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Kos Yeshuos Winery’s new U.S. release for 2021, and 2019 South African ESSA Wine Co. wines

WOW, I cannot believe I just wrote that number, but yes, we made it through 2020, and I hope all of you are safe and well. The prize for reaching 2021 is more wine, and Josh Rynderman, the Dual-Hemisphere winemaker of Kos Yeshuos Winery and ESSA Wine Co., swung by last week and we tasted his new release for 2021, the 2020 Kos Yeshuos Viognier. Sadly, this year, there are no cool marketing/moniker-driven wine names. Other than the Wylder Side Orange Viognier, but that is a super-small production promotional item.

Sadly, 2020 was a horrible year for many, in the wine world and outside of it. Sadly, because of fires, smoke, crazy heat waves, and God knows what else, Kos Yeshuos only made the Viognier, but it is a really good wine!

To see more about the story and life of Kos Yeshuos and the Ryndermans, you can read my post here about last year’s wines, and this post about the wines made under ESSA Wine Co. Sadly, the ESSA Wine Co. wines are still not available here in the USA, but they are nice!! We tasted the ESAA Wine Co. wines in September 2020, and the wine notes are also below.

Well, as you know Josh is a friend, and as always I make sure to disclaim things like that before posting my notes, like with Benyamin Cantz of Four Gates Winery. So, with that, my many thanks to Josh for coming by with the new wines to taste, safe travels, and best of luck on the 2021 Harvest in South Africa! Remember to bring me more of those wonderful South African reds when you are back in July/August 2021!

The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

2020 Kos Yeshuos Viognier – Score: 92 (QPR: EVEN)
The notes are on a bottle that was bottled less than 2 weeks ago. To start the nose opens to smell very much like the 2018 California Kid, which was Viognier/Sauvignon Blanc, this vintage is 100% Viognier. The nose starts with bright peach, pear, citrus, gooseberry, fresh hay, cardamom, jasmine, and flint galore. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is lovely, layered, and rich, with waves of acidity that are almost overcoming, but they are tempered by the smoke, flint, peach, citrus galore, ripe pomelo, with an almost oily texture, followed by waxy notes, with lovely weight, ripe apricot, yellow pear, and more hay. The finish is long, green, with hints of foliage, more tart and juicy yellow fruit, gooseberry, honeydew, and loads of flint, smoke, and green notes. Bravo! Drink until 2023. (tasted Dec 2020)

2020 Kos Yeshuos Wylder Side Orange – Score: 92
This wine is a blend of Viognier and Chardonnay made in an Orange style. This wine starts closed with apple notes and not much else. With a few hours of decanting the nose opens to what I expect from an Orange Viognier, with notes of almonds, candied peach, apricot, cardamom, sweet rosehip, sweet jasmine, with creme brulee, and fresh apple compote. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is fun, the acid hits you first, but that is quickly overcome by waves of sweet tannin, followed by an oily texture that coats the mouth with sweet apricot, peach, oak, and notes of smoke and toast. The finish is long, toasty, smoke, flint, mineral, roasted walnuts, and more tannin that lingers forever. Bravo!! Drink until 2024. (tasted Dec 2020)

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Kosher Mid-Range aging red wines may well be the sweet spot for the kosher wine market – lots of WINNERS.

We are working our way through the QPR 2.1 and 2.0 wine categories and so far, outside of simple white wines, there has not been a lot of love or WINNERS to talk about. However, things start to change with the 2nd red wine category.

These wines are drinkable now but will improve a bit with time. They are not the undrinkable wine category, which will be next, but rather these wines are good now and may garner some of those tertiary notes we all love so much, with a bit of time in the bottle. These kinds of wines are normally more expensive, but this is where the QPR (Quality to Price ratio) sweet spot exists, IMHO.

As explained in my last post, the wine categorization is impacted by what I think the wine will last. Meaning that a poor wine will not be more enjoyable in 5 years if it is a painful date juice now. Nor will the wine be more ageable depending on the price of the wine. The length of time wine can live in the bottle is not scientific in any manner, it is subjective, much like the wine’s score, still, it is based upon this that the wines are judged for their QPR.

Mid-range aging Reds (4 to 11 years) – cellar saviors

As I have stated enough times now, the fact that a wine can “live” for 10 or so years, tells you that the wine is good to start with, or at least professionally made. Still, the next level up, High-end Red wines (11 and more years), come at a much higher price range. Yes, there are sweet spot wines there as well, but there are more here in the mid-range options. Also, these are the wines that will save your cellar. Look, I like wines like the 2019 Chateau Les Riganes, or the 2017 Chateau Mayne Guyon just fine! But when you want something with a bit more polish or elegance and you do not want to raid your high-end wines early, THIS IS the category to go to!

