OK, with all the Paris wine notes posted, the latest roses posted, and Herzog’s wonderful wines, I am finally at the finish line. This last batch of notes catches me up just in time before the next round of wines shows up. As usual, my QPR posts are a hodgepodge of wines but thankfully we have some nice QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) wines.
QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) Wines
It has been two months since my last QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) post and many people have been emailing me about some unique wines I have tasted and some lovely wines that are worth writing about.
Thankfully, no matter how much garbage and pain I subject myself to, we are still blessed with quite a few wonderful QPR wines out there. This post includes some nice wines and some OK wines with the usual majority of uninteresting to bad wines.
The story of 2021 Israel whites and roses is very unfortunate, it started with a bang. Matar and a couple of others showed very well. Sadly, after that, every other white and rose wine from Israel was not as impressive. They all show middling work and product, very disappointing indeed. Thankfully, this round has three Israeli WINNERS and two from the 2021 vintage. There is an 8th WINNER here but it is here for documentation purposes and not for advice on what to buy, as it is not available anymore. That being the 2012 Chateau Serilhan.
We have a nice list of QPR WINNERS:
- 2012 Chateau Serilhan Cru Bourgeois, Saint-Estephe (Posted as I have never posted this yet, strange)
- 2021 O’Dwyers Creek Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough – A perennial WINNER
- 2021 Castel La Vie Blanc Du Castel, Judean Hills – Finally a 100% Sauvignon Blanc and it is lovely!
- 2021 Sheldrake Point Riesling, Dry, Finger Lakes, NY – A lovely 2nd vintage
- 2021 Sheldrake Point Gewurztraminer, Finger Lakes, NY – Another lovely 2nd vintage as well
- 2021 Golan Heights Winery, Yarden Sauvignon Blanc, Galilee – A nice wine
- 2019 Netofa Latour, Red, Galilee
- 2020 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico, Chianti Classico – Perenial winner
There were also a few wines that are a slight step behind with a GREAT or GOOD QPR score:
- 2021 Cape Jewel Chenin Blanc, Reserve Collection – one of two wines that shocked me as I expected PAIN
- 2021 Unorthodox Sauvignon Blanc, Paarl – the 2nd shocking wine in this tasting
- 2020 Dalton Sauvignon Blanc, Reserve, Galilee
- 2021 Golan Heights Winery Sauvignon Blanc, Gilgal – not as good as his bigger brother
- 2021 O’Dwyers Creek Chardonnay, Marlborough
- 2021 Capcanes Peraj Petita, Montsant – one of the best Petita since 2015, still not a WINNER like in 2015
There are a few wines that got a QPR Score of EVEN – meaning expensive or average:
- 2021 Vitkin Israeli Journey, White, Israel
- 2021 Gush Etzion Gewürztraminer, Judean Hills
- 2021 Yaffo White, Judean Hills
- 2019 Ramon Cardova Rioja, Rioja
- 2020 Capcanes Peraj Ha’abib, Montsant – nothing interesting but better than previous vintages
- 2020 Domaine du Castel Lavie, Rouge du Castel, Jerusalem Hills
- 2016 Vitkin Cabernet Franc, Galilee – Drink up!
- 2018 Vitkin Carignan, Judean Hills – Drink up!
The others are essentially either OK wines that are too expensive, duds, or total failures:
- 2016 Vitkin Shorashim, Israel – a nice enough wine but the price is crazy
- 2020 Flam Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, Galilee
- 2020 De La Rosa Taryag Gruner Veltliner, Burgenland
- 2020 De La Rosa Chai 18 White Welsch Riesling, Burgenland
- 2021 Unorthodox Chenin Blanc, Coastal Region
- 2021 J. De Villebois Pouilly Fume, Loire Valley – so sad after last year’s lovely vintage
- 2021 Odem Mountain Chardonnay, Volcanic, Galilee
- 2016 Laufer Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Reserve, California – ripe oak juice
- 2021 Golan Heights Winery Mount Hermon White, Galilee
Some things that made me stand up and take notice (AKA QPR WINNERS):
The real WINNER here, from the entire list, is the 2012 Chateau Serilhan Cru Bourgeois, Saint-Estephe (posted as I have never posted this yet, for some strange reason), but of the available wines that would be the 2021 O’Dwyers Creek Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough. The 2020 O’Dwyers Creek Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough ran out very quickly, I guess that there was not much available or made, as it was right at the start of COVID! The crazy story of how it all came together.
So happy to see Castel finally dropped the Gewurztraminer from their La Vie Blanc Du Castel the solo Sauvignon Blanc is lovely!
Talking about Gewurztraminer, the 2021 Sheldrake Point Riesling and Gewurztraminer from the Finger Lakes shows one can make lovely and reasonably priced wines from the Finger lakes. Bravo Ari!
Nice to see a Yarden wine on this list again, other than the LOVELY sparkling wines, the 2021 Golan Heights Winery, Yarden Sauvignon Blanc hit on all marks.
The last two wines are red and while I loved the 2019 Netofa Latour, Red at the start, it seemed to fall off a bit and that is unfortunate. Finally the 2020 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico, Chianti Classico is not as good as the 2019 vintage but still a solid wine.
