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Herzog Wine Cellars continues to impress with red wines from 2018, 2019, and now the 2020 vintages

In case you missed the last Herzog Wine Cellars post – please check that out here, I see no need to repeat all of the same content! That said – wow! The 2017 vintage was tough, it was tough for all of Cali, it was a bad vintage. Thankfully, 2017 is past us, and we have 2018 and 2019 looking mighty fine, given the scores/notes from the last post and the ones from this new tasting. Throw in ONE 2020 red wine, the 2020 Herzog Choreograph, which is fun, extremely well balanced, and literally what I wrote – fun!

The other wines in the tasting are from 2018 and 2019 and they garnered QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) WINNER, GREAT, GOOD, or EVEN scores. Still, the most impressive wines, from this tasting, came from the 2019 vintage, the 2019 Herzog Pinot Noir, Reserve, and the 2019 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Reserve, Lake County. There were also two 2018 wines, the WINNING 2018 Herzog Merlot, Special Reserve, Alexander Valley, a return after almost 20 years of hiatus. Along with the 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Reserve, Napa Valley. The 2019 French and American Oak wines were not as good as in previous vintages. Also, the 2019 Lineage Pinot Noir was not as good as previous vintages, though I liked the Lineage Chardonnay.

I will keep this short, so my many thanks to Joseph Herzog, David Whittemore, Joe Hurliman, and Alicia Wilbur for answering my many emails and calls. Be well to you all, California is getting even crazier – stay safe guys! The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

2018 Herzog Merlot, Special Reserve, Alexander Valley (M) – Score: 91 (QPR: WINNER)
This is the return of the Alexander Valley Merlot – Miles is dead (not in real life but you get the gist)! The nose on this wine calls to mind a Zinfandel more than a Merlot, which is helped by what I think is sweet American Oak, followed by hickory, sweet sugar/toffee notes, followed by blue and red fruit, licorice, with violet notes, and smoke. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine, to start shows more like Zinfandel than Merlot, with enough complexity to grab you, followed by fine tannins to start, but they grip and drape with time, strawberry, boysenberry, cranberry, and hints of pomegranate, with intense garrigue, sweet zin berry notes, and everything that makes me want to say this is a Zinfandel. The finish is long, green, red, smoky, and gripping with tannin, boysenberry, leather, and more violets. You see why I think this is a Zinfandel! With more time the wine does not change, in the end, it is a nice wine that does not taste like a Merlot to me. (tasted March 2021)

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The 2021 Kosher rose season is open and once again I am underwhelmed – scene 1

It is not yet summer and here in NorCal it feels like more like a wet winter, this year has started cold and has stayed cold throughout the country, other than in Arizona and Florida, AKA, baseball Spring Training! Normally, I would have been in Israel by now, one way or the other, and I would have also visited France, sadly, with the times we live in now, neither of those wonderful ideas is possible. Sad and strange days we live in. Also, this is scene 1, more roses are coming in, but we have seen a large number already, and yes, like last year, they are underwhelming, at BEST!

While rose wine in the non-kosher market is exploding – especially Rose wine from Provence; a wine region of France, kosher roses have ebbed and flowed. Last year, the kosher market for roses slowed down a bit. This year it has returned to absolute insanity and sadly they are all expensive and boring, again, at best.

QPR and Price

I have been having more discussions around my QPR (Quality to Price) score with a few people and their contention, which is fair, in that they see wine at a certain price, and they are not going to go above that. So, instead of having a true methodology behind their ideas, they go with what can only be described as a gut feeling. The approaches are either a wine punches above its weight class so it deserves a good QPR score. Or, this other wine has a good score and is less than 40 dollars so that makes it a good QPR wine.

While I appreciate those ideals, they do not work for everyone and they do NOT work for all wine categories. It does NOT work for roses. Look, rose prices are 100% ABSURD – PERIOD! The median rose price has stayed the same from last year, so far though many expensive roses are not here yet! So far, it is around 22 bucks – that is NUTS! Worse, is that the prices are for online places like kosherwine.com or onlinekosherwine.com, with free or good shipping options and great pricing, definitely not retail pricing.

As you will see in the scores below, QPR is all over the place and there will be good QPR scores for wines I would not buy while there are POOR to BAD QPR scores for wines I would think about drinking, but not buying, based upon the scores, but in reality, I would never buy another bottle because the pricing is ABSURDLY high.

Also, remember that the QPR methodology is based upon the 4 quintiles! Meaning, that there is a Median, but there are also quintiles above and below that median. So a wine that is at the top price point is by definition in the upper quintile. The same goes for scores. Each step above and below the median is a point in the system. So a wine that is in the most expensive quintile but is also the best wine of the group gets an EVEN. Remember folks math wins!

Still, some of the wines have a QPR of great and I would not buy them, why? Well, again, QPR is based NOT on quality primarily, it is based upon price. The quality is secondary to the price. For example, if a rose gets a score of 87 points, even though that is not a wine I would drink, if it has a price below 22 dollars – we have a GREAT QPR. Again, simple math wins. Does that mean that I would buy them because they have a GREAT QPR? No, I would not! However, for those that still want roses, then those are OK options.

Please remember, a wine score and the notes are the primary reason why I would buy a wine – PERIOD. The QPR score is there to mediate, secondarily, which of those wines that I wish to buy, are a better value. ONLY, the qualitative score can live on its own, in regards to what I buy. The QPR score defines, within the wine category, which of its peers are better or worse than the wine in question.

Finally, I can, and I have, cut and paste the rest of this post from last year’s rose post and it plays 100% the same as it did last year. Why? Because rose again is horrible. There is almost no Israeli rose, that I have tasted so far, that I would buy – no way! Now, I have not tasted the wines that many think are good in Israel, Vitkin, Oryah, and Recanati roses. In reality, there is NO QPR WINNER yet, of the 30+ roses I have tasted, not even close, sadly.