If you want that next level is quality but not the next level in price, per se, this is the category to hit. Here you will find wines like the 2017 Chateau Greysac, Medoc, the 2015 Louis Blanc Crozes-Hermitage, and the 2018 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico, which all scored 92 or higher and are all priced at 30 dollars or lower. While I would say these wines will improve with more time, they can at least be enjoyed now, without robbing the cradle of wine like 2015, 2017, or 2018 Chateau Fourcas Dupre.

On a Facebook post, I and many others were asked over and over about this wine or that wine, wines that were still far too young to be appreciated now. My response was the same over and over, stop opening bottles so early! I opened a bottle of 2007 Four Gates Cabernet Franc, 2 weeks ago, it was an absolute joy but also, a wine that was so young it was truly a crime! STOP opening wines early folks. Let the wines come to you! This wine category is where you will find the richer, more complex options, for a higher price than the Simple reds, but still at a lower price point overall than the higher-end reds. There are 20+ WINNERS here, between USA and France, BUY them and SAVE YOUR CELLAR!!!

Shirah Wines Post

If one takes even a cursory look at this post and the wine notes below, the predominant winery/producer you will find is Shirah Wines. I got all the current wines in May of this year. It took me a bit of time to finally post them. As I stated last year, in my year in review, California had indeed turned its direction towards riper fruit and wines. Shirah contacted me and I bought the current wines to make 100% sure that my notes were in line with my comments, you can make your mind up from the notes.

I will stress THREE points here AGAIN, as I have done over a long time already:

  1. I crave the 2010 (AKA NV) /2012/2013/2014 Bro.Deux and the 2013 Syrah, and I FONDLY remember the old days of the One-Two Punch. Those were and still are VERY different wines than what is being sold now. I have had all of them recently and still have some bottles. They are wonderful, but they are not what the 2016 or 2017 Bro.Deux is like today.
  2. I strongly believe in Shirah Wines, I think the wines they produce are professionally made and are perfect for the bigger/flashier/riper palate that is the cornerstone of today’s kosher wine-buying public. They are just not the wines I want.
  3. Finally, there has been a clear and very big shift in the palate of the wines being made in California, today. Even Four Gates wines are getting riper. The issue here is all about balance. If I feel fruit is overripe and sticking out, to a point where I do not enjoy the wine, but rather think about the ripe fruit, I will move on. I understand this is a subjective way of seeing wine. I get that, and that is what makes wine so fascinating. Like all of art, it is not what is true or false as much as it is what one likes or dislikes.

WINNERS and other demarcations

As stated above, some wines will be winners in France/Europe and others will be WINNERS in the USA. I do not know the pricing in Israel or the wines or really anything about Israel for the last year+. Maybe Avi Davidowitz of Kosher Wine Unfiltered can make a post or two on this subject! HINT HINT!

Also, there are strange prices, distributions, and edge cases throughout Europe, and as such what is a good price in Paris may not be in London. Worse is wine in Belgium may be a better price than in Paris or London. The idea of “Europe” being a single country for commerce is a MASSIVE sham in the kosher wine market, in Europe anyway. In the USA it is equally messy, in regards to pricing throughout the states, L.A.’s wine prices are either non-existent (because there is no wine) or it is sky-high. I have seen better prices for California wines in NYC than in California! Like what now??? So, yeah, pricing is not as crisp, all the time, as I make it out to be here with my QPR posts, but I do the very best I can.

So, WINNER means USA (sorry this is a USA dominant blog), WINNER (F) means a WINNER in France. I will denote as well, in the wine post if the wine is only available in France or Europe, which is the same for me here, as London is the main outlier and it is not part of Europe anymore – sorry London! Enjoy the train!!! On a total aside, I did love taking the train from London to Paris, a few days AFTER they left the union! Moving on now.

So, without too much more delay – let’s get to it! Here is the list of cellar saviors and mid-level red wines. There are many WINNERS for buyers here in the USA and those in France! The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

2018 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico – Score: 92 to 93 (QPR: WINNER)
This is a fantastic wine, and with my new QPR scoring it is still is not as expensive as the median and its score is also above the median, so it is a GREAT QPR. This is a no brainer GREAT QPR wine and will sell out quickly BUY NOW!
This wine is incredible, it is better than the 2016 vintage and much better than 2017. It is even a bit better than the massively epic 2015 vintage. Bravo Daniella and Maria!!!
The nose on this wine is ripe, but the balance on it is incredible, the fruitiness exists but it hides behind a redolent garden of fresh mushroom, grass, dirt, loam, and lovely earth, with hints of barnyard, forest floor, and dark fruit, with balsamic vinegar, and roasted herbs galore. The mouth on this medium to full-bodied wine is incredible, layered, rich, extracted, and so balanced, with incredible acidity, intense saline, dark sour cherry, coffee, all balanced and plush, with rich blackberry, cherry, strawberry, salami, with lovely mouth draping tannin, with minerality, graphite galore, and a lovely tannin structure. The finish is long, green, and ripe but perfectly balanced, with lovely acidity, roasted coffee, graphite, scarping mineral, loads of smoke, and sweet tobacco on the long finish. Bravo!! Drink until 2027 maybe longer.

