Well, I have finished all the KFWE posts, and my past personal wine tastings posts, and now it is time to get back to posting about wineries I visited on my last trip. To remind you, I came to Israel for Sommelier 2017, then flew to Paris and back the next morning for the Bokobsa tasting. Upon my return to Israel, I drove north for a day, before coming back to the Jerusalem area, and then flying home. I have already posted all the wineries I visited in Israel’s North, excepting for my visit with Gidi Sayada at the lovely new visitor tasting room of Lueria Winery. We tasted all the new releases and as always, it is a joy to sit down and taste wines with Gidi.
The wines that Gidi makes use the grapes that were planted by his father, Yosef Sayada some 22 years ago. The vines were planted on the hills surrounding Moshav Safsufa. Interestingly, Safsufa is an Aramaic word meaning – late ripening fruit. The burial place of the revered kabbalist Rav Yitzchak Luria, who was one of the foremost Kabbalist experts in his time, overlooks the vineyards. It is in his honor that the winery is called Lueria Winery.
Lueria Winery has been growing slowly but surely, going from a few thousand bottles in 2006 to more than 100K bottles in 2016. Most people would not think that Lueria Winery is pumping out that much wine, but since Gidi started making wine, after learning winemaking in Israel, and cutting his teeth with Tal Pelter of Pelter Winery (not kosher) and Matar Winery, it is clear to see that he has found his own way now. With the abundance of his father’s grapes to choose from, some 45 acres, comprising many classic varietals, like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, along with some more Mediterranean varietals, like Syrah, Sangiovese, Barbera, and Roussanne.
This winery, like many throughout Israel, is not afraid to make half of their wines – white wines. Why? Because contrary to the USA palate, Israelis have finally found the love for all things white and rose! Sadly, this year, Gidi did not make a rose. In its place, he started a new label, the 2016 Roussanne! Also, gone is the pure dry Gewurztraminer that we had a few years here and there. Now, he is making some dry Gewurztraminer and placing it into the lovely, Lueria White wine. The white varietals used in the winery are Gewurztraminer, Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, and Roussanne. There are very few wineries in Israel making Pinot Grigio, the ones I know of are Dalton (a five-minute drive from Lueria Winery), Lueria Winery, and Yarden Winery. Each wine is stylistically different from each other. The Dalton PG is all about acid and fruit and is light on the mineral. Shockingly, the Yarden PG is less about fruit and more a balance between the fruit and mineral. Finally, the Lueria Winery PG is smoky and mineral rich, with nice fruit as well. Get them all and then taste them in a blind tasting!
The red wine labels have been cleaned up, in both appearance and names. Now it is just two blends Rosso and Terrace at the first level, followed by two single varietal dominated wines, Shiraz, and Cabernet Sauvignon. With the Grand Vital being the flagship wine of the winery, which is a blend of the best barrels from each vintage. Its parts change each year but it’s mostly dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon, along with some Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Sometimes Syrah is added as well, but in the past many years that has not been the case. I think the streamlining and simplification of the labels, along with cleaning them up a bit as well, really makes for a lovely lineup of wines.
Well, I have posted my year in review, and now I wanted to get to my top wines for 2016. Please beware that I know I missed many wines and that this list does not include wines that I have tasted that are not available on the open market.
I wanted to make this post short and sweet – so the criteria are simple I could care less about price, color, or where it was made. All that matters is that it is/was available this year sometime to the public at large and that I tasted it in a reliable environment, not just at a tasting, and that it was scored an A- to A or higher. Also, there are a few lower scoring wines here because of their uniqueness or really good QPR. I also included some of the ebst wines I tasted this year – they are at the bottom.
On an aside, there continues to be a whole mess of madness around wines notes and scores, even the Jewish Week weighed in on the matter. So, let me explain this really simply – go look at some of my recent blog posts – they talk about some nice enough wines, but wines I would not specifically buy. They have all the nice words and such, which were all true and to the point. But without the final value score, I can tell you a Cabernet is full bodied with good fruit and spice – and you may say cool I want that – but then I would say well, yeah but it was not complex or layered. You could try to reason that out of the words I wrote, because the words complex and layered are missing. However, the simple fact that it was scored a B+ or whatever, would have told you that it is not always a wine worth going after (unless it is the Terrenal or such where it gets a QPR moniker).
My point being that wine notes – without a proper context (AKA a real score) – is like looking at a wedding hall through a slit in the window. Sure you can “see” the hall, but are you really sure you want to get married there? I never scored wines to tell people to listen to my score. I score wines to set the context and to always read the notes to see if that sort of wine works for you!
