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A wonderful day spent with Gabriel and Yael Geller

On another recent business trip, I spent a day with Gabriel and Yael Geller. My many thanks to my friends for hosting me for the day. The food was awesome, smoked ribs, and roasted chuck, and a game of blind tastings that was really wonderful. The wines we tasted blind were mostly 100% HORRIBLE but the last one we enjoyed was why I just stated that it was wonderful, because GG was so kind to pour a bottle of the 2002 Smith Haute Lafite a wine I had not tasted till that moment. It was beyond wonderful – thanks so much, buddy!!!

We also took a tour around Teaneck, NJ’s Kosher takeout establishments and they were all horrible. Sorry. There was nothing good to report here. However, the wine shop where we bought a vast number of horrible wines was very nice. The wine shop is called Filler’up. The owner is called Mendy Mark and he was very kind and helpful in finding all the new wines that I have not yet tasted. Sadly, 95% of those wines were horrible but that is not Mendy’s fault there is far too much horrible plonk in the Kosher wine world.

So, if you are in the Teaneck area definitely swing by Filler’up they have a great selection and the staff is very nice. However, do not buy takeout food from around there that stuff is really bad.

Ok, thankfully, the takeout food was just a test of the quick food in the area, not really food we had that evening. If I had an image of the smoked ribs it would have been the post’s featured image, the animal was black bark heaven, with loads of spice and smoke. Do not forget breakfast and lunch before that which was also beautifully served and with such panache, my many thanks again!

I bought a bunch of wines and they were all duds other than one very nice French Mevushal wine that came in a 375ml format, but it also comes in 750ml format, but it is not available at any of the common shops that I can buy from. If someone finds it at a place that ships and does not charge an arm and leg, please tell me, more on the best of the tasting below, other than, of course, the EPIC 2002 Chateau Smith Haute Lafite.

GG did a blind tasting and they were all bad to horrible, again, other than the 2002 SHL. To be fair, I did not take long notes for wines that were undrinkable. I have listed the blind and non-blind tasted wines below in different sections. Many thanks to Gabriel and Yael Geller for hosting me and for sharing his time, wonderful culinary feats, home, and wines with me. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

2018 Route Victor Cabernet Sauvignon, California – Score: NA
The nose on this wine is bulk in nature, candied fruit, cherry, and cheap. The mouth on this wine is cheap, far too acidic, and a lack of body, cherry, acid, and vegetables. Move on

2016 Padre Bendicho, Yecla – Score: NA
This wine is a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Mourvedre. This wine is 100% PURE date juice, in all the glorious ways it can be! Read the rest of this entry

The latest crop of Kosher QPR wines and some losers

It has not been long since I last posted a new list of QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) Kosher wines. But I am always looking for more winners, and I am sure some 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. I have yet to taste the 2015 Terra di Seta Riserva and sadly I was not a fan of the ALWAYS QPR worthy 2017 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico. The 2017 Elvi Rioja Semi, another perennial QPR winner was not my cup of tea but the 2018 vintage is ripe wine, Mevushal, but still nice and QPR winner.

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, I wrote about the new Gilgal Brut back in January, and the wine has moved beyond its insane acid lemon trip and it is now rounding out a bit, with some added complexity and richness.

Domaine Netofa was always on my QPR list, but sadly that was just for Israel, but thankfully Royal and Kosherwine.com have combined to bring the entire line back to the USA! I hear it is going well so get on these before they disappear!

Now, I also wanted to add a list of losers as people have been asking me what I thought of some of the newer wines and here is my response, so I have a QPR list and a NOT so QPR list.

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

2017 Domaine Netofa, Red – Score: 91 (QPR Superstar)
This wine is now exclusively imported by Kosherwine.com and I hope they are selling well. This has really stabilized now. It is a bit fruity still, but it also has some nice old-school style and swagger. The nose on this wine is nice and smoky, with great control and roasted animal. The fruit is blue and black and lovely. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is layered and with nice blueberry, blackcurrant, great acid, and great control showing earth, raspberry, root beer, that give way to spice, vanilla, and loads of dirt. The finish is ribbons of mineral, charcoal, graphite and bitter coffee, Solid!! Drink by 2021.