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The start of 2020 roses and whites and six QPR WINNERS

I am going to keep this post real short. I am catching up on some wines that I have tasted over the past month or more. Sadly, most of these are a mess or just good enough. Thankfully, there were six QPR (Quality to Price) Winners. That included the 2017 Carmel Riesling, Kayoumi Vineyards. I have said this a few times, Rieslings need time! 2017 is no different. It needed time to come around and now it is a solid QPR WINNER.

Roses are slowly trickling in and on kosher wine sites, you can see as many as 20 2020 roses. Sadly, it takes time for them to get to me, so I will start my usual procession of rose wines in a subsequent post, as they get to me here in California. So far, like 2019, they are a mess, and they feel like a total waste of my money.

In the end, the QPR WINNERS are no surprise! The 2020 Covenant Sauvignon Blanc is a solid wine and one that has lovely control and acidity. Having a wine like this with all that mother nature threw at California in 2020, I say Bravo to Covenant Winery! There are two Netofa Latour QPR WINNERS and OMG they are absolute ROCK stars. Please do me a favor and GET THEM! They will move fast! The 2016 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico, Riserva is another absolute Rock Star! Finally, the last QPR WINNER was the new vintage of the Flechas Gran Malbec a lovely wine that is not ready yet but will be nice when it is.

There were a few wines that were not winners:

  1. The much-ballyhooed 2018 Capcanes Peraj Ha’abib. I had it and it was a mess to mess. It was ripe from the start and while that ripeness did calm a bit it never really came around and for the most part, it was just OK.
  2. I was not a fan of any of the Carmel Mediterranean Vats wines. The 2019 Mediterranean 2 Vats white wine was ok, but it felt to me like it has RS (Residual Sugar) and that does not fly with me at all.
  3. The 2017 Marciano Terra Gratia was shockingly ripe and is probably the most elegant Date-juice driven wine I have ever tasted. I could be convinced, at gunpoint, to enjoy that wine, based solely on its elegance.
  4. The 2018 Dalton Petite Sirah was nice enough, but for the price, and the overall quality, it was a miss for me.
  5. Sadly, the 2018 Koenig wines continue to not impress, other than the lovely Riesling
  6. I tasted a large number of Victor Wines and none of them were any good.

While these other wines were not WINNERS they were quite enjoyable:

  1. I got to taste the new 2018 Dampt Freres Bourgogne. It is a much better version than the 2017 vintage. Sadly, the wine will probably sell for a price that does not let it be a QPR WINNER. I hope future wines will be priced lower. The sad truth is that there are few good QPR WINNER wines in the simple red wine category. It is a very hard nut to crack both in regards to making good wine and keeping it at the QPR price for that category, which is 20 or so dollars, at this moment.
  2. There were two nice 2019 Vitkin Wines the 2019 Vitkin Pinot Noir and the 2019 Vitkin Israeli Journey. These wines are solid, both a 90 score, but the prices are still too high for such wines. They are both simple reds and they price above the 20 dollar price range for simple red wines. They punch MUCH higher in regards to quality. The median score for simple reds is 87, at this moment. Again, getting a red wine to score WINNER in the simple red wine category is really tough!
  3. The Twin Sun white and Rose wines have been doing a great job, which is no surprise, as the Weiss Brothers know how to make great white and Rose wines. The 2018 Twin Suns Chardonnay-Viognier is a nice wine and at a very good price! Nice!
  4. The famous Matar Sparkling wine was nice enough, but it is not nearly as good as the Yarden Sparkling wines and it is more expensive. The bottle is nice!
  5. I had the chance to taste the 2017 Chateau Leoville Poyferre again, under less than perfect conditions, NO NOT the KFWV bottle, and I have revised notes, but the score stays the same.

The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

2020 Rose Wines

2020 Flam Rose – Score: 89+ (QPR: EVEN)
The nose on this wine is nice, with floral notes, with strawberry, flint, and red fruit. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is nice, with good acid, nice mouthfeel, with a good fruit-focus, nice strawberry, currants, and good grapefruit. (tasted January 2021)

2020 1848 2nd Generation Rose – Score: 84 (QPR: EVEN)
The nose on this wine is nice enough with notes of rosehip, floral notes, citrus, and mineral The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is nice, with good acidity, and not much else, with more citrus, grapefruit, currants, and strawberry. The finish is long, acidic, and more currants and flowers. (tasted January 2021)

2020 Herzog Lineage Rose (M) – Score: 80 (QPR: NA)
Sadly, this is off-dry, it has sweet notes and not my thing. The nose on this wine has a Muscat feel, with floral notes, pineapple, cooked cabbage, and red fruit. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine has no acid, is sweet, ripe, guava, melon, and no citrus, no acid, tropical, and not much else. (tasted January 2021)

2020 Shiloh Rose (M) – Score: 73 (QPR: NA)
The nose on this wine is tropical and ripe, with hints of mineral, and citrus. The mouth on this wine is where it all goes bad, sweet, unbalanced, bitter, a mess. (tasted January 2021)

Wines ordered in score order

2016 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico, Riserva – Score: 93+ (QPR: WINNER)
This is one of the most balanced versions of the Riserva in a very long time. The Riserva is normally undrinkable for a few years, this one is far more accessible than any previous version – WOW! The nose on this wine is incredible, with mushroom, truffle, soy sauce, tar, with floral notes of violets, and earth, smoke, and rich dark fruit, WOW! The mouth on this full-bodied wine is incredible, tannic, gripping, earthy, smoky, and fruity, with lovely tart cherry, currant, plum, and ripe blackberry, with rich earth, loam, mushroom, intense saline, black olives, with intense acid, and mouth-drying and draping aggressive tannin, wow! The finish is long, black, green, and earthy, with umami, soy sauce again, with incredible floral notes, leather, tobacco, tar, and richness, wow! Bravo!! Drink from 2025 until 2033. (tasted January 2021)

