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State of the Israeli Wine Industry and shmita 2015 was not a vintage to remember

somm2Sorry for the pause in posts – but I was traveling to Israel and now that I am back I hope to keep the posting back to a regular weekly rate. I travelled to Israel for this year’s sommelier – a wine event held in Israel that is normally attended by many of the upcoming and established wineries in Israel and abroad. I also went all around the country to more than 10 wineries and it helped me to get a very good feel for where the kosher Israel wine industry is now and where it is moving to in the next few years – wine wise anyway.

Sommelier

The event was originally marketed towards smaller and mid-sized wineries and distributors for restaurants, wine shops, and hotels to come and see the wineries that are scattered all over Israel in one place! Over time the event has ebbed and flowed and is now more of an event for smaller wineries to really spend their marketing dollars to garner the biggest bang for their buck. My personal fear is that in the coming years, this will fade, and start to get segregated much like it is in the USA. There are already many city oriented wine events, like the Judean Hills wine event and the Binyamina and Tel Aviv events. Add to that the famous Jerusalem wine event for kosher wines before Passover and I fear that things the Sommelier event will start to move away from a fairly well set of distributed and independent wineries to either a set of wineries run under a few select distributors (like HaKerem, Shaked, The Scottish Company, HaGafen) or worse – to a place where only a couple reign supreme. This will all play out – I fear – to the tune of follow the money. Still, the hope is that the need for small players and some medium ones as well to keep a good and well-lit profile – may mean that the event will stay safely away from the vertical plays going on in the USA.

With all that said, I was very impressed by the event overall this year. It was not over the top and almost drunken like last year, when Tabor was doing Mixology with their beautiful wines! Sadly, the wines were not as impressive as the event was overall. This year the event managers were smart enough to NOT lay down a temporary flooring – THANK GOD! For the past few years that temporary flooring reeked of glue and plastic and made smelling wine an almost impossibility around the winery stalls. It forced me to go to open areas smell the wine and come back and forth and so on until I was done tasting that winery’s wines. This year the lack os such “extra” flooring was a true god send!

Further – the wine event this year saw more kosher wineries than ever and the addition of kosher international wineries to boot! Elvi Wines was showing wines imported by Shaal Rubin, under a large heading of The House of International Kosher Wines. Another great example was Eli Gauthier’s Chianti – which was brought in by Mersch Premium Wines. Also, Bokobsa had a stall showing off some solid QPR wines, with only the Champagne, a Merlot based rose, and the Gigondas scoring high. Overall, ignoring the imports for a second, which is a lot of wine, the majority of the wineries at the event were kosher. Actually, the majority of the wineries, again ignoring imports for a second, were micro small to boutique sized wineries, most of them staffed by the winemaker or owner, kosher, and very passionate and personable folks. Of course there were a few mammoth kosher wineries at the show, including Binyamina. Read the rest of this entry

Sommelier 2015 results – White wines ruled along with a few reds

Sommelier 2015Sadly, Sommelier 2015 has come and gone and I can fairly state that I found nothing to be heartened about, in terms of the Israeli kosher wine scene. To be fair, the issue is still the same, wineries are deepening their love for all things over ripe and the excuse of poor vintages is really just that – an excuse. Having tasted almost every viable kosher wine at the event, I can safely say that only a few wineries care to make wines that are not over ripe, and the rest are the usual suspects. Before, anyone says there were many great wines, I can say I totally agree! The clear winners, winery wise were:
1.    Tzora Winery (the 2012 vintage is insane)
2.    Gvaot Winery (the 2012 Masada may well be their best ever)
3.    Recanati Winery (clearly the biggest winery with a desire to build very good wines from the bottom up)
4.    Tabor Winery (they continue to excel at the Adama series, though the Adama II wines have lost a step since 2010). Still, the whites, rose, and reds of Adama were impressive.
5.    Carmel Winery (the whites continue to excel and even the reds are solid, sadly the US labels are date juice)
6.    Yatir (nothing new here they are one of the best of the bunch)
7.    Yarden – SOLELY for the whites and bubbles. The reds were all date juice, the classic example of a winery that has purposely and consciously taken the road of over ripe fruit.
8.    Netofa Winery (the 2013 and 2014 wines will blow your socks off) – not listed here because I will post separately
9.    Mia Luce (Another winery made by a Recanati Associate Winemaker, this one being kosher) – maybe the best wines of the entire event
10.   Tura Winery (continues to push the boundaries and improving mightily. Love the Merlot, blends, and the new Gewurztraminer. Will post their wines on a separate post).

