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Tasting of kosher wines from Italy and Italian varietals

This past week the gang gathered at Josh Rynderman house, many thanks to MR for hosting us! I brought a few bottles of Italian wine, and so did others, while some brought non-Italian wines, and in the end, we made it into the wine event I have been waiting to have – as it was time to get down and write up my Italian wines.

It is no new revelation, that my palate has moved more old-world in style. Yes, I still enjoy Four Gates wines (which have moved new-world in style over the past few years), along with Herzog wines, Hajdu wines, mostly white Hagafen wines, and yes, Shirah wines as well (even if they think I do not love their wines). However, I was never a huge fan of Italian wines, even if in the non-kosher world, they make TONS of old-world style wines. Sadly, the issue is that there were few to none that impressed me other than the Falesco wines from 2005 and 2006 and the 2010 Moncheiro. However, recently, things are changing. First is the release of wines from Terra di Seta that I really like, (the original all-kosher winery in Tuscany). Next, is the fact that Hajdu is releasing lovely wines made from Italian varietals. Finally, there is a new all-kosher winery from Tuscany, Cantina Giuliano, who released three new wines, along with the 2014 Chianti he had last year. The 2015 Chianti from Cantina Giuliano is for sale in Europe, but it is not yet available in the USA.

Let me start with answering questions people will have before I start with this article. This may offend some, but hey, what can I do. No, there was no Bartenura wines, why? Simple, I am not a fan. What about Borgo Reale wines and Cantina Gabriela? Well, I like the two top line Borgo wines, the Brunello and Barolo, but the Borgo Reale Barolo pales in comparison to the Paulo Manzone Tenuta Moncheiro Barolo 2010, even though it sells for the same amount of money. The 2010 vintage in Barolo was one of the best in a long time, I would love to try the Paulo Manzone Tenuta Moncheiro Barolo 2010 again in a few years, like 5 or so. We did not taste these three wines at the tasting, but I have added the notes of the Paulo Manzone Tenuta Moncheiro Barolo 2010 below. Sadly, I cannot find my notes for the two Borgo wines I liked.

A bit of background on Italy’s four wine classifications: 

(1) Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) – This classification denotes the highest quality recognition for Italian wines. There are only 20 or so wines meriting this classification. (2) Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) – This is the same classification as the French wine classification, Appellation d’Origine Controlee (AOC). Wines that fall under the DOC classification must be made in specified, governmentally defined zones, in accordance with particular regulations intended to preserve the wine’s character.  There are some 300 or so wines in this classification. (3) Indicazione di Geografica Tipica (IGT) – These table wines are often ubiquitous wines, grown in specific geographical growing regions. (4) Vino Da Tavola (VdT) – This designates wines that reside firmly on the “low end” of the totem pole. Comprised of Italian table wines, these products must meet the sole criteria of being produced somewhere in Italy.  Read the rest of this entry

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca, and a nice bottle of Borgo Reale Sangiovese Puglia

This past weekend saw us fall back into an old favorite; Puttanesca.  We have posted here many times before about our enjoyment of the unique flavors and textures that Puttanesca has to offer.  The saltiness of the olives and the body of the anchovies mingle together so well, that it almost feels surreal.  Well this time was no different, and we paired it with a combination of whole wheat spaghetti and Quinoa, thereby leaving us with many options of how we would enjoy this wonderful sauce.  As usual we added in fake soy meat and some thick sliced mushrooms, which add even more textures to the party.  We enjoyed the Spaghetti alla Puttanesca, along with the aforementioned grains/pasta, and a fresh green salad.

To pair with this wonderful dinner, I went for a bottle with a fair amount of acidity, and enough body to keep up with the Puttanesca.  The first thing that came to mind was the classical pairing of pasta sauce; a Chianti.  Luck had it that we had a nice 2004 Borgo Reale Sangiovese Puglia, which turned out to be fine, for the evening.  By the next day, it had fallen on its face, and was just a shadow of its former self.  Clearly the acidity has kept this player in the game far longer than it deserves to be, but that is the joy of a low PH.  Drink this bottle now, and enjoy it.