2017 Chateau Leoville Poyferre, Saint-Julien – Score: 93+ (QPR: EVEN)
The nose is beautiful and well-controlled with crazy pencil shavings, rich black, and blue fruit, followed by tar, earth, smoke, and licorice. The mouth on this medium to full-bodied wine is closed to start with layers upon layers of currants, dark cherry, blackberry, with mouth draping tannin, crazy mineral, pencil shavings galore, with plush elegance that is plush, mouth-coating, yet the ripeness in the background is ripe and scary, but hedonistic and voluptuous, with layers of tar, earth, licorice, bell pepper, and loads of tannin galore, showing elegance and plushness, with clear hedonistic leanings and graphite/acid core that makes it all work. The finish is long, black, green, and tannic, with plush fruit and smoke, with tobacco, chocolate-covered coffee bean, and earth galore. Bravo!! Drink from 2028 until 2037 (tasted February 2021)

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Herzog Wine cellar’s 2018 lineup is sensational – beyond just the Cabernet Sauvignons

Herzog Wine Cellars (which now go by herzogwine.com not herzogwinecellars.com, no idea why they dropped that and emails bounce all over the place, a better idea would have been simple web/MX record routing/forwarding – but enough tech talk) has been in the wine business, in California, since 1984. The days of San Martin, when I met Josh Goodman and his wife (PSA – be careful with how you pronounce her name) when they were in the San Jose Jewish community. In those days, San Jose was the closest thing to a community for them, that was close enough to San Martin, for them to live a Jewish life and work as cellar rat/master at Herzog Wine cellars. With time, the Herzog moved to Santa Maria, which was closer to the L.A. area and then they finally moved to the location they are today, in Oxnard, in 2005.

In the start, the head winemaker was Peter Stern, mostly as a part-time winemaker. In 1998, Joe Hurliman joined as the full-time winemaker at Herzog Wine and they have not looked back, thankfully! In that time, Joseph Herzog took over running the winery and Tierra Sur, the wonderful restaurant attached to the winery. Soon after moving into the Oxnard winery/facility, Herzog undertook multiple manners to interact with their customers. The first approach was the winery’s tasting room, which is still highly pivotal in attracting all members and customers into tasting Herzog wines. They also started with many wine clubs, with the most influential one being Eagle’s Landing. It has become the area where Mr. Hurliman can truly experiment, at smaller scales, than even the Special Edition series and craft wines that he would love to see become mainstream. Things like Santa Rita Pinot Noir, Templeton Pass Zinfandel (we need more of that kind of Zin being made!!), and Paso Robles Syrah. These are not new to the kosher world as much as they are good to see at the scale and care that Herzog can bring to these varietals and wines.

One cannot talk about Herzog without talking about a few very poignant points:

  1. Mevushal
  2. Cabernet Sauvignon
  3. Vineyards
  4. Ageability
  5. L.A. KFWE/IFWF/Tierra Sur – Todd Aarons

Mevushal Program

Herzog did not invent the Mevushal methodology in the new era of kosher wine, which was done by Hagafen Winery, but Herzog has been equal or slightly better than Hagafen as time has progressed. When you ask who does the best with Mevushal in wines – the answer is Hagafen and Herzog, there is no one else in their league. Royal Wines Europe does a nice job as well, but they are two peas in the same pod. Rollan de By does a very good job as well.

The next question you will consistently get is – does the Mevushal process hurt wine? The answer is complex and like everything in this world, it depends. It depends on the process you use, the varietals you “boil”, and for how long you do the process, and at what temperature. Long ago, people have stopped boiling wine – they moved to Flash pasteurization or Flash Detente, both in the kosher wine world and outside of it. The length of time and the temperature of the flash is one that is hotly debated in the Rabbinic kosher world, which is why you will see many put the temperature the wine was flashed at, on the wine bottle itself. Few wineries will flash Pinot Noir or Grenache as these wines are delicate and will not gain from the flash process. Herzog does flash their Lineage Pinot and it is not a wine for long holding so that works with what they are shooting for. Hagafen, flashes everything and as such, they do flash the Pinot and Pinot Prix, but IMHO it has been hurting the wines in recent vintages. Doing the Mevushal process to Cabernet Sauvignon is one that works and may well be the most prevalent of the varietals out there that go through the Mevushal process.

Cabernet Sauvignon

This leads us to the standing joke, in regards to Herzog Wine Cellars, that Herzog makes more Cabernet Sauvignon, in a single vintage, than almost any winery makes wine, across all labels. They are the Cab Kings like Oryah is the Orange wine Factory. My last count was 27 Cabernet sauvignons across all labels, which is a crazy number, but to be fair, they know what their customers want. No matter the price, style, makeup, or focus of the Cabernet Sauvignon, Herzog has a Cab for you and that has been their motto for as long as they have been at Oxnard, and maybe even a bit before in Santa Maria.

Vineyards

Herzog has done a very good job in both managing leases/relationships with vineyards – dating back to the early days of the 1990s. Chalk Hill and Alex Reserve are both examples of vineyards they have managed to lease and continue to do so for decades. This is not anything new in any way, but it was for kosher California wines in the 1990s. Hagafen Winery has had vineyards that they have leased or owned for long stretches’ of time as well. It is just a very impressive thing to have done back then.

They have quietly been buying vineyards all around California. It started in 2010 when they were forced to buy the land or lose their longtime relationship with Clarksburg grapes. Then in 2017, they bought 2 plots of land in lake County. Then in 2018, they bought the Herzog Ridge Vineyard in Napa Valley. The new 2018/2019 Forebearer wines (listed below) are from that vineyard.

Ageability

There are not many wineries today, in the kosher market, that have wines dating backing to 1996 that still blow my mind. yes, I continue to have my mind blown by 1997 Four Gates Merlot or Pinot Noir, and Yarden made some wines back then that were pretty good as well. However, to have made wine continuously, minus a few years here and there, I would have to say, the only ones that come to mind are Capcanes (until 2015), Herzog, and Four Gates. That is quite an impressive feat and one that helps me to buy their wines on an almost yearly basis.

