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2013 Kosher Food and Wine Experience (KFWE) lived up to all its billing

For years I have always sported a purple colored beaming grin when I finish my tasting at the IFWF (International Food and Wine Festival) in LA, which hid my grumbling stomach’s discontent. Like I have documented for years, I never get to eat at the events, even as the entire food court mocks me, attempting to pull me into their warm, delicious, and very present embrace, with their wafting and intoxicating aromas. Still, I stand strong and I taste through the night until my teeth are purple and my stomach is close to rioting on the lack of food. Truth be told, I am not that good at taking notes when eating – the flavors of the food cover up and belie the flavors and aromas of the glass that beckons me closer with its “come hither” look and aromas. So every year, after the event I go to dinner at Jeff’s Sausage (down the street from the new location of the IFWF). Which is sheer madness of course, here I have half the Pavilion at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza, filled with food from one of the best kosher restaurants in the world – Tierra Sur Restaurant, and I pass on that for the spicy and homely fare of Jeff’s Sausage. In no way is this a slight to the joy of Jeff Rohatiner’s cookery and food. Rather, it has been my conscious tradeoff, throughout my many year experience at IFWF to drink through as much of the world-class wine I can before my taste-buds shutdown, rather than give them to the food court, no matter how wonderful it is.

This year was a massive shift for me, gone was the purple grin and my mutinous stomach, as I visited and added the New York KFWE to my travel dates. To say the KFWE was different than the IFWF would be an extreme understatement, the IFWF has close to 1000 people at the show, while the KFWE has closer to 2000 people. Further the event hall at Pier 60 is some 2 to 3 times larger than the Pavilion tent at the Hyatt Regency. Also, there were many options for lunch and dinner from the myriad of NY restaurants that all share half the hall, all clamoring to share their wonderful fare with great fanfare. The Pier 60 overlooks the Marina and Harbor and many folks were outside braving the cold to grab a smoke, but at least they had some comfort of looking at the marina and its waterfront.

To really appreciate the event you had to come to it with a game plan, and there were many guests who had a few of their own. The event started at Noon for those in the trade, a new thing that the KFWE started last year and something that the IFWF has been doing from the start (though initially with a smaller trade time). The trade event was crowded but there could not have been more than a thousand folks there, so access to wine was not a problem in any way. The event hall can easily handle 1000 people, it is a bit more complicated when the number swells to two thousand people, but still there was no pushing or shoving going on even at the end of the public tasting, when the number of guests was at its maximum. But I digress; the trade tasting allowed me to focus solely on wine and the winemakers, which was great. Read the rest of this entry

Barkan Winery – a Pheonix Rising quickly in Hulda

The Barkan Winery is one of the largest wineries in Israel; actually it is the second largest in Israel. It is located in Kibbutz Hulda, where the vineyards that provide the grapes for the Classic range of wines surround it.

Barkan is one of those wineries that have been part of the latest Israeli Winery revolution, that being the modernization and quality improvement of the massive commercial wineries. The winery officially started in 1889 and did not start to get serious about quality wine until 1990, when Yair Lerner and Shmuel Boxer bought the winery that was clearly struggling and whose previous owners were playing hot potato with the winery assets and life. From 1889 till 1990, the winery had changed hands four times and was once again on the rocks and in need of experienced management and wine expertise.

In 1988 the winery started construction of a new facility in the Barkan Industrial zone, near the city of Ariel, to replace the aging plants in Petach Tikva and Netanya. The first order of business for Boxer and Lerner was the modernization of the winery’s processes, winemaking abilities, and vineyards, which they saw as the key to the production of fine wine and expansion of the company.

By 1999, it was clear that the Barkan facility was too small for the quantities of premium grapes that would be soon come on line from the newly planted vineyards. The most obvious location for the new winery was Kibbutz Hulda, where Barkan’s largest vineyard was located. Hulda is also centrally located, close to all the major arteries and enough removed from urban areas as well. The winery’s location allows the grapes to be quickly transported to the winery, to insure freshness and to maximize quality. In addition, the strategic location was optimal for distribution of the bottled wine to market. The new winery received its first harvest in 2000. The bottling line was moved to Hulda in 2003 and the offices were moved there in 2004. A large warehouse was completed in 2007, and with that last addition all of the Barkan Winery operations were officially moved to Kibbutz Hulda.

Till this day, Barkan continues to buy or plant vineyards, including the largest vineyard in Israel, the 300 acre vineyard that surrounds the Hulda winery. Read the rest of this entry

2012 Herzog International Wine Festival – part two of wine notes

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.

Read the rest of this entry

Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon Special Edition, Barkan Cabernet Sauvignon Superieur, Covenant Cabernet Sauvignon, and Yarden El-Rom Cabernet Sauvignon

I have been saving up my Cabernets for a special night with friends.  This past weekend I decided that it was time to open my Cabernets.  So we started the meal with a roasted butternut squash and onion soup.  I made it up myself and I am quite happy with it – though I am constantly tweaking it.  The recipe is quite simple really.  Roast a pair of butternut squash along with some red onions in an oven.  Then sauté onions and carrots in a Dutch oven.  Once they are soft, add in Cinnamon, Cayenne pepper, cumin, garlic, and all spice.  Then throw in the roasted vegetables and puree’ the whole mess.  Cook the soup for 30 or more minutes and then throw in a can of chickpeas for 10 minutes and bingo, you have soup!  We followed the soup up with my Sweet and Sour Brisket, white rice, Roasted Green Bean Salad (From Molie Katzen’s Classic Cooking Cookbook), and a nice sauté of onions, mushrooms, and sweet potatoes.  The soup and the later three worked out great for the vegetarians, while the brisket was just fine for us carnivores.