The wine note follows below:

2004 Borgo Reale Sangiovese Puglia – Score: B – B+
The nose on this dull ruby colored wine, with a hint of orange is oaky with tart cherry, loamy dirt, raspberry, and a nice dollop of spice and pepper. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is soft and follows the nose with tart cherry, loamy dirt, and raspberry that almost feels velvety and full in the mouth. The tannins are all but gone, and were probably perfect 6 months ago. The mid palate is balanced with acidity, oak and spice. The finish is nice and long with bracing acidity, soft to almost nonexistent tannins, tons of spice, and tart cherry. This is quite a nice bottle that has clearly survived because of its low PH, and needs to be drunk NOW.  It should have been drunk 6 or so months ago, when it was probably better.

Bean and Rice soup, Roast, Meat Sauce, Roasted Vegetables, Rice Pilaf, and a bunch of wine…

On the weekend of January 8th, we had a Friday night party, with my nephews from Chicago and from around the Bay Area, and Benyamin Cantz.  The meal started with a wicked cool soup that we made for the first time and then followed it with a roast, some meat sauce, brown rice, roasted vegetables, and fresh salad.  The soup recipe is below, and is from a recipe book – fittingly called – Soup!  We laughed about the soup book, because my Sister is the owner of Source Books, and we bantered around about how much time she would have spent on just the picture on the front of the book, which of course is a bowl of soup!  After the soup, we made some roasted vegetables (sweet potatoes, beets, rutabagas, parsnip).  The vegetables were so good because we roasted them until they released their water and started to crystallize the sugars – which makes them extra yummy!  They went along nicely with the roasted shoulder meat, which was braised with peas and carrots, and a bunch of wine – recipe can be found here.  The meat sauce was a lot like this one, without trying to make meatballs out of it.  They were all paired with a lovely brown rice pilaf and a fresh green salad.

Rice & White Bean Soup Recipe
9 oz of white beans
Olive Oil
Onions
Garlic
Diced Carrots
Diced Zucchini
Diced Red peppers
Cubed Soy Sausage
Thyme
Bay Leaf
Chicken or vegetable stock
Half a cup of brown rice

Place the beans in water over night and then drain and rinse a few times the next day.  Sauté the onions and sausage until browned.  Add in the garlic, and once browned nicely, throw in the diced zucchini, carrots, and peppers.  Wait for the vegetables to give off their liquid and then add in the herbs and vegetable stock.  Wait for the soup to boil and throw in the washed and rinsed beans.  Lower the heat to simmer and stir the soup every so often until the beans are softening (about an hour).  Then throw in the rice, and whatever other seasoning (salt, pepper, etc.) to taste, and wait another 30 or so minutes.

The wine we chose to pair with this food was partly from Four Gates Winery and partly from our cellar.  One wine from my cellar was a massive and huge dud, while the other one was OK.  Both of the wines from Four Gates (one of which is still unreleased), were quite nice indeed.

The wine notes follow below:

2006 Cantina Gabriele Sangiovese – Score: B+
The nose on this dark ruby colored wine is rich with loamy notes, black cherry is ever evident, some violet, and a bit of plum. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is mouth coating with integrated tannins, plum, and concentrated cherry flavors. The mid palate is balanced with integrated tannins and acid. The finish is long with loamy soil, a hint of floral notes, and a ton of cloying tart cherries at the very end. The tart cherries throw off the finish and ruin the wine, which is a shame, because of the rest of the package.

2006 Hevron Heights Mount Hevron Red – Score: C-
This bottle was either really wrong or it is flawed at birth. The bottle had way too much volatile acidity, which messed up an already not so great wine. The nose on this vibrant garnet – purple colored wine is over the top with Volatile Acidity, cherry, plum, and coffee. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is flush with cranberry, plum, and eucalyptus. The rest of the flavor profile is cherry and coffee and not much more than that because of the VA.