L.A. KFWE/IFWF/Tierra Sur – Todd Aarons

Tierra Sur was a smash hit years before IFWF came to Los Angeles in 2008. Todd Aarons was running the ship and he could well have been the first kosher Chef-Driven restaurant, at least in the USA. There were a few in Paris in the late 1990s that were quite the thing. Still, Chef Aarons brought that flair, focus on ingredients, and presentation to a far-flung location, outside of L.A., but within driving distance, that made Tierra Sur world-famous for kosher and non-kosher consumers alike.

The IFWF (International Food and Wine Festival), the west coast’s KFWE was Herzog’s way of showing off the food over the wine. The 2007 KFWE, and many after it, was more focused on the wine and good for them! What Herzog has done for so long with the IFWF or the KFWE is to showcase what Los Angeles has over the east coast, at least at that time for sure, which was the weather and great food!

2018 Wines

Now on to the wines! The 2017 vintage was not kind to much of California and sadly it affected Herzog wines as well. I did like the 2017 Lineage Chardonnay and the 2017 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Lake County, with the Clone Six showing some elegance from under the issues of the vintage. All of that is in the past and the 2018 vintage is another winner. These wines are rich and layered and truly a joy – I would not sit long on the sidelines, I would buy these ASAP before they all go away. So to those that ask me – why did you not warn me – you have been warned!

In the end, this vintage is a WINNER across the board. The Forebearers are nice wines but they are relatively expensive, in comparison to other Herzog options, from 2018. The Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Lineage, Reserve, even the Baron Herzog line have great deals and lovely wines. Overall, if I was standing in front of Joe Hurliman at KFWE, I would have said what I am oft to say – Bravo my good sir – BRAVO!

I will keep this short, so my many thanks to Joseph Herzog, David Whittemore, Joe Hurliman, and Alicia Wilbur for answering my many emails and calls. Be well to you all, California is getting even crazier – stay safe guys! The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

2018 and 2019 Forebearers Wines

2018 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Forebearers, Napa Valley (M) – Score: 92+ (QPR: POOR)
The wine is very slow to open, this wine needs time, so give it the respect it deserves. The nose on this wine is lovely, not one of those “Brilliance” fruit bombs, this is a lovely earthy, anise filled joy, with smoke, tar, fruit galore, but well-controlled, with loam, candied ginger, and more fruit. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is oaky, it starts off with a clear focus of oak, and has a bit of a hole, but with time, as I said, this needs it, the hold fills in well, with a rich coat of mouth-draping tannin, earth, sweet dill, oak, blackberry, dark cherry, hints of plum, and currants, all wrapped in tannin and oak, very nice. The finish is plush, and tart, with good acidity, earth, more dill, sweet smoking tobacco, dark chocolate, and anise. Really nice, a wine to get and store away. Bravo!
With loads of time, this wine really starts to shine and I highly underestimated it, this wine is super young and needs time. I would wait 3 years to play with this again. Let this beast lie. Drink from 2024 until 2028 maybe longer. (tasted Nov 2020)

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A lineup of the available 2018 kosher Pinot Noirs from around the world

In the past few months, there have been many releases of Pinot Noir from the 2018 vintage. For the most part, there are no real winners here, QPR and otherwise, except for two – the Herzog Pinot Noir, Reserve, and the Herzog Eagle’s Landing Pinot Noir (though the Eagle’s Landing is the only QPR WINNER).

The tasting included all the wines I could find though I left out two, the 2018 Barkan Pinot Noir and the 2018 Tura Pinot Noir. Both of them are Mevushal, and they do a HORRIBLE job on Mevushal, so I did not want to waste my money. My love for all things Pinot is well known, and I had such high hopes. I also seemed to have missed tasting the 2018 Vitkin Pinot Noir, as well.

It is funny how the media can change people’s perspectives, and in some cases twist them 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 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 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 than 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. Yes, Vitkin does a nice enough job, but Gvaot does a better one. Right now, the best bet is France and the USA, with a drop from Israel, and after that, we are on empty. Sadly, 2018 was not a great year for Four Gates and what I had was not great, it was never officially bottled, but we have 2019 coming soon!

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:

Pinot Noir is one of my favorite wines, NO NOT because of sideways! I loved the wine long before that horrific cult movie hit the theaters. I love PN for what it stands for – complexity through things other than fruit! A well made Pinot Noir, in my humble opinion, needs to be of medium body, medium fruit structure, accompanied by mounds of dirt, mushroom, barnyard, and earthy goodness. The ultimate aspect of a great PN is the secondary flavors, not the fruit, not cherry cola, and for the LOVE OF GOD not OAK! It is all about the secondary and old age notes that come with time and love.

Sadly, look at that list. Four Gates is tough to get in quantity. The Gvaot Pinot is available, but they are more Cab and rich than a pure ethereal wine, though very impressive. The Eagle’s Landing 2013 vintage is still available at the winery, and the 2016/2018 vintages rocked! The real winners are the French options, but they are NOT cheap.

So, where are we? Some like the Galil Pinot and other such structured wines, but to me, they are just bad Cabernet in a Pinot’s clothing. This is a shortlist. Heck, there are HUNDREDS of Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah, even many Cabernet Franc options. But say Pinot and numbers dwindle in the blink of an eye. Further, many of the options here are vintage based. For the true Pinot lover, Four Gates and France are your sure bets. Sadly, only the last one is pumping out wines consistently.

PSA: What is wrong with you all?? The Eagle’s Landing Pinot Noir has consistently been a high-rated wine and one that lasts for a very long time, improving along the way with great panache. Yet, you can still buy the 2013 and 2016 vintages of this wonderful wine!! I bought a bunch of 2013 from Herzog. I get NOTHING to tell you this other than pleasure. BUY the wine and enjoy one bottle now and save the others for a rainy day in 2026. Buy this now!!

