty Free. Of course, it did not diminish my happiness in seeing the wine, I used it predominantly as a means to cleanse my palate after a tasting far too many of the smaller winery wines, which were undrinkable, and that is truly being nice/PC.

Sadly, for me, Gvaot was a no-show, which is understandable at this point given their brand recognition and quality. Same goes for Netofa which also bowed out this year. Carmel and Yatir were also no shows, along with no Midbar, no Kishor, or Galil, or even Barkan (more on that in a minute). Really, it was new or fairly new wineries covering the walls like lilies on a summer day. Sadly, lilies would have been a better use of the space, but that is not my call of course.

So, all this means is that another year has passed, and nothing has changed, which is exactly what I was worried about in my last post.

State of Israel’s wine industry

My clear unhappiness, is not pointed at the Sommelier event itself, or at its promoters. On the contrary, the way I see it, it is a badly needed wine event. To me is is the event where we find the next Netofa, or Capsouto (who was there pouring his 2014 wines), but it is also the only event revolving around the wine industry as a whole left in Israel. Sure, we see it as the event where we get to taste lots of wine is a single place, but there are other aspects that I am now understanding about Sommelier that are very important as well.

Sommelier plays a vital part in the Israeli wine world, is is currently the only Israeli wine event that is focused on the wine industry. Sadly, ISRAWINEXPO died after the 2012 vintage, and even that one was a bit of a disappointment. Sure, there is the PYUP and Jerusalem, tel Aviv, and other festival wine events, but those are far more consumer wine related events than industry focused. Without the constant marketing of Israeli wines – at large to the global public, Israel becomes a one trick pony – kosher wine.

I have asked countless wineries why there is no REAL Israeli wine association, one that is fully inclusive to all wineries that export to major outlets around the world? Their answer, the government does not deem them agriculture and they have no interest in helping. OK. But Napa Valley has received no Government help, neither has Paso Robles (LOVE these ads), or most any in the USA or South Africa.

That was why I was so impressed by the Judean Hills Quartet, first of all they contain three of the best wineries in Israel. Maybe four, but Doron’s Sephora is not kosher, so I have no personal knowledge to its quality. On an aside, I remember with great glee the day Doron shared with me the an almost full vertical of his Chardonnay – what a joy they were. The three kosher wineries are stalwarts in their space, and while I can have issues here and there with certain vintages or certain wines, from Flam or Castel, the consistency and quality of these wineries, be they kosher or not, is truly impressive, and they make a great quartet to promote the Judean Hills region. Read the rest of this entry

Assorted wines I enjoyed over the past few weeks

Well, I hope I get into the flow of weekly posts, or even more often. For now, I am behind on wine posts from Yom Tov and other get-togethers. So, here is a list of wines I have recently tasted. Some I enjoyed and well, some not. There are a few shmita wines here, so be careful, as always I highlight them as shmita of course.

2007 Elvi Utiel-Requena Makor – Score: A- (Crazy QPR)
This wine is a blend of 85% Bobal and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. The nose on this wine is rich with lovely umami, soy sauce, ripe plum, rich earth, loam, mushroom, raspberry, and black cherry. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is rich and impressively structured for such an old wine, showing really nice acidity, still integrated tannin, with an inky mouthfeel of velvet and texture with crazy mushroom, earth, barnyard, dark concentrated fruit, blackberry, ripe fruit, perfectly balanced with ripe currant, dark red forest berry, and green notes. The finish is long and tart with more dirt, and barnyard, showing still gripping tannin, and nice ripe and rich fruit. The oak does not show strongly in the mouth but it’s influence is felt nicely. BRAVO!!

2014 Louis Blanc Crozes Hermitage – Score: A- (Good QPR)
This is a lovely black fruit Syrah, with hints of blue fruit in the background. The nose on this wine is lovely, with roasted meat, rich licorice, with blueberry notes in the background, along with earth, loam, mineral, and spice galore! The mouth on this medium bodied wine is balanced and well-focused, with a mineral core, followed by sweet boysenberry that comes alive with time, followed by blackberry, spiced plum, and rich loam, that is wrapped in spicy oak, rich mouth coating tannin, and fig. The finish is long and spicy, with leather, chocolate, lovely charcoal, and bitter almond notes that give the wine its edge. The sweet fruit shows quickly and really is a nice wine, I hope it turns more French with time. It is ready now and will be at peak in two years. Drink till 2021.

