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My latest round of both new and old winners and some more losers for 2019

After my long hiatus, I am happy to say that this post brings me current to wines I want folks to know about, both good and bad. Thankfully for you, it does not include at least 45 roses, white, and red wines that were so horrible that I see no value in posting their NA scores here.

However, two wines that need warning are the 2017 Chateau Lacaussade Saint-Martin
and any wine from Capcanes Cellars made from 2015 and on, other than the 2015 Capcanes Pinot Noir and the lovely 2015 Capcanes Samso Carignan. To me, this is truly sad Capcanes was a rockstar and a perennial goto and QPR wine, other than there roses. Now, they have soldout to Parker’s view of wine and I cannot fathom for even a second what they gain from this. Their wines sold perfectly well so sales cannot be the reason. Yes, there is a new winemaker, Anna Rovira, who recently won the prestigious female winemaker of the year for the 2019 award from Selection magazine! Congratulations! She replaced the longtime winemaker of Capcanes Angel Teixidó. Sadly, from my perspective, the wines are far riper than they used to be, they also show less acid and less balance. They are wines that I no longer buy, the last Capcanes I bought was from the 2014 vintage. With that said, I hope this shift is a byproduct of some rough years and that the 2017 vintage will return to its old self, one can always hope!

On another aside, please folks – STOP drinking 2017 whites and 2018 roses – they are dead! I have had loads of 2018 roses recently, they are dead or on the way down from jumping off the cliff. Sure, there are whites that are still young from the 2017 vintage, like full-bodied Chardonnays or white Bordeaux, other than Lacussade. Sadly, many of the 2018 whites are on their way down as well. The 2018 Tabor Sauvignon Blanc is already losing its acid and so many others as well. Please be careful, taste before stocking up. The simple whites are like roses, drink them by fall.

On the good news side, the 2017 vintage from Bordeaux is so far so good! The much scorned 2017 vintage from Bordeaux so far is holding up very well. I really liked the 2017 Chateau Mayne Gouyon, which is simple and mevushal, and very tasty. The 2017 Chateau Moulin Riche was lovely, maybe even better than the 2016 vintage. I hear the 2017 Chateau La Crock and the 2017 Chateau Royaumont are also showing very well, all-around great news for the much pooh-poohed 2017 vintage.

Finally, bravo goes to Herzog Wine Cellars, they continue to impress with their number one grape – Cabernet Sauvignon. They are predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon heavy, which makes sense given the current kosher wine market. When you go to KFWE and other wine events, just listen to people, their number one desire is the best Cabernet Sauvignon on the table or just whatever wine you have that is Cabernet Sauvignon-based. It is both sad and totally hilarious at times. So, sure Herzog goes where the money is. The accolades, at least from me, anyway, is for the raising of the bar and for the sincere effort that they put into making world-class Cabernet Sauvignon wines. Bravo!

I wanted to keep this simple, so the wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

2014 Chateau Haut Condissas – Score: 91
This wine is ripe, and really oaky, with nice mineral, green notes galore, but front and center is mounds of dark fruit, sweet oak galore, and lovely garrigue. The mouth is lovely, and rich, with medium-bodied structure, showing with lovely sweet fruit, earth galore, and lovely extraction, that gives way to green notes, layers of sweet but balanced fruit, with blackberry, cassis, dark raspberry, and rich forest floor. The finish is long and mineral-based, with intense tobacco, mineral, pencil shavings, and sweet fruit that gives way to dill, earth, forest floor, mushroom, and sweet oak. Drink from 2023 until 2028

2013 Chateau Grand-Puy Ducasse, Pauillac – Score: 91
To me, the 2013 Moulin Riche and 2013 3 De Valandraud were two of the best wines from the poor 2013 Bordeaux vintage, though this one always held potential.
This wine has evolved now to show even more tertiary notes than when I had this two years ago. The nose on this wine is lovely but still stunted, with clear and lovely notes of mushroom, dirt, and loam, followed by ripe fruit, showing red and black, with floral notes of heather and English lavender, with foliage and sweet notes. The mouth is nice on this medium-bodied wine but it is thinner than the younger 2015 (which is a superstar), with a balanced mouth, showing nice acidity, followed by cherry, raspberry, blackberry, with more foliage and forest floor, lovely garrigue, graphite, sweet tobacco, sweet dill, nice mineral, and mushroom. The finish is long, tart, yet very fruity, with great balance and attack, though showing little complexity, more like a dirty and green/garrigue/foliage and herb-infused fruit-forward wine, with mineral, acidity, and nice mouth-coating tannin bringing it all together. Drink by 2024. Read the rest of this entry

