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Awesome kosher meatball recipe, lovely sauces, last 2009 HaSod Cabernet Sauvignon, and 2010 Tierra Salvaje Pinot Noir Reserve

This past weekend, I was on a mission from God (in my mind anyway) to make the best possible meatball possible. My wife thinks I have gone crazy, because to her the meatballs we have made in the past were fine to her, and they are. Still, my quest to make the perfect meatball cannot be quenched, though this past iteration was quite possibly my best. There are some more tweaks we will need to do, but more on that soon. Now I wanted to make a single meatball recipe, but two different sauces. Why? Simple, my wife was not interested in a meat based sauce, and I did. Now the only con to frying meatballs is that the sauce you make has no meat flavor in it. Yes, the onions and base can start from the fat that is rendered from the fried meatballs, but that still does not cut it. A true meat sauce requires meat flavors to be fully integrated in the sauce, via cooking and reducing with the meat, thereby concentrating the meat and tomato flavors, in combination. Further, I was NOT going to braise the meatballs after I went to the trouble of frying them and getting them nice and crunchy to only lose that in a pot of sauce!

So, I was left with the trouble of cooking two sauces, one with the rendered fat and one without. To get the rich meat flavor, I further rendered the fat of Nechama’s Smoked Andouille sausages (made from turkey and chicken), and then cooked them in the completed tomato sauce, to enrich the sauce with a lovely bit of heat and meat flavor. While this was successful, the extra sausages did not render well enough for me, and the extra steps were not worth the final outcome.

For the meatball recipe, I used a further modified version of the classic meatball recipe from America’s Test Kitchen:

Welner Wines sells to the under 10 dollar wine segment with Panache, Chutzpah, and Quality

I have yet to have the honor to meet Shimshon Welner, in person, but Mr. Welner was very kind to take the time from his very busy schedule, as you will see soon, to talk with us about the kosher wine industry as a whole, his wine company, and the underserved market for kosher quality wine under 10 dollar. As you talk with Mr. Welner you cannot help but be impressed by his obvious passion for this industry, but also for his equally obvious self confidence and knowledge when it comes to selling into the ever growing kosher wine market.

I have recently been talking with my friends about the kosher wine market, the plethora of options, and the deep and real fear I have around the number of wineries going kosher. In Israel, for the longest time, the majority of wineries were non-kosher, while the majority of wine sold in Israel was kosher. That being on account of the largest wineries being kosher, who produce over 90% of wine in Israel:

  1. Carmel
  2. Barkan- Segal
  3. Golan Heights (Yarden)
  4. Teperberg
  5. Binyamina
  6. Galil Mountain
  7. Tishbi
  8. Dalton
  9. Tabor
  10. Recanati

Many if not all of these wineries started off kosher, for a myriad of reasons, with a strong contributor being the ability to sell the wine to anyone and anywhere. That is a fair amount of wine that needs to be sold to an already well defined and limited group of Jews. Yes, religious Jews are buying wine more than they used to, still more and more wineries are starting kosher wine production. Many of them producing wine in the category that I call “death valley”, the wines with a rating of 84-90, that cost anywhere from 18-30 or more dollars. The scary part, is that the very large majority of all kosher wine out there fall either below 85, which makes it almost unsellable, or above it, but at a price point that just adds more product to the already yawning gap of under 90 point wines. Above 90, people have a desire to try it a few times, and may well continue to buy the wine, if they like it. Under 90, the wine will be bought maybe once as a way to try something different, but once they realize the product is inferior, they will not buy it again. So why the fear? Because 10 years ago, we would have been begging and screaming for this potential nightmare, but now it is getting to be a real potential problem.

You see there are three legs to the wine selling business, price, quality, and consumer. If you have a low priced and high quality wine that anyone can drink – you have no problems. If you have a high priced and low quality product that anyone can drink, you have some issues. If however, you have a low quality product with a high price and even lower consumer base, by not making the wine kosher, you are in deep trouble. You see, there are many hundreds of thousands of bottles of wine out there that a non-kosher wine market can sell, and they are often better and cheaper than their kosher counterparts. There lies in the conundrum that I am deeply fearful of. That is why I was so excited to speak with Mr. Welner. Read the rest of this entry

2008 Tierra Salvaje Chardonnay Estate Bottled – Wine Notes

This wine was used as the base for a wonderful Roasted Butternut Soup that we make. That said, it is still a wonderful wine, it was just the easiest bottle to get to. The wine is showing a bit better (in some ways) than the last time we tasted it, more than a year ago. In other ways, the wine is receding, given its Mevushal status and age. A fair amount of the astringency and green notes have dissipated, but there is still a green halo that hovers over the wine both in color and flavor. I liked it but I think it is drink up time!