Other wines of note (AKA QPR GREAT or GOOD):
The fascinating wines from this list were the South African wines, the 2021 Cape Jewel Chenin Blanc, Reserve Collection, and the 2021 Unorthodox Sauvignon Blanc, Paarl. I had zero expectations for these wines, so they were a nice find.
The rest are just good enough wines, mostly well priced but not interesting to drink.
Wines that are either good but too expensive or average (AKA EVEN):
This list is also boring, the only real wine to call out, is the 2020 Capcanes Peraj Ha’abib, Montsant, nothing interesting but better than previous vintages. The same for the Peraj Petita in the category above.
The rest of the wines are not interesting to me and are on this list because of either quality or price.
Wines that are either OK but far too expensive or bad wines (AKA POOR/BAD):
Like on previous versions of these lists there will always be a nice scoring wine that is so expensive it falls into this QPR list. That would be the 2016 Vitkin Shorashim, Israel – a nice enough wine but the price is crazy.
There are also, many duds to losers and I will just leave you to peruse the names and scores down below.
Overall another nice list of QPR WINNERS and some GREAT options as well. I can always look at these kinds of lists and say there are only 7 or 8 wines I would want to buy from this entire list, but that would be a defeatist attitude. The correct way to classify this list is we have 7 or 8 more wines available to us and in the end, as I have stated many times now, I cannot buy all the WINNER wines even if I wanted to. There are just too many good wines out there and that is what we should be focused on!
Older Wines that I have not posted (or revising):
2012 Chateau Serilhan Cru Bourgeois, Saint-Estephe – Score: 93+ (QPR: WINNER)
This wine is a blend of 57% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 8% Cabernet Franc, The nose of this wine is lovely, deeply mineral-driven, with intense rock, graphite, charcoal, ripe black fruit, balancing tart raspberry, red plum, sweet spices, and sweet oak.
The mouth of this medium-plus bodied wine is rich, layered, and well-balanced with great acidity, freshly tilled earth, mineral, smoke, hints of barnyard, mushroom, and truffle, followed by ripe blackberry, plum, dark tart raspberry, smoke, and beautiful fresh wine approach – bravo!
The finish is long, dark, green, ripe, but well balanced, with smoke, tobacco, dark chocolate, and lovely mushroom, with tertiary notes soon approaching. This wine was opened too early, such is life, still very lovely and a wine I would open again in 4 years. Drink until 2029. (tasted July 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 13%)
2012 Chateau Cheval Brun, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru – Score: 91+ (QPR: GOOD)
This wine is a blend of 85% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% Cabernet Franc.
The nose of this wine is another giant Brett bomb, with crazy mushrooms, rich green notes, earth, red fruit, smoke, and nice tar. The mouth of this wine is layered, ripe, and lovely, with nice elegance, showing blackberry, raspberry, mineral galore, graphite, earth, mushroom, and forest floor, The wine’s extraction has calmed down but the Brett and barnyard are in full gear.
The finish is long and earthy, with mushroom, barnyard notes, rich tobacco, and tar. Bravo! Drink till 2025, maybe longer. (tasted July 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 13%)
Like much of my posts I am a bit behind, I received these wines in June 2022 and sadly, it took until this week to post them. The truth is that the notes are written quickly, but the delay is caused by the amount of time spent writing the post, with all the metadata in and around the post and the images.
In case you missed the last Herzog Wine Cellars post – please check that out here, the story and background around Herzog Wine Cellars is truly imperative to better appreciate what they have accomplished these many years! One large change since the last post would be the hiring of David Galzignato as Director of Winemaking and Operations. Joe Hurliman is now Winemaker Emeritus. As always I have incredible respect and appreciation for what both Joseph Herzog and Joe Hurliman have done for Herzog Wine Cellars. Their vision, drive, and continued passion for improving the wines and the winery are truly incredible and one that we should all aspire to learn from.
In shortened story form Herzog Wine Cellars is a fascinating story. It started with Eugene Herzog immigrating to the US from Czechoslovakia in 1948 after the war and after communism took over his winery. He worked for a small winery in NY, and by 1958 he became the majority owner of it. In deference to his grandfather, they called it Royal Wines, as he was given the title Baron in Czechoslovakia. By 1985, the family decided that they needed a California presence, and so they hired the famous Wine Maker Peter Stern, to build their initial footprint in the world of high-end wines. After that, they moved to Santa Maria, hired Joe Hurliman, and leased space from Coast Wine Services (CWS), all the while knowing that they needed a place that they could call home. In the end, Joe went looking for a plot of land, that was as close to a Jewish Community as possible (for the Kosher Wine managers) and landed on Oxnard. Not a classic place to house a winery, but one that is close to the highways to truck in the grapes and one close enough to a Jewish Community to allow for full-time Jewish supervision. The winery opened in 2005, and three years later it started hosting the International Food and Wine Festival. In my last post about this year’s KFWE I threw down a gauntlet, I wonder if anyone read/saw it, I think it is time for Herzog Wine Cellars to bring back IFWF, in the summer for a throwback! Time is ticking – the ball is in your court guys!