2017 Domaine Netofa Latour, White – Score: 91 to 92 (QPR)
Crazy Oak nose with yellow pear and apple, quince and rich saline with hay and dry herb. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is crazy good, layered, extracted and richly round, but tart, and saline bomb, with lovely tension and rich herb, and lovely sweet spices and sweet Oak. The finish off long, green, with vanilla, herb, and mint, and lemongrass, with tart lemon curd and spices. Drink by 2023.

2017 Domaine Netofa Latour, Red – Score: 91 (QPR)
The 2017 vintage is less austere than 2016, it is more accessible now and will still hold. The nose on this wine is really nice with rich black currant, blackberry, and blue notes that give way to smoke, Oak, toasty notes, and lovely tar. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is super tart and really bright, with great acid, blackberry, blueberry, black currant, with garrigue, sweet but well-balanced note, with mouth-coating elegance and layers of concentrated fruit and earthy notes, with chocolate and sweet spices. The finish is long, bright, tobacco, mineral, pencil shavings, with tar, and root beer. Lovely! Drink now until 2022. (To be released soon I think)

2016 Domaine Netofa Latour, Red – Score: 92 (Crazy QPR)
This wine is a blend of 65% Syrah and 35% Mourvedre. The nose on this wine is lovely, ripe and balanced, with sweet oak, blueberry, boysenberry, with bright fruit, and loads of dirt. This wine is really still very young, showing great potential, with incredible tannin, great acid, rich layers of blue and black fruit with great aging potential, loads of chocolate and rich spice, dark fruit, and herb, all wrapped in a plush yet elegant mouthfeel. The finish is less green than past vintages, showing a more ripe fruit profile, but still clearly balanced, with foliage, tobacco, mint, and sweet spices and herbs. Bravo!! Drink from 2020 till 2024.

2018 Ramon Cardova Albarino, Rias Baixas – Score: 92 (QPR Superstar)
The 2018 vintage of this Albarino, in its second vintage, shows less tropical and ripe than the first vintage, 2017. This bottle also had the thermal active label, and it shows up when the bottle is at the proper drinking temperature. My only REAL and serious complaint is the cork, why would Royal waste the money and my money of a real cork? Use a Diam or any other amalgamated cork, like almost everyone else is. I really hope I do not hit a bad cork for the wines I have.
The nose on this wine is better than the 2017 vintage, Lovely nose of rich mineral, with loads of straw, with which salinity, and lovely peach and dry pear, with honeysuckle, gooseberry, along with green notes galore. Lovely! The mouth on this lovely green and acid-driven wine, has a more oily mouthfeel than the 2017 vintage, showing rich salinity, green olives, with lovely dry quince, green apples, more peach, green apple, but also with lovely lime and grapefruit, no sense of guava or melon-like on the 2017 vintage, with a tinge of orange notes. The overall mouth is lovely and it comes at you in layers. The finish is long, green, with gooseberry, tart fruit, with an incredible freshness, and orange pith, slate, rock, and incredible acidity lingering long. Incredible!! Bravo!! Drink until 2022. Read the rest of this entry

My recent visit with Yaacov Oryah and the white and orange wine factory

Anyone who has enjoyed an old white wine from Yaacov Oryah’s mind and hands can understand my choice of title. As long as you were not born in this century, of course (OMG, do not bring up the abomination that was the remake).

Yaacov Oryah has had many wineries that he has worked for, made wines for others, and/or consulted with. The official list that I know of is Asif Winery, Midbar Winery, Yaakov Oryah, Ella Valley, and now Psagot, where he is the head winemaker.

For the longest time, as long as I have known the man when we first met at Midar Winery in 2013, I have been struck by his passion, drive, and single-mindedness in creating great white wines in Israel.

Yes, Mr. Oryah can make fine red wines, like the 2011 Yaacov Oryah Iberian Dream, Gran Reserva, and Reserva, the Claro wines he makes for a restaurant called Claro, and others. Still, what I really crave and admire are the white and orange wines.

I have already spoken at length about Mr. Oryah here so I will concentrate on the 2019 releases. Also, if you think that the names of Yaacov Oryah wines are a bit whimsical, then good for you! You are starting to get a glimpse into the operation that is Yaacov Oryah Winery, a blend of whimsical genius, alchemy, great winemaking, and downright unique color all wrapped into a unique lineup of wines that define Mr. Oryah himself.

