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Tasting of kosher wines from Italy and Italian varietals

This past week the gang gathered at Josh Rynderman house, many thanks to MR for hosting us! I brought a few bottles of Italian wine, and so did others, while some brought non-Italian wines, and in the end, we made it into the wine event I have been waiting to have – as it was time to get down and write up my Italian wines.

It is no new revelation, that my palate has moved more old-world in style. Yes, I still enjoy Four Gates wines (which have moved new-world in style over the past few years), along with Herzog wines, Hajdu wines, mostly white Hagafen wines, and yes, Shirah wines as well (even if they think I do not love their wines). However, I was never a huge fan of Italian wines, even if in the non-kosher world, they make TONS of old-world style wines. Sadly, the issue is that there were few to none that impressed me other than the Falesco wines from 2005 and 2006 and the 2010 Moncheiro. However, recently, things are changing. First is the release of wines from Terra di Seta that I really like, (the original all-kosher winery in Tuscany). Next, is the fact that Hajdu is releasing lovely wines made from Italian varietals. Finally, there is a new all-kosher winery from Tuscany, Cantina Giuliano, who released three new wines, along with the 2014 Chianti he had last year. The 2015 Chianti from Cantina Giuliano is for sale in Europe, but it is not yet available in the USA.

Let me start with answering questions people will have before I start with this article. This may offend some, but hey, what can I do. No, there was no Bartenura wines, why? Simple, I am not a fan. What about Borgo Reale wines and Cantina Gabriela? Well, I like the two top line Borgo wines, the Brunello and Barolo, but the Borgo Reale Barolo pales in comparison to the Paulo Manzone Tenuta Moncheiro Barolo 2010, even though it sells for the same amount of money. The 2010 vintage in Barolo was one of the best in a long time, I would love to try the Paulo Manzone Tenuta Moncheiro Barolo 2010 again in a few years, like 5 or so. We did not taste these three wines at the tasting, but I have added the notes of the Paulo Manzone Tenuta Moncheiro Barolo 2010 below. Sadly, I cannot find my notes for the two Borgo wines I liked.

A bit of background on Italy’s four wine classifications: 

(1) Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) – This classification denotes the highest quality recognition for Italian wines. There are only 20 or so wines meriting this classification. (2) Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) – This is the same classification as the French wine classification, Appellation d’Origine Controlee (AOC). Wines that fall under the DOC classification must be made in specified, governmentally defined zones, in accordance with particular regulations intended to preserve the wine’s character.  There are some 300 or so wines in this classification. (3) Indicazione di Geografica Tipica (IGT) – These table wines are often ubiquitous wines, grown in specific geographical growing regions. (4) Vino Da Tavola (VdT) – This designates wines that reside firmly on the “low end” of the totem pole. Comprised of Italian table wines, these products must meet the sole criteria of being produced somewhere in Italy.  Read the rest of this entry

Kosher Rose wine options for 2016 – as the weather heats up

Rose wine in the non kosher market is exploding – especially Rose wine from Provence; a wine region of France. Sadly, in the kosher wine market – that is not quite the case. I did not stress my previous statement with a suffix of AT ALL, even though I am not allowed to open a bottle of rose on my Shabbos table with guests – why? Well that is simple – no one will drink it!!

Still, Gary Wartels of Skyview Wines told me recently that there is an uptick in interest, especially in the newly released Vitkin Rose 2015. I need to get back to that wine and other shmita wines, but first we need to talk about what Rose is and why the current craze in the non kosher market is just an uptick in the kosher.

Wine Color

Well simply said, rose is a wine that can best be defined as the wine world’s chameleon. Where white wine is a pretty simple concept – take white grapes squeeze them and out comes clear to green colored juice. Yes, white grape juice is clear – well so is red grape juice, but more on that in a bit.