Now to the wines. The 2017 vintage was tough, it was tough for all of Cali, it was a bad vintage. The 2018 vintage was far better, but still not as good as the 2016 or 2014 vintages. We were all interested in the full 2019 vintage to see if Herzog could break the odd-year curse that has hung over them since the nice 2013 vintage. I guess I will have to say, the answer is maybe. There are clear QPR WINNER wines, but they do not shine as bright as in the even years of 2014, 2016, or 2018. They are riper and less focused, and while they show minerality, it feels/seems secondary to the larger picture.
Generally, when we look at Herzog, and their success for a year, we use the big three, the Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Reserve, Alexander Valley, the Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Edition, Warnecke Vineyard, and the Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Edition, Clone Six. However, there is also the burgeoning Lake County Cabernet Sauvignon, and of course the lovely Edna Valley and Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noirs, from both Eagle’s Landing and the Reserve line. There are the second-level wines from the Variations collection, which also weigh in a bit on a successful year for Herzog, IMHO, but the main wines drive the success ratio the most.
Still, Herzog is never resting on their laurels, in the past they were driving hard with a yearly Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, to add to the Cabernet Sauvignon rotation. However, in 2016, they paused the Single Vineyard Program. The good news is that starting in 2021 the Single Vineyard program is back online! After that, they started sourcing Stag’s Leap fruit in 2018 and then expanded the Special Edition line with Oakville and Rutherford.
One final statement around two wines in the lineup. One is Choreograph, it is a wine that has been around for a long time, started in 2016, the earlier name Camouflage started in 2014. It is a serious sleeper in the Mevushal Lineage line. In the first few years, the wine tasted like the makeup of the wine a hodgepodge of grapes, one of the classic issues with large field blends. The larger the number of fruit the harder it is for them to all get together and make the wine work. However, in 2020 and 2021, whatever Herzog is doing, they have been hitting a home run for the price. This is the absolute PERFECT BBQ wine, IMHO. Mevushal, served cool, with meat, chicken, or even fish, all will work if grilled or smoked, just a perfect wine with great acidity and balance.
The other sleeper is the Lake County Cabernet Sauvignon. Napa is either at max or close to the max price, at least for now, though everything was high, price-wise in 2021 and the Napa fruit prices may max out in 2022. They are not pretty! Many a winery has dropped serious money into Lake County, look at Andy Beckstoffer, AKA, Mr. Tokalon. He bought into Lake County in 1997 and continues to invest. This line has been showing great promise from the start and every year the wine improves or keeps the previous vintage’s quality. Bravo! It is not at the quality yet of Alexander Valley Cabernet, but it quickly making its way into that quality level.
Finally, this is more of a PSA, please cool your red wines in the fridge, for say thirty minutes before enjoying them, if they are at, what we call room temperature. If the room is at 75 degrees Farenheight, 20 to 30 minutes in the refrigerator will help to bring the red wine temperature down to what it should be enjoyed at, which is 60 degrees, or so.
There will be no 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon from Stag’s Leap, but interestingly, there will be a 2020 vintage, as it was picked just before the fires. There will also be a bit of 2020 Alexander Valley and Rutherford. Overall, 2019 turned out to be the best odd-numbered year in a long time, and while it does not rise to the quality of 2014/2016/2018 it is a solid showing for a not-so-good vintage.
The wine notes listed below shows seven wines that garnered the QPR (Quality to Price) WINNER score. That is a lovely list of wines the majority of them are 2020 or 2021 wines. There are two 2019 QPR WINNER wines, and they are the ususal suspects, the Alexander Valley and the Warnecke Vineyard.
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 all of you! The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:
2021 Herzog Sauvignon Blanc, Lineage, Lake County, CA (M) – Score: 91 (QPR: WINNER)
The nose of this wine is more restrained than other Sauvignon Blanc out there, it is less ripe, it is dirtier, with mineral, floral notes, violet, rose, lemon, lime, yellow plum, and dryer sheet notes. The mouth of this medium-bodied wine is fun, refreshing, tart, acidic, and enjoyable, with green notes, lemon, lime, wet grass, mint, lemongrass, saline, hints of passion fruit, and otherwise, green notes, herbs, spices, flint, and rich mineral. The finish is long, green, spicy, and flinty, with saline, smoke, roasted herb, grass, and hay. BRAVO! Drink now. (tasted May 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 14.5%)
As stated in my previous post, I was in Paris in May, without Avi Davidowitz, from the Kosher Wine Unfiltered blog, his lame excuse involved something about marrying off his first child, or something like that, whatever! He was missed but yeah, Mazel Tov!
I kept to my hotel room for much of the trip. All these wines were tasted in my room. Also, as tested before, because of supply chain issues and frankly because there were still too many 2020 wines around, there were very few 2021 wines available for me to buy online or in stores and taste. What I could find, at that time, in May, I bought and I am posting here now.