Orange wine factory

Mr. Oryah keeps saying that the white wines on the market today are a stripped down version of what a white wine should be. Sure, Europe has superstar white wines that can last decades, but that requires unique soil, fruit, terroir, and of course, history. In Israel, where the only thing that really sells well is date juice, that kind of wine is a dream. Still, Mr. Oryah thinks that he can create wines that are still quite unique indeed.

I have had the 2009 Midbar Semillon, and though the tasting in 2016 did not show well, that wine continues to blow me away in tasting after tasting. A Semillon that is 10 years old, and may now finally be reaching its limits. It is not a white wine covered in oak makeup, it is a wine that is pure and truly professional. It is what Mr. Oryah thinks can be done in Israel with white varietals. Yet, each and every year he makes more and more crazy wines. Each one is a data point for a growing list of wines that he sees as potential suitors for the wines he dreams of building.

Until he creates the perfect wine, the wines and data points he is building along the way, are getting better and better. The map and path he is building are not pointing towards another mass produced winery. The data points point towards a more precise and surgically built winery. Where plots or even rows of vines may well define the data point for his dream wine.

Factory of the future

When I heard that Mr. Oryah was creating 10 Orange wines (only 9 are publically available, the other is for a restaurant), four white wines (the varietal Semillon is for a later date), and one rose wine, I thought – I need to taste these!

So, Avi Davidowitz of Kosher Wine Unfiltered, and I made our way to the only real place to taste wine in Jerusalem, the Red and White Wine Bar. Yes, I have spoken about Mark and the bar before. It is still kitty-corner from the beautiful Mamilla hotel (8 Shlomo HaMelech Street at the corner of Yanai Street). Mark is still the ever present and mindful host, and while we tasted through 20+ wines, Mark was there with us through every wine, with food, heady music, with an uncanny ability to feel the room and timing throughout it all. I really feel horrible that I never had the time to go back to the bar and hang with Mark for an evening and watch him ply his trade, teaching the world about the world of Kosher Wine while serving great food and playing really fun music. Hopefully, next time!

I have spoken about orange wines in the past. Orange wine is simply the process of leaving white grapes to ferment on their skins, like red wine. To Mr. Oryah it is the truest expression of a white varietal and one that Israel can use now to create great white wines, while it searches for more data points on the path for Israel’s white varietals of the future. He calls the wine line Alpha Omega (AO) because it is greek for A to Z, to represent that this wine has it all, skin, pulp, and seed, not juice white juice, like most white wines are made.

The skins add more than just a bit of color, they add a huge amount of natural phenolics, along with tannin (yes tannin in white wine), and then it adds a few extracurricular notes, that some could find challenging. Notes that are defined as nuts and other aspects of reduction or oxidation. The point though is that the Alpha Omega line is a showcase of control and experimentation. Many of the wines show the proper and incredible next step beyond white wines we all know. The rich and layered complexity that skins add without some of the extracurricular notes. Some of the wines show those notes and many will find them wonderful, like myself, but in all, it is a show of control, experimentation, and more dots on the plot to a richer future. Read the rest of this entry

A Shabbat in Jerusalem with epic old world wines

As I have been posting so far, I enjoyed my last trip to Israel and Europe, and I am almost done with my Israeli winery posts. Last we left off, we had just had our second kosher wine tasting at DD’s house, and the first of the three wineries we visited on Friday – Domaine du Castel Winery. However before we get back to the other two wineries we visited on Friday, I wanted to post about the wines we enjoyed over the Shabbat that followed.

I will leave the story for another day, but I can say that Jerusalem was smoking hot Friday and Shabbat (chamsin-like), but thankfully dry. I spat throughout the tastings on Friday, where we went to Tzora Winery, Flam Winery, and the afore-posted Castel Winery. However, some of the group were less careful about spitting and combine that with the searing heat that did not cool till almost midnight – and that made for a viscous 1-2 punch that slowed some folks at the dinner table on Shabbat. However, come Shabbat day all were active and wine was flowing like bonkers. I brought over two wines, as I was asked to drink and forget Israeli wines, please, which is all I could have access to!