2015 Psagot 7 Shmita Red – Score: B to B+ (shmita wine)
This is a blend of all the varietals that Psagot bought/used for the Shmita year of 2015. The white shmita blend was really nice, while this was good enough. It is very green.
The nose on this wine is cranberry, cherry, and asparagus salad. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is nice, but nothing spectacular, other than the very impressive mouth coating tannin. Other than that, it feels like a second label French wine, with lots of press juice, very harsh and not balanced, with black and red fruit. The finish is long and green, with good acid, and mounds of herb and foliage.

2015 Psagot 7 Shmita White – B+ to A-
This is one of the nicer Shmita white wines, it is a blend of all the white varietals that Psagot has under control. The nose is redolent with Mango, lychee, floral notes, honeysuckle, and lovely bright citrus notes. The mouth is medium bodied with good acid, nice balance, all wrapped in straw, cut grass, mint, green notes, with lovely grapefruit, peach, and pineapple. The finish is long with nice acid, mineral, and spice. Nice!! Read the rest of this entry

Kosher Rose wine options for 2016 – as the weather heats up

Rose wine in the non kosher market is exploding – especially Rose wine from Provence; a wine region of France. Sadly, in the kosher wine market – that is not quite the case. I did not stress my previous statement with a suffix of AT ALL, even though I am not allowed to open a bottle of rose on my Shabbos table with guests – why? Well that is simple – no one will drink it!!

Still, Gary Wartels of Skyview Wines told me recently that there is an uptick in interest, especially in the newly released Vitkin Rose 2015. I need to get back to that wine and other shmita wines, but first we need to talk about what Rose is and why the current craze in the non kosher market is just an uptick in the kosher.

Wine Color

Well simply said, rose is a wine that can best be defined as the wine world’s chameleon. Where white wine is a pretty simple concept – take white grapes squeeze them and out comes clear to green colored juice. Yes, white grape juice is clear – well so is red grape juice, but more on that in a bit.

White wine is not about color – almost all color in a white wine comes from some oak influence of some sort. So, an unoaked Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Gris can sometimes look almost clear, depending on the region and how the wine was handled. Now oaked Chardonnay of course is what most people use as an example of a dark white wine. As the Wine folly linked above states, different wine regions oak their Chardonnay differently and as such they are sold with different hues from the start. With age – the wine patenas even more and the gold moves to auburn.

The only real exception to the stated rule above – that white grape juice without the influence of oak is somewhere in the clear to green color spectrum, is – orange wines. We have spoken about orange wines – mostly thanks to Yaacov Oryah. Outside of Yaacov’s work there really is no orange wine in the kosher world to speak about. Orange wine is made exactly like red wine, which means that the clear grape juice is left to sit on the yellow-ish to dark yellow grape skins (depending upon what varietal is used to make the orange wine).

Red wine juice – straight from the grape comes out the same color as white grapes. You see the juice from grapes is mostly clear to greenish in color. The red wine color comes from macerating the juice on the grape skins. The longer the juice sits on the grape skins (wine must) the redder in color the wine becomes until it reaches its maximum red color potential.

The only real exception to the rule of a grape’s juice color are the Teinturier varieties. The grapes are called Teinturier, a French language term meaning to dye or stain. The list of grapes whose juice is actually red, are long – but the list of kosher wine options that is a wine made from these grapes – is the Herzog Alicante Bouschet. The Gamay de Bouze is not a normal Gamay grape, it is one of those grape mutations that are very red in nature.

Rose wines are the in between story – hence the chameleon term I used above.

Rose Wine

Rose wine is made in one of three ways. I will list the most dominant manners and leave the last one for last.