Sadly, there were no surprises here, the 2018 Gvaot was nice, the Eagle’s Landing was great, and the Herzog Reserve Pinot (a return after many years of non-production) was also very nice. That is about it. The 2018 Jean Luc & Paul Aegerter Burgundies were tasted previously (the notes added here for completeness).

The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

2018 Herzog Eagle’s Landing Pinot Noir, Santa Rita Hills – Score: 93 (QPR: WINNER)
Let me start by saying buy this wine, buy lots of this wine, I mean a LOT! OK, now this wine is a bigger and richer version of the 2013 Eagle’s Landing Pinot Noir, in other words, this wine is a beast, a winner, and yes – get this wine! My only comment is that this wine is not a classically styled Pinot Noir. This wine is full-bodied and not so much about cherry and raspberry and more about blackberry and spice, I would not have initially guessed this was a Pinot Noir, still this a wonderful wine. My only real complaint is the strangely small cork used as its closure, when the Cabernet Franc has a much longer cork, just not sure why. Anyway, I do not care about corks, as long as they last long enough to meet the drinking window.
The nose on this wine is pure heaven, coffee and chocolate, and fruit madness, with dirt, mushroom, loam, and spice, all wrapped in dark and brooding fruit, showing control, spice, earth, and sheer umami notes, wow!! The mouth on this full-bodied wine is wow! the mouth starts very softly, almost like a leopard crouching before it pounces upon its prey, this wine is beautifully structured to last, and so well made it is almost difficult to get all the thoughts out of my head, layers of fruit, acid, tannin, salinity (that is incredible), black olives, with epic fruit structure and concentration, with clear and bold and jammy blackberry, raspberry, dark cherry, with intense saline, forest floor, searing acidity, and layers of dark jammy brooding but well-controlled fruit. With time the cherry and raspberry fall behind the intense black and intense brooding fruit. The finish is equally impressive with layers of chocolate, coffee, leather, spices, nutmeg, cloves, rich earth, lovely smoking tobacco leaves, sweet and jammy fruit, all wrapped in mineral, spice, and earth. Bravo!!! Drink from 2024 until 2033 or longer.

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Kosher Mid-Range aging red wines may well be the sweet spot for the kosher wine market – lots of WINNERS.

We are working our way through the QPR 2.1 and 2.0 wine categories and so far, outside of simple white wines, there has not been a lot of love or WINNERS to talk about. However, things start to change with the 2nd red wine category.

These wines are drinkable now but will improve a bit with time. They are not the undrinkable wine category, which will be next, but rather these wines are good now and may garner some of those tertiary notes we all love so much, with a bit of time in the bottle. These kinds of wines are normally more expensive, but this is where the QPR (Quality to Price ratio) sweet spot exists, IMHO.

As explained in my last post, the wine categorization is impacted by what I think the wine will last. Meaning that a poor wine will not be more enjoyable in 5 years if it is a painful date juice now. Nor will the wine be more ageable depending on the price of the wine. The length of time wine can live in the bottle is not scientific in any manner, it is subjective, much like the wine’s score, still, it is based upon this that the wines are judged for their QPR.

Mid-range aging Reds (4 to 11 years) – cellar saviors

As I have stated enough times now, the fact that a wine can “live” for 10 or so years, tells you that the wine is good to start with, or at least professionally made. Still, the next level up, High-end Red wines (11 and more years), come at a much higher price range. Yes, there are sweet spot wines there as well, but there are more here in the mid-range options. Also, these are the wines that will save your cellar. Look, I like wines like the 2019 Chateau Les Riganes, or the 2017 Chateau Mayne Guyon just fine! But when you want something with a bit more polish or elegance and you do not want to raid your high-end wines early, THIS IS the category to go to!

If you want that next level is quality but not the next level in price, per se, this is the category to hit. Here you will find wines like the 2017 Chateau Greysac, Medoc, the 2015 Louis Blanc Crozes-Hermitage, and the 2018 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico, which all scored 92 or higher and are all priced at 30 dollars or lower. While I would say these wines will improve with more time, they can at least be enjoyed now, without robbing the cradle of wine like 2015, 2017, or 2018 Chateau Fourcas Dupre.

On a Facebook post, I and many others were asked over and over about this wine or that wine, wines that were still far too young to be appreciated now. My response was the same over and over, stop opening bottles so early! I opened a bottle of 2007 Four Gates Cabernet Franc, 2 weeks ago, it was an absolute joy but also, a wine that was so young it was truly a crime! STOP opening wines early folks. Let the wines come to you! This wine category is where you will find the richer, more complex options, for a higher price than the Simple reds, but still at a lower price point overall than the higher-end reds. There are 20+ WINNERS here, between USA and France, BUY them and SAVE YOUR CELLAR!!!

Shirah Wines Post

If one takes even a cursory look at this post and the wine notes below, the predominant winery/producer you will find is Shirah Wines. I got all the current wines in May of this year. It took me a bit of time to finally post them. As I stated last year, in my year in review, California had indeed turned its direction towards riper fruit and wines. Shirah contacted me and I bought the current wines to make 100% sure that my notes were in line with my comments, you can make your mind up from the notes.

I will stress THREE points here AGAIN, as I have done over a long time already:

  1. I crave the 2010 (AKA NV) /2012/2013/2014 Bro.Deux and the 2013 Syrah, and I FONDLY remember the old days of the One-Two Punch. Those were and still are VERY different wines than what is being sold now. I have had all of them recently and still have some bottles. They are wonderful, but they are not what the 2016 or 2017 Bro.Deux is like today.
  2. I strongly believe in Shirah Wines, I think the wines they produce are professionally made and are perfect for the bigger/flashier/riper palate that is the cornerstone of today’s kosher wine-buying public. They are just not the wines I want.
  3. Finally, there has been a clear and very big shift in the palate of the wines being made in California, today. Even Four Gates wines are getting riper. The issue here is all about balance. If I feel fruit is overripe and sticking out, to a point where I do not enjoy the wine, but rather think about the ripe fruit, I will move on. I understand this is a subjective way of seeing wine. I get that, and that is what makes wine so fascinating. Like all of art, it is not what is true or false as much as it is what one likes or dislikes.