2017 Tassi Aqua Bona Toscana Rosso, Bettina Cuvee – Score: 92 (QPR: BAD)
This wine is meant to be bottled under the D.O.C.G. Rosso di Montepulciano, but because of some strange requirements that were not met to meet the body’s requirements it only has the I.G.T. Toscano Rosso moniker.
This wine producer/winery is quite famous in the non-kosher world. The wine is made from 100% Sangiovese.
The nose on this wine starts with a crazy cedar box, followed by a mound of fresh Cuban Cigar tobacco, followed by loads of anise, licorice, smoked meat, followed by black and red fruit, foliage, forest floor, and more sweet cedar/oak. The mouth on this medium-bodied to full-bodied wine is not as extracted as I expected though this wine is richly expressive with loads of smoke, earth, rich tannin, nice green notes from what I can imagine is what I would get from whole-cluster and stems fermentation, with loads of rich spice, heady roasted herbs, and lovely blackberry, dark cherry, rich umami notes of balsamic and mushroom, with loads of mineral, graphite, and rich fruit-structure and focus with lovely elegance and control. The finish is long, rich, layered, and smoky, with nice control, lovely acidity, and smoke, roasted herbs, smoked meats, and soy sauce followed by more cigar smoke, and freshly tilled earth. Nice!!! Drink from 2021 until 2026. 

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Sadly, simple kosher red wines are uninteresting and have poor QPR scores, for the most part

So, ask me what is the weakest wine category in the kosher wine market? The answer is simple, the simple red wine. Simple red wine is defined here in my QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) post as a red wine that would not last four years. In other words, a wine made to enjoy upon release and hold for a year or two max.

The sad fact is that there are hundreds of wines in this category and they are all poor quality wines. Remember, QPR scores are not controlled by me at all, but rather by the market forces and prices the market forces on the wines. So, a wine that I score a 91 (which is 100% subjective and up to me), like the 2019 Chateau Riganes or the 2018 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Lineage cannot be given a QPR score by what I feel in my gut, or I think.

The QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) score of BAD/POOR/EVEN/GOOD/GREAT (WINNER) is defined by the wine’s category, in combination with the price of the wine compared against the price of its peers in that category. So, once you realize the Chateau Riganes is a simple red wine and that its price is 14 dollars, on average, and then you compare it against the other wines in this category, you quickly realize it has a GREAT QPR score and is a QPR WINNER. The median price for wines in the simple red wine category goes from 13 dollars to as high as 60 dollars and the wine scores go from 58 up to 91. Essentially an abysmal wine category with 100+ wines I have tasted recently and all but 22 of them score below a 90, with just six WINNERS (though some of those are just in France/Europe). So, the Riganes, with a score of 91 for 14 dollars, again on average, shows this wine is below the median price of its peers (20 dollars) and above the median score of its peers (87). So, for 14 dollars, you can get a simple red wine that is better than the vast majority of other red wines in the same category and for cheaper – the very definition of a GREAT/WINNER QPR wine.

If there was ONE take away from the work I have been doing into QPR, that I guess I did not see coming until I did all the work and wrote it all down into a spreadsheet, would be that wines that have a long drinking window also get higher scores and cost more, on average. All that sounds logical but it was not until I wrote it all up that it was glaringly obvious! The high-end kosher wine category’s median wine score is 92! Again, that makes sense as I would not give a wine like the 2017 Raziel a long drinking window. Mind you that wine may well be “alive” in ten years but it would not be a wine I would think about drinking at that time. The ripeness on it would be so overwhelming that it would turn me off more at that time than it does now. That can also be said for the 2016 Chateau Leydet-Valentin, Saint-Emilion, Grand Cru. It will be around for more than almost ANY simple red wine will live, but it will not be enjoyable, to me. So, the drinking window is very short, which places it into a simple red wine category.

It is an interesting byproduct of choosing the vector to compare wines against each other, outside of price, of course. I will keep an eye on it, but for now, the wine category vector that I think gets me the “best” sample size, per wine category option, is the drinking window. This means we will have strange outliers on both sides for sure.

Trying other categories, like wine region or varietal or style will not work – they are not apple to apple. By using the wine’s drinking window we get far more evenly distributed sample sizes and variation in the actual wines.