Maceration:

This is the first step of the first two options and the only difference is what you do with the rest of juice after you remove it? You see, as we stated above, the color of the juice from red grapes is clear to green and for one to get the lovely red hues we all love from red wine, it requires the juice to lie on the grape skins – AKA maceration.

The rose hue depends on how long the juice macerates. I have heard winemakers say 20 minutes gives them the color they like, and some say almost half a day or longer. The longer the juice macerates the darker the color. While the wine is macerating, the skins are contributing color by leaching phenolics – such as anthocyanins and tannins, and flavor components. The other important characteristic that the skins also leach are – antioxidants that protect the wine from degrading. Sadly, because rose wines macerate for such a short period of time, the color and flavor components are less stable and as such, they lack shelf life – a VERY IMPORTANT fact we will talk about about later. Either way, drinking rose wine early – like within the year – is a great approach for enjoying rose wine at its best!

Now once you remove the liquid, after letting it macerate for the desired length of time, the skins that are left are thrown out or placed in the field to feed organic material into the vines. This is a very expensive approach indeed, because the grapes are being thrown away, instead of doing the saignee process which is described in option #2. This approach is mostly used in regions where rose wine is as important as red wines, like Provence and Languedoc-Roussillon. Mind you, the grapes used in this method are most often picked early, as they are being used solely for making rose. Read the rest of this entry

My wonderful and wine eventful Jerusalem whiteout – Day 1

Snow mountains surrounding JerusalemTwo weeks ago I was in Jerusalem and all I can say is that the words, “in God We Trust” cannot have been more fulfilled than on this journey. To start, I had flown into Israel for one of my nephew’s weddings, and a lovely wedding it was, but that is getting ahead of ourselves. I arrived on Tuesday the 10th and while deplaning, I was asked to join in on a group prayer – which initially I was not so interested in, as I had a ton of things to get done in the day. Thank goodness I agreed and while talking with the group at the conclusion of the services, I hear my name being bellowed out! Now, sure I love Israel, and I know people there, but I am not Netanyahu or Gal Gadot, nor do I know anyone who knows Gal Gadot (trying to stay current and yes I know she is a female model – just making sure you are following), so I had no idea why someone was calling out my name!

So, I turn around and lo and behold who is there, Mendel! Now you may not remember Mendel, but he has been canonized on this very virtual pages, here and here (de-boning a duck) – though incorrectly familiarly associated with Elchonon. I state this because it will be with Mendel’s hands that my wine salvation will be realized. He wondered if I remember who he was, and after sharing a few pleasantries, we agreed to keep in touch as he was interested in joining me on my wine escapades, which sounded great to me!

From there we both got our cars and I went off to see my sister in HarNof. That evening I was so exhausted, I tried to order a burger from a place that will go nameless. Two hours later, no burger and my card was charged! To be fair, after much cajoling they did refund my money, which I understand in Israel is requires an act from God to implement, but equilibrium was returned.

The next day, I WhatApp Mendy and sure enough he is up and ready – like I was, so I asked if he minded to drive and off we went to pursue the wineries around Jerusalem. I must start by saying that I have no issue driving, but as I explained many times in the past, Israeli drivers have no drive control or manners, they are 100% certifiable! Well, I guess either work; “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” or “Fight fire with fire”, and that is exactly what Mendy does so well. The roads were slick with rain, at some points the roads were almost washed out with a literal deluge of rain, making the roads slick and a perfect pairing for hydro-planing. No worries, Mendel is at the wheel! So, our first stop was Castel!

Domaine du Castel

Read the rest of this entry

Kosher Cabernet Franc Horizontal

2007 Ella Valley Cabernet FrancIf anyone has been reading this blog for long enough, they will soon realize my penchant for all things Franc, Viognier, and Pinot Noir. No, it is not an echo of Miles Raymond, and his penchant for Pinot in his own words; “It’s uh, it’s thin-skinned, temperamental, ripens early..”. Really, it is because it is rich and layered, but green and ethereal, while still packing a punch of black and red fruit. In other words, it is a complex wine which needs love and care and that is not easy to find in the kosher world.

