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Assorted wines from Purim and previous weekends and a new Terrenal Malbec

It has been a few weeks since I posted my wine notes. I have been posting other ideas, but this was a long time coming. The biggest take away for me was that the 2013 Terrenal Malbec was out, a new Terrenal kosher wine that can be bought at Trader Joe’s and it is mevushal. Sadly, I was not a fan. It is OK, but for me, I will look elsewhere. It is a shame as the non mevushal Terrenal wines from Spain continue to impress!

The other take away from these wines was that the new NV Freixenet Cava Excelencia Kosher Brut was no fun either. The final notes revolve around the return of Lewis Pasco and his wines! Mr. Pasco was the head wine maker at Recanati until 2006. After that he did wine in the US and other places and in 2012 he returned to Israel to work with Hillel Manne of Beit El Winery, and to make his own wines as well! The wines we tasted in early 2012 were nice, but the Pasco wine has really come around with oak and time. The insane Carignan wine of 2012, is not as good as we remembered it from the barrel in the winery, but it is still very nice a clear QPR.

Finally, as I stated when I was at the Tzora Winery, the 2012 Judean Hills is lovely and is a crazy QPR wine. That said, the notes have not changed but the wine needs serious time to open and when it does it shows its blue and black madness. The wine has really just arrived to the US and it seems to be in bottle shock, so either wait a month or two to enjoy, or open it now and decant for at least 2 to 3 hours ahead of time. If it is not black and blue, wait!!!!

So, I hope you enjoy the notes and have a great Shabbos! The notes follow below:


2012 Shirah Rosé – Score: A- (and then some)
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, and spice. The mouth is insane on this medium bodied wine, it starts with an attack of red currant, followed by blue fruit, herb, 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!!!

2012 Tzora Judean Hills – Score: A- (and more) (crazy good QPR)
When I was at the Tzora Winery, the 2012 Judean Hills was showing lovely and was a crazy QPR wine. That said, the notes have not changed but the wine needs serious time to open and when it does it shows its blue and black madness. The wine has really just arrived to the US and it seems to be in bottle shock, so either wait a month or two to enjoy, or open it now and decant for at least 2 to 3 hours ahead of time. If it is not black and blue, wait!!!!

This is a wine that is made of a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Petite Verdot, Syrah that was fermented and aged in oak, and named for the terroir and vineyard that the wine was sourced from. This was a barrel/tank sample but such a wonderful wine and one very close to bottling that I had to write about it. The nose on this deeply black colored wine is rich with crazy black fruit, along with ripe blueberry, blackberry, along with deep mineral notes, roasted animal, and nice floral notes with slate. The mouth on this lovely full bodied and elegant wine shows far more control than the 2011 vintage, with great control and style, with layers of concentrated black and blue fruit, rich graphite, bracing acid, coming together with mouth coating tannin, and spicy oak. The finish is long and mineral with lovely chocolate, bright fruit, and lovely sweet spices. BRAVO!

2013 Terrenal Malbec Kosher – Score: B
The 2012 vintage of this wine was a favorite of mine last year, till it turned into a flower bomb. This vintage is starting that way out of the chute. The noise on this purple colored wine starts off with nice blue and black notes, followed by floral notes that feels disjointed, along with plum, and spice. The mouth on this medium bodied wine shows blackberry fruit, blackcurrant that spikes, along with nice tannin and blueberry/green notes. The finish is long and all over the place with green blue notes that cover over the nice root beer notes. Read the rest of this entry

2009 Recanati Petite Sirah Zinfandel (PSZ)

This past weekend we went with a lovely dish of slow alcohol braised short ribs, along with some nice simple rice pilaf. The recipe came out really well. Since the ribs are slow cooked you must remember that it renders a TON of fat and so you need to separate the fat from the brown sugar and whiskey sauce – which is really nice as well. So, one approach is to get a fat separator or you could do what I do, which is to take the meat from the sauce and then cool the sauce quickly. I put the sauce into the coldest part of the fridge and then it turns the fat into a solid discus that separates quickly and painlessly!

The wine started off lovely with rich blue and black notes. With time the wine turned black and date with blue in the background. Over more time the wine balances out and the blue and date round out and make for a nice wine.

The wine note follows below:

2009 Recanati Petite Sirah Zinfandel (PSZ) – Score: A-
6/14/2013  This wine is a blend of 80% Petite Sirah and 20% Zinfandel and was aged eight months in American oak. The nose starts off with a mineral core, followed by rich bakers chocolate, boysenberry, currant, black plum, licorice, hints of animal, and heavy spice and sweet herb. The mouth starts with layers of concentrated fruit, blackberry, more plum, blue fruit, red berries, searing tannin, and lovely cedar and spice. The finish is long and spicy with crazy lingering tobacco, cedar, chocolate, vanilla, black fruit, bramble, and dried tanned leather. With time the wine turns date and raisin driven, but with more time the wine mellows and rounds out nicely.