2015 Terra di Seta Riserva, Chianti Classico – QPR superstar of Italy, 2016 Chateau Royaumont, and others

This past Shabbat I enjoyed the latest release from Terra di Seta, the 2015 Terra di Seta Riserva (PLEASE STOP spelling it Reserve), and yes it was sold out, but now it is back in stock, but I would buy ASAP as you cannot keep these darn wines in stock. I have a new idea for Terra di Seta, produce double the quantity going forward because we can never get enough of any of it!

Since I was finally trying the 2015 Terra di Seta Riserva I thought I would taste it side by side with other Italian wines. Sadly, none of them came close to the TDS’s quality. Two of them tasted like oxidized date juice while the 2018 Cantina Giuliano Chianti may well be the first wine from this winery that I would buy, it was close anyway. I also tried an Israeli wine that GG (Gabriel Geller) kvelled about and sadly I cannot join him in his praise.

Finally, I once again opened a bottle of the 2016 Chateau Royaumont and WOW is it fun, it is a bit ripe but it really is well balanced.

What can I say, Royal Wines keep on killing it with QPR options that are top-notch! The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

 

 

2016 Chateau Royaumont – Score: 92 (QPR Star)
This wine is a blend of 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Franc. This is perfume heaven, this is what I want from Merlot, bright fruit, ripeness that is under control, with rich minerality, and lovely earth. The nose on this wine is lovely, ripe, bright, controlled, Merlot perfume, with the green and tart notes of the Cabernet Franc, bringing this nose altogether, with dark plum, graphite, earth, and loads of black fruit. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine has it all, the ripeness is there, get over it, but it is so beautifully balanced, with great acid, loads of mouth draping, elegant, and coating tannin, followed by blackberry, dark plum, rich mineral, lovely earth, tart, and juicy strawberry, with green notes, forest floor, and foliage/garrigue. The finish is long, green, ripe, balanced, with tart juicy fruit, elegance, lovely mushroom, smoke, and hints of tar. WOW! Bravo!! Drink from 2021 until 2030.

2015 Terra di Seta, Riserva, Chianti Classico – Score: 92 to 93 (QPR Superstar)
The nose on this wine is pure heaven, showing floral notes, dried mint, oregano, with more herbs, mushroom heaven, forest floor, and earth, with red and black fruit galore, wow. The mouth on the beautiful full-bodied wine is what I want from all wines, a clear game plan, fruit-focus, rich acidity, clear fruit, and an overall mouthfeel that is draping, elegant, and yet breathtaking, with so much acid it will take your breath away, with blackberry, dark cherry, cassis, and hints of currants and raspberry, with loads of more mushrooms, all backed by gripping tannin that is a bit harsh to start, with smoke, and bramble. The finish is long, green, earthy, mineral-driven, and acid backed, with crazy tobacco, herb central, and coffee all working together, with green notes that linger forever. Bravo!!! Drink from 2021 until 2028. Read the rest of this entry

And the winner of KFWE NYC and L.A. 2019 goes to the City of Angels

If you have been keeping up with my travels around the world to visit the KFWE venues, you will know that I really was impressed with what Bokobsa did in Paris and I was split over the London KFWE, given its posh settings and solid wine selection, though it has where to grow.

Before I go further, I wanted to define to you my criteria for grading a wine tasting:

  1. The Venue, of course, its ambiance, and setup
  2. The wine selection
  3. The wine glasses
  4. The number of humans at the tasting
  5. the food served
  6. Finally, the reactions of the participants, though for me that is less important to me, as I judge the tasting based more upon the body language of the participants than what they say.