White wine is not about color – almost all color in a white wine comes from some oak influence of some sort. So, an unoaked Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Gris can sometimes look almost clear, depending on the region and how the wine was handled. Now oaked Chardonnay of course is what most people use as an example of a dark white wine. As the Wine folly linked above states, different wine regions oak their Chardonnay differently and as such they are sold with different hues from the start. With age – the wine patenas even more and the gold moves to auburn.

The only real exception to the stated rule above – that white grape juice without the influence of oak is somewhere in the clear to green color spectrum, is – orange wines. We have spoken about orange wines – mostly thanks to Yaacov Oryah. Outside of Yaacov’s work there really is no orange wine in the kosher world to speak about. Orange wine is made exactly like red wine, which means that the clear grape juice is left to sit on the yellow-ish to dark yellow grape skins (depending upon what varietal is used to make the orange wine).

Red wine juice – straight from the grape comes out the same color as white grapes. You see the juice from grapes is mostly clear to greenish in color. The red wine color comes from macerating the juice on the grape skins. The longer the juice sits on the grape skins (wine must) the redder in color the wine becomes until it reaches its maximum red color potential.

The only real exception to the rule of a grape’s juice color are the Teinturier varieties. The grapes are called Teinturier, a French language term meaning to dye or stain. The list of grapes whose juice is actually red, are long – but the list of kosher wine options that is a wine made from these grapes – is the Herzog Alicante Bouschet. The Gamay de Bouze is not a normal Gamay grape, it is one of those grape mutations that are very red in nature.

Rose wines are the in between story – hence the chameleon term I used above.

Rose Wine

Rose wine is made in one of three ways. I will list the most dominant manners and leave the last one for last.

Maceration:

This is the first step of the first two options and the only difference is what you do with the rest of juice after you remove it? You see, as we stated above, the color of the juice from red grapes is clear to green and for one to get the lovely red hues we all love from red wine, it requires the juice to lie on the grape skins – AKA maceration.

The rose hue depends on how long the juice macerates. I have heard winemakers say 20 minutes gives them the color they like, and some say almost half a day or longer. The longer the juice macerates the darker the color. While the wine is macerating, the skins are contributing color by leaching phenolics – such as anthocyanins and tannins, and flavor components. The other important characteristic that the skins also leach are – antioxidants that protect the wine from degrading. Sadly, because rose wines macerate for such a short period of time, the color and flavor components are less stable and as such, they lack shelf life – a VERY IMPORTANT fact we will talk about about later. Either way, drinking rose wine early – like within the year – is a great approach for enjoying rose wine at its best!

Now once you remove the liquid, after letting it macerate for the desired length of time, the skins that are left are thrown out or placed in the field to feed organic material into the vines. This is a very expensive approach indeed, because the grapes are being thrown away, instead of doing the saignee process which is described in option #2. This approach is mostly used in regions where rose wine is as important as red wines, like Provence and Languedoc-Roussillon. Mind you, the grapes used in this method are most often picked early, as they are being used solely for making rose. Read the rest of this entry

2010 HaSod Carmenere and 2008 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico

On the week of March 21, 2012, we enjoyed some both a simple and a nice wine. The first one was a simple wine from the Ha Sod label. The story behind Ha Sod, is a story of economics in the kosher wine world. There are many wonderful wines in the expensive price class ($30 and higher), and some decent wines in the middle price class ($10 to $30). The real problem has been finding good kosher wines in the cheap wine class.

To meet those needs Welner Wines has really come on strong to own this zip code. However, since then, Herzog Cellars and the Yarden Winery have both moved down into this price range with their own labels and wines. Yarden released the Ha Sod label in 2009 with both a Carmenere and Cabernet Sauvignon. We liked the 2009 Ha Sod Cabernet but were not as enthralled with this Carmenere. According to Wikipedia, Carmenere is a member of the Cabernet family of grapes, the name “Carménère” originates from the French word for crimson (carmine), which refers to the brilliant crimson color of the autumn foliage prior to leaf-fall. It was considered part of the original six red grapes of Bordeaux, France, but since then it is almost impossible to find in Bordeaux. However, the grape did not disappear, as Chile is now the world’s leading grower of this grape. The grape adds deep color but it lacks deep flavor and concentration.