Finally, many wines are NOT on this list, BECAUSE, this list is of wines that drink NOW to soon. For instance, the 2018 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico, is a GREAT wine and is a QPR WINNER, but it is not on this list. It is not on the next list I will publish either (mid-level red wines). It is on the long aging red wines. It is sub 20 dollars and is a wine everyone should stock up on. Same for the 2015 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico, Riserva, and the 2015 Assai. That is why the price is not the arbiter for what defines a good QPR wine, nor is it based upon a winery, country, region, varietal, and style.

Sadly, the takeaway here is that this wine category is not very interesting. Still, there are a couple of options and six WINNERS, overall, spread across countries, so I guess we should be thankful for that, at least. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

2019 Chateau Les Riganes (M) – Score: 91 (QPR: WINNER)
YES!!! The curse is broken! The odd year 2019 vintage is good! Finally! The nose on this wine is fun dirt, earth, bramble, green notes, followed by fun red and black fruit, all coming together into an intoxicating aroma. This is not a top-flight wine, but it is, once again, a very good QPR wine and a sure WINNER.
The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is not layered, but it has enough complexity and elegance to make this work, with a good attack of dark red fruit, with dark currant, dark cherry, hints of blackberry, followed by loads of dirt, mineral, graphite, and a very nice mouth-draping tannin structure, with fun dirt, loam, and loads of foliage. The finish is long, green, and red, with lovely graphite, draping tannin, green olives, and green notes lingering long with tobacco, oregano, and Tarragon. Bravo! Drink until 2024.

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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 Lafitte 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 Lafitte.

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

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

Les Vins de Vienne and Pliny the Elder – kosher style

When Nathan Grandjean from Yavine.fr told me that he was making wines from a winery called Les Vins de Vienne I went blank. Come on we all have dreams of Lafite Rothschild or Cheval Blanc being made kosher, but who is Les Vins de Vienne was all I could think of. I wanted to ask him if he meant he was making Austrian wine, but that would have been Vienna, not Vienne, one vowel makes a big difference. In this case, Les Vins de Vienne is a winery in the Rhone region, and they are quite famous for what they have achieved indeed!

Les Vins de Vienne

Pliny the Elder, no not the beer, the Roman author, saw the future and present 2000 years ago in the Rhone Valley. He said that there was a very successful vineyard, during his time, that was near the town of Seyssuel, on the east side of the river, and north of the city called Vienne. he said that the Romans greatly enjoyed the wines, they tasted of tar, and apparently, there were three types of Seyssuel wines called Sotanum, Taburnum, and Heluicum. Well, that answers the Vienne question, but where do the name and story come from?

Well 2000 years after Pliny wrote his statement, winemaker Pierre Gaillard found this successful vineyard, deserted. Sadly, the vineyard was destroyed by Phylloxera some 100 years before Pierre showed up. But remembering what Pliny had said he took samples and found that the makeup of the vineyard was perfect for wine and would indeed be a great location.

The problem though was the AOC (Appellation d’origine contrôlée)! You see, the west side of the river, opposite Seyssuel, in the Rhone, had an appellation, Cote Rotie, but sadly that only covers the western side of the river, not the eastern side, where Pierre was looking to revive Pliny the Great’s vision of old.

So, Pierre called two men he knew and asked if they would join in on making Pliny the Great’s vision a reality? The men he knew of were, Yves Cuilleron and Francois Villard. They were the first to bring the Seyssuel winegrowing area back to life.

They started in 1996 with 10 acres where they planted Syrah along with some Viognier. In 1998 the first wine from Seyssuel came to life and it was called Sotanum in homage to Pliny and the Romans of the past. Then came Taburnum in 2000, a Viognier. Finally, in 2004 the dream of rebuilding Pliny’s vision came into full reality with the release of Heluicum, a second red wine from Seyssuel.

Since then, some 100 acres have been planted in an area that has no official region recognition, yet it humorously it may have some of the greatest recognition of all the wines in the Rhone Valley, with thousands of years of proof that it deserves more love from the AOC! Since 1996, and the 100 acres, Seyssuel has been proving its worth, but as I stated above the AOC is where the money is. Here is a GREAT research post from the folks at GuildSomm on the work and issues with an AOC being bestowed on Seyssuel. Like which AOC would you choose? How long does it take, and who actually bestows the coveted AOC upon regions? A great read!

Growth and Kosher

Well, 21 years after the first vintage was released, the name of the cooperative – Les Vins de Vienne should really be changed to Les Vins de Rhone, because even though they make wines from near Seyssuel, the vast majority of their wines now come from all over the Rhone. They now make more than 460,000 bottles of wine per year, and source their grapes from as north of the Northern Rhone as you can get, which is Seyssuel, to the bottom of the Southern Rhone, namely Cotes-Du-Rhone.