However, I was able to find the lovely 2016 La Vie Roubine rose and a total pass of a wine, the 2016 1848 White blend, flat and unimaginative, and the fantastic NV Yaacov Oryah Old musketeer, so I was 2 for 3, which is a very high batting average, but not a good wine present average. Though the NV Yaacov Oryah Old musketeer hopefully makes up for it.

Friday Night

The walk to dinner was preceded by a quick davening in a Sephardic shul that brought back memories of my youth when I spend Shabbosim in Jerusalem. Old and young mingling and davening with their own expressions and intonations, but all still together in spirit and fervor, a real joy. Of course, the other great part is that there was no schlepping of any sort! Gotta love praying in Jerusalem! There was a class by some Rabbi, but I remember none of it, I think that is clear enough.

As we made our way up to our host, the heat was receding a bit, but that is like saying it is easier to walk through torrential rain than a hail storm. It was tough, and it was straight uphill, a small fact that everyone felt free to not disclose to me ahead of time, very nice! To be fair I was not the one schlepping the 8 bottles of wine up that hill, those were strapped to the back of the “not so with us” participant, who courageously powered up the hill, weaving here and fro but upwards all the same! I had to stop once and when we arrived at our host’s home, I was literally blanched and unable to stand – the heat, the hike uphill, it took a toll on me and I must have drunk a gallon of water until I was human again.

Finally, we were ready for kiddush, at least most of us, and that was done on grape juice! Like what! Grape juice! Then I realized – this may be the home of a Frenchman, but it is also home to a few kids who drink grape juice first and then wine. The smallest of the three drinks wine just fine, but the other two enjoy tasting it. The house itself is quite lovely and the fact that it is still standing, notwithstanding the three young terrorists that live within its walls, is a testimony to the building skills of the masons and builders of Jerusalem!

I will skip the food as I was not really tracking what I was eating, not because it was not great, but more because I was greatly enamored by the wines in front of me and the need to sleep ASAP, it had been a long day at that point. Read the rest of this entry

Kosher Wine Tasting in Jerusalem – take 2

As I have been posting so far, I enjoyed my last trip to Israel and Europe. Last we left off, we had just had a kosher wine tasting at DD house. Instead of posting about the next three wineries we visited, which I will post soon, I wanted to post the other wine tasting, which was also at DD’s house. That man is a gluten for punishment!

There were some winners, a lovely bottle of Carignan from Carmel (another QPR winner), the 2013 Dalton Semillon, Single Vineyard Elkosh – still going nice, but getting close to drink-up. For this tasting, I brought a bottle of the fantastic 2014 Hagafen Riesling, IMHO, every tasting needs a Riesling! Sadly, that was about it. The 2014 Yaacov Oryah Alpha Omega was nice as well. The shockers were once again the pushed nature of the Mia Luce reds. We had all the Mia Luce reds, from 2012, 2014, and 2015 and they did not show well. The last 2012 Mia Luce from the other tasting was corked, so they brought another one, and this was not corked but man was it pushed and overripe at this point. I am not sure – Carignan is not a wine that I am finding can last long in Israel. At least so far from the wines I have tried, either the Recanati Carignan or the Mia Luce Carignan (sourced from the same vineyards).

I did have a horizontal of many Carignan last year, and Mia Luce was the clear winner. They were older bottles and they were lovely, maybe these were bad bottles as well, I do not know. I will be tasting my older ones to double-check soon.

My many thanks to our friend DD for hosting us in his lovely home! To be honest, after all the wine tastings I had up until this point, I was done for, so my notes were not very good this time. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

2016 Midbar Unoaked Chardonnay: Score: 84
Nice sweet nose of candied melon, peach, dried apple, and straw. The mouth is medium bodied with too much sweetness and not enough balance, with not enough acid, good enough fruit, but no focus, showing more stone fruit, sweet quince, nice grapefruit, with good sweet spices, and herb. The finish is long and spicy with peach, with tart and sweet quince lingering long.

2016 Har Bracha Gewurtztraminer: Score: 75
Wow, this is a sweet and dried fruit disaster, with tons of notes of oxidation and no joy – sorry. Very sweet pass, tropical, and insane melon/guava, dry flower madness, no balance.