Now, some of these variables are subjective, rather than just objective. Take for example #1, the venue, it is a highly subjective though also objective variable. Pier 60 is a nice place, but in comparison, the Peterson museum of the past few years in Los Angeles was far better. Now, again, this is subjective, some people hate cars. They hated how big the Peterson was, and how spread-out the food and wine was. I loved the Petersen, loved the cars, and while the food and wine were spread out and difficult to find, the roominess and vast space to sit and enjoy art and wine at the same time, was truly impressive.

App and its data needs serious work

One more thing, as I stated in my KFWE recommendation list – the KFWE App is a disaster. It rarely worked. When it did, it was so annoying it was hopeless. Take for instance the go back button went back to the main wine list. So if you wanted to go through the list of Elvi or Capcanes wines, you had to go back and forth OVER and OVER. Worse, and I mean far worse, was the data behind the app, the data was all wrong. The wines at the event did not match the wines in front of you at the tables.

I really hope that next year, Royal Wines puts in more effort into building a proper app, with proper data. Even if the wines that are delivered are different than the wines on the app, change the data! Make sure the data matches reality instead of dreams and rainbows.

Mother Nature took kindly to KFWE in NYC and LA (well mostly)

A quick footnote here, before we dive into the highly contested and dispassionate discussion around which KFWE is the best KFWE, we need to thank the good mother! Mother nature really threw us a pair of bones this year! Yes, I know that flying from NYC to LA was a bit torturous for some, and yes, I sat/slept in my middle seat all the way to LA, but come on, it was that or we get 6 inches of snow a day EARLIER and KFWE NYC would have looked more like a Flatbush Shtiebel during the summer, AKA empty!

Sure, traveling to LA was a pain, but it all worked out, even those who flew to LA on the day. Further, while mother nature opened the skies on the day following KFWE L.A., with what the meteorologists loved to call an atmospheric river, it was the DAY AFTER KFWE L.A. On the day of KFWE L.A. there was a light smattering of rain here and there. The next day, God opened the heavens, when we were driving in our Uber to the airport the streets were almost flooded, and this is L.A. which has a massive concrete drain snaking its way through Los Angeles, with which to dump and maneuver billions of gallons of rainwater.

Further, if we had been at the Petersen this year, the VIP and Trade would have been a mess. There was not so much rain, as it was just not nice outside, this is an El-Nino year in Califonia, and that means more rain than normal here in Cali! So, all in all, God was kind to Royal and the KFWE circuit. The weather was just right, along with some intelligent decisions, turned out to be true blessings for all, especially us Californians who really need the rain! Read the rest of this entry

Terra di Seta strikes again with another great QPR red wine and the return of Gilgal/Gamla’s QPR Sparkling Brut wine

It has not been long since I last posted my QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) winners of 2018. But I am always looking for more winners and now two more wines have been added to the list, and I am sure one of these will be on the QPR wine list of 2019.

To me, Terra di Seta continues to prove that Italian wines can go mano-a-mano with the rest of the kosher wine world. They continue to excel in delivering QPR wines and they continue to prove that you can create impressive to great wines for less than 40 dollars.

Another of those QPR superstars, in the sparkling wine world, is, of course, the Yarden Winery. Gamla is their second label behind the Yarden label, but when it comes to bubbly, the Gamla label is always well accepted. Of course, the stupid spat between Yarden Winery and Royal Wine means that we have a single wine called Gamla in Israel and Gilgal here. Why? Because these two wine businesses cannot make nice long enough to come to their senses and figure out a way to be civil with each other. I am so surprised that this is still going on today. The Gamla label, a wine made by originally by Carmel in Israel for this label in the USA, and now who knows who makes it, either way, it is not a wine worthy of this bickering, but sadly, here we are.
Now, back to the wine, while this release is very nice, and it is incredibly acidic with insane citrus notes, it has less complexity than in the past, and it feels a drop rushed. When you taste it, the citrus hammers you and then you wonder, where is the rest of it? It almost feels like they said, hey this can be “good enough”. While that may be true, it is a letdown to me, because this feels like cheated with acid and released the wine at least a year or maybe two years too early. I am not a winemaker, and it is possible that they realized this is as good as it gets, but to me, it is lacking while being so enjoyable.