WINNERS and other demarcations

As stated above, some wines will be winners in France/Europe and others will be WINNERS in the USA. I do not know the pricing in Israel or the wines or really anything about Israel for the last year+. Maybe Avi Davidowitz of Kosher Wine Unfiltered can make a post or two on this subject! HINT HINT!

Also, there are strange prices, distributions, and edge cases throughout Europe, and as such what is a good price in Paris may not be in London. Worse is wine in Belgium may be a better price than in Paris or London. The idea of “Europe” being a single country for commerce is a MASSIVE sham in the kosher wine market, in Europe anyway. In the USA it is equally messy, in regards to pricing throughout the states, L.A.’s wine prices are either non-existent (because there is no wine) or it is sky-high. I have seen better prices for California wines in NYC than in California! Like what now??? So, yeah, pricing is not as crisp, all the time, as I make it out to be here with my QPR posts, but I do the very best I can.

So, WINNER means USA (sorry this is a USA dominant blog), WINNER (F) means a WINNER in France. I will denote as well, in the wine post if the wine is only available in France or Europe, which is the same for me here, as London is the main outlier and it is not part of Europe anymore – sorry London! Enjoy the train!!! On a total aside, I did love taking the train from London to Paris, a few days AFTER they left the union! Moving on now.

So, without too much more delay – let’s get to it! Here is the list of cellar saviors and mid-level red wines. There are many WINNERS for buyers here in the USA and those in France! The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

2018 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico – Score: 92 to 93 (QPR: WINNER)
This is a fantastic wine, and 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. This is a no brainer GREAT QPR wine and will sell out quickly BUY NOW!
This wine is incredible, it is better than the 2016 vintage and much better than 2017. It is even a bit better than the massively epic 2015 vintage. Bravo Daniella and Maria!!!
The nose on this wine is ripe, but the balance on it is incredible, the fruitiness exists but it hides behind a redolent garden of fresh mushroom, grass, dirt, loam, and lovely earth, with hints of barnyard, forest floor, and dark fruit, with balsamic vinegar, and roasted herbs galore. The mouth on this medium to full-bodied wine is incredible, layered, rich, extracted, and so balanced, with incredible acidity, intense saline, dark sour cherry, coffee, all balanced and plush, with rich blackberry, cherry, strawberry, salami, with lovely mouth draping tannin, with minerality, graphite galore, and a lovely tannin structure. The finish is long, green, and ripe but perfectly balanced, with lovely acidity, roasted coffee, graphite, scarping mineral, loads of smoke, and sweet tobacco on the long finish. Bravo!! Drink until 2027 maybe longer.

2017 Tassi Aqua Bona Toscana Rosso, Bettina Cuvee – Score: 92 (QPR: BAD)
This wine is meant to be bottled under the D.O.C.G. Rosso di Montepulciano, but because of some strange requirements that were not met to meet the body’s requirements it only has the I.G.T. Toscano Rosso moniker.
This wine producer/winery is quite famous in the non-kosher world. The wine is made from 100% Sangiovese.
The nose on this wine starts with a crazy cedar box, followed by a mound of fresh Cuban Cigar tobacco, followed by loads of anise, licorice, smoked meat, followed by black and red fruit, foliage, forest floor, and more sweet cedar/oak. The mouth on this medium-bodied to full-bodied wine is not as extracted as I expected though this wine is richly expressive with loads of smoke, earth, rich tannin, nice green notes from what I can imagine is what I would get from whole-cluster and stems fermentation, with loads of rich spice, heady roasted herbs, and lovely blackberry, dark cherry, rich umami notes of balsamic and mushroom, with loads of mineral, graphite, and rich fruit-structure and focus with lovely elegance and control. The finish is long, rich, layered, and smoky, with nice control, lovely acidity, and smoke, roasted herbs, smoked meats, and soy sauce followed by more cigar smoke, and freshly tilled earth. Nice!!! Drink from 2021 until 2026. 

Read the rest of this entry

Final take on 2020’s crop of Kosher roses – 2 QPR Winners, but overall not great

Kosher 2019 Roses charted by price and wine score (QPR)

So, as the image above shows roses are very expensive and the majority of the 28 of the 55 are at or above the median price of 23. This is not new, IMHO, roses overall have not been good or even very interesting this season.

Please read this post for my writeup on rose wines this year. I had a few follow-ups after that, including the one post with the QPR Rose for 2020, but this post will list all the rose wines I have had this year. Also, as I tasted more wines the price of the median went up and that allowed the Roubine La Vie to also become a QPR Winner. Again, the MARKET decides the QPR winners, not me! All I decide is the wine’s subjective quality score, and yes, that is subjective! The rest, the P part of QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) is decided upon by the market. Please read my revised QPR scoring here.

The image does not show the 2 QPR Winners as obvious winners, as the dot that represents the Carmel Rose and the Roubine La Vie Rose is on the top left of the winner box. These wines barely made their way into the Winner’s square, but with such a horrible vintage, rose-wise, 2 is better than NONE.

In regards to rose, look a lot of my friends and I do not agree. Look at the Cantina Giuliano Rosato, it is a VERy nice and classically made Gris style rose, but it has a bit of RS (Residual Sugar) in it, at least to my palate, and I have issues with that. Other wines that have more RS drive me nuts. My friends do not care about RS or ripe notes in rose as long as it is balanced. To me, rose, red, or white, I DO NOT want RS. The funny thing is that Kedel Jackson probably got away with1% RS in his Chardonnays for decades, and made it the classic style for Cali Chard, which brought on the famous ABC movement (Anything But Chardonnay). Which spawned Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, and so many other great white wines here in California.