I posted this about my scores – and what they mean, so I hope these are useful to you. OK, enough of the darn score rant for the day, back to the matters at hand, being wines of the year. The list is long – get over it. It is a list of wines that I would buy, have bought, and will buy again – simple enough I hope. I hope you enjoy!
2014 Elvi Wines EL 26 – Score: A- to A
This wine is a blend of 45% Carignan, 35% Grenache, and 20% Syrah. This wine is showing far more accessible than previous vintages. The 2014 vintage in Spain makes fro wines that are easily approachable now and yet has the power to last a long time. The nose on this wine is fruit forward with dark candied raspberry, blackberry, and spiced boysenberry, with root beer and earth, showing spice, anise, and cranberry. The mouth is beautiful and controlled, with great mouth coating tannin, sheer elegance, with great sweet and focused fruit, lovely extraction, showing ripe and tart strawberry, raspberry, and boysenberry all mixed together into a compote, with black fruit and earth. The finish is ridiculous, some of the best of the evening, with sweet fruit and ripe structure, yet balanced and focused, with coffee, leather, and sweet spices, nutmeg, and mineral galore, with scraping graphite, BRAVO!!
2014 Capcanes Peraj Habib – Score A- to A
This wine is a blend of 45% Grenache, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 20% Carignan. This wine is showing far more accessible than previous vintages. The 2014 vintage in Spain makes fro wines that are easily approachable now and yet has the power to last a long time. The nose on this wine shows nicely, with chocolate and oak, along with crazy red fruit, roasted animal, toast, graphite, and lovely smoke, with floral notes galore. What a lovely wine, full bodied with great extraction, ripping acid and great crazy tannin that gives way to blueberry, blackberry, lovely cherry, and insane fruit focus that is backed by intense graphite, and mineral, scraping mineral, with mouth drying tannin all coming together into a far more accessible wine than any year before. The wine is really young but accessible, with insane fruit and mineral all coming together. The finish is long and epic, with leather, and rich extraction lingering with coffee and sweet spices coming together beautifully. Bravo!
2013 Covenant Cabernet Sauvignon, Solomon lot 70 – Score: A- to A
Really lovely but pushed nose, with ripe black fruit, tar galore, with garrigue, earth, and rich blackberry. The mouth on this full bodied wine is rich and extracted, showing an impressive attack with rich focus of blueberry, intense gripping tannin, spicy oak, sweet dill galore, with massive almost tactile mouth showing black fruit focus, with impressive inky structure that gives way to black and blue fruit. The finish is long and spicy, with green notes, foliage, good dirt, all wrapped with dark chocolate, leather, tobacco heaven, more green notes, and rich Asian spices.
2014 Elvi Clos Mesorah – Score: A- to A
This wines a blend of 50% Grenache, 35% Carignan from vines that are 105 years old, and 15% Syrah. Wow what a California Syrah nose, with intense root beer, watermelon, crazy how this smells like Shirah Syrah, with blueberry, and boysenberry, and spiced plum punch. The mouth on this full bodied wine wow, the mouth is full bodied, extracted, and crazy rich, with layers of extraction and concentrated fruit, showing searing tannin, ripping acid, that gives way to black and blue fruit, blackberry, plum, with crazy chocolate and coffee coming together to show mouth drying tannin, with earth, spice, cloves, black pepper, and spicy, with heady spice and blue fruit. The finish is long and spicy, with sweet spice and fruit that gives way to chocolate, roasted meat, and graphite. Really impressive wine bravo!
2010 ELvi Wines Rioja Reserva – Score: A- to A
Wow what a glass of umami, pure hedonism, bravo! The nose on this wine is pure joy, with root beer, blueberry, roasted meat, black pepper, mushroom, dirt, smoke, and toast. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is far more accessible than the 09, with sweet fruit, earth, dirt, sweet blue fruit, crazy candied and juicy blue fruit, that gives way to cherry, candied and spiced raspberry, with mouth coating and drying tannin, rich juicy and concentrated fruit, with insane focus and attack. The finish is long and juicy, with sweet fruit, nutmeg, sweet baking spices, milk chocolate, smoke, and crazy spices, anise and licorice. Bravo!
This past weekend we enjoyed a few great wines, including another wine from the Herzog Winery! The set of wines included another tasting of the 2010 Vignobles David Reserve, which is tasting lovely – but starting to show signs that it is coming around. The tannins are still very mouth drying and draping, and really need a fair amount of time to integrate. The next wine was the newly released 2011 Herzog Chardonnay Prince Vineyard, a new single vineyard Chardonnay from their newly acquired Prince Vineyard, the first vineyard that the Herzog winery bought.