White & Roses
After tasting roses from Taieb and Royal I had a few more that I found around town. The clear winners here were the 2021 Caves d’Esclans Whispering Angel, Cotes de Provence, and the 2021 Chateau Maime Rose, Collection, Cotes de Provence. The 2020 Koenig Riesling is nice and a good rebound for the winery.
Two red wines from Tek Wines
I was sent a few wines from Tek Wine but the two best wines were ones I bought from MesVinCacher, the 2015 Chateau Tour de Bossuet, and the 2015 Chateau La petite Duchesse. The two wines tasted too similar to be different, but try them yourself. The other wines are simple.
Two Israeli wines
As I stated in my IDS Post, Alexandre was in Paris at the same time as I was and he brought along a nice wine from Israel, the 2021 Peer Winery Ayala, another wine with the name Ayala! Anyway, it was nice enough, with good acidity, but a bit short. The other was the 2021 Recanati Sauvignon Blanc, which is too simple to be interesting.
A Magrez wine that works
The 2019 Chateau Pape Clement is the closest thing we have had to a good Magrez wine since the epic 2014 vintage. The wine is nice but the oak and fruit are overpowering and while I liked it to start after a bit of time it felt a bit flabby and oak-driven.
Various Bordeaux Wines
This group had too many poor wines, the nice surprise was a wine from the Ministers of Wine, the 2018 Chateau des Places, Graves. There was also, a non-mevushal Victor 2019 Chateau Guimberteau Graves de Laborde, Cuvee Prestige, Lalande de Pomerol. The rest, were poor.
One Italian Wine
The Aglianico that I had in paris really did not show well and I hope to taste it again soon, maybe here in the USA. But I have posted it here as a baseline.
Thoughts on this tasting
Overall, none of these wines are available in the USA, other than a couple of the roses. The rest will maybe get to the USA eventually or never. If they do get to the USA, by the time you throw in the extra costs, they will not be QPR WINNER.
2020 Koenig Riesling, Alsace (M) – Score: 91 (QPR: WINNER)
After the mess that was the Pinot Blanc, I was worried the Riesling would also be oxidized, thankfully, that is not the case! The nose of this wine is what I love in lovely Riesling wines, minerality, fruit, honeysuckle, honeyed yellow fruit, and nice petrol. The mouth of this medium-bodied wine is fun, bright, tart, and refreshing, with great intense acidity, gooseberry, honeysuckle, honeydew melon, petrol, funk, tart yellow fruit, and lovely green apple, Nice!!! The finish is long, tart, and refreshing, showing tension, intense minerality, slate, smoke, flint, petrol, crazy acidity, and good fruit focus. Bravo! Drink until 2023. (tasted May 2022) (in Paris, France) (ABV = 12%)
A side note before we get to the QPR list. I just returned, B”H, from Paris and I know many are interested in my notes from the trip, along with all the roses that are NOT on this list. So, for full disclosure, I will be posting the rose list next and then I will be getting to the wines I enjoyed and suffered in Paris. The good news, there are lots of wonderful wines from the Paris tastings and many will be making their way here. Sadly, the rose list is not that interesting at all. Now on to the QPR list, which will catch me up to almost all the wines before my Paris trip, other than the roses.
QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) Wines
It has been a few months since my last QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) post and many people have been emailing me about some unique wines I have tasted and some lovely wines that are worth writing about.
Thankfully, no matter how garbage and pain I subject myself to, we are still blessed with quite a few wonderful QPR wines out there. This post includes some nice wines and some OK wines with the usual majority of uninteresting to bad wines.
I had the fortune of going to Hagafen Wine Cellars with Neal and Elk and the 2018 and 2019 vintages continue to impress. The prices are a bit high but with the price of land and fruit in Napa Valley, the fires, the lack of water, and so much more, the price is what it is. Still, the two QPR winner wines were lovely as were the vast majority of all the wines we enjoyed.
I also had the chance to go to Marciano Estates Winery and the wines showed beautifully there as well. The same can be said about Marciano, in regards to the pricing, both at the price and the reasons for them, so read the notes and make up your minds.
The story of 2021 Israel whites and roses is very unfortunate, it started with a bang. Matar and a couple of others showed very well. Sadly, after that, every other white and rose wine from Israel was not as impressive. They all show middling work and product, very disappointing indeed.