I wanted to keep this simple, so the wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

 

2012 Terra di Seta Classico, Riserva – Score: 92 to 93 (QPR)
The name Riserva comes from two aspects, first it must have a higher quality than the Chianti Classico, and second, it must have been aged in barrels for 2 years, plus an additional three months in the bottle, before hitting the store shelves. So, while the 2015 Chianti Classico was the co-QPR wine of 2018, this one may have a good heads start on the QPR wine of 2019! Still, I get it, a 30 dollar bottle of wine is not a classic QPR winner, but for the quality, these 30 dollars is money well spent.
The nose on this wine is crazy fun, ripe, and controlled, but with time, the fruit blows off and shows more of the incredible smoke, flint, and with chocolate, with great blackberry, black fruit, and loads of red fruit behind it. The mouth on this full-bodied wine is really exceptional, layered, complex, and richly plush, with loads of mineral, fruit, blackberry, dark plum, garrigue, green notes, backed by a mouth coating tannin that is both rich and expressive, backed by a beautiful fruit structure, with lovely cedar, more smoke, and graphite. The finish is long, green, ripe, plush, and smokey, with toast, cigar smoke, coffee, and rich elegant dark chocolate. Bravo!!!
If you must drink this now, and yeah, it is fun, open the bottle, taste it and make sure it is not corked, by well, drinking half a glass of it, and then leave it open for 2 hours, when you come back it will be fun. Drink from 2020 until 2026.

NV Gilgal Brut, Sparkling wine (Gamla Brut in Israel) – Score: 90 (QPR)
Look I get it, Gamla/Gilgal (depending on if you are in the USA or Israel) when it comes to sparkling wine is legendary. Why? Because, Yarden, its parent company, is the QPR king of all things sparkling wine – PERIOD (unless we are talking about their $80, Late Disgorged Sparkling wines)! Great! Still, this release feels rushed, and it feels like they either thought it had no further potential, and this is as good as it gets, or they were just happy enough with where it was, because of its incredible citrus acid, and said, we will be happy with “good enough”, so lets sell it! I have no idea, but it while it feels very uni-dimensional, it is still very fun.
The nose on this wine is lovely with yeast and citrus, with heather, and lovely floral notes. This wine is nice, but while it lacks complexity, it is absolutely crazy, with the full-frontal attack of citrus, showing very tart grapefruit, dried lemon, with herb, with a great small bubble mousse, followed by a full-throat attack of fruit and mousse. The finish is long, tart, and green, with great citrus, loads of yeast, and a nice creamy mouthfeel, nice! Drink by 2022.

 

2006 Borgo Reale Chianti Riserva, a lovely parve Spaghetti Bolognese (san fromage), and the Brunello di Montalcino story

Two weeks ago saw us laying low and the weather was turning cold and wet.  It was also the night before Halloween (Hallows Eve’s).  We love when the kids come around the house and we get the chance to hand out candy.  This week after shabbos was over, we handed out Halloween pencils and it was a ton of fun.  It was even more enjoyable because last year was a train wreck.  You see Halloween fell on Friday Night last year, and since we cannot hand out food or anything else on shabbos, we were not able to share stuff with the families that came by.  So given the situation, we went with Spaghetti Bolognese (san fromage), which we have had a few times in the past.  A quick aside, we almost exactly copied the past attempt, without even trying – which is cool!  Anyway, to pair with this dinner, I chose a bottle of wine that I have been looking forward to trying, because I love Chianti and it is Mevushal, and further, it is a Chianti Riserva.  You see Italy defines its regions and regulations through an older and somewhat maligned group called the Denominazione di origine controllata (DOC) and the more reputable Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG).  The DOCG was created after many in Italy’s food industry started to raise serious concerns over the DOC’s “loosey-goosey” denomination that it seemed to give to anything that was not moving.