Read the rest of this entry

Red and White Wine Bar of Jerusalem and Yaacov Oryah Winery

The next wines that I enjoyed on my last trip to Israel and Europe, are made by the ever capable Yaacov Oryah (head winemaker at Psagot Winery) and we tasted his wines at one of the newest hip kosher wine bars in Jerusalem – the Red and White Wine bar – kitty-corner from the beautiful Mamilla hotel (8 Shlomo HaMelech Street at the corner of Yanai Street).

I was traveling to Jerusalem after visiting Gvaot Winery and I was talking with Yaacov Oryah about where we could meet to taste his wines. We were supposed to meet in Psagot Winery, where he is the winemaker, but things came up at the winery and there was no open space that was available for us to sit and hang. I was traveling to Jerusalem anyway, and I recommended that we meet somewhere in Jerusalem, and Yaacov suggested that we should meet at the Red and White wine bar.

Now, I had never heard of this wine bar, and that is shame on me because Sarah Levi had already covered the bar in this lovely piece in early April 2017. The wine bar is one of those few bars that is very particular about what wines are served on their menu. They have top flight wines from Castel, Flam, Gvaot, Adir, Psagot, Matar, and Yaacov Oryah. Of course, not everyone is on the same page as I am, so they have wines from other Israeli wineries, but the majority are wines I would drink! They also have great food, his menu consists of omelets, cheese, and butter (from Naomi Farm in the Golan), great bread, fresh pasta, and fish dishes. However, do not forget the great dessert options as well!
The overall feel of the bar is old school, but equally current, with a bartender that understands food, service, and wine are all intertwined into a single vision that is focused on people first, wine and food second. The bartender is the owner, sommelier, coffee bean roaster, the cheesemonger – Mark Arnold Jam. If you ever get the chance to sit down for an hour in this lovely place you will quickly find that his last name equates well to his musical tastes. Mark gets the vision and he is a one-man show that weaves poetry, music, an old school vibe, and great food and wine knowledge into the ideal renaissance man at your service!

Red and White Bar - behind the bar

I arrived after parking my car in the Mamilla parking lot and making my way across the street and walked into the bar, and I immediately walked over to the two wine dispensing machines and the wine fridge. The bar has a huge fridge in the back of the bar and it was stacked with lots of great wine. The bar also has two dispensing machines each stacked with eight wines, at reasonable prices and backed by Mark’s great wine knowledge.

Once I finished perusing the wines, Yaacov arrived with boxes of his wines to taste and it was off to the races. We sat down at the bar and I tasted through the wines as I peppered Mark with questions, and though he is the classic Renesaince man, he is very humble and really wanted to let the bar and the atmosphere speak for itself. About halfway through tasting the wines, I started to nibble at the bread and butter and they were both very nice. The cheese looked good, but I stuck with the bread and once we were finished I tasted some of them and they were all very impressive, but I was in a rush after that and needed to get to the Kotel and then to the wine tasting at DD’s house – which will be the focus of the next post.

My many thanks to Yaacov Oryah for allowing me to taste all the current wines and to Mark for letting us spend some time in his lovely wine bar! The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

2014 Psagot blanc de blanc – Score: NA
This wine is still a few years from release, but already it is showing great potential. The wine needs more time on the lees to come together, but it is tart, bright, and starting to get some complexity. The nose on this wine is lovely with rock, limestone, with rich saline and green apple. The mouth shows nice acid, great minerality, lemon fraiche, with gooseberry, kiwi, and lychee, all wrapped in nice small mousse bubbles. Nice.

2009 Yaacov Oryah Emek Hatzayidim (Hunter Valley) Semillon – Score: A-
The nose on this wine is lovely, with rich honeysuckle, dry straw, grapefruit, and lovely minerality. The mouth on this wine shows a rich and acidic core, with white peach, rich lemon Fraiche, crazy rich slate, mineral, dry straw and dry kiwi all wrapped in an incredible fruit focus that is really all about the perfect balance of acid, mineral, saline, and slate. The finish is long and tart with green apple, yellow/pink grapefruit, and green notes, tart notes lingering long. Bravo. Drink by 2019. Read the rest of this entry

Matar made by Pelter Winery’s latest releases

The next winery that I enjoyed on my last trip to Israel and Europe, was Matar by Pelter winery. I have been to the winery a few times over the past years and my posts can be found here, and they continue to impress with their red and whites wines alike. Though I must say, that the red wines have become riper with time. Time will tell if this is a blip or a conscious desire.