The 2017 vintage was the first one that was made kosher and while I think these are exceedingly young wines, they are very Cali in nature. They seem very ripe and control is really not a requirement from Les Vins de Vienne. Just looking at the wines, you can see they let the fruit speak for themselves. The Crozes-Hermitage was probably the only red wine where the winemakers took action and made the wine with whole clusters, to allow the stems to add tannin, structure, and most importantly green and balancing notes to the very ripe and Cali-like fruit structure of these wines. Read the rest of this entry

Four Gates Winery’s January 2019 new releases

Disclaimer – do not blame me for posting this AFTER Benyo sold his wines. That was not MY choice. I was asked to wait on my post until after the sale of the wines this year. Also, Four gates Winery and Benyamin Cantz (which are one the same), never saw or knew my notes until I posted them today.

As you all know, I am a huge fan of Four Gates Winery, and yes he is a dear friend. So, as is my custom, as many ask me what wines I like of the new releases, here are my notes on the new wines.

I have written many times about Four Gates Winery and its winemaker/Vigneron Benyamin Cantz. Read the post and all the subsequent posts about Four Gates wine releases, especially this post of Four Gates – that truly describes the lore of Four Gates Winery.

Other than maybe Yarden and Yatir (which are off my buying lists – other than their whites and bubblies), very few if any release wines later than Four Gates. The slowest releaser may well be Domaine Roses Camille.

Four Gates grapes versus bought grapes

It has been stated that great wine starts in the vineyard, and when it comes to Four gates wine, it is so true. I have enjoyed the 1996 and 1997 versions of Benyamin’s wines and it is because of his care and control that he has for his vineyard. That said, the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes he receives from the Monte Bello Ridge shows the same care and love in the wines we have enjoyed since 2009.

I have immense faith in Benyo’s wines that are sourced from his vineyard and from the Monte Bello Ridge vineyard. The other wines, that he creates from other sources, are sometimes wonderful, like the 2014 Four Gates Petit Sirah that I enjoyed over the past Shabbat. It has lasting power. Others, while lovely on release may well not be the everlasting kind of Four Gates wines.

The new wines

This year we have the 2016 Syrah and the 2016 Petit Sirah, along with the classics. There is a new off-dry 2017 Rishona, along with an Ayala 2017 Chardonnay, and the always constant, and epic 2017 Four Gates Chardonnay.

The rest of the wines are the normal suspects, but this year’s crop, like last years, is really impressive. You have a 2014 Four Gates Merlot, 2014 Four Gates Merlot, M.S.C., the 2014 Four Gates Cabernet Sauvignon, Monte Bello Ridge, Betchart Vineyard, and the 2014 Four Gates Frere Robaire.

Prices and Quantities

I have heard it over and over again. That I and others caused Benyo to raise his prices. First of all that is a flat-out lie. I never asked for higher prices, but when asked the value of his wines, the real answer I could give was more than 26 dollars.

Let us be clear, all of us that got used to 18/26 dollar prices and stocked up on his wines in those days should be happy. The fact that he raised prices, is a matter of basic price dynamics, and classic supply and demand. Four Gates has been seeing more demand for the wines while the quantity of what is being made is slowing down.

The law of Supply and Demand tell you that the prices will go, even is I beg for lower prices. Read the rest of this entry

Top QPR Kosher wine winners of 2018

I continue to lament the lack of QPR wines. This past year, saw us with a better list of wines overall, but they are not actually QPR. I mean that 2018 saw fewer top wines and more wines at the next level down, but even those wines were not reasonably priced.

Take for example the lovely 2016 Montviel, it is a superstar wine, but it is not a pure QPR, given its 50+ dollar price. While the 100+ dollar wines abound, the 95+ score wines are nowhere to be found this past year.

So, I thought I would list the most recent QPR wines I have enjoyed over the past year. I wanted to catch up with wines I only had recently and with ones that are finally here in the USA.

My hope is that people will enjoy the wines and demand more of them. For instance, the lack of many of the QPR wines from Elvi Wines on the open market. I can find them on Royal’s website and on Elvi’s website, but sadly until recently, they were not available on the internet. Thankfully, Kosherwine.com has gotten the Elvi wines back, but Netofa wines are still not available here in the USA.

This list is not a list of wines that are meant for cellaring, though many can withstand a few years. The idea here is to enjoy these wines now while you let the long-term wines cellar and age. We all have that interest to drink interesting wines and while I agree with that, that is NO excuse to raid the cellar when u have a hunkering for a complex nose or flavor. Many of these wines will scratch the itch while the beasts’ lie and settle.

This year, the list came to a total of 20 names, which is a large number, but then again, the number of options has grown.

Finally, some of these wines are hard to find and they may have different siblings – but they are worth the effort. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

QPR KINGs of 2018

The wines of the year, from my top 25 wines of 2018, are also the QPR kings of 2018.