The evening started with 2 new wines from the Four Gates Winery that were barrel samples and as such I am holding judgment until they are officially released.  Parenthetically, they look to be real winners and ones that may be some of the more oaked Four Gates Wines I have tested yet.  But again, we must wait till they are released.  They were paired with the Roasted Butternut Squash soup – which was a hit and one that I am always pleasantly surprised about.  I had forgotten about it and my wife was the one who suggested it for this evening – a nice choice.

Following the soup and Four Gates Wines, we started the procession of Cabernets.  They are listed below in drinking order and paired nicely with the brisket.  The only issue I could say is that this brisket is sweet and sour, and as such, it takes a certain wine to cut through the noise.  Three of the four Cabernets had no problem, but keep that in mind when pairing a sweet and sour dish with a wine.  In hindsight, I would not have served my brisket, but something like a Burgundy Beef (Beef Bourguignon) or a Roast instead.  That said the wines were enjoyed by all, but the majority of the table liked the wines in this order: Covenant, Yarden, Herzog, Barkan.  The Barkan and Herzog had a harder time matching up against the brisket, with the Barkan being the weakest.

The wine notes follow below:

Baron Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Edition, Chalk Hill 2000 – Score: B+
Beware this note is valid ONLY for the first 30 minutes or so after the bottle is opened. Initially the cloudy and brooding garnet colored with an orange halo wine has a nose of chocolate, tobacco, blackberry, and oak. Wild and beautiful. The mouth of this palate coating full bodied wine carries the blackberry, and has cassis. The mid palate is acidic with lovely integrated tannins. The finish is long with oak, acid, more integrated tannins and chocolate. The bad news is that after 30 or 40 minutes the wine loses the chocolate, coffee, blackberry, and turns into a full bodied wine with almost no character – which is a shame. Drink this now and drink as soon as the bottle is opened.

Barkan Cabernet Sauvignon Superieur 2003 – Score: A-
The nose on this blue to purple garnet colored wine was hot initially, but blew off with air. There were aromas of tobacco, black cherry, and blackberry. The mouth of this full bodied wine followed the nose with blackberry, black cherry and mint. The wine is far from smooth and the tannins have still yet to balance nicely into the wine. The mid palate was chock full of tannin and acidity. The finish was medium long with chocolate and oak. Not a really complex wine, though large enough to satisfy many a drinker.

Covenant Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 – Score: A
I have had this wine a few times now and in different settings. Once was a few years ago, soon after release – big mistake. Once was a year ago and with a ton of air time. This time we also gave it air. Well, the results were all over the place. The initial time a few years ago, was way too early. Far too tannic, no life, almost bland. Last year was nice, but still pretty dormant. Finally, this past time, I could see what made Robert Parker and other stand up and take notice.

The nose on this garnet red wine is crazy loaded with cassis, raspberry, and tobacco. The mouth of this full bodied and coating/velvety wine has intense layers of cassis, blackberry and a slight hint of vegetal flavors. The mid palate is where this wine takes off – it is still acidic in nature, which gives it structure, and a fair bit of tannin as well. From there the oak overtakes the palate in a impressive, while not overpowering manner, and flows into a long and complicated finish of fig, tobacco and chocolate. Quite a nice showing and this gives me confidence to wait another year to open my next bottle of this vintage.

Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon El Rom 2001 – Score: A
This is one of the best wines I have tasted from Israel. The nose on this brilliant and deep garnet to black colored wine was a bit hot and simple out of the chute. However, as time progressed the nose turned to heavy layers of blackberry, cassis, tobacco, and oak. The mouth on this wine was also a bit slow out of the bottle, but that changed within an hour. The mouth was complex and multi layered. This is no simple wine, it hits you in waves. The mouth on this full bodied wine is rich and coating with blackberry, eucalyptus, and almost jam like – but not in a chewy annoying way – more in a rich and cultured manner. The mid palate follows off the first set of layers and is where the structure comes in. The structure is built on tannin, acidity, and lush layers of vegetal flavors. The finish is crazy long and is filled with chocolate, tobacco, and sweet wood. This is really quite a fine wine and one that is not yet peaked at all, though quite enjoyable now as well.

Château Le Crock 2002 – Score: B+
The nose on this dark garnet colored wine starts slow. Initially, it is hot with black cherry, blackberry, and oak. As time progresses the nose wakes up and the heat blows off. The nose then changes to a strong aroma of blackberry, chocolate, and coffee – very nice. The mouth is full bodied and very velvety – a truly full bodied and mouth coating experience. The blackberry carries over to the mouth along with some red fruit. The mid palate is still tannic with no heat and a nice spice. The finish is the real flaw – it is not so long but carries the chocolate and leather like qualities – albeit a short distance.

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