There is not much more to say here. Their white and rose wines from 2015 were nice, but nowhere near the level of their 2014 wines. The good news is the 2016 white wines are far closer to the 2014 vintage. Sadly, the 2015 reds are not showing like Matar wines normally do, but again 2015 was a really bad year. They are not date juice, but the 2015 reds, like the Merlot and the Petite Verdot, are just riper than usual and are showing a bit unbalanced.

My many thanks to the winery, and especially Gal Yaniv, the winery’s CEO for going out of his way to help us in many ways – my many thanks, sir! The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

2016 Matar Sauvignon Blanc – Semillon – Score: A-
Another lovely vintage of this wine. The nose is ripe with gooseberry, green apple, crazy grapefruit, fresh cut grass, and kiwi. The mouth is great, ripping acid, with a super focus along with lovely spice, rich ripe melon, and lovely cloves, with slate and rich citrus pith. The finish is long and green and it is pure acid, bravo with cinnamon and slate. Bravo!!

2016 Matar Chardonnay – Score: A-
The nose on this wine is a lovely chard nose with green apple, a bit of gooseberry, citrus, pear, with herb and lovely foliage and green notes. A nice medium mouth with crazy acid, great fruit focus, with intense citrus pith, lovely tart mouth-filling fruit that gives way to crazy pith, slate, and lemon Fraiche. The finish is long and tart, with good mineral, slate, rock and fruit pith lingering long. Nice!

2016 Matar Chenin Blanc – Score: A-
This may well be their best Chenin Blanc ever, the wine is very close in style to Netofa’s Chenin Blanc, it is far drier than previous vintages and is showing purity and original style.
The nose is very different than previous vintages with great Chenin funk, with honeysuckle, straw, rich floral notes and herb. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is lean, rich and yet focused with old world style, great mineral, rich saline, lovely straw, earth, all balanced with epic acid, and great dry yellow melon and pear. The finish is long and mineral-focused, with lovely flint, smoke, earth, slate, backed by crazy saline, acid, and tart fruit. Bravo!

Read the rest of this entry

Top kosher White and Sparkling wines that I have tasted in 2017

Over the past three months, I have been trying as many rose, white, and sparkling wines as I could find and it is time to post what I think of them. In the grand scheme of things, 2016 is not much better of a year than 2015 was. The white and rose wines from the 2015 vintage in Israel were a complete disaster. I have stated that many times and that is why I did not post this list last year at all. I was almost not going to post this list this year, but what the heck – it will not be very good information – as many of the wines were boring to painful with a few good exceptions.

To recap, red wines overall from Israel are a total letdown and nothing has changed in that department. However, the 2015 and 2016 vintages for whites and roses have overall been a huge disappointment, in regards to either lack of focus in the wines or lack of acid.

I have covered Rose – many times now, but the latest and last was here and a few French roses that were not worth much as well. The whites and sparkling wines were what I needed to post – so I guess it is time to post them already.

The State of Israeli wines from the 2016 vintage

Israel really got me excited about the rose and white wine potential, but the last two years have totally squashed those aspirations. I really hope 2017 brings it back. Sure, we can always count on Domaine Netofa and Tzora Winery for great wines. Netofa has released some brand new wines and I look forward to being able to taste those wines very soon. The new 2016 Tzora white wines are now in the USA and they are lovely wines that have a good few years in their tanks. The new 2016 Psagot are also quite nice.

Of course, Yarden winery continues to be the best kosher Sparkling winery in the world. Sure, there are great sparkling wines from France and even some nice one from Spain and the USA, but for the price, quality, and enjoyment – you cannot beat the Yarden Sparkling wines. Their white wines are very professional, they may not blow you away, but they are always clean, well balanced, and fun to drink, which is what matters. Their lower level labels (Gilgal here in the USA), have had some issues in the white wines, and Galil Mountain Winery has also been slipping a bit, which is sad.

In regards to Israeli red wines, nothing new here. A great red Israeli wine has gone the way of the dodo bird. Other than Tzora, Netofa, Mia Luce, and some others here and there,  I cannot safely recommend reds from Israel to my friends.

Two years ago when I last compiled a cross varietal white wine list, I was praising Israel for its wonderful whites and rose – sadly that was the wonderful 2014 vintage! It was and is still crazy good for some wines like Matar and Tzora. Then we had 2015 and 2016! While the 2016 vintage is better than the 2015 vintage, well anything would have been better than 2015, it is still severely lacking.