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. Read the rest of this entry

2008 Psagot Shiraz, Single Vineyard

This past weekend we enjoyed kosher wine from Israel called Psagot Shiraz. I have posted often about Psagot Winery, and this wine was in one of my previous posts. The wine was fine, but it showed a bit too much raisin for my tastes. I would think this wine is now very close to if not already in drink-now stage.

2008 Psagot Shiraz, Single Vineyard – Score: B+
The nose on this purple to black colored wine is super rich and extracted with light raisin, plum, blackberry, cassis, rich espresso coffee, tar, pencil, loamy dirt and bramble. The mouth on this full bodied wine is rich, layered, concentrated, extracted, and inky, with lovely blueberry, cherry, date, nice acid, searing tannin, and sweet cedar that make for a lovely mouthful. The finish is long and super spicy, with chocolate, tar, light animal notes, cloves, black pepper, and more great spice.

Israel wineries I visited in the Judean Hills and the Shomron during my second week and the The Wine Mill wine shop

Wine Mill wine shop in the center of Jerusalem

The Wine Mill wine shop

Last week I posted that I was in Israel for three weeks over the month of December, and in that first post I wrote about the wineries I saw in the Galilee wine region (the north of Israel). What I failed to talk about was Gabriel Geller and his wine shop in the middle of Jerusalem. I spoke about the Wine Mill wine shop in a previous post, it is located smack dab in the middle of Jerusalem, close to the city center, and to many hotels and restaurants. The address for the Wine Mill wine shop is 8, Ramban Street, 92422 Jerusalem, Israel, it is a shop that I can say is stocked with wines that I would be happy to enjoy and is the main wine shop that I use when in Israel. Why? Because Geller knows his wines, sells only wines he or his customers like, and knows the wines he sells. His shop is filled with wines that are often only sold at the winery itself, like Midbar Winery wines (see below) or Herzberg Winery wines (see below). His shop is also filled with small winery wines, like Weitzman Petite Verdot, or Gat Shomron Winery, and many others. Please do not think that this is a paid advertisement or something – LOL! I do not take money from people. I bring up Gabriel Geller and the Wine Mill, because during my three week stay in Israel, I was either in Geller’s store, with Geller himself, or calling Geller everyday, including Friday day and Saturdays (Saturday night of course)!

As I ended the previous posting – I wrote about my take on the Israeli wine scene, and I would like to add some more thoughts to the thread:

  1. If I had to give a color or fruit that best describes the 2010 vintage in Israel – it would blueberry! YES blueberry! No, I am not talking about malbec or Syrah or Petite Verdot. What I am talking about is all of those and more shockingly, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot! Try it out and see for yourself. When I asked the wine makers about it, they said that the growing conditions of 2010, hot and then cool led to the blue flavors.
  2. 2010 and on can well be the year of the small wine maker. Wineries are coming and going – that is for sure, but it is also a fact that small production wineries, like Herzberg Winery and Gat Shomron winery are popping up and staying afloat – because they do not have that much wine to move. Time will tell.
  3. Finally, more and more high level and high quality mevushal is occurring in Israel. Shiloh winery has been doing it for a few years now, as is Binyamina on its reserve series and cave, and others. It is not widespread or low quality. The process is being done at great cost and at great effort – bringing forth quality wine that happens to be mevushal, much like Herzog and Hagafen. While this is true of the few that I have listed above, Recanati has started doing it to some of their diamond label wines and the outcome is not that great. The 2010 Shiraz tasted cooked while the non-mevushal bottle in Israel did not have that taint – time will tell how these experiments will turn out.
  4. If you must pick a single varietal that shines in the Shomron – it would be Merlot. All the Merlot wines we tasted from the Shomron (whether made from a winery in the Shomron or wineries that source their grapes from the Shomron – like Teperberg) – the winners were always the Merlot! If it is the cooler weather the higher acidity – who cares – it is great wine!
  5. Wineries are getting the message – making more old-world wines with Israeli fruit. What that means to me is to make ripe and sweet wines that are controlled without the overripe date and raisin bombs that were so very prevalent some 5 years ago. In its place I find that Israeli wineries are producing wine with sweet and ripe fruit, while all the while showing clear control of both the sweetness of the fruit and the amount of oak used.
  6. Israel residents are finally starting to understand that they live in a Mediterranean country (with one of their borders on the Med) with blazing hot summers and therefore need to start appreciating white wines! I know, Jews like to drink red wines, something to do with the whole kiddush and shabbos thing. Still, white wine is lovely and is a wine that can be done well in Israel. Take the Midbar winery as an example. A winery that was built on the premise of making GREAT white wines in Israel! It took a long time for the perfect storm to occur, the nexus point of Israeli residents wanting white wines and for wineries to excel at the production of good white wines. Maybe it was a chicken-egg thing between the wineries and the residents, or maybe it was the whole culture thing – but Israeli wineries are figuring it now. More and more every winery is making a Rose, a Chardonnay, and many are doing Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling wines, and many others. So keep a look out for very solid Israeli white wines – they may actually remove them from Israel’s endangered species list!
  7. The main high end red wines being poured at wineries in Israel are shmitta wines, wines from the 2008 vintage. I say this simply as a warning and no more than that. If you care, than skip the wines. If you do not worry about it – than do what you wish. I simply state it here as an informational notice. Read the rest of this entry