The Terra di Seta was very nice, and just as enjoyable as the last two times we had it. The Chianti started off closed, but over time it opened to a lovely and enjoyable Chianti, and stays one of the best Kosher Chianti wines out there. Also, Terra di Seta is the ONLY completely kosher winery in Tuscany.

The wine notes follow below:

2010 Ha Sod Carmenere – Score: B
This is a new vantage for the HaSod label, which is a wine made in Chile by the Yarden Wine Company. They started this in 2009 because they needed a wine that could compete in the higher quality low priced wine market. Carmenere is a grape that does not make wine that is rich, deep, or powerful, however it makes for perfectly fine average and above average wine. The wine starts off with raspberry, plum, cranberry, and a distinct floral attack. The mouth is soft and medium in body with sour cherry, blackcurrant, integrated tannin, and a round mouth that makes for a very food friendly wine. The finish is long and spicy with nice herb, earth notes, black pepper, and vanilla. Read the rest of this entry

Kosher European Wines, Hagafen Wine, Kosher Meat Lasagna, White Bean and Kalamata Soup, Vegetable Kugel

This past weekend we had a bunch of friends over to the house and we were so happy to celebrate the good health and recovery of a dear friend of the family who honored us by coming on over for the meal. It is starting to feel a bit chilly around here, so we thought it would be great to try some lovely White Bean and Kalamta Olive Soup. The link to the recipe was the best I could find on the web. The one I use is from Mollie Katzen’s cookbook, which I have no right to place on my blog, please buy her book she is a genius!

The soup is simple to make, and I follow her recipe to the tee, short of adding in a wee bit more wine than her recipe calls for. Personally, that is the ultimate compliment, using someone’s exact recipe, with little or no change, because it is perfect as it is.

We then cooked up meat lasagna. I have modified the lasagna many times, as I am constantly looking for the perfect lasagna that is not too dry or too runny. I think I have finally done that! This past week the lasagna was killer, very tasty, and it was solid without being the least bit dry. The recipe is a change from another cookbook I use, but I have modified this one to not worry about sharing it. Also, I wrote a lot about the process, so the recipe looks long, but I am just adding in my years of struggle with these recipes to make sure you do not. Overall a pretty easy recipe:

Meat Lasagna Recipe: (Makes two pans of lasagna)
2 Tbsp. Oil
2 chopped onions
5 garlic cloves smashed (or just use the frozen garlic)
2 lb. of ground meat
1 sliced green pepper
1 sliced orange or yellow pepper
3 28 oz. cans of crushed tomatoes
2 15 oz. cans of tomato sauce
12 oz. of red wine (more acid and tannin the better)
4 to 5 Tbsp. parsley
2 tsp. sugar
3 tsp. of basil
salt and pepper to taste

16 oz. (18 pieces) of dry lasagna noodle (normal pasta that needs to be cooked)
1 LARGE eggplant sliced 1/2 inch thick

In a large Dutch oven or tall walled pan, heat up the oil until shimmering and then throw in the chopped onions and cook them till they are close to being browned. Then throw in the crushed garlic and as soon as it starts to smell garlicky, throw in the ground meat. Be careful never to burn the garlic, as that is nasty! Move around the meat and make sure it nice and browned. Now throw in the sliced peppers and lets cook until tender. Then throw in the crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, red wine, herbs, salt and pepper. Now mix the pot around a fair amount until the wine color disappears and the tomato color is bright. Keep cooking the sauce until it reduces by 20% or until the sauce looks nice and thick. This step is VERY important, so do not skimp on this, it takes time but you will be generously rewarded.