So, yes, there are two winners now, and there are a few 91 scored roses, but please look at the chart!! LOL! It is visually clear that the vast majority of the wines are not something I would look to buy. They are either too expensive or not interesting and that is what has gone wrong with the kosher rose market. Again, I have said it a few times, IMHO, the wineries have thrown in the towel and they make rose thinking it will sell, no matter what they release. This will eventually end badly. Only time will tell. Read the rest of this entry

We have a new white wine QPR WINNER and some other roses

Another week and another batch of white and rose wines to enjoy. The summer is quickly approaching and while we have yet to find a single QPR WINNER in the world of kosher 2019 roses, we have some new entries.

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 7 wines 3 whites and 4 roses. One of the whites I have already posted about, a winner of the QPR GREAT score, the 2018 Koenig Riesling, Alsace. The wine is lovely and well worth the effort to find it and buy it.

However, the absolute clear QPR WINNER of this week’s post is the FIRST 2019 wine that gains the QPR WINNER title! Bravo!!! The wine is the 2019 O’Dwyers Creek Sauvignon Blanc. The 2018 O’Dwyers Creek Sauvignon Blanc was not a wine I liked while the 2017 O’Dwyers Creek Sauvignon Blanc was a solid WINNER, even when we did not have the WINNER QPR category at that time.

NOTE: I state the 2019 O’Dwyers Creek Sauvignon Blanc is the FIRST 2019 WINNER because even though the 2019 Herzog Sauvignon Blanc, Lineage, I listed in my last post, it is not actually available yet.

The 2019 Domaine Netofa Rosado, Latour, is another wine that got close to WINNER status, yet sadly, it did not. A nice wine, but with the price and score it received a solid QPR score of GOOD.

In an interesting twist, the Domaine Netofa Rose, which comes in at 7 dollars below the Latour Rose price, is not as good but given its price is below the Median for rose wines it has a better QPR score. There lies the issue of cost! Either we are going to bend to the needs of higher quality at all costs or we will go with slightly lower quality for less money. Sadly, for 2019 Roses that is LITERALLY our story! There are NO QPR WINNER roses, at least so far, 2019 is one of those years. The rest is a hodgepodge of QPR scores.

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, so far this year have been an absolute letdown and honestly, without a SINGLE QPR WINNER in roses and 8 QPR winners in whites, it is clear as day to me that white wines are the way to go this summer (and the 19 days from now before that)!

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 O’dwyers Creek Sauvignon Blanc – Score: 91+ (QPR: WINNER)
This wine is in the 2nd quintile of quality scoring and it is below the median price line, so this wine SHOULD get a score of GREAT for QPR. However, it is ALSO one of the few white wines that score at least a 91, and that has a price that is below the median price line, so this wine gets the coveted score of WINNER for QPR. Bravo!!!
Lovely notes of passion fruit, incredible cat pee, gooseberry, and loads green notes for the cat to pee on, with incredible saline, such a wonderful and classic New Zealand nose. This is a very fruity, yet extremely well-balanced New Zeland Sauvignon Blanc, it is more tropical than the 2018 Goose Bay Sauvignon Blanc, but also more New Zeland – in nature. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is lovely. well balanced, with good acidity, extremely refreshing, with loads of grapefruit, guava, passion fruit, lemon/lime, and lovely loads of crazy tart gooseberry, and incredible slate. The finish is long, green, with lovely salt, intense saline, rock, and more citrus. Bravo! Drink until 2024. Read the rest of this entry

The 2020 Kosher rose season is open and once again I am underwhelmed – part 1

It is not yet summer but here in NorCal, it feels more like summer than spring, and the weather is making shipments really hard at this time of year. Normally, I would have been in Israel by now, one way or the other, and I would have at least had two tastings with the gang. Sadly, with the times we live in now, neither of those wonderful ideas is possible. Sad and strange days we live in. Also, this is round 1, there will be another 15 roses I will get through over the next week or so.

While rose wine in the non-kosher market is exploding – especially Rose wine from Provence; a wine region of France, the kosher market this year will be more subdued. In the past, distributors brought in as much as 60+ kosher rose wines, this year with the issues I brought up in my previous post – there is less of an appetite for all those wines.

QPR and Price

I have been having more discussions around my QPR score with a few people and their contention, which is fair, in that they see wine at a certain price, and they are not going to go above that. So, instead of having a true methodology behind their ideas, they go with what can only be described as a gut feeling. The approaches are either a wine punches above its weight class so it deserves a good QPR score. Or, this other wine has a good score and is less than 40 dollars so that makes it a good QPR wine.

While I appreciate those ideals, they do not work for everyone and they do NOT work for all wine categories. It does NOT work for roses. Look, rose prices are 100% ABSURD – PERIOD! The median rose price has gone up this year and it is around 22 bucks – that is NUTS! Worse, is that the prices are for online places like kosherwine.com or onlinekosherwine.com, with free or good shipping options and great pricing, definitely not retail pricing.

As you will see in the scores below, QPR is all over the place and there will be good QPR scores for wines I would not buy while there are POOR to BAD QPR scores for wines I would think about buying, based upon the scores, but in reality, I would never buy another bottle because the pricing is ABSURDLY high.

Also, remember that the QPR methodology is based upon the 4 quintiles! Meaning, that there is a Median, but there are also quintiles above and below that median. So a wine that is at the top price point is by definition in the upper quintile. The same goes for scores. Each step above and below the median is a point in the system. So a wine that is in the most expensive quintile but is also the best wine of the group gets an EVEN. Remember folks math wins!

Still, many of the wines have a QPR of great and I would not buy them, why? Well, again, QPR is based NOT on quality primarily, it is based upon price. The quality is secondary to the price. So, wines that are drinkable with an 88 or 89 score, though wines that I would not buy, have a low enough price to get a GOOD or GREAT score. Does that mean that I would buy them because they have a GREAT QPR? No, I would not! However, for those that really want roses, then those are solid options.