My cellar has gone primarily to the USA, then France, then Spain, and then stuff here and there. The USA, mostly because I love all things Four Gates Winery, and a bunch of others as you will see below. That is a sad state of affairs, but it is one that has been created by the Israeli wineries themselves. They always have the chance to change back, till then I will enjoy the wines made in California, Spain, France, and wait for bell curve to shift like it has in France and California. I hope Israel is only slightly behind them, but from what I had over the past couple of years now, things are still going the wrong way in the world of kosher Israeli wines. Read the rest of this entry

Elk’s fantastic Northern California birthday party

2012 Dalton Semillon, Elkosh Vineyard, 2011 Hajdu Proprietary Red, Howell Mountain Napa Valley, 2013 Four gates SyrahMy friend EH was in the area and it was also his birthday, so a bunch of winemakers were so kind to grace my home for Elk and they all came bearing gifts, that were enjoyed by all. Sadly, as much as I want to extol about the epic wines we enjoyed, I cannot do that as many of the wines are not yet released, and I was sworn to secrecy until their official grand unveiling.

I did not even plan the whole thing, that was all Elk, all I did was supply a place, some wines and food. The rest was handled by Elk, and as a host I did even less, as Josh Rynderman, handled all the food prep on the grill. All I really did was make Risotto, and help opening some of the wines.

After that, it was really all the winemakers who made the party what it was. They gathered to wish Elk a happy birthday and have a good time tasting great Cali wines! I was the only one who added in a few Israeli wines, but they were well accepted – overall. Still, given the set of Cali wines that were poured (both unreleased and released) – they crushed the Israeli wines by far.

Sadly, I did not get any pictures, and I barely got the notes down before they were either finished or taken home by the folks at the party.

So, I will keep this short and sweet – these are the notes for the wines we can talk about. Also, my many thanks to Gabriel Weiss from Shirah Winery, Jonathan Hajdu from Hajdu Winery, and Benyo from Four Gates Winery for sharing wines with the attendees. Finally thanks to Josh Rynderman for manning the grill.

The wine notes follow with what I can talk about:

2013 Shirah Syrah Santa Barbara County – Score: A- (and a bit)
The last two times I had this wine it was showing far more old school than now. The wine is showing more Cali than in the past and while it still has the saline and dirt, the riper Cali notes are starting to show through.
The nose on this wine is lovely, with earth, dirt, loam, mineral, along with rich roasted animal, blackcurrant, root beer, charcoal, and sweet spice. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is all about the dirt and mineral, along with sweet fruit, layered with insane sweet peach, plum, blueberry, boysenberry, with more sweet spices, nutmeg, and allspice. The finish is long with chocolate, leather, cinnamon, and watermelon. LOVELY!

2011 Tabor Merlot Adama, Bazelet – Score: B+ to A-
GG said this wine was turning fast, and while I did not have a bad bottle, I could see that after a day the wine was really too ripe. To me this wine has a year left and then it is over – so drink up!!
The wine is riper than the 2010, which to me was a masterpiece indeed. The 2011 is riper and more fruity, but it is not a date bomb or anything like the stuff I dislike and rail against. 2011 was a very cold year, and wineries had to leave the fruit on the vine longer, making for a wine that could be seen as out of balance. Still, the ripeness does calm with time, and earthy notes do show with dark fruit and spice. This is still a solid QPR wine and for 18 or so dollars it is a no brainer.
The nose on this wine is rich with dark fruit, blackberry, loamy dirt, mineral, and more barnyard than in the past. The mouth on this medium bodied wine shows rich acid, nice tannin and good fruit structure with nice extraction, graphite, black fruit, raspberry, currant, and sweet oak, with tobacco taking front stage now. The finish is long and earthy, with roasted herb, fresh coffee, tobacco, more green notes, green tea, graphite and more barnyard lingering. Showing better!

2015 Shirah Rose – Score: A- (plus)
75% Grenache and 25% Tannat. Lovely floral notes, cotton candy, and rich cherry. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is classic Shirah wine, with candied cherry, candied raspberry, and cherry 7up, with rich intense notes, great acid, rich currant, mineral, and great dried fruit. The finish is long and lasting with lovely dried quince, dried grapefruit, and great acid and herb. Bravo!!!