At this point, bring a very large pot of water to boil and then place the lasagna noodles and cook them 1 to 2 minutes before al dente. We do this because we want them to finish in the oven. NEVER TRY the already cooked or NOT cooked pasta – it does not work. Cook the pasta and you will get the lovely texture that is not available any other way. Once cooked, pour out all the water, and put in some cold water in the pot to keep the pasta from drying up. Read the rest of this entry

Family, Gotham Wine Extravaganza, Restaurants, a Wedding, and some lovely wines

This past weekend I spent time with some family in NY, as I was attending the 8th Annual Gotham Wine Extravaganza, which I MUST say was the best one so far. Both the VIP tasting, and the wines and ambiance at the normal tasting, were really fun and enjoyable. Kudos to Costas and the entire Gotham staff. On another aside, I helped to open bottles this year, which was really cool, because it will probably be the one and ONLY time I get to open a 2007 Yarden Rom bottle, at 170 bucks a pop, it is a safe bet that I had my onetime fun in the sun!

My entire time spent in NY was just lovely, and spending a lovely shabbos with my family and then going to a wedding of friends of ours on Sunday capped it off. All in all a great trip that was punctuated by a rather large number of dud restaurants in the larger NY metropolitan area. The only really good “restaurant” was a pizza place, that made a lovely whole wheat and vegetable pizza, but the fries and onion rings were deplorable.

So that is my quick recap of the past few days. The wines I enjoyed over shabbos were quite nice and highly enjoyable.

The wines notes follow below in the order that they were consumed:

2008 Terra Di Seta Chianti Classico – Score: B++ to A-
The nose on this dark garnet colored wine is hopping with rich espresso coffee, nice dirt, raspberry, cranberry, and cherry. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is rich and silky with more espresso, ripe raspberry, dark cherry, and lovely tannin. The mid palate is balanced with dirt, acid, tart fruit, oak, and tannin. The finish is long with nice red fruit, acid, tart raspberry, cherry, and espresso. On a side note, this is a wine made by the only full time kosher winery in Italy!

2009 Bravdo Coupage (40% Cabernet Franc, 33% Shiraz and 27% Cabernet – Score: A- to A
In case you are wondering what a Coupage is? It is loosely translated from the French as “cutting”, which is another way of saying a blend. The nose on this dark garnet to black colored wine is exploding with spicy black pepper, crushed herbs and green notes, dark black fruit, blackberry, black cherry, plum, cedar, slight floral nose, more cedar, mineral, and tar. The mouth on this massive full-bodied wine has yet to even start to settle down, the tannins and extraction are intense and nothing has yet melded to give the wine what is expected, a rich full mouth. For now, the wine is massive, intense, inky and showing its extracted structure with blackberry, black cherry, plum, and huge tannin. The mid palate is rich and oaky with raisin, black fruit, cedar, balancing acid, tannin, and vanilla. The finish is super long and super spicy, with cedar, vanilla, spice, blackberry, cassis, tannin, raisin, tar, more extraction, leather and vanilla. This is an exciting wine to keep your eye out for and one that will do well to wait to be enjoyed. Also, kudos to Happy Hearts for importing this wine and not jacking the price up upon realizing what a crazy winner this wine is and will be for some years to come!!!

2008 Elvi Wines Herenza, Rioja, Crianza – Score: A-
The nose on this dark garnet to black colored wine is rich an oaky with chocolate, dark cherry, bright mineral, cedar, raspberry, cranberry, and rich espresso coffee. The mouth on this full-bodied wine is rich and expressive with raspberry, integrating tannin, cranberry, mineral, and bright fruit. The mid palate is balanced with acid, coffee, chocolate, and vanilla. The finish is super long, spicy, and rich with dark cherry, spice, vanilla, coffee, and chocolate. Rich mouth of chocolate, coffee, dark cherry, and coffee linger long after this wine is gone, which is quite quick!

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