2006 Four Gates Merlot M.S.C. – Score: A
When we last tasted this wine it was a bit redder.  Now the wine has turned black (as has its younger brother the 2006 Merlot La Rochelle), and it is a crazy joy to drink and share with your friends and family.  The interesting thing is that, while there are some red characteristics to this wine, the black ones clearly stand out.  Who knows, it may well go back to its red past, which was still one wonderful wine as well.

The nose on this purple to black colored wine is screaming with rich oak, cassis, blackberry, plum, raspberry, tobacco, chocolate, and licorice.  The mouth of this full bodied wine is full of raspberry, cassis, plum, and blackberry.  The mouth’s tannins are slowly integrating and creating a lovely mouth coating experience that fills out the already full wine’s body, and the layers of fruit accentuate the palate with nice oak notes.  The mid palate is balanced with acid, chocolate, nice tannins, and spicy oak.  The finish is long and rich with red fruit, more spicy oak, licorice, and chocolate.  The wine is a massive black Merlot that is layered, complex, and screaming with black fruit and extracted flavors.

2006 Four Gates (Yet Undisclosed Name) – Score: A-
The nose on this royal purple to black colored wine is filled with raspberry, plum, floral notes, kirsch cherry, oak, and spice.  The mouth on this full bodied wine is hopping with raspberry, plum, and cherry.  The mouth comes at you layer after layer on a plush mouth with mouth coating tannins.  The mid palate is balanced with acid, integrating tannins, and coffee.  The finish is long with red fruit, vanilla, lovely tannins, coffee, and a hint of leather.

Purim 2008

This Purim I drank wine with friends on Thursday night and at Friday lunch.  After all that, Shabbos was a nice break from wine.  Thursday night I did not take notes.  So these are more memory of what I tasted than actual facts.

Thursday Night:

Rothberg Cellars Pinotage 2004 – This wine exhibits classic Pinotage stylings with a bit of tannin and spicy oak.  The nose was flush with cherries and red fruit.  The mouth was medium bodied and fruity.  The finish was medium long and had a bit of spicy oak.  An OK attempt at a Pinotage – I liked the Welnerberg Pinotage 2005 more, but that is my take.

Cantina Gabriele Sangiovese 2005 – This wine is a classic fruit bomb, and a bit too much for my taste.  The saving grace was that it had enough oak to dull the fruit but it had a bit more tannin than I was expecting.  The tannins actually accentuated the fruit bomb – almost making it worse.  To that I will say that this wine has a chance to age a bit more and maybe calm down.  The fruit forwardness of the wine is evident from the nose – filled with cherries, cherries, and more cherries.  The mouth was medium – full bodied with sour cherry and briar.  The finish is very long with more sour cherry.

Monte Olivo Umbria Rosso 2005 – This wine was a real winner.  Huge nose and an awesome specimen.  For being a house wine this is a real winner.  The wine is reasonably priced to boot.  The wine has a wonderful nose of blackberry and tobacco.  The mouth on this full bodied wine was fruity but the tannins have yet to integrate, but the mouth coating wine will be better over time for sure.  The mouth is filled with blackberries and cassis, the finish is long and loaded with oak and tobacco.

Friday Lunch – with real notes:

Bashan Merlot Eitan 2005 – Score: B+
The nose on this mature garnet colored wine is filled with blackberry, old socks, oak, vanilla, and sour cherry.  The mouth on this medium bodied wine has nice integrated tannins, vanilla, black fruit up front and then a medium finish that is filled with a spicy oak finish.

Bashan Cabernet Sauvignon Eitan 2005 – Score: A-
Notes still hold true to my tasting that we had in Israel in the Bashan Winery.

Mount Meroma Cabernet Sauvignon 1993 – Score: B-
This one was definitely passed its time.  It is a shame because it was ready to go about 5 years ago.  The crazy thing about this wine was 10 minutes after it was opened, it was gone.  Nothing left.  These notes are right when it was opened and seems to have been from its last gasps of life – if that :-).  The nose on this almost brown colored wine has light aromas of oak and red fruit.  The mouth on this medium – full bodied wine has integrated tannins, dirty socks, oak, and raspberry.  The finish was almost non-existent, but had hints of vanilla and mint.