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

Petite Sirah grape (image from Israeli Wine website)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recanati Winery and tasting

The Recanati Winery was the realized life-long dream of Lenny (Leon) Recanati, a banker and true oenophile, who got his start in wine from his parents who made their own wine from their backyard vines. The winery’s stated goal from day one was to produce quality wines at reasonable prices – a truly noble mission statement which, as Recanati celebrates its first decade, it has accomplished beyond his wildest expectations. In addition to providing good value, Recanati is another winery from which you can buy any of their offerings and, while not every wine may be to your linking, you never have to worry about a bad wine.

“In order to go into the wine business, you have to have a passion for it. You have to have a love for it. Let’s say there are better businesses to go into, more profitable, more lucrative. Easier ways to make money,” said Recanati.

“In other words, you go into it because you love it, not because it’s a business. It starts out as a hobby. When it makes money, it becomes a business.”

When Gil Shatsberg started making wine for Amphore Winery he tried to “take all the sunshine we have in Israel and push into the bottle and concentrate everything and shove it into the glass.” The wines were dense, heavy and high in alcohol.

“They were too big,” he explained. “I realized that when I couldn’t finish my own wine, that it was too heavy.”

Now he aims for wines that are more elegant with less alcohol.

“Wines with finesse that are tasty and fruity and you drink the vineyard and the sunshine in their elegance,” he said. Read the rest of this entry

This past week’s wine(s)….

This week we had a light weekend.  We first tried a bottle that I was given to taste and let me say it was a complete and utter disaster.  The wine tasted like blueberry and cherry cough syrup.  Truly sad.  Luckily, I had a fantastic bottle of wine to pick up the slack.

Recanati Petite Sirah – Zinfandel (PSZ) Reserve 2004 – Score: A-
This wine is just scrumptious!  It has many of the enjoyable characteristics of a cousin of its – the Herzog Zinfandel/ Cabernet/Syrah 2002 wine.  The color is a deep purple with a tingle of blue.  The Nose on this wine jumps out at you.  The first thing I smell is blackberry, blueberry, and green aromas.  The mouth of this velvety and complex wine is full of plum, blackberry, and spice.  This wine screams fun and is beyond playful.  I only had a single bottle and I hope to find some more.  This wine is similar to the Herzog in the way that the Zin characteristics come through.  However, this is a classic example of Lewis Pasco and his wine making techniques.  The wine is let free to exhibit its true fruit abilities.  The green of the grape is evident, but there is enough oak to bring the whole package together.  A true winner!  By the way this version is a bit tastier then the previously reviewed sibling (the 2005 PSZ).

Recanati Winery

Recanati Winery

Recanati Winery

The Recanati Winery is tucked away in the Industrial zone of Emek Hefer – a lovely town some 5 kilometers south of Hadera.  The winery was built in 2000 by a group of oenophiles that were looking to build a world class winery to produce kosher wine that would truly compete on the world market.  To this purpose they invested in a winery whose equipment is state of the art and a have access to a set of vineyards that are situated in the most envious of locations around Israel.  The vineyards are spread throughout Israel’s wine regions – Upper Galilee, Judean Hills, Samson, and Shomron, and are closely monitored to extract the features that each region has to offer.

We appeared on a brisk Monday afternoon and were met by the current winemaker – Lewis Pasco.  Lewis is a well known wine maker in Israel.  He studied in UC David and from there went on to work in many prominent wineries – including Tishbi Winery and others.  He joined the winery at its inception and has been there – ever since.  However, he recently gave notice to the winery that he will be moving on – to pursue other opportunities with Israel or maybe abroad.

Meeting Lewis helped us to see the real success behind the Recanati brand and wines.  For sure there is selling in a winery, along with marketing and such.  However, Lewis says that Recanati is more about the wine and less about the bluster that wineries tend to display.  The visitor room is a great example of that; it is a very nice spot within the winery, with awards and wines lining the walls.  But it is not screaming look at me and the winery itself is inside the industrial zone – with a quiet external face – all very reminiscent of the winery’s approach to wine making – which is let the wine talk for itself.