Finally, we had a hand carried bottle from Israel that shocked me in a good way. When I recently tasted the newly released 2010 Carmel Cabernet Sauvignon, Single Vineyard, Sumaka Vineyard at the KFWE in Miami this past month, I was far from impressed. However, I had just come back from Israel and I was carrying with me a bottle of the very same wine. When I came home I opened the bottle, that I bought in Jerusalem, and was shocked by how VASTLY different the two wines were. Taste them blind side by side and you too would be really shocked. The US version is really not that great, B to B+ wine at the best. The very same wine, with an Israeli label, was rich and layered, but controlled, and lacked the over the top cooked and ripe fruit.
This is not a one time thing, when I returned to Israel and I tasted the 2009 wines from Carmel, I was once again shocked to find that I loved them. A very vast difference from when I tasted them with an US label. Whatever the issue is, it really needs to be fixed.
The wine notes follow below:
2010 Vignobles David Côtes du Rhône Reserve – Score: A- (and more)
This wine blend is composed of 40% Syrah, and 60% Grenache, also known by the folks in the know, as GS, an acronym stemming from the first letter of the 2 varietals used in this blend.
When I opened this lately, the wine needed a few hours of air to truly open and show its potential. Please open and have patience to allow it to show its true joy.
This bright purple colored wine steps up and slaps you across the head with a crazy rich and heady nose of blackcurrant, bramble, rich oak, roasted meat, freshly brewed espresso, spice, raspberry, blackberry, and tar. This wine shows a super rich, full-bodied, yet bright mouth with an insane mouth draping and coating tannin, rich extraction, along with focused concentration of fruit, all coming together into a truly earthy, fruity, meaty mouth. The finish is richly spiced with layers of more coating tannin, soft leather, tar, black fruit, rich minerality, espresso and oak, with a hint of date on the background. Quite a lovely wine that is not another big and black Syrah, rather this is a lovely balanced GS that shows its richly spiced and terroir driven roots in more ways than one.
2011 Herzog Chardonnay, Prince Vineyard – Score: B+
This is a mevushal Chardonnay from the newly acquired Prince Vineyard in California Clarksburg ACA. The noise on this light gold colored wine is rich and ripe with honeyed notes, toasty oak, spice, and vanilla. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is viscous and lovely with good sweet fruit, apricot, guava, baked apple pie, along with layers of butterscotch, creme brulee, and hints of oak tannin. The finish is medium long and missing a bit of an acid bite, spicy with good bakers spices, white tea, and good mineral background, slate and lemon peel.
2010 Carmel Cabernet Sauvignon, Sumaka Vineyard (Israeli Label ONLY) – Score: A-
I must be very clear here – this is the 2010 Carmel Cabernet, Sumaka Vineyard, from Israel, not what is sold here in the US. I make that clear, as the wine sold here, with the US label, is not very good, overly ripe and clearly changed by the transport process from Israel to the US. I shipped/transported this bottle by hand from Israel to my home and then enjoyed it.
This wine is a single vineyard wine, just like the 2009 Kayoumi Cabernet was a single vineyard wine. This wine replaces that wine while the Kayoumi vineyard single vineyard wine. The nose on this black colored wine starts off with a lovely and deeply mineral rooted nose, with blackberry, cassis, plum, earthy notes, and blackcurrant. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is layered with good fruit concentration, that is a bit uniform, with good extraction, along with good sweet tannin, and lovely spicy oak. The finish is long and spicy with black fruit, chocolate, leafy tobacco, and more great graphite/charcoal lingering long with cloves, spice, and a nice sweet note background.
This goes to prove that there is a serious issue at play here. I tasted some 4 wines in Israel that I have had a few times here in the states. The wines in Israel tasted some 4 years younger and more enjoyable than their US counterparts – keep an eye out, and I will be documenting which label/locale the wine came from going forward.
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.
These past two weeks have been what the Jews call the 9 days that are rather famous for the infamous events that have occurred in this specific span of time. Thankfully, once they were passed Herzog Cellars and Royal Wines put on an encore event of the IFWF (International Food and Wine Festival), this time in the Herzog Winery itself, to celebrate the winery’s 25th year in the industry! What an event and celebration it was! It brought back memories of the old IFWF events that were held in Oxnard, since the inaugural IFWF event in 2008.