Baron Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon Special Reserve Napa Valley 2002 – Score: A-
The nose on this garnet colored wine was packed with blackberry, cassis, figs, and oak.  The mouth on this full bodied wine starts with well integrated tannins, than the blackberry, cassis, and sweet wood mingle together into a complex blend that is quite intriguing.  The finish is medium long with tobacco and sweet oak.

Tzuba Winery in Judean Hills

Barrels in Tzuba Winery

Barrels in Tzuba Winery

As we drive the 395 to get to Kibbutz Tzuba the winery’s vines grace our approach – they stretch from the bottom of the hill side along the valley below and all the way to the entrance of the Kibbutz.  The Kibbutz is a tech Kibbutz, building bullet-proof glass and other protective shielding, a thriving business in these trying times.

As we drive up to the winery which is right on the left after you enter the Kibbutz gate – Paul Dubb is there to great us.  Paul is the wine maker for the Tzuba Winery and has been growing grapes for the Castel Winery, since 1996.  In 2000 Moti Zamir and Paul founded the winery and started planted vines for their label – while still tending to the vines for Castel.  The 2005 vintage was the winery’s first vintage where they produced some 30,000 bottles.  IN the following years they have ramped up to some 47,000 bottles.  They hope to be ramping production up to 150,000 bottles in the next few years.  They currently are releasing wines from the following varietal: Chardonnay, Viognier, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Sangiovese, Shiraz, and Petit Verdot.

Paul has been around grapes since a youngster – where he grew grapes with his parents and grew a love for grapes and wine.  Paul’s work is evident in the Castel wines – but is also visible in his own wines.  The wines are fruit forward but in a balanced manner.  This he says comes from the way he tends to his vines.  He makes sure that the vines have sun, while keeping them shaded, to minimize over exposure of sun, which tends to show overripe flavors and too much acid in the wine.  The wines are all aged in Hungarian oak and according to Paul – do not tend towards Bordeaux flavors.  The winery is built to bring value wines in the Boutique winery market – something that Paul stressed is one of the selling points about Tzuba.  Finally, the winery is owned in partnership with Kibbutz Tzuba – a partnership that should help the winery to compete in the ever competitive Kosher Israeli wine market.

My thanks to Paul, Moti and the Tzuba Winery for hosting us and showing us around their winery.  Following are the tasting notes which we sampled at the winery.

Tel Tzuba 2006 Chardonnay – Score: A (50% 12 months in oak, 50% Stainless Steel)
Fermented at 55 degrees Fahrenheit – Sur Lie, this wine has a lovely and shimmering straw color.  The nose is filled with Lychees, grass, and citrus.  This medium bodied wine has a long and exciting finish and is not over oaked.  The nose follows in the mouth – with Lychees and citrus flavors covering the mouth and enough acidity to balance the wine out.

Hama’ayan 2005 Sangiovese – Score: B
This ruby red wine has a nose of red fruit.  The medium bodied wine has all the signature flavors of a Sangiovese – cherry, plum and added flavors of oak with soft and integrated tannins.

Tel Tzuba 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon – Score: A-
The deep Bordeaux colored wine has a nose of red fruit and oak.  The medium bodied wine is smooth with light tannins, red fruit, and a long finish that tends to linger in your mouth.

Tel Tzuba 2005 Merlot – Score: B+
This dark ruby colored wine has a nose of plum and cherry.  The medium bodied wine has firm tannins, almost jammy red fruit, a balanced palate and a finish that is medium in length that is accentuated with oak flavors.

Tel Tzuba 2005 Shiraz – Score: A-
This purple colored wine has a nose of fig, pepper, and earth.  This medium bodied wine has jammy flavors, soft tannins, and a long finish that is supported by pepper and oak notes.

Tzuba 2005 Merlot Reserve Metzuda  – Score: A-
This deep Bordeaux colored wine opens slowly.  Over time the wine shows hints of red fruit and oak.  The full bodied wine has strong tannins that show off its acidic core and cherry flavors.  The finish is long and satisfying.  This wine is still quite young and needs time to show its true self off.

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