2016 Chateau Larcis Jaumat, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru – Score: 92 (Crazy QPR)
This wine starts off open and then closes so tight like an oil drum, this thing is nuts. The wine is made of 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc, a classic right bank wine from Saint-Emilion. The nose on this wine is really bright, ripe, and intense, with rich intensity, mushroom, earth, but so much redolence, the nose is far more open than the mouth, showing rich blackberry, dark plum, and rich vanilla, followed by herb, mint, rosemary, and green notes galore. The mouth on this medium to full-bodied wine is crazy rich, it does at times remind me of Benyo’s Merlots with a fair amount of blackcurrant thrown in, which is never found on Benyo wines, but the mad acid, rich mouthfeel, closed tight fruit structure has me reminded often of a Four Gates wine, with intense notes, they scream because of the acid, that gives way to rich tannin structure that is searing and yet inviting, with rich cranberry, cherry, and crazy earth, that will give way to mushroom and forest floor with time. The finish is long, really long, lingering, and intense, with gripping tannin, acid, tobacco galore, mounds of blackcurrant, vanilla, herb, foliage, and green notes, that give way to a gripping mouthfeel that will crush anything, with tar, menthol, and more earth. OMG, this Benyo in France! Wow!! Drink from 2021 to 2030.

2015 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico – Score: 92 (Crazy QPR)
The nose on this wine is ripe, at first, the wine starts off with heat, but that blows off, but it is also well balanced, with lovely earth, mineral, dirt, with dark cherry, coffee, and lovely dark fruit. The mouth on this medium to full-bodied wine is beautiful, complex, well layered, with rich concentration, nice extraction, all balanced and plush, with rich blackberry, currant, lovely mouth draping tannin, with lovely foliage, and some nice earthy and fruit bite. With time, it shows its ripeness, but also intense minerality, saline, graphite galore, and lovely tannin structure. The finish is long, green, and ripe but balanced, with lovely acid, great texture, that gives way to more coffee, graphite, scarping mineral, and light almond bitterness on the long finish. Bravo!! Drink 2019 to 2023.

QPR top 19 Winners (in no particular order)

2016 Elvi Herenza Semi (blue label) – Score: 90 (mevushal) (QPR)
Lovely nose with great spice and lovely oak and with dark fruit, tart and refreshing while also being elegant. Really nice attack and really tart and tannic but accessible with great tart red fruit, classical in style with spice, green notes, and nice acid that gives way to coffee and nice cherry and tart and zesty currant. The finish is long and tart with great foliage, tart fruit, and earth. Bravo! Drink by 2020. (Available here in the USA, France, Israel, and other locations)

2015 Chateau du Grand Barrail, White – Score: 91 (Crazy QPR)
The nose on this wine shows smoke, flint, with lovely dry fruit, showing rich honeysuckle, white flowers, with honeyed apples, and lovely Asian pears. The mouth on this medium bodied wine shows riper fruit than the nose, showing more sweet fruit, with sweet melon, with a richer mouthfeel than I would expect, with rich acidity that shows a bit further in the mouth, with intense honeydew, melon, and lovely grapefruit, and Meyer lemon. The finish is long, truly searing with acid, and rich with more honeyed fruit, and lovely citrus fruit. Bravo! Drink now till 2023. (This is sadly only available in France)

2016 Koenig Riesling, Alsace – Score: 92 (mevushal) (Crazy QPR)
The nose on this wine is lovely, showing ripe peach, apricot, with great grapefruit, followed by petrol funk, lovely honeysuckle, more floral notes, and nice mineral. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is an acid bomb, and thank god, we really needed a dry, well priced, acid bomb, with petrol notes, and this one is mevushal to boot! The mouth is dripping with acid, followed by rich lanolin, with a nice weight, followed by sweet guava notes and tart Asian pear, impressive. The finish is long, tart, crazy acid, with wax, petrol, honeyed fruit, and more sweet notes lingering long! Bravo!!!! Drink by 2020. (Available in the USA and France)

2017 Ramon Cardova Albarino, Rias Baixas – Score: 91 (QPR)
Lovely nose of rich mineral, with loads of straw, with which salinity, and lovely peach and dry apricot, with honeysuckle, lemongrass, with green notes galore. Lovely! The mouth on this lovely green and acid-driven wine, showing rich salinity, green olives, with lovely dry quince, green apples, but also with lovely lime and grapefruit, with a bit of sweet fruit of guava and rich acid that comes at you in layers. The finish is long and green, with gooseberry, passion fruit, and lovely round and tart with freshness and orange pith, and incredible acidity lingering long. Drink until 2021.