2008 Tierra Salvaje Chardonnay Estate Bottled – Score B to B+
The nose on this brilliant golden colored wine with green halos is almost sweet with some vegetal leanings, lemon, green apple, spice, peach, hay/straw, and herbs. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is almost mouth filling with spice, green apple, lemon, orange rind, peach, and pear. The mid palate is acidic and dry, with orange rind, and herbs. The finish is long and spicy with peach, lemon, spicy notes, and a long appealing lingering of orange rind, spice, and cut grass. A nice bottle that has settled down and may now actually be more appealing to more people, but also a bottle on its way down – drink up!!

Barkan Pinot Noir, Teal Lake Shiraz Cabernet, Tishbi Cabernet – Petite Sirah, Tierra Salvaje Carmenere

This past week we attended the bar mitzvah of our friend’s kids.  I say kids as they are twins and they did a wonderful job both on their readings and their speeches.  After the ceremony, we were treated to a crazy feast that was quite enjoyable, to say the least.  The meal was scrumptious and the wines served with it were also quite nice.  They were mevushal wines and as stated in previous postings, the quality of mevushal wines can be all over the map.  The wines we were served were quite nice, and in many ways interesting.  None of them made us stand up and cheer, but two of them were downright enjoyable, and two of them were fascinating more from their characteristics then their overall flavor profiles.  Because I had them away from home, I had no place or ability to write notes, therefore, the notes are less through then they normally are.

So many thanks to the hosts, and the wine notes follow below:

2007 Barkan Pinot Noir – Score: B+
I have already blogged about this one here, and enjoyed it now as much as I did the last time.  The acid really picks the wine up, still funny that they bottled the Pinot in a Bordeaux bottle!

2006 Tishbi Cabernet – Petite Sirah – Score: B – B+
This is one of those wines that is really fun.  The nose is packed with classical Golan dirt, nice red fruit, a touch of blackberry, and herbs.  The mouth of this very soft and light to medium bodied wine is active, alive, and really nice.  Fresh red fruit, gobs of nice dirt, and a medium long finish with nice acidity and spice.  A great quaffing wine that is light enough, yet tasty as well.

2005 Teal Lake Shiraz Cabernet
– Score: B
This is a wine whose nose is 100% different than its mouth.  The nose on this wine is almost Cabernet like with a nice combination of red and black fruits.  However, the mouth of this medium bodied wine is a very fruity and extremely floral, to the point of throwing the wine off kilter.  It is a trait of these Teal Lake Shiraz wines, to be crazy floral, but this is a bit too far!

2008 Tierra Salvaje Carmenere – Score: B
This Chilean wine is cool because it is a rather uncommon varietal, but that is where it ends pretty much.  I will say that the wine starts off with an awful smell that does blow off over time.  Still what is left is a floral nosed wine with just enough red fruit to call it wine.  The mouth of the medium bodied wine has a fair amount of floral characteristics along with some fruit, pepper, and a touch of acidity.  There may have been some tannin in the wine, but it was not registrable above all the other noise.

Baked Gefilte Fish Loaf, Sweet and Sour Brisket, Roasted Root Vegetables, Castello di Cesare Bianco Lazio Toscana, Chateau Graveyron-Carrere Bordeaux, Galil Cabernet, Borgo Reale Chianti Classico, Kadesh Barnea Gilad, Tierra Salvaje Chardonnay

The first night of Passover found us with friends and we had the usual four cups of wine ritual, that makes Passover a wonderful precursor for Alcoholics Anonymous Meetings 🙂  The wines are listed below in the order that they were drunk, also we had quite a few folks, so please do not think I actually need to attend some AA meetings.

Once the first two cups were drunk we started in on the Matzoh (we only use shemurah matzoh), Maror (our custom is to use endives, because they are so easy to clean), and then the meal.  Mind you I am really happy with how the meal came out.  We started with hard boiled eggs with salt water poured over it.  There are many people who are starting to make this simple dish Haute Cuisine, but that is so broken.  The reason for the boiled egg is to remind us of the temple’s destruction and how we used to have a Passover Sacrifice, which is oxymoronic.

The meal started with a new dish for us and a major hit on the table – Baked Gefilte Fish Loaf.  A friend of ours was kind enough to share the recipe, and I hope she does not mind me sharing it with all of you.  It is crazy simple to boot!

Herb Encrusted baked Fish Loaf Recipe
1 loaf of Gefilte Fish
1 onion slices into thin rings
3-4 tsp of a mixture of any Italian Herbs you want (we used Oregano, Parsley, Thyme, and Savory)
2 tbsp of oil
Garlic Powder, Paprika, and Black Pepper

Mix the spices and oil in a bowl and drop the sliced onions into the herb mixture and mix around to coat the onions well.  Next drop the loaf into a baking pan and coat it with the garlic, paprika, and pepper.  Then drop the onions on top and cook covered for 30 minutes in a 350 degree oven.  Then flip the loaf, remove cover and bake until the pan is dry and onions are crispy.

We made three loafs at a time, by simply tripling the recipe and using a large baking pan.  The fish was a hit as were the onions.  The thing that was awesome was that the fish was permeated with a really cool herb and garlic flavor, