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Open That Bottle Night 15 and a few missed wine posts

2007 Hevron Height PardessWell, it is that time of year again for OTBN (Open That Bottle Night), a night conceived by Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher, in February 2000, then with the WSJ. Well, officially it is the last Saturday night in February, which this year is Feb 22. However, us Jews like Friday/Sabbath to be our special wine moment, so we will be enjoying OTBN this Friday Night, hopefully!

According to the WSJ site: On OTBN, which is celebrated on the last Saturday of February every year, thousands of bottles all over the world are released from prison and enjoyed. With them come memories of great vacations, long-lost loved ones and bittersweet moments. The whole point of the weekly “Tastings” column is that wine is more than the liquid in the bottle. It’s about history, geography, relationships and all of the things that are really important in life.

We have had many great OTBN tastings but this year, it is about tasting my oldest and best Yarden Winery wines. Yarden Winery has moved to the sweet side on their new wines, for the most part, but the El Rom wines have never been sweet. Yarden has always been on the sweeter side, in terms of ripe fruit, but these past few years, the weather has really hurt them badly. The 2009, 2010, and 2011 vintages have been nice wines, but too sweet for my tastes. The 2012 and 2013 look like they will be better, from what we have tasted of the white wines. Still, the El Rom and red Katzrin wine have always been controlled and beautiful. They are Yarden’s flagship wines and they keep a very tight lid on the fruit in these wines. The 2006 and 2007 ROM wine is another story, it was always sweet and somewhat controlled, and yes, very expensive. It all started when the late Daniel Rogov gave the 2006 ROM, a very unique Israeli blend wine, a massive 96 score!  That score sent the futures of that wines to the moon, along with the expectations of greatness. In reality, it is a nice wine, but nowhere where Rogov placed it.

Well, I have been sitting on too many of these wines, and so this week, for my version of the OTBN 15 (the 15th year of OTBN), I will be opening the 2001 Yarden El Rom (Shmita year), the 2004 Yarden El Rom, and the 2007 Yarden ROM. I have many backups in the ready! Read the rest of this entry

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My wonderful and wine eventful Jerusalem whiteout – Day 1

Snow mountains surrounding JerusalemTwo weeks ago I was in Jerusalem and all I can say is that the words, “in God We Trust” cannot have been more fulfilled than on this journey. To start, I had flown into Israel for one of my nephew’s weddings, and a lovely wedding it was, but that is getting ahead of ourselves. I arrived on Tuesday the 10th and while deplaning, I was asked to join in on a group prayer – which initially I was not so interested in, as I had a ton of things to get done in the day. Thank goodness I agreed and while talking with the group at the conclusion of the services, I hear my name being bellowed out! Now, sure I love Israel, and I know people there, but I am not Netanyahu or Gal Gadot, nor do I know anyone who knows Gal Gadot (trying to stay current and yes I know she is a female model – just making sure you are following), so I had no idea why someone was calling out my name!

So, I turn around and lo and behold who is there, Mendel! Now you may not remember Mendel, but he has been canonized on this very virtual pages, here and here (de-boning a duck) – though incorrectly familiarly associated with Elchonon. I state this because it will be with Mendel’s hands that my wine salvation will be realized. He wondered if I remember who he was, and after sharing a few pleasantries, we agreed to keep in touch as he was interested in joining me on my wine escapades, which sounded great to me!

From there we both got our cars and I went off to see my sister in HarNof. That evening I was so exhausted, I tried to order a burger from a place that will go nameless. Two hours later, no burger and my card was charged! To be fair, after much cajoling they did refund my money, which I understand in Israel is requires an act from God to implement, but equilibrium was returned.

The next day, I WhatApp Mendy and sure enough he is up and ready – like I was, so I asked if he minded to drive and off we went to pursue the wineries around Jerusalem. I must start by saying that I have no issue driving, but as I explained many times in the past, Israeli drivers have no drive control or manners, they are 100% certifiable! Well, I guess either work; “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” or “Fight fire with fire”, and that is exactly what Mendy does so well. The roads were slick with rain, at some points the roads were almost washed out with a literal deluge of rain, making the roads slick and a perfect pairing for hydro-planing. No worries, Mendel is at the wheel! So, our first stop was Castel!

Domaine du Castel

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Solid QPR kosher Syrah wines and 2007 Herzog One Over XII Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Without any attempt on my side we enjoyed a Syrah weekend, along with a unique Cabernet Sauvignon from Herzog. This past weekend we were invited to the home of some very good friends of ours, ER and HK, ER of the baking culinary fame! Well this meal was culinary all the way, roast beef, perfectly cooked chicken and great side dishes to boot! OH! I cannot forget that split pea soup, which was quite lovely as well.

We brought two Syrah like wines and another guest brought a Syrah wine, while yet another guest brought the new and limited 2007 Herzog Napa Cab 7. Sorry, I have no pictures, though most of the wines are well-known wines, other than the special Herzog Cabernet. The wine is called: 2007 Herzog One Over XII Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, and Vivino has an image of it, which is displayed to the left. The wine has a great story, a bunch of barrels from the 2007 Herzog Napa Cab, which we tasted, was left in a barrel for 55 or so months. So, one would think it would be an oak bomb, but it is not overpowering, though friends of mine disagree. The thing that is really lovely about the wine is its caressing and insane tannins and the mineral that jumps up and slaps you across the face! Like I say in the notes – this wine is polarizing and to me that is what good wine is all about! This bottle is limited and available only at the Herzog Winery’s wine bar.

Thanks so MUCH to ER and HK for hosting us and putting up with me! We love hanging with you guys! The wine notes follow below:

2010 Tabor Shiraz, Adama, Terra Rosa – Score: B+
The nose explodes with awesome blueberry, plum, currant, cherry, with loads of dirt and licorice. The mouth on this medium plus bodied wine is nice and spicy with good concentration of date, sweet blue and red fruit, nice candied raspberry, sweet cedar, with good integrated tannin, and good extraction. The finish is long and spicy with garrigue, bramble, fig, date, chocolate, light leather, and animal notes. This is a wine that is a hair under the QPR line, though if pressed it could well join the ranks. A great Israeli “supermarket” option for sure. Read the rest of this entry

2009 Bravdo Shiraz and 2011 Landsman Syrah

This past week we had lovely whiskey braised short ribs along with quinoa, and a fresh green salad. To pair with the sweet notes of the ribs, I enjoyed both a 2009 Bravdo Shiraz and a 2011 Landsman Syrah. We also enjoyed a shocker a 2004 Chateau Le Bourdieu, a wine that I had ZERO hope would be alive, but one that really was enjoyable. This is a nice wine that is in the mid-tier pricing in terms of French kosher wines, and one that is OK, but not a QPR wine.

The wine notes follow below:

2011 Covenant Syrah Landsman – Score: A-
The nose on this dark purple and brooding colored wine starts off with a BAM of blueberry liquor, something that is impossible to miss, followed by boysenberry, rich blackberry, raspberry, and spice. The mouth on this rich and medium bodied wine starts off with an attack of rich massive tannin, rich and velvety, with concentrated, sweet, and focused blue and black fruit that mimics the nose along with root beer, and enough oak to round the fruit, with all the components coming together nicely. The finish is super long and rich, that has an air of completeness while still being firm and concentrated, laced and ribboned with roasted meat, rich espresso, chocolate, and vanilla.

A very nice Syrah, and still the best in Napa so far, but I found the wine to not be as big as I first thought and the wine had a bit of trouble keeping up sweet ribs. Still a lovely wine all around.

2009 Bravdo Shiraz, Karmei Yosef – Score: A-
The nose on this wine is rich and heavy with ribbons of blueberry, black plum, cranberry, along with licorice, floral notes, and lovely crushed herb. The mouth on this full bodied wine shows the curse of 2009 (overly sweet wines), but it is controlled, with clear date notes, searing tannin, nice structure, black fruit, along with sweet cedar, and bramble. The finish is long and sweet with more date, tobacco, chocolate covered raisin, and ginger. Overall a lovely wine that continues to evolve nicely.

2004 Château Le Bourdieu – Score: B++
The nose on this just garnet colored wine (more ruby than garnet, with a still light halo, is filled with nice dirt, mineral, black fruit, barn yard (a bit) – but OK, and layers of toast and smoke. The mouth is medium bodied with nice concentration of currant, blackberry, and cranberry, along with nice integrated and mouth coating tannins, that linger long on the rise, and sweet oak notes. The finish is long with smoky tobacco, insane mushroom patch, charcoal, green foliage, and sweet roasted herbs – nice wine indeed. The true joy of this wine is the mouthfeel and lovely soft but mouth coating tannins that take on a number of comers, including cheese and sauces.

Tulip Winery – a kosher family owned winery in the Galilee with an altruistic purpose

Tulip Winery frontIn 2010 a few wineries went kosher, including Flam Winery and Tulip Winery. I already wrote about the Flam Winery before here and again recently here, but now I am getting the chance to write the story of the Tulip Winery that is rightfully deserves. The tulip winery is a very different beast, a winery that was built in and around a city of disabled individuals and one that takes its advocacy for disabled citizens of Israel quite seriously. I wrote initially about the winery here, but I will take a bit more time to talk about them now, in this space.

Until 2010, Roy Itzhaki, the CEO of Tulip winery would often say that he was the biggest non-kosher winery in Israel. But, not entirely by his own choice. The issue other than having supervision, in this case was the fact that many of the inhabitants of Kfar Tikvah (City of Hope), which is a city for teaching its inhabitants skills to interact with the world around them, work at the winery. Kosher supervision has some issues around disabled people working around wine, for many technical and complicated reasons. That said, in 2010, after YEARS of working hard to make his dual desires a reality, Itzhaki finally succeeded in convincing a kosher supervision that he can make things work. The kosher supervision world is one that is not too fast to take on hard challenges and changes. Still, Itzhaki did not give up and after 20 organizations came and left, they all said the same thing, fire the disabled employees or we cannot help you. Finally, according Deborah Raub, from JNS.org, in an article on Tulip Winery, Itzhaki ran into a Rabbi Chazkal and things changed very quickly. Itzhaki was not going to undermine the very reason for his winery’s existence in Kfar Tikvah, nor was he going to undermine the work and conviction he showed by hiring 30 of its inhabitants to work in his winery. Still, the real reality of business was staring him in the face. He could not continue to produce wine at the scale he was at and not sell them in a kosher wine store, supermarket, or abroad. He had to find a way out of the conundrum, and the rest of the story is the kind of thing that makes me proud of being a Jew!

Tulip Winery Tasting BarRabbi Chazkal looked at the situation and realized that this was too unique a story and Itzhaki was truly building his winery, its reputation, and advocacy, for altruistic reasons, not for a gimmick or a nice sales pitch. So, Rabbi Chaski advised he come and meet Rabbi Shmuel Vozner with him. As Raub describes, Rabbi Shmuel Vozner is a Rabbi with hardline leanings, but as the story shows, he is also filled with the kind of intelligence and Chachma that makes me so proud to be Jewish. Vozner listened carefully to Itzhaki and said something that none of his 20 predecessors had: “There is a conflict between the mitzvah of halakha and the mitzvah of employing these people. It is such an important mitzvah that you are doing with these people, let’s find a way.”

Reading the story, it was clear that Rabbi Chazkal and Rabbi Vozner were the Chachamim here. Rabbi Chazkal knew that every supervisory organization was not going to take a chance and go out on the limb. Rather they would use the classic hacksaw approach to pruning a rose, way over the top. What was required here was a very precision and tactical approach, something that had not been done before, and something that no organization would do on its own, Rabbi Chazkal knew that the only real answer is to go to a man that had the strength of conviction and Torah and knowledge, that NO ONE would doubt, and let Itzhaki prove his conviction to the man and than if it is meant to be, it will happen. Read the rest of this entry

2009 Dalton Shiraz Reserve and 2011 Hagafen Sauvignon Blanc

This past weekend we enjoyed two wonderful wines, one from Israel and one from Napa Valley, CA. The Dalton Shiraz was nice but lacked complexity, and was a bit sweet. The Hagafen Sauvignon Blanc was lovely with bracing acidity, with just a touch of sweetness and great tart citrus flavors.

The wine notes follow below:

2009 Dalton Shiraz Reserve – Score: B++
The nose on this purple colored wine shows little to no effect from the 2% of Viognier that was blended in. The nose starts with a classic Shiraz style; dark ripe black fruit, licorice, rich black pepper, date, loamy dirt, and mineral.

The mouth on this full bodied wine is still searing with its up front tannin attack, followed by a rich and opulent body that is layered but not very complex, crazy sweet cedar that is integrated perfectly, followed by blackberry, black plum, dark currant and nice spice. The finish is long and spicy with great chocolate covering nutmeg, cinnamon, all atop a mound of leafy tobacco, that has a dollop of vanilla on top and a side of root beer and ginger. Not an overly complex wine but a fun one whose date ripeness is not too over the top.

2011 Hagafen Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley, CA – Score: B++
The nose is rich with fresh-cut grass, ripe peach, apricot, guava, and melon. The mouth is ripe and fresh, with great acid, only a hint of residual sugar, crazy ripe and fresh mouth with nice grass, awesome lemon fresche, more bright fruit, pineapple and ripe pink grapefruit. The finish is long and ripe with green notes a bit of pith, hints of blood orange, and crazy lingering tart citrus fruit flavors. This is a lovely wine but lacking complexity to take it to the next level. Second time I tasted this wine, and it tastes a bit sweeter this time, though without actual residual sugar flavors. What a joy – but man does it pop when the wine is super cold. Great acidity, with nice citrus fruit like mad!

2008 Psagot Shiraz, Single Vineyard

This past weekend we enjoyed kosher wine from Israel called Psagot Shiraz. I have posted often about Psagot Winery, and this wine was in one of my previous posts. The wine was fine, but it showed a bit too much raisin for my tastes. I would think this wine is now very close to if not already in drink-now stage.

2008 Psagot Shiraz, Single Vineyard – Score: B+
The nose on this purple to black colored wine is super rich and extracted with light raisin, plum, blackberry, cassis, rich espresso coffee, tar, pencil, loamy dirt and bramble. The mouth on this full bodied wine is rich, layered, concentrated, extracted, and inky, with lovely blueberry, cherry, date, nice acid, searing tannin, and sweet cedar that make for a lovely mouthful. The finish is long and super spicy, with chocolate, tar, light animal notes, cloves, black pepper, and more great spice.

2013 Jewish Week kosher wine tasting at the City Winery in New York City

City Winery PictureAs I stated in my previous post, my heart was in the Shabbos but my mind was on my trip that I was taking to New York. All the thinking did not help make the trip any less miserable. Once again I have proven to myself that flying to New York is hard enough, doing a stop in between is miserable and downright idiotic. Lets take a step back here and explain the situation. The Jewish Week holds a wine tasting every year, showing of the top kosher wines they thought made an impression to the wine judges. This past year, they tasted through some 400+ wines and came up with a long list of wines, many of which I like and some I did not like. Anyway, the tasting was this past Sunday, the 3rd of March, 2013, at 1 PM. To get there from the west coast, it would mean either sleeping in NY for Shabbos (not an option), or flying out Saturday Night.

I LOVE Jet Blue, but they canceled flying out Saturday night from San Jose airport, and now only fly out Saturday night from SFO – AHHH!!! So, the only other option was Delta, which I should never have done, because it meant a stopover in Atlanta. The idea was to fly out by 10:45 PM, have an hour in Atlanta and hop on the 9 AM flight to NY. That all sounded OK, no storms in the forecasts, no crazy storm trackers or watcher on the news – so it looked like I was in the clear! Not so fat, turns out that there may not be Godly reasons to not fly – but Delta is more than capable of creating man-made disasters – all by itself!

I arrived to the airport with an hour to go, and by the time we took off, I was in the airport for some 3 and a half hours! AHH!! Yep, you guessed it Delta screwed up and lost a tire on landing so the plane could not take us to Atlanta. By the time they fixed the plane, the man fixing it broke another part and we had to deplane and get on another plane – a gate over. By the time that plane was fueled and had everyone’s bags repacked – we were two+ hours behind. I slept like a baby on the plane, but by the time we arrived in Atlanta – I knew I was cooked. The connecting flight was 5 terminals over and the “plane train” could not get me there in time to save my bacon. So here comes the best part – I arrive at the gate and the plane was not departed, but the man would not let me on – no matter how much I screamed and begged. However, he gave me a printed ticket (I have not sen one of those in years) and told me to run to the next terminal where the Laguardia flight was boarding. I ran like a mad man, and in the interim broke my hand luggage! One thing after another – I know! Anyway, as I get to the gate the lady tells me that there is no such flight, I say what – the man told me there was a plane boarding now! She says – oh sure – that is one gate over, the dude gave me the incorrect gate number! Anyway, she walks me over and I start talking to the gate agent who tells me – once again – sorry the gate is closed and the plane is leaving. This is when the other gate woman turns into SuperWoman! She says – OH NO – this poor man has been through enough. She swipes her card, opens the gate door, walks me down the jetway – and bangs on the plane door! Seriously! She screams – open this door!