Interesting note on this wine, there is a thermosensitive logo on the label that shows ONLY when the wine is at the correct temperature, on the bottom right-hand corner of the front white label. This is a lovely wine and one that is worth the effort to enjoy at the correct temp. Cool! (Available here in the USA, France, and other locations)

Read the rest of this entry

Flam Winery latest releases

As I have been posting so far, I enjoyed my last trip to Israel and Europe, and this will be the last post about Israeli wineries for this trip anyway! Last we left off, I was talking about – Tzora Vineyards Winery. However, that was the third winery that we visited that day – the third of the four wineries that make up the Judean Hills quartet, three of which are kosher. We visited all three of the kosher wines from the Judean Hills Quartet on that Friday, and in this post, I will cover the first of those three that we visited that day – that one being Flam Winery. This will be my last post from my trip to Israel, the next ones will be about my epic tasting in France and Riesling wines from Mosel. Also, a side note, the winery that brings us the wonderful Rieslings and Sylvaner – Nik Weiss, is a sister winery to Flam Winery. Actually, Gilad brought out a bottle of the 2015 Nik Weiss Riesling and we told him that we had issues initially with the wine, but now understand that these wines take years to come around (flavor and fruit characteristic wise) and that he should save his next bottle for a few years from now.

Judean Hills Quartet

I have already posted here about my appreciation for the Judean Hills quartet, I think what they are doing is great and is the correct way to go after the gaping sinkhole in what some would call Israeli wine education. They happen to also be some of the best wineries in Israel, which is a blessing. Who would want Yarden pushing their date juice and declaring this is the future of Israel’s wine revolution?? Instead, you have wineries like Domaine du Castel WineryFlam Winery, and Tzora Vineyards, along with a winery I wish I could enjoy, though sadly it is not kosher – Sphera Winery – run by Doron Rav Hon, who made some of the best Chardonnays and Pinot Noir in Israel when he was in Ella Valley – those were great days!!

If you look at the four wineries in the quartet, three of them have used Judean Hills grapes since the very beginning, Domaine du Castel WineryTzora Vineyards, and Sephora Winery. Both Castel and Tzora built their name and reputation and essence upon the terroir of the Judean Hills. Flam has always been using Judean Hills fruit in its wines, but the reserve wines have been sourced from the Upper Galilee (Ben Zimra and Dishon). That is changing now, the winery has planted 100 dunams on the beautiful slopes near Ein Kerem and the first wine from the Judean Hills is the 2015 Merlot Reserve.

Once they complete the move from the Galilee to the Judean Hills for their reserve wines as well, the majority of its red wines will be sourced from the Judean Hills. At this time, the Rose, Blanc, and Classico are all sourced from the Judean Hills, with the most of the reserve wines being sourced from the Upper Galilee.

Tasting

We were a large group that descended upon the winery, AO, JK, and his wife, OM, MB, and myself. We had the chance to taste through the current wines plus the not yet released but already bottled 2013 Flam Noble – the winery’s flagship wine. We were met by both Gilad and Golan Flam, and later for a bit by Israel as well. Golan, the winemaker, and Gilad who runs the winery were very kind to meet with us as was visible from the previous posts of this trip, it was harvest time, and Golan had to run to tend to the grapes. We did get a chance to watch some of the winemaking activities and then it was off to taste the currently released wines.

The wines once again show the professionalism and passion that is Flam Winery. As the first post I ever wrote about the winery shows, this is a family run winery and that focuses as much of its efforts in the vineyards as they do in the winery itself.

My thanks to Gilad, Golan, and Israel Flam, and the winery for a wonderful tasting. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

2016 Flam Blanc – Score: B+
This wine tasted better than the last time we had it, with tart and crisp fruit, showing nice pith, lovely grapefruit, and green apple galore. The mouth is crisp and alive and tart with good balance and nice fruit and good spice, but lacks anything to grab you. The finish is long and rich and crisp, very refreshing.

2015 Flam Classico – Score: B+
The wine shows a bit too much oak now,  nice enough, but a bit too much oak with crazy chocolate and elegance with more of the reserve fruit going into the Classico in 2015. The nose shows herb sweet dill, and good earth, and red fruit. The mouth is medium bodied and dark cherry, rich roasted herb, nice round and spicy with great sweet but controlled fruit and menthol and green notes abound. The extra syrah is showing with hints of blue notes but really nice with foliage and tobacco galore, but lacking complexity of previous vintages and a bit too much oak.

2015 Flam Merlot, Reserve – Score: A-
This is the first vintage being sourced from the Judean hills. The nose on this wine shows a very rich oaky nose with red fruit and green notes. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is rich and layered but lacking the acid, but really impressed by what the be vineyards will bring. The mouth shows mouth coating tannin with elegance, dark raspberry, with hints of dark currant, mineral, foliage, dirt, and loam galore, with great potential. The finish is long and elegant with chocolate, tobacco, and ripe fruit lingers long.