We have a nice list of QPR WINNERS:
- 2019 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, Alexander Valley, Sonoma, CA
- 2018 Hagafen Pinot Noir, Prix, Napa Valley, CA
- 2020 Domaine du Castel Blanc du Castel, Judean Hills
- 2020 Ramon Cardova Albarino, Rias Baixas
- 2021 Baron Edmund de Rothschild Rimapere, Marlborough
- 2021 Matar Sauvignon Blanc Semillon, Galilee
- 2021 Gush Etzion Sauvignon Blanc, Judean Hills
- 2021 Herzog Sauvignon Blanc, Lineage, Lake County, CA
- 2019 Hagafen Cabernet Franc, Napa Valley, CA
There were also a few wines that are a slight step behind with a GREAT or GOOD QPR score:
- 2018 Hagafen Syrah, Napa Valley, CA
- 2019 Hagafen Malbec, Napa Valley, CA
- 2019 Carmel Gewürztraminer, Late Harvest, Single Vineyards, Galilee
- 2021 Dalton Chardonnay, Unoaked, Galilee
- 2020 Pascal Bouchard Chablis, Chablis
- 2021 Tabor Sauvignon Blanc, Galilee
- 2020 Matar Chardonnay, Galilee
- 2015 Louis Blanc Crozes Hermitage, Vintage, Crozes Hermitage
- 2019 Koenig Riesling, Alsace
- 2019 Matar Stratus, Galilee
- 2021 Or Haganuz Blanc, Galille
If you ever wondered what Kosher wine or the Mevushal process is, well I made a post these many years ago and nothing has changed about those facts, because kosher wine is kosher wine! The Mevushal process has evolved a bit over the years but the premise is still the same and the best craftsman in this space are Hagafen Cellars and Herzog Wine Cellars.
Royal Wine Europe does a good job as well, though from time to time, the white wines do not show as well after they go through the Mevushal process. The red wines are indeed done very well as I saw this past November 2021.
The whole premise for Mevushal wine is really a U.S. concept. Europe and much of Israel do not care for or need the wine to be Mevushal to serve at restaurants or events. The USA Rabbinic leaders think that there are too many issues and potential concerns at events and restaurants – given the vast number of servers being non-Jewish. As such, they demand Mevushal wines be served at the events. I have been to events where the pourers were all Shomer Shabbat Jews and that is what they do in Europe and Israel, but those are far and few between, here in the USA.
Overall, the 10 Mevushal wines below are not great, they are not bad, but not great. Now, this is not a cause and effect – meaning Mevushal does not ruin the wines. Mevushal – done incorrectly absolutely does cause damage to wine, and I have had many a “cooked” Mevushal wine. However, Herzog and Hagafen do not have these issues. Royal Europe, does a good job, but not as good as the previously mentioned wineries. Last year’s mevushal list would have had lovely wines as it would have included the 2018 Herzog wines! Also, we do not have examples of Mevushal wines that scored 95 points that are mevushal, again this is not a cause and effect but rather the issue that people do not yet Mevushal Pontet-Canet! Mind you, as I stated before, it is not from a lack of desire, on behalf of Royal Wines, they would boil anything to be able to sell more Mevushal wines. Still, so far, of the top wines that I have scored, the highest scored Mevushal wine is 2014, 2016, and 2018 Herzog Chalk Hill Cabernet Sauvignon.
More and more wines are being made Mevushal to meet the needs of restaurants and caterers that want high-end Mevushal wines for their venues and events. The theme of the wines here is mostly Hagafen or Herzog with some smattering of European names as well.
Here is my list of the top 10 Mevushal wines that are available here in the USA. They are listed by score and after that in no particular order. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:
2019 Chateau Le Crock, Saint-Estephe, Bordeaux (M) – Score: 92+ (QPR: WINNER)
This wine is a blend of 59% Cabernet Sauvignon and 41% Merlot. While I liked the 2018 vintage some did not, but this is a nice wine either way.
The nose on this wine is perfectly balanced, with lovely fruit, loam, dirt, smoke, bright and ripe plum, black and red fruit, with ripe dried strawberry, Tisane tea, and rich mineral. The mouth on this medium to full-bodied wine is ripe, layered, beautifully controlled, with rich smoke, saline, lovely loam, beautiful graphite, pencil shaving, sweet oak, mouth-draping tannin, blackberry, dark plum, strawberry, elegance, and control, that gives way to some extraction, with sweet tobacco, and mineral. The finish is long, green, loam, dirty, rich, and yet elegant, with roasted meat, smoke, draping elegance, incredible richness without the show, really a wine to hold but one that can be enjoyed now. Drink from 2027 until 2036. If you must have it now decant for 2 hours. (tasted November 2021) (in Paris, France) (ABV = 13%)
2019 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Reserve, Lake County (M) – Score: 92+ (QPR: WINNER)
This is a lovely wine, it reminds me of the 2017 lake County Cabernet Sauvignon, just a tad less ripe and more fruit-focused. The nose on this wine is lovely. This is a classic Cabernet Sauvignon, in all the right ways, screaming mineral, insane graphite, pencil shavings, with ripe green, black, and lovely red fruit, with tar, loads of roasted herb, and classic garrigue. The mouth on this full-bodied wine is softer than the 2017 vintage, with nice acidity in the middle, wrapped by intense tannin, nice extraction, blackberry, juicy raspberry, hints of boysenberry, and loads of minerality, all coming together quite nicely. The finish is long, green, mineral-driven, but black and blue, with leather, sweet spices, with mineral lingering long, sweet smoking tobacco, and juicy boysenberry staying long. Bravo!!! Drink from 2023 until 2030. (tasted April 2021)
WOW, another year has come and gone with madness circling and surrounding us, but there are a few very talented folks who brave it all and continue to impress year after year.