Now – let me please recap, I have a ticket – printed ticket, for JFK. I am trying to board a plane for which I have NO TICKET – none whatsoever! Actually I have a ticket for a totally different airport! Think of me as one of those lost souls dropped on a plane. That was me! Of course, I have no checked luggage – for two days, but still, this is COOL! The unflappable stewardess, behind a massive closed door replies; the door is closed. The gate attendant is equally unflappable, and she fires back (sorry bad use of verbage) open the door, you forgot this guy! Will you believe – the stewardess blinked and opened the door! Heck these folks were half way through the security demonstration! I was told grab any seat – we need to move. I grabbed the first window seat I could find, and promptly went back to sleep! WOW!! By the time I land in Laguardia, I had two hours to go and once I finished davening, I hopped in a taxi and found my way to the City Winery. Read the rest of this entry

Another round of kosher Israeli Wines from the past week

This past week I once again stayed over with friends and family and I had a much better assortment of wines to enjoy, including some real blockbusters and a TRUE and REAL shocker, a wine that is said to be fantastic, but one that did not hold up well at all! Once again, thanks to all for allowing me to hang with you and letting me bring my wines over, the wines follow below:

2007 Bustan Syrah – Score: B+ (at best)
This was a true and scary shocker! This is a wine that all my friends and Daniel Rogov have said is the man! Well we tried it and it was far from it. The wine opened nicely, but was bland and then went into the tank! Rumor has it that days later it was a bit better, but still far from what folks have said about this wine, so if you have these, look to start drinking them up SOON and do not look for a real winner here!
The nose is rich with lovely blueberry, along with a dead animal doing a backstroke in my glass, along with huge black and blue notes, nice black pepper, licorice, and a hit of lemongrass and citrus. The medium bodied wine is nice with soft tannin, blackberry, black plum, and cherry, with a hint of raspberry, nice earth and green notes, with cedar and tannin. The finish is cliff-like with little to no finish with leather, tobacco, nice cinnamon, spice, and insane eucalyptus, menthol and smoke. The wine died with 30 minutes and had absolutely ZERO body, basically liquid fruit juice. – drink up!

2007 Yarden Blanc de Blanc – Score: A- to A
The Yarden Blanc de Blancs is made entirely from Chardonnay grapes grown in the northern Golan Heights, Israel’s coolest viticultural area. The wine is made strictly according to the traditional method (méthode champenoise) including hand harvesting, pressing of whole clusters to increase acidity and fruit flavors, and secondary fermentation in the bottle. Disgorging took place after five years of bottle aging on the tirage yeast.
Are u kidding me! A filthy wine with a nose of intense fruit, lemon curd, peach and apple cobbler, brioche, and nice toast that gives way to ripe green and yellow apple, and crazy insane ripe lemon curd. The medium mouth is wow in a single word. Thanks to Gabriel Geller for selling me the bottle, and sharing it all around. The mouth is insanely ripe and intense and ripe with ripe baked anjou pear, freakish assault vehicle of acidity and small mousse bubbles, with lovely yeast and brace for it – mouth coating tannin!! The finish is long and tart with insane grapefruit, bitter and rich grapefruit pith, and lemon zest. Bravo!!! Read the rest of this entry

Random kosher wines from last week

I hope you all are enjoying your Hanukkah holidays. This past weekend I enjoyed meals with my family and friends that were lovely and quite Sefardic in nature. The flavors were deep and filling and the tones were rounded with good herb and spice. These are flavors I try to hit in my dishes from time to time, but have been missing for sometime, partially because I do not have all the spices and partially because I do not still know all the recipes – I am working on that.

Sorry about the short notes again, but since I did not cook, I really have nothing more to say about the dishes other than they were lovely and rich and ones I hope to enjoy with my family again soon. If the list of wines sound like wines you should avoid, please remember that I had to taste some of these – SAD!!! In the end, there are some nice ones in the list, but no clear and run away winners. They all have flaws, like we all do, and as such, no real winner.

Many thanks to my family and friends for hosting me and here are the wines enjoyed through the weekend and at sporadic other moments through the week:

2011 Ella Valley Sauvignon Blanc – Score: B+ to A-
This wine is one made totally by the new winemaker at Ella Valley Winery, Lin Gold. She studied her craft at the University of Adelaide, and cut her teeth in her (professionally speaking) at both Tabor Winery and Chateau Golan. This is her first real vintage and it was exciting to see where the winery will be going. The Sauvignon Blanc was oak free as was in the past, and it was also green or herbal free, though that may have been more of a seasonal factor than a winemaker’s factor – time will tell.

The nose on this wine is ripe and bright with nice litchi, cut grass, kiwi, melon, lemon, and nice peach. The medium bodied wine has a nice clean mouth, very New Zealand-ish, cut dry with good clean lines, nice balancing acid, and lime juice infused. The finish is long and bright, almost bracing, with good acidity, lemon curd, and a hint of zest at the finish. A nice wine with bright and ripe fruit and no bitterness, a lovely Sauvignon Blanc. Read the rest of this entry

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