Lewis was a highly accomplished chef before he turned his sights unto wine making – and his wines are a image of his tastes.  They are not the California power houses, with exception to maybe the Special Reserve and Shiraz.  That is not to say the wines are lacking – wine is not all about noise and attention grabbing oak.  It is about balance – and all of Lewis’s wines are complex with balance and just enough show to tell you they are there – without stealing the show of what is going on in your palate.  Even in the vineyards Lewis is of the opinion that the vines need not be managed to give out more fruit or that jammy flavor that seems to be popping up more and more in wine.  Lewis’s vineyards are an envy of many a wine maker, and Lewis makes sure that just like his wine – the vineyards are not managed, but instead – kept to bring out the vines true and real potential.

We conversed about many a thing – mostly the wine but other topics as well, and one of the thoughts that keep popping up when I talk with owners or wine makers in Israel is marketing.  Recanati does little marketing – letting the wine and their loyal fans take up the word for the winery.  But with the current expansion of wineries within Israel and the global kosher wine market growing at a nice clip – how does one make sure that the consumer knows what varietals each winery has to sell them?  Marketing outside of Israel was a constant topic of discussion and one that I think Israel must solve on a whole – not on a one off manner that most wineries are attempting to do.

Our time spent with Lewis was a real education – and we want to thank Lewis, Noam the CEO of Recanati – who stopped by during our visit, and the the entire winery for hosting us and showing us such a wonderful time.  Following are the tasting notes which we sampled at the winery.

Recanati 2005 Shiraz – Score: B+
This wine that was aged in a mixture of American and French Oak for 8 months has a red to black color.  The nose has oak and dark fruits that peek out from under the assault of the jammy aroma.  The medium bodied wine starts floral and then at the mid palate changes to plum and and black berries.  The structure is balanced with soft and integrated tannins.

Recanati 2004 Cabernet Franc Reserve – Score: A-
The grapes for this wine come from the Manara Vineyard in the Upper Galilee (750m).  This wine that was aged in a mixture of French and Hungarian oak for 15 months has a medium to garnet color.  The nose of this wine hits you with grass and floral aromas, with hints of oak.  This medium to full bodied wine starts with green flavors that carry over from the nose and follow with floral notes wrapped in a blanket of berries and oak.  Soft tannins and just the right amount of acid balance this wine out quite nicely.

Recanati 2004 Merlot Reserve – Score: B+
The grapes come from the Upper Galilee and were aged in French oak for 15 – 18 months.  The color of this wine is dark red.  The nose starts off with green and floral aromas but continues with cherry and berries.  The medium to full bodied wine palate continues where the nose left off.  The berries and cherry notes caress your mouth and finish with a long flourish of green notes and sweet wood flavors.

Recanati 2005 Petite Sirah and Zinfandel (PSZ) Reserve – Score: A-
The grapes of this dark to black colored wine come from grapes grown in the Jezreel Valley and the Upper Galilee.  The color comes from the Petite Sirah’s black colored grapes.  The nose is filled with green earthy aromas and hints of berry, cherry and oak.  This full bodied wine has strong structure that needs time to mellow out.  The body shows jammy flavors, tar and a fair amount of oak.  The finish is long and satisfying wrapped in tannins and black fruit.

Recanati 2006 Chardonnay Reserve – Score: A-
The grapes for this electric straw colored wine come from the Manara and Ben Zimra vineyards.  The nose is strong with lychees and honey suckle.  The mouth is round with citrus flavors and lychees.  The finish is medium to long with just enough acid and oak to balance out the wine quite nicely.

Recanati 2007 Rose – Score: B++
This pink colored wine has all you want in a rose.  Lychees, and cotton candy steal the nose.  The mouth of this light to medium bodied wine is very active and crisp.  Green and herbal notes come through the curtain fresh berries and finish with a satisfying flourish of berries and lychees.

Recanati 2004 Special Reserve – Score: A-
This wine needs time to open up my friends!  Lewis opened this bottle and all we could smell was green.  But as it opened up the merlot (8%) and cabernet (92%) came through.  The nose started to open with notes of black fruit, blackberries, and oak.  The mouth of this full bodied wine is heavy with tannin still and will lie well in the cellar for some time to come.  The tannin gives way to cassis, blackberries and more oak.  The finish is long with hints of chocolate and dark fruit.

Recanati 2005 Shiraz Reserve – Score: A-
This purple colored wine has a nose filled with green vegetation and dark fruits.  This medium to full bodied wine opens with dark fruit, cassis, and cherries.  It follows with biting tannins and has a long finish of tar and oak.

Recanati 2006 Cabernet Franc Reserve (Barrel Tasting) – Score: A-
This red to dark wine has strong green to floral notes followed by cherry and oak.  The mouth of this medium bodied wine is fruit forward, with grassy green flavors, and a long finish of oak and red berries.  A real winner and one that truly shows the styling of Recanati wines – more fruit less bluster.

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