2012 Herzog International Wine Festival – part two of wine notes

As stated in the previous posting on this lovely event, there were many wines to taste and there was no way I could post all the wine notes in a single posting. Here is my follow-up posting on the wines tasted at the event, including the wines that I loved and did not love.

The wine notes are listed in the order that I tasted them:

2010 Domaine Netofa – White – Score: B++
The nose on this light gold colored wine shows clean and lovely nose of green apple, peach, grapefruit, kiwi, light quince, and rich/nice loamy dirt and mineral. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is rich and balanced with nice minerality, along with nice bright fruit that mingles well in the mouth. The finish is long and spicy with nice quince, tart green apple, grapefruit, and green tea.

2010 Binyamina Chardonnay, Reserve, Unoaked – Score: B
This wine did not show nearly as well as its 2009 sibling, the wine was flat without much to grab your attention. The nose on this straw colored wine has apple, lemon, nice mineral, bright acid, and melon. The mouth is somewhat plush and the finish has citrus to round out the wine.

2010 Binyamina Chardonnay, Reserve – Score: B+
This wine did not show nearly as well as its 2009 sibling, though not as bad as its unoaked twin. The nose on this dark straw colored wine has light oak, brioche, lemon, nice spice, light creme, and honey. The mouth is round with spice, summer fruit, and oak influence.

2011 Tulip White Tulip – Score: B++
This wine is a blend of 70% Gewurztraminer and 30% Sauvignon Blanc with the sweet and floral notes of the Gewurztraminer showing nicely with honey and guava, while the green apple and bright lemon notes from the Sauvignon Blanc blend together in a unique manner. The nose on this straw colored wine hits you with mineral, light honey, bright lemon, green apple, and guava. The mouth is nice and honeyed with light petrol, and citrus. The finish is long with both sweet lemon creme and bright lemon at the same time, along with fig, and tart notes. This is a great wine that would go well with fish or sushi.

Read the rest of this entry

Psagot Winery – A Stunning Winery on the Peaks of the Binyamina Mountains

The community settlement of Psagot is located on the peaks of the Benjamin Region Mountains, 900 meters above sea level, east of the city of Ramallah, overlooking the Wadi Kelt basin, the Jericho Valley, the Dead Sea and the Edomite Mountains. The literal translation for the word Psagot, is Peaks, hence the play on words in the title of this posting.

In 1998, Naama and Yaakov Berg planted the winery’s first vineyard, 18 dunam of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. In the first year, the Bergs sold their grapes to Binyamina. In the following year, 2002, they decided to make a go of it, thereby establishing the Psagot Winery, named for the settlement upon which the vineyards, and winery are located. Soon thereafter, in 2005, the winery added on another 22 dunam of vineyards, with a varied group of varietals, along with the normal mainstays. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Chardonnay are the usual suspect, with Petite Verdot, Cabernet Franc, Viognier, and Shiraz adding to the mix.