We have been blessed with another vintage in South Africa, I think it is still in the midst of harvest, depending on the varietals. However, it means that it is a year past harvest from 2021! Josh Rynderman, the Dual-Hemisphere winemaker of Kos Yeshuos Winery and ESSA Wine Co., was kind enough to let me taste a few of the wines last year, but with my mind locked on getting up a mountain and then getting down alive, I forgot to post the notes! Then I see the official release of what we all knew for some time, that Royal wine was distributing ESSA wines, and man, I have to get to posting on these notes!!!!
To see more about the story and life of Kos Yeshuos and the Ryndermans, you can read my post here about last year’s wines, and this post about the wines made under ESSA Wine Co. Thankfully, the ESSA wines are all here in the USA, at this point, and they should be for sale on KosherWine.com, any day now, and they are available at most shops on the east coast.
By the way, it is cool to see wines from the VERY first vintage of ESSA wines with the 2018 Malbec, and then the 2019 vintage with the Cabernet Franc, the 2020 and 2021 vintages with the Emunah blend, and the white Altria, respectively. So cool to see the full gamut of effort on display for all to see! Bravo brother! much more success! Three QPR (Quality to Price ratio) WINNER wines from 4 vintages – WOW! The Malbec came in as GOOD, a very solid showing.
As you know Josh is a friend, and as always I make sure to disclaim things like that before posting my notes, like with Benyamin Cantz of Four Gates Winery. So, with that, my many thanks to Josh for sharing his wines with me, and yes, I have tasted them again, today, and I miss you, buddy, it has only been a few months since Josh returned to South Africa to do this year’s harvest, but his presence is missed from NorCal. Looking forward to your return for NorCal’s harvest in July/August 2022!
2021 ESSA Altira, Cape South Coast – Score: 92+ (QPR: WINNER)
This wine is a blend of 50% Semillon and 50% Sauvignon Blanc. The nose opens to Semillon-dominated aromas with lovely honeysuckle, yellow flowers, yellow plums, green/yellow apple, tart gooseberry, lovely mineral, flint, and rich straw/hay. This mouth on this medium-bodied wine is INSANE, the acidity is off the charts, with rich saline, flint, smoke, followed by layers, yes layers, of ripe melon, sweet gooseberry, lovely tart orange, passion fruit, lovely mouthfeel, almost a bit oily, with rich Asian Pear, rich lemongrass, ripe yellow grapefruit, and a precision and focus that is really incredible. The finish is long, green mineral-driven, and tart, with still incredible acidity, perfectly balanced, with flint, white chalk, green olives, and smoke galore. Bravo! Drink until 2024. (tasted March 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 13%)
2020 ESSA Emunah, Hemel en Aarde Ridge – Score: 91 (QPR: WINNER)
This wine is a red Bordelaise blend. The nose on this wine is a lovely red, dark cherry, dark red fruit, earth, mushroom, smoke, tar, loam, wet earth, and sweet oak. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is nice and approachable but one that will gain from age, with rich mushroom, ripe raspberry, dark cherry, nice bell pepper, with lovely mouth-coating tannin, rich currants, hints of black plum, with charcoal, lovely garrigue, and earth. The finish is long green, earthy, with garrigue, charcoal, roasted meat, smoke, Cuban cigar, and nice leather. Drink from 2023 until 2027. (tasted March 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 13.5%)
2019 ESSA Cabernet Franc (French Barrels) – Score: 92.5 (QPR: WINNER)
The nose on this wine is oaky to start with loads of heat, with a few minutes that blow off, to show lovely earth, forest floor, and dirt, with dark currant, green notes, foliage, green tea, and lovely red fruit. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is still quite young, with loads of screaming tannin, lovely acidity, and oak, with loads of sweet dill, spice, and nice control overall, with 13.8% ABV, showing green notes of asparagus/cucumber with cranberry, dried raspberry, and tart fruit, and lovely floral notes of rosehip, still showing oak, hints of smoke, mushroom, and sweet strawberry. An elegant wine with great control. The finish is long, green, dark, and yet tart, with a great balance from the acid and the fruit, with lovely sweet tobacco, dark chocolate, and earth, with graphite, and more mushroom lingering long. Bravo! Drink from 2023 until 2027. (tasted Sept 2020)
2018 Essa Wine Co. Malbec – Score: 91 (QPR: GOOD)
The color of this wine is incredibly dark, almost purely black. The nose on this wine is dense, black, and truly fruity, with incredible roasted meat, black and blue fruit, and red fruit lurking somewhere, with black olives, and the smoke monster coming out in the background. The mouth on this full-bodied wine is ripe and starts off a bit scary, with time this calms down very well, mostly because of the incredible acidity and tart juicy fruit, showing lovely juicy strawberry, boysenberry, with blackberry, and plum, backed by layers of brooding dark fruit, with nice earth/loam, smoke, and roasted animal. The finish is long, ripe, with strawberry juicy fruity, with mineral galore, graphite giving way to layers of smoke, with crazy tobacco, tar, and asphalt. Nice! Drink until 2024.
Now that I am done with my Paris posts it was time to finally catch up on many wines I have been tasting since I came back from hiking Kilimanjaro, in December. I know it is cold and wet outside, but white wines belong in everyone’s cellar/wine fridge for when you want to enjoy some easy-drinking wine with your soup, salad, or fish. I love to enjoy it with Tahini but to each their own.