Please remember, a wine score and the notes are the primary reason why I would buy a wine – PERIOD. The QPR score is there to mediate, secondarily, which of those wines that I wish to buy, are a better value. ONLY, the qualitative score can live on its own, in regards to what I buy. The QPR score defines, within the wine category, which of its peers are better or worse than the wine in question.

Finally, I can, and I have, cut and paste the rest of this post from last year’s rose post and it plays 100% the same as it did last year. Why? Because rose again is horrible. There is almost no Israeli rose, that I have tasted so far, that I would buy – no way! Now, I have not tasted the wines that many think are good in Israel, the Netofa, Vitkin, and Recanati roses. Yes, there is ONE rose I would “buy” by my qualitative scoring approach, which is why I used the word almost above. That wine would be the 2019 Bat Shlomo Rose, but at some 28 or more dollars a bottle, it is highway robbery for that score. Read the rest of this entry

The Top QPR Kosher wine winners of 2019

I continue to lament the lack of QPR wines. If there was ONE thing I wanted on my year in review than anything else, it was lower prices. To be fair, this year’s list of QPR wines is longer than last year, and the scores are higher, but I also moved the QPR price bar up a bit to 40 dollars. So, what we are seeing here is price inflation for QPR, at least the higher-end QPR wines.

Once again, Royal has some crazy good wines, even from the 2017 vintage, but the prices are high. Yes, there are some nicely priced wines, but to get the 2017 Montviel or the 2017 Gazin, you will be in the 50 to 70 dollar range.

Also, in my top wines of the year, there was only ONE wine that clocked in at 95, and yeah, that wine is priced accordingly, at 140 dollars.

Netofa Wines are finally back and it shows! They are all over this QPR list. This list is not a list of wines that are meant for cellaring, though many can withstand a few years. The idea here is to enjoy these wines now while you let the long-term wines cellar and age. We all have that interest to drink interesting wines and while I agree with that, that is NO excuse to raid the cellar when u have a hunkering for a complex nose or flavor. Many of these wines will scratch the itch while the beasts’ lie and settle.

This year, the list came to a total of 26 names, and none had to dip below 90 in the scores, which is a large number and better scores overall than last year, but again, the pool from where they are culled continues to grow, and the diamonds in the rough are getting harder and harder to find.

I have added a few new things this year. The first is QPR for France, the prices for many wines there, are dirt cheap! Maybe, Avi Davidowitz, from kosher wine unfiltered, can create a list like that for Israel, this year, a bunch of wines became available there, and a proper QPR list would be worthwhile!

Finally, some of these wines are hard to find and they may have different siblings – but they are worth the effort. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

The 2019 Red QRP kosher kings

2017 Chateau Royaumont, Lalande de Pomerol – Score: 93 (QPR Superstar)
The wine is a blend of 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc. I liked the 2016 vintage but this one may be better! The nose on this wine is pure hedonism, with incredible soy sauce, mushroom, and loads of umami, with crazy smoke, blueberry, earth, mineral galore, and black fruit, with herbs. WOW!!! The mouth on this wine carries the umami madness, with a richness in the mouth that is plush, and layered with less mushroom and more truffles, with loads of blackberry, blueberry, raspberry, smoke, mineral, all wrapped in a rich, layered, umami madness, with tobacco mineral, graphite joy, wow!! Incredible. The wine is ripe, and the voluptuous mouthfeel comes from the combination of oak, ripe fruit, mushroom, and mineral, it will be fun to see this one in three years. The finish on this wine is nuts, layered and ripe, with smoke, mushroom, and tobacco, graphite, charcoal, and more mushroom. Bravo!! Drink from 2021 until 2028. This can be drunk almost now, but it needs time to really be appreciated.

2017 Les Roches de Yon-Figeac, Saint-Emilion, Grand Cru – Score: 93 to 94 (QPR Superstar)
This is great, the Royaumont is mushroom and soy sauce and the Les Roches de Yon-Figeac is mushroom and barnyard heaven, it is insane. The nose on this wine is crazy barnyard, mushroom, forest floor, with freshly tilled earth, followed by a stick of graphite right in the eye, with crazy salinity, and loads of black fruit, wow! The mouth on this medium to full-bodied wine is really fun, layered, with squid-ink notes, with layers upon layers of plush and rich fruit structure, with incredible acidity, salinity, and graphite core, with crazy blackberry, blackcurrant, with dark berries, and smoke, with graphite taking center stage, followed by intense acid, and more mineral, with layers of earth, and lovely roasted herb, and screaming tannin structure that will last for a long time. The finish si long, green and ripe, with mineral at its core, followed by more squid ink, plushness that belies the searing tannin, and a fruit structure that lasts forever. Incredible! Bravo! Drink from 2023 until 2030. (the price is a bit too high to make it on this list and it is not in the USA, but it is so good, I cannot ignore it)

2015 Clos Lavaud, Lalande de Pomerol – Score: 92 to 93 (QPR madness)
The nose on this wine is lovely, far more controlled than the 2014 vintage while also being richer and brighter, showing notes of dark fruit, followed by loads of incredible mineral, with saline, graphite, forest floor, and mushroom, with dark red fruit, and loam that goes on forever. The mouth on this wine is ripe, but in such an old-world manner, with rich loam, bright fruit, great acidity, mouth-draping tannin that is elegant, well-structured, and a focal point for the layers of elegant blackberry, smoke, blackcurrant, dark ripe cherry, wrapped in plush tannin, sweet cedar notes, with incredible saline and mineral, with a plush forest floor that will give way to mushroom madness in the future, with an elegance that is really impressive, and a wine that is now just starting to show its potential. The finish is long,m green, with garrigue, foliage, more forest floor, with a plush yet velvety structure that is vacked with core-acidity and mineral, dark chocolate, licorice, leather, and fine spices. Bravo!! Drink from 2021 until 2028. Read the rest of this entry

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