While the settlement was laying a road near the vineyard, Berg says, “we found a little hole in the ground. If was full of mud and rocks and stones. … So we dug for more than a month by hand and we found a lot of things, including a lot of coins, and at end we found a wine-press from the time of the Second Temple.” Today, this cave serves as a large wine barrel cellar next to impressive stainless steel tanks and other winemaking equipment. The cave’s cooling system rarely needs to be activated, as the naturally cool conditions preserve the constant temperature, which during the winter does not go below 54 degrees, and during the summer does not rise above 64 degrees. The natural humidity stands at 90%.

The winery’s vineyards are all planted on rocky limestone, Terra Rosa soil. The vine’s yields are kept low, to about 600 kilos per dunam. The vines are terraced upon the mountainside, but the close proximity to the winery makes up for the difficulty of harvesting. The vineyard’s 900 meter altitude allows the vines to cool down significantly in the evening, thereby concentrating the sugar flavors that are created in a far slower manner than if they were in the valley. The entire harvest is very reminiscent of how Ella Valley Winery does its harvesting, by picking during the early morning, and being close to its winery, thereby assuring the highest quality product from the grapes they source. Read the rest of this entry

Kielbasa Sausage Stew, Kosher Cabernet Sauvignon, and Four Gates Chardonnay

This past weekend we were surrounded by many of our friends, from close and far, and it was a truly lovely evening. I have always said that food and wine are greatly improved by the company that surrounds you. One of our guests was a close friend who left some 10 or more years ago from our area, so it was really great seeing him again. Benyamin of Four Gates Winery joined us as well for the evening and shared some wines with us along with one of our guests who brought a bottle of Psagot Cabernet.

The evening started with one of our consistent hits – Herb Encrusted Baked Fish Loaf, alongside olives, chumus, and jalapeno salsa. The fish was paired with a fantastic 2005 Four Gates Chardonnay and a 2005 Psagot Cabernet Sauvignon. The Chardonnay was perfectly paired with the fish, while the Psagot was a bit too astringent for our liking.

For the main course, the fish was followed by another wonderful dish that we have made a few times – Kielbasa Stew, Brown Basmati rice, and fresh green salad. The Red C followed the lackluster Psagot and was also lackluster to us. The last time we tasted the 2006 Covenant Red C we LOVED IT! This time however there was a lack of depth and body that truly surprised us. That was followed by the two highly enjoyable 2004 Ella Valley Cabernets. These wines are really supposed to be twins at birth, but they seem to have been separated at some time, as they each showed different characteristics. The two wines were the 2004 Ella Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2004 Ella Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Israel 60 Special Edition. They start off quite different and even with air do not change from their separated paths. However, after a fair amount of time the twines were finally reunited, but lacking some of the concentrated characteristics that make them super special, but still quite lovely. Benyamin also brought a bottle of the 2005 Four Gates Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. It showed as well as the last time we tasted it (also with Kielbasa Stew and Tajine), and was enjoyed by all. The dinner was capped off with a killer dessert brought by another of our guests, who we jokingly call our local artisan bakery! The wonders she creates are always devoured, with crumbs nowhere to be found. This past week she honored us with a rum soaked sponge cake with rum frosting – killer!! It was paired with leftovers of the 2005 Four Gates Cabernet Sauvignon and a bottle of the 2006 Tzora Or Shoresh Gewurztraminer. This wine was one of the two highest scoring wines when Robert Parker and Mark Squires held their first ever wine tasting of Israeli wines. It was scored a 92 by them both and I scored it a way too high score of A+ when I was at the winery in March 2008. This time it was a lovely wine but not an A+ but very close to a 92, more like an A-, which is a really fine wine. It is clearly at its peak or a drop below it, drink up.