So, as in the past, I will keep this post super short, really just a bunch of notes and I hope you enjoy the three QPR (Quality to price ratio) WINNERs as much as I did. It was really fun tasting 2021 wines in 2021! The two Hagafen wines were both unique and enjoyable. The fact that they were released within the same calendar year that they were produced, just makes it more enjoyable.
The Tzora white wines were quite nice, not quite a return to the early Aughts, but still, well-made wines and ones I would buy, if they were not so expensive. I finally had a Binah wine that I almost enjoyed, the Gruner Veltliner, but even that was missing something and not where I hoped it would be.
Goose Bay continues to crush it. Interesting note, they did not produce wine in 2020, because as you know, they are in the Southern Hemisphere. Harvest time there, for white wines, is around March, give or take a week or so. March 2020, no one was allowed to enter New Zealand, and the OU uses outside kosher wine supervisors. So, they could not produce kosher wine in 2020. I read the OU story of the Masgiach that was in Samoa and had to do crazy travel plans just to get back home. O’dwyers Creek, which is also in New Zealand, and uses the OU, as well, used local folks that Zoom’ed with the OU daily and they managed to produce a LOVELY 2020 Sauvignon Blanc. I was surprised to a 2020 O’dwyers Creek, so I reached out to the OU and that is what they told me happened, very cool, IMHO. Finally, because New Zealand is in the Southern Hemisphere, getting the 2021 wines here in December is not as unique as tasting a California 2021 wine. Either way, the wines were all quite enjoyable from New Zealand and Hagafen.
Finally, the two Viniferia wines were quite enjoyable and well priced. The new 2019 vintage of the Chateau Guiraud G, Blanc-Sec, is quite lovely and would be a QPR WINNER, except for its higher than median pricing.
2020 O’Dwyers Creek Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough (M) – Score: 92 (QPR: WINNER)
The nose on this wine is classically New Zealand in style, cat piss, green notes, gooseberry, passion fruit, fresh-cut grass, and bright fruit all over the place. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is lovely, showing nice flint notes, smoke, rock, saline, gooseberry, lemongrass, guava, lychee, and crazy acid, that comes at you in waves, so much fun! The finish on this wine shows more saline, rock, flint, smoke, mineral, gooseberry, freshly cut grass, and intense acid, so much fun!!! BRAVO!! Drink until 2024. (tasted December 2021) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 12.50%)
As stated in my previous post, I was in Paris in November, and while it took forever to post these notes, I am happy to finally be getting to them at this point. The total number of boxes in our hotel room, much like in June, still makes me laugh!
As I stated, in my previous post, I kept to my hotel room for much of the trip. I was joined by Avi Davidowitz from Kosher Wine Unfiltered. Even vaccinated, I was worried, as such we kept to ourselves, where possible. Almost all the wines below were tasted with Avi, in our hotel room, a few were tasted after he returned home to Israel.
I truly enjoyed the Château de Marmorières Les Amandiers, La Clape, Languedoc we had in June. So, I made sure Avi tasted that along with other wines from the winery, which was only released after I left Paris in June. The rose and white were nice while the Cab and Merlot were less interesting.
White wines from all over France
For the most part, the list was weak as it had too many boring Chablis. There were one or two nice wines, so look for those WINNERS. The best of that group has the worst name I have ever seen – LaCheteau Sauvignon Blanc – like seriously??? Anyway, horrible name – great wine!
Charles Pere & Fils Burgundy Wines
I was hoping to enjoy some 2020 Burgundy wines, but sadly, none of them stood out in a good way. They felt rushed, not complete, and overall, lackluster. I hope subsequent vintages will be better.
We had wines from Famille Daubree and Les Vins De Vienne and neither of them stood out. Again, they were very ripe, and we gave them days to come around, they never did. These are not what I am looking for. They are well made but too ripe for me. If you like well-made ripe French wine, try them out.
Various Bordeaux Wines
This group was a total loser, just like in June, except this time – there were no new wines to save me! Thankfully, for Avi, there were many of the wines I enjoyed in June, but for me, there was not a SINGLE red wine I would drink. That is how bad the options were!
German Weingut Gehring Wines
These wines were the most enjoyable and reasonably priced wines we tasted in our own tasting. The wines were made for an Israeli entrepreneur, who was going to sell them to hotels and restaurants, but sadly, he died, and the wines just sat in Germany! Some of them made their way to Israel anyway and that is where Avi and a few others saw them and worked crazy hard to buy them. Avi brought one wine with him, but I wanted to taste them all, there are three of them.
Weingut Gehring made three kosher wines with this gentleman who passed away, a Riesling, Grauer Burgunder (Pinot Gris), and an off-dry muscat. So, while I was in France I called the winery and paid them to ship the wines to my hotel, which worked perfectly! That was how I was able to taste all three of them. The wines that were sent to me all have Hebrew back labels as they were meant for the Israeli market and while the Hechsher is good it is not one many would know.