Sure there were some 200 or so in attendance, but with the fully expanded setup, including an enclosure in the back that housed the French wine table, dessert table, and room to hunker down, it felt spacious and very comfortable.
In many ways, this event felt like an almost exact replay of the first International Food and Wine Festival. The crowd size was perfect, there was room for you to hunker down and taste wines and there was room for you to huddle up and talk with friends or people of like or dislike opinions.
Besides the layout and crowds, the food was absolutely fantastic, just like in previous events here. Once again, Todd Aarons and Gabe Garcia created wondrous delights that were so wrong in all the right ways! Of course, I came to the food area too late to partake of all of the goodies, but I still got to taste many fantastic culinary treats, including the absolutely stunning puffed chicken nuggets topped with incredibly tasty barbecue sauce.
Unfortunately, I came a bit late to this event because of what I came to call parking lot A and B (405 and 101 respectively). Whenever, I watch the Dodgers or the Angels, I can now understand why the crowds are so empty for the first three innings, because everyone is parked on one or more highways! My guess to why they all leave by the 7th inning is that after the folks get so aggravated waiting in the traffic, they get tired and want to go home. Quite clearly getting to and from any event in LA adds a few hours to the overall time and that is aggravating and tiring. However, like I, once the guests arrived they had to almost physically throw us out. The place did start to peter out in the last hour, but the place was still humming and drinking until the last second. Read the rest of this entry
Recently, there was a tasting of kosher wines at our synagogue and one of the prize wines poured at the tasting was the 2006 Yarden Odem Merlot. The funny thing about this Merlot was that it was available in the general market last year for some 20 or so dollars from stores on the east coast. However, within a week or less, the wine sold out, only to reappear as few months later for 50 dollars a bottle. OUCH! Well, good news – procrastinators rejoice, good things really do come to those who wait! The price has returned to 28 or so dollars a bottle and it is one that is well worth hunting down.
The bottle is one of the more recent single vineyard Merlot to come to the states. This bottle is already old news in Israel. However, here in the states the wine is still not selling out and hence, the obvious conundrum that Yarden faces. If the wine cannot sell because there is not enough demand at 50 dollars maybe they can repeat their earlier success and hope that lightning strikes twice. The funny thing is that the retailers that bought the bottles at the old higher price are now stuck with them and are being undercut savagely by the retailers that just recently picked them up.
This was the first Merlot release from Yarden’s Organically tended Odem Vineyard. However, there are already 6 or more single vineyard wines ready and available for sale in Israel – and they have yet to sell through the 2006 vintage! OUCH! Talk about inventory! Clearly there is a need for Yarden to sell their wines and they are fine wines as well, but the kosher market is growing and may well be leaving Yarden behind, when it comes to these high-priced wines.
I would suppose that online retailers that had old stock will need to cut their prices to match the new lower prices, and eat the difference. Further, this wine is just one of many more single vineyard wines, that are of course sold at a premium from the normal Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, or Syrah, that are quite lovely by themselves and do not cost 50 or more dollars a bottle. Read the rest of this entry
This past weekend my friends and family shared some lovely Cabernet Sauvignon and some great food. When you talk about Cabernet Sauvignon inevitably there are folks who love it and some who hate it. It is the grand-daddy of the noble grapes, it is the wine that has the history and stuffing to last and cellar for many years.
Cabernet will always be the classic and default red grape that most wine drinker will reach for. Why? Because it is well know and consistent. I state this because if you buy a Cabernet Sauvignon from Hagafen Winery, Herzog Cellars, or many Israeli wineries, you may find ones you love and some you hate, but they are similar in nature. They are either green with classic graphite and green notes, or maybe they are black and red with other classic flavors, but they are not going to be massive failures or unfortunate wines. Since the start of kosher wines, all the wineries have started with the noble grapes; Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Pinot Noir. Some have done better with them and some have done a so-so job. Hagafen excels with their Cabernet Sauvignon that are sourced from the Napa Valley. Herzog, has been doing a really lovely job with their Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. Israel, of course has been doing a lovely job with their Cabernet Sauvignon, especially by Yarden Winery, Bravdo Winery, Recanati Winery, Castel Winery, and others. However, recently two wineries have been selling Cabernet Sauvignon as well. Four Gates Winery first released a 2005 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, a few years ago and it sold out quickly. Since then Four Gates has once again released a Cabernet Sauvignon, but this time from the Betchart Vineyard on Monte Bello Ridge in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Another and even more Cabernet focused winery – is Covenant Winery, which makes killer Napa Cabernet. They started with the 2003 vintage and has been releasing Cabernet in two or three different formats since then.