Many thanks to all my friends who shared their wine and food with us and may we all be blessed to share time and food with our friends and family. The wines are listed in the order they were enjoyed:

2005 Four Gates Chardonnay – Score: A-
We last tasted this wine during a winery visit in 2009 and we loved it even more now. The nose on this gold colored wine is screaming with caramel, butterscotch, butter, straw, apple, peach, apricot, cut grass, lemon, and smoky toasty oak. The mouth on this full bodied wine is rich and concentrated with toasty oak, rich full summer fruit, butterscotch, lemon, and peach. The mid palate is balanced and bracing with acid, butter, toasty oak, butterscotch, caramel, and peach. The finish is super long and rich with toasty oak, summer fruit, smoky notes, caramel, nice butterscotch, with a touch and finish of cut grass and hay.

2005 Psagot Cabernet Sauvignon – Score: B to B+
The nose on this garnet colored wine shows crushed herbs, cranberry, raspberry, plum, oak, black plum, licorice, chocolate, and tobacco. Over time the nose turns blacker with blackberry and black plum. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is spicy and mouth coating with raspberry, plum, and blackberry. The mid palate is a bit astringent with acid, tobacco, nice integrated tannin, and oak. The acid is over the top, but it does seem to calm down over time. The finish is long, spicy, and bright with raspberry, plum, oak, nice tannin, and tobacco.

2006 Covenant Red C – Score: B+ to A-
We had much higher expectations for this wine since the last time we tasted this, but it was not to be. The nose on this purple colored wine is the high point of this wine with rich chocolate, oak, smoky notes, raspberry, plum, blackberry, and herbs. The mouth on this medium bodied wine was missing, clearly lacking though showing raspberry, black fruit, and plum. The mid palate is balanced with oak, nice tannin, and chocolate. The finish is average with spicy oak, chocolate, tannin, raspberry, plum, and vanilla. The wine lingers with black fruit, vanilla, and a touch of herbs.

2004 Ella Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – Score: A-
The nose on this lovely dark garnet to black colored wine is similar to its near twin Israel 60 Special Edition in structure, with each showing different lovely notes. The nose on this dark garnet to purple colored wine is hopping with chocolate, tobacco, cedar, vanilla, raspberry, blackberry, cassis, plum, herbs, and mint. The mouth on this full bodied wine is rich and concentrated with ripe plum, blackberry, cassis, and a full mouth feel from integrated tannins. The mid palate is balanced with cedar, tannin, tobacco, and crushed herbs. The finish is super long and sensuous with black plum, spicy notes, cedar oak, chocolate, tobacco, and vanilla. The wine lingers long with chocolate, tobacco, vanilla, black plum, and cassis.

2004 Ella Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Israel 60 Special Edition – Score: A-
The nose on this dark garnet to black colored wine is exploding with roasted meat, smoky notes, vanilla, ripe blackberry, cassis, black plum, fig, raspberry, and tobacco. The mouth on this full bodied wine is mouth coating and concentrated with lovely tannin, ripe plum, blackberry, cassis, and raspberry. The mouth is concentrated and packed with nice fruit. The mid palate is balanced with acid, spicy oak, spice, tannin, tobacco, and licorice. The finish is long, spicy, and extracted with tobacco, spicy oak, roasted meats, ripe plum, and blackberry. The wine lingers with tobacco, plum, spicy oak, and vanilla.

2005 Four Gates Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley – Score: A-
The nose on this dark garnet to black colored wine is filled with blackberry, cassis, plum, oak, and spice.  The mouth on this medium to full bodied is concentrated with fruit that follows the nose, blackberry, cassis, and plum.  The mid palate is balanced with oak and still gripping tannins.  The finish is long and graceful, with spicy oak, black pepper, cassis, and a hint of leather.

2006 Tzora Shoresh Or Gewürztraminer – Score: A-
The nose on the gold to amber colored wine is popping with floral notes, grapefruit, pear, guava, mango, honey, and pineapple. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is concentrated with a sweet tooth, ripe rich fresh and fleshy fruit, pear, grapefruit, honey, guava, and a nice floral hit to boot. The mid palate flows off the mouth and is balanced with nice acidity, honey, and sweet mango. The finish is long and fun with sweet rich and ripe mango, guava, honey, and acid with a touch of butterscotch. The mouth on this wine is rich and sweet but is also balanced with enough acidity and butterscotch to make the world go round.

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