A few to keep track of – if they keep things up:
1.    Kishor Winery (some of their reds were truly impressive, their new whites were a step behind 2013)
2.    Jezreel Winery (Their white blend and the Carignan were nice, they need to tighten up the rest)
3.    Gush Eztion (Their whites were solid though they too need to tighten up on the reds)

Sadly, of the 200+ kosher wines at the event, fewer than 40 reds were anything to write about. It was the whites, even at wineries that I found physically painful to taste at, were quite acceptable. In the end it was the white wines that saved the event for me. White wines are the clear new trend in Israeli wineries and a trend that continues to impress. Sadly, the 2014 whites are step behind the 2013 vintages, as many did not add acid to the wines, but they are very solid none the less. Read the rest of this entry

2013 Jewish Week kosher wine tasting at the City Winery in New York City

City Winery PictureAs I stated in my previous post, my heart was in the Shabbos but my mind was on my trip that I was taking to New York. All the thinking did not help make the trip any less miserable. Once again I have proven to myself that flying to New York is hard enough, doing a stop in between is miserable and downright idiotic. Lets take a step back here and explain the situation. The Jewish Week holds a wine tasting every year, showing of the top kosher wines they thought made an impression to the wine judges. This past year, they tasted through some 400+ wines and came up with a long list of wines, many of which I like and some I did not like. Anyway, the tasting was this past Sunday, the 3rd of March, 2013, at 1 PM. To get there from the west coast, it would mean either sleeping in NY for Shabbos (not an option), or flying out Saturday Night.

I LOVE Jet Blue, but they canceled flying out Saturday night from San Jose airport, and now only fly out Saturday night from SFO – AHHH!!! So, the only other option was Delta, which I should never have done, because it meant a stopover in Atlanta. The idea was to fly out by 10:45 PM, have an hour in Atlanta and hop on the 9 AM flight to NY. That all sounded OK, no storms in the forecasts, no crazy storm trackers or watcher on the news – so it looked like I was in the clear! Not so fat, turns out that there may not be Godly reasons to not fly – but Delta is more than capable of creating man-made disasters – all by itself!

I arrived to the airport with an hour to go, and by the time we took off, I was in the airport for some 3 and a half hours! AHH!! Yep, you guessed it Delta screwed up and lost a tire on landing so the plane could not take us to Atlanta. By the time they fixed the plane, the man fixing it broke another part and we had to deplane and get on another plane – a gate over. By the time that plane was fueled and had everyone’s bags repacked – we were two+ hours behind. I slept like a baby on the plane, but by the time we arrived in Atlanta – I knew I was cooked. The connecting flight was 5 terminals over and the “plane train” could not get me there in time to save my bacon. So here comes the best part – I arrive at the gate and the plane was not departed, but the man would not let me on – no matter how much I screamed and begged. However, he gave me a printed ticket (I have not sen one of those in years) and told me to run to the next terminal where the Laguardia flight was boarding. I ran like a mad man, and in the interim broke my hand luggage! One thing after another – I know! Anyway, as I get to the gate the lady tells me that there is no such flight, I say what – the man told me there was a plane boarding now! She says – oh sure – that is one gate over, the dude gave me the incorrect gate number! Anyway, she walks me over and I start talking to the gate agent who tells me – once again – sorry the gate is closed and the plane is leaving. This is when the other gate woman turns into SuperWoman! She says – OH NO – this poor man has been through enough. She swipes her card, opens the gate door, walks me down the jetway – and bangs on the plane door! Seriously! She screams – open this door!

Now – let me please recap, I have a ticket – printed ticket, for JFK. I am trying to board a plane for which I have NO TICKET – none whatsoever! Actually I have a ticket for a totally different airport! Think of me as one of those lost souls dropped on a plane. That was me! Of course, I have no checked luggage – for two days, but still, this is COOL! The unflappable stewardess, behind a massive closed door replies; the door is closed. The gate attendant is equally unflappable, and she fires back (sorry bad use of verbage) open the door, you forgot this guy! Will you believe – the stewardess blinked and opened the door! Heck these folks were half way through the security demonstration! I was told grab any seat – we need to move. I grabbed the first window seat I could find, and promptly went back to sleep! WOW!! By the time I land in Laguardia, I had two hours to go and once I finished davening, I hopped in a taxi and found my way to the City Winery. Read the rest of this entry

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