The saying, all good wine starts in the vineyard is true, but the real saying should be, the price of wines starts in the vineyard! If you own the vines like say, Hagafen or many of the wineries in Israel, than you have a chance to control the quality and the price of the wines. However, if you buy the grapes from growers, than you are at the mercy of their cost structure and what the market can bear. Sure, many wineries get into long-term contracts that assure them consistent pricing and hopefully, some control of how the vines are managed. However, as the contracts come to a close, the pricing will increase, which places pressure on the winery’s ability to keep its margin’s alive. Read the rest of this entry
As stated in the previous posting on this lovely event, there were many wines to taste and there was no way I could post all the wine notes in a single posting. Here is my follow-up posting on the wines tasted at the event, including the wines that I loved and did not love.
The wine notes are listed in the order that I tasted them:
2010 Domaine Netofa – White – Score: B++
The nose on this light gold colored wine shows clean and lovely nose of green apple, peach, grapefruit, kiwi, light quince, and rich/nice loamy dirt and mineral. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is rich and balanced with nice minerality, along with nice bright fruit that mingles well in the mouth. The finish is long and spicy with nice quince, tart green apple, grapefruit, and green tea.
2010 Binyamina Chardonnay, Reserve, Unoaked – Score: B
This wine did not show nearly as well as its 2009 sibling, the wine was flat without much to grab your attention. The nose on this straw colored wine has apple, lemon, nice mineral, bright acid, and melon. The mouth is somewhat plush and the finish has citrus to round out the wine.
2010 Binyamina Chardonnay, Reserve – Score: B+
This wine did not show nearly as well as its 2009 sibling, though not as bad as its unoaked twin. The nose on this dark straw colored wine has light oak, brioche, lemon, nice spice, light creme, and honey. The mouth is round with spice, summer fruit, and oak influence.
2011 Tulip White Tulip – Score: B++
This wine is a blend of 70% Gewurztraminer and 30% Sauvignon Blanc with the sweet and floral notes of the Gewurztraminer showing nicely with honey and guava, while the green apple and bright lemon notes from the Sauvignon Blanc blend together in a unique manner. The nose on this straw colored wine hits you with mineral, light honey, bright lemon, green apple, and guava. The mouth is nice and honeyed with light petrol, and citrus. The finish is long with both sweet lemon creme and bright lemon at the same time, along with fig, and tart notes. This is a great wine that would go well with fish or sushi.
To celebrate the end of Passover, we had friends join us for two of the four meals on the last days. We spent the entire Sunday cooking, and while it was crazy work, it was a ton of fun. We had a TON of help from our friends who were spending Passover with us, so MANY thanks to them!!
Leftovers of Elvi Ness Blanco and Yarden Pinot Noir from Saturday
2003 Carmel Shiraz, Single Vineyard, Kayoumi – (Israel, Galilee, Upper Galilee) – Score: A-
As one peers into the inky black colored depths of this wine with purple halos you are immediately met with waves of tobacco, tar, licorice, black pepper, oak, espresso coffee, roasted meat, blackberry, cassis, plum, and herb. The mouth on this full bodied wine is rich, lovely, and concentrated with blackberry, cassis, roasted meat, plum, lovely integrated tannin, and herb. The mid palate flows off the mouth with balanced acid, oak, lovely tannin, tobacco, and tar. The finish is super long with nice tannin, oak, black fruit, black pepper, dirt, herb, and licorice.
2003 Four Gates Syrah, Special Reserve – Score: A- to A
This wine continues to impress and is keeping strong to my previous notes. The first thing that hits you when you open this bottle of wine and peer into its purple-black stare is the ripe blueberry notes that come screaming out at you, along with blackberry, cassis, plum, tobacco, chocolate, tar, and rick oak. The mouth on this full bodied, mouth filling, concentrated, and inky structured wine comes at you in layers with fruit that follows the nose, ripe blackberry, plum, cherry, blueberry, inky black tar, and oak. The mid palate is balanced with acid, oak, tobacco, and chocolate. The finish is super long, black, and spicy, with rich oak, chocolate, tobacco, tar, and blackberry. This is a truly wonderful wine that is highly structured with lovely tannins and a wine that still has a few years left under its belt. The nose is killer with the lovely ripe blueberry and blackberry, along with the oak, tar, and chocolate. It follows through with the mouth till its tantalizing finish. Quite a powerful wine that still has its sea legs beneath it and one that has a bright horizon ahead of it.