In many ways this is all quite ironic and sad, because the very accusations that were levied on the DOC are now bearing down on the DOCG, like a freight train down the Chattanooga, Tennessee’s Incline Railway (sorry I got caught up with Tennessee – watching the CMAs).  For the better part of three years the DOCG’s reputation has been under fire because of an allegation against some of the top red wine producers in all of Italy, the famed wines of Brunello di Montalcino.  These wines were given the coveted DOCG recognition in 1980, and quickly became one of the best red wines in all of Italy.  But in September 2007, the wine world was shell shocked by acquisitions that one or more percent of the Brunello wineries and some major ones as well, were substituting grape varietals for the requisite Brunello Sangiovese grape!  The very same accusations that were leveled on the DOC were being brought down on the DOCG in late 2007.  But the story only gets better!  A month or so after the accusations were leveled, the consortium of Brunello producers voted to keep Brunello 100% Sangiovese.  To put perspective on this, say U.S. orange juice producers (who placed a label of 100% orange juice on their containers) were to be accused of not using oranges for their juice, and so the USDA started pulling the orange juice containers from the store shelves.  So what contrived answer would they come up with?  Why that is obvious of course, we will just change what 100% orange juice means!  AHH!!!  Are you kidding me!  What a joke!  Well, thankfully, they all voted to keep things status quo, but to me, just the vote alone shows the corruption and ineptitude that riddles the DOCG and the DOC.  Well, if you thought that is where it ended, just you wait!  Man we need to make a movie out of this stuff!  If there were not enough bureaucracies (DOC, DOCG, Siena public prosecutor, etc.), involved in this mess, the USA had to way in!  Yep – we always need to stick our noses where it does not belong.  Under the guise of consumer protection the TTB has demanded that all Brunello bottles have a label reassuring consumers that the Brunello bottles sold here in the USA are 100% Sangiovese.  Well, after two plus years of investigating, the Italian authorities have come back, and have stated that they have magically closed the case.  So, you would think it would be riddled with accusations, charges, fines, etc. – NOPE!  No real data at all.  So in a game of chicken, the TTB has come out saying that they will not play these games, and require a real answer and continued labeling until they have more answers, and as of this pointing it is still the case.  Even if the consumer is not the real story, we have to be happy to see the TTB strut their stuff, and try to get to the bottom of this mess.

So where does all this leave us?  I saw a wonderful posting by Tom Maresca, and it does have its points.  Still, I have serious issues with what lies below the surface.  We as a nation and a country are slowly becoming more and more desensitized to wrong doers.  We are also willing to let things go when they are actually not such a light subject.  You see, the real issue here my friends is that if the DOCG and the Brunello producers were serious about their jobs, and prideful about their history and artistry, they should either fess up to what they really are (or are not) or just admit that they are not doing their job.  The DOCG should maybe rethink their name FDOCG (Forse Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) or DOCG?  Come on, The DOCG cannot guarantee anything it is not scientifically or conceptually enforceable.  It is the classic story of trying to sell yourself as more than you are.  The DOCG should not be selling themselves as more than what they are – an organization that defines the rules, but not one that can or should be attempting to enforce them.  If there is a closing line to this whole thing – I would go with a small Brunello producer, who under a veil of anonymity, spoke with Jeremy Parzen, and came up with an awesome line and story.

As a small producer, we have been treated like we had nothing to say. We felt absolutely NOT represented by the Consortium, neither protected. DOCG means that our Appellation of Origin is Controlled and Guaranteed. This was the only supposed role of the Consortium. None of these things was provided by them: obviously NOT the controls, NOT the guarantee and, sometimes, NOT even the origin. So I am asking myself what is the reason of the Consortium to be. Right now, the Consortium is just a cost for a small producer, and it’s giving no advantages at all. Many people will soon leave, I am sure.

I could not have said it better myself!  I hope I have brought a different angle to this madness and I hope you have enjoyed it.  The wine notes for the Chianti follows below:

2006 Borgo Reale Chianti Riserva – Score: B – B+
The nose on this dark ruby to garnet colored wine is initially hot but blows off soon, rich cherry, raspberry, roasted herbs, and heavy vanilla. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is soft and mouth filling without it being mouth coating, the tannins are integrated nicely, and give the wine a slight lift, along with cherry, raspberry, and plum. The mid palate is brightly acidic, along with coffee and vanilla. The finish is medium long with bright red fruit that lingers long on the palate after the wine is gone. The wine need to be drunk ASAP, it is throwing sediment, and does not last long after the bottle is opened. I opened the bottle Friday night and by Saturday day it was astringent and most of the fruit is gone.

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