2015 Flam Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve – Score: B+
Nice nose of bright mineral, rich earth and really ripe fruit. The mouth is ripe and plush with green notes and really accessible showing nice tannin and plush blackberry and foliage. The finish is long and green and soft with mineral and tobacco and loam.

2015 Flam Syrah, Reserve – Score: A-
The nose on this wine shows lovely blue and black fruit, with perfumed boysenberry, with less herb and more floral and blue fruit instead. The mouth is rich and full bodied and really accessible with a plush and a bit less pushed than the other two reserve wines, with nice extraction, good sweet fruit, controlled with green notes again and foliage that is wrapped in plush but firm tannin and great spice. The finish is long and sweet and really impressive with leather galore and tobacco that is backed by tar and roasted animal.

2013 Flam Noble – Score: A-
Really lovely old world nose with nice mineral, rich black and elegant fruit with great roasted herb. The mouth is full bodied, plush, not overly tannic with nice elegance and good complexity that is ripe and round and yet balanced with chocolate and nice graphite and mineral. The finish is long and green with tobacco, sweet dill, rich extraction that shows searing tannin that lingers and ripe black fruit with juicy tart raspberry, and fun blue notes in the background, with ripe fruit lingering long.

 

Pinot Noir wines, Kos Yeshous wines, and red and white QPR winners

Well, Yom Tov is now over, and the Jewish Holiday fall season is over. I will keep this very short, I tasted lots of wines and not all of them are themed or per winery, so here they are. Some were really good, like the impressive but not widely available Kos Yeshuos wines from Josh Rynderman, who continues to impress me and whose wines truly belie his youth.

Besides Josh’s fun wines, I tasted the Gachot Manot Pinot Noir wines from the 2010 vintage. Of the four I have now tasted, the only ones I would buy now is the 1er cru if you can find it. The plain Bourgogne is in drink now mode, it has a year left at most in the tank. The other two wines, the Cote de Nuits-Villages and the Gevrey are really not that interesting and are in serious drink up mode.

Sadly, the 2012 Pacifica Pinot Noir dropped off the cliff, it is in serious drink NOW mode, or you will be left with water. There is a new 2016 vintage, I hope to taste it very soon.

Also, bravo to Menahem Israelievitch and the Royal Europe group. They have created two QPR wines that are nice. The best of the bunch by far is the 2016 Chateau Riganes. It is very cheap, at less than 10 dollars on kosherwine.com, and it is mevushal!! Finally! Finally! We are starting to see real wines in the kosher market that are not jacked up. The Chateau Trijet is nice as well, but more fruit forward than I would like.

Finally, I had the chance to taste the 2016 Capcanes Rosat and it did not crack the top roses of 2017, which is a shame. The new 2016 Goose Bay Sauvignon Blanc is a real winner and a QPR winner to boot!

We were in a huge rush so my notes are shorter than usual. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

Kos Yeshuos Wines

2016 Kos Yeshuos Grenache, Mokelumne River, Lodi – Score: 90 to 91
The nose is really fun and feminine, with vibrant fruit, juicy strawberry, hints of blueberry, with intensely floral notes showing rose hip and nice sweet baking spices. The mouth on medium bodied is fun, vibrant, and zesty, and with a great backing of good acid that makes it a fun food wine, with good fruit focus showing tart cherry, with a good tannin that carries the wine, with lovely strawberry, and cinnamon at the start that gives way to cloves, allspice, and then great almond pith. The finish is long and spicy, with earth, really fun saline, floral notes, and a backbone of acid that really carries this wine well. Nice! Drink till 2020.

2016 Kos Yeshuos Syrah, Mokelumne River, Lodi – Score: 92
What a lovely Cali nose, a real joy, controlled, fruity, big and bold and really meaty, with really great boysenberry, blueberry, roasted meat, backed by nice floral notes (not weak Australian style – but really rich and floral), with mounds of chocolate, lovely graphite, mineral, and sweet oak. The mouth on this full bodied wine is rich, layered and inky, a real joy, wow, this is a wine that belies Josh’s young career as a winemaker, a wine with great control and finesse, a true food Syrah (not because it is undrinkable without food, it has ZERO date or sweet issues), but this wine is a beast, it cannot be enjoyed on its own, unless u are a glutton for punishment, showing rich cassis, blackberry, followed by blue fruit galore, juicy and ripe, yet not over the top, wrapped in spicy and sweet oak, with rich ribbons of mineral, earth, and great baking spices to bring it all together. The finish is long and mineral based, with great graphite, rich saline, green and black olives, along with hints of other umami to come, but meaty, blue, mineral, and black lingering long. Bravo! Drink from 2018 to 2023. Not available anymore – I think sold out.

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