Thoughts on this tasting
Overall, these wines were unimpressive, but wow did we find some real sleepers! The 2020 LaCheteau Sauvignon Blanc, Les Cimes, Haut-Poitou, Loire Valley is a no-brainer for those in France/Europe. Same for the two german wines. Other than that it was a total mess and I hope the next trip will have better options!
Though none of these wines will ever make it to the USA shores, some are in Israel and I feel bad for you. The LeChateau is in Israel, but I have no idea if there were transport issues, like with many other French wines imported into Israel, in the past. The two German wines were in Israel but I have no idea about their distribution. Either way, thankfully, these wines can stay in France/Europe, there is nothing I want here, other than maybe the German wines, but I think they are all spoken for.
2020 Chevalier De Marmorieres Rose, Vin de France – Score: 90.5 (QPR: GREAT)
Clean smelling rose with good lines, bright fruit, floral notes of violet, honeysuckle, raspberry, honeyed fruit, and tart lemon. Nice job, the mouth on this medium-bodied rose is tart, right on the money, well priced, with lovely strawberry, sweet pomelo, mango, with searing acidity, tart lemon, lemon pith, sweet peach, and nice refreshing acidity to bring it all together – nice! The finish is long, ripe, and well-balanced, with slate, acid, and good fruit. Nice! Drink now! (tasted November 2021)
2020 Chevalier De Marmorieres Blanc, Vin de France – Score: 90 (QPR: GOOD)
The nose on this wine is very fruity, smells a lot like Viognier, with white peach, apricot, funk, guava, and sweet fruit. The mouth on this opens slowly, with nice acidity, that is slow to fully show, nice acidity, with guava, ripe peach, Pomelo, sweet honeysuckle, honeyed tropical fruit, and ripe melon. The finish is long, tart, ripe, and well balanced, with more funk, saline, mineral, and slate. Nice! (tasted November 2021) (in Paris, France) (ABV = 12.50%)
My trip to Paris in November and in June showed me terroir is not enough to make good wine. There are endless shelves of useless wines, at equally high prices, just like here in the USA. Thankfully, there were a few good ones and those will be outlined over the next weeks.
However, I wanted to catch up on a few wines that people have been asking about. The new Yarden wines are all the rave. People are crowing about them, and while they are not classic Israeli Date juice, they are not very interesting at all. I opened a lovely 2018 Baron Herzog Zinfandel, and that was far more interesting, refreshing, and enjoyable, than the 2018 Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon.
There were also two lovely wines from California. First was the return of a kosher B.R. Cohn wine, this time it is not the Trestle Glen wine but a nice Cabernet Sauvignon, nonetheless. It was balanced, well made, and far more enjoyable than the Yarden, any day. Finally, I enjoyed the N.V. Hurliman Pinot Noir. It is a lovely wine made in honor of Joe Hurliman, head winemaker at Herzog Wine Cellars.
Finally, I need to once again highlight how much I like the 2020 Sheldrake Riesling, Dry, Finger Lakes, NY. It is a lovely wine, that may well be the most refreshing and enjoyable wine out there, at this moment. NO, I did not say the best wine out there. I said, refreshing and enjoyable. Some wines are elegant, unique, layered, and expressive, like the epic 2019 Chateau Pontet can’t or the almost equally impressive 2019 Chateau LaGrange. But, not every wine experience is about Pontet Canet. There are times where I want an enjoyable white wine to have during Shabbat lunch. In that case, I will either reach for sparkling wine or an acid-driven but equally refreshing white wine. Ari Lockspeiser’s 2020 Sheldrake Riesling is lovely and meets all of those requirements, nicely done buddy!
2020 Sheldrake Point Riesling, Dry, Finger Lakes, NY – Score: 91.5 (QPR: WINNER)
This is the first year that Ari Wines has made this wine and it is a true joy! First, I love the fact that he makes clear what dryness the wine has. The wine label shows an RS (Residual Sugar of 0.7 which is a bit more than I would have liked but still not within the average person’s opinion of what is “dry”. Officially, 0.5% is off-dry, but that is crazy precise, to most people below .10% you are dry, but everyone has their opinions. Finally, IMHO, this wine is not the best Riesling I have this year, nor is it the most complex wine of this year. However, and this is of great importance, this wine may well be the most refreshing wine I have tasted this year! That could well be because of either the lovely acidity, the low ABV (Alcohol By Volume), or because I love Riesling!
From open until empty this wine is always ready, enjoyable, and fun! The nose on this wine is lovely, showing notes I crave with intense honeysuckle, peach, tart citrus, honeyed notes of apple and pear, more floral notes, spices, and great minerality! The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is where this wine goes into solid WINNER status, it starts with a wave of acid, followed by a wave of balanced mouthfeel, with a weight that is lovely, not oily, but lovely, with ripe peach, tart tangerine, crab-apple like nectarine, and intense acidity. The finish is long, ripe, yet layered and expressive, with an acidic backbone, mineral, flint, rock, and intensity of mineral that makes this wine a true joy! Bravo! Drink until 2024. (tasted Novemeber 2021) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 11.10%)