2015 Shirah Vintage Whites – Score: A- (plus)
Another classic hit from the Weiss brothers, this time the Shirah Whites, is really Shirah Vintage White, as it is 100% Viognier! What an intoxicating nose, ripe and juicy peach, honeysuckle, white flower, dried honeydew melon, and rich spices. The mouth on this full-bodied wine is viscous and rich, layered with awesome white pepper, spice, cloves, but showcasing its ripe summer stone fruit, with apricot and peach giving way to dried Asian Pear and green tea. The finish is long and spicy with bitter almond notes, along with orange, pith, and lovely spices. BRAVO!!

2011 Mia Luce Rosso – Score: B+ to A-
I had this wine at the winery and it was far too pushed. This wine after two hours of air is better, with nice nose of brett, barnyard, and lovely dirt. The mouth on this medium bodied wine shows lovely earth, blackberry, dirt, coating the mouth with rich mineral, earth, rich sweet oak, and too much sweet notes. The finish is long and spicy, with cloves, searing acid and tannin, with green notes, foliage, tobacco, dried meat, and lovely dirt. Nice!

2013 Shirah Tannat – Score: A- (and a bit)
This wine needs time to open, maybe two hours. The nose on this wine is lovely, with rich fruit, yes it has notes of raisin, but get past it, the nose is all it is, with blackberry, cherry, and dark cassis. The mouth on this full-bodied wine is crazy, yes ripe, but rich, with layers of dark fruit, blackcurrant, rich intense graphite, charcoal, with layers of chocolate and herb, and nice spices. The finish is long and earthy, deep mineral, dirt, hints of forest, with chocolate, leather, and lovely spice. BRAVO!!!

2013 Four Gates Syrah – Score: A- (and more)
One word does correctly define this wine – FILTHY!!! The nose on this ink black colored wine is filled with blue fruit, followed by squid ink, licorice, sweet oak, intense black fruit, and wondrous spice. The mouth on this full-bodied wine is layered and extracted to the max with intense black and blue fruit, blueberry, blackberry, black currant, followed by lovely barnyard, crazy earth, mineral, graphite, rich extraction, dense concentration of fruit and mineral, and great acid. The finish is long and spicy, with cinnamon, all spice, root beer, and hints of asian spice, and roasted animal, and miso! BRAVO!!! Read the rest of this entry

A Shabbat with Yaacov Oryah, his new and old wines, and friends

Wines Enjoyed over the weekendThis past weekend we had the distinct pleasure and honor of hosting Yaacov Oryah and friends for meals at our house. It was great to finally return the favor to YC and his lovely wife, from the epic dinner he threw for me, my wife, and my brother, two years ago. Anyone who has read this blog knows who Yaacov Oryah is – he was the winemaker of Asif Winery, which turned into Midbar Winery, and is now the new winemaker at Psagot Winery.

It was a true joy spending a shabbat with one of Israel’s answers to date juice. Yaacov Oryah, may well be the new winemaker at Psagot Winery, but he is also the winemaker for his winery – Yaacov Oryah Winery. Remember, Oryah was the winemaker and partner of Asif Winery – but when that did not work out he still had his vineyards and he still needed a place to make wines. Oryah is like Tabor Winery , Netofa Winery, Recanati Winery, Tzora Winery, Flam Winery, Domaine du CastelMatarTura, Adir Winery, and others – Israeli wineries who pick early and understand balance is more important than imperfect wines that have perfect phenolic qualities.

Sadly, the list may not be long, but they are the answer to Israel’s overripe red wine problem. They are proof that it can be done, even at millions bottles! I hope others will follow. From what I saw on my latest trip to Israel, change is afoot, especially at the smaller producers.

Yaacov Oryah Winery

Yaacov Oryah Wines

In 2011 Mr Oryah, was faced with a problem, Asif was essentially gone, Midbar had yet to come to life, and so the grapes needed a home – hence was the creation of Yaacov Oryah – private winery and  winemaker! It is the age-old story – Necessity is the mother of all invention! The grapes had a need and Oryah was the answer. What was created was a lovely pair of Rioja style wines – with Tempranillo being the major component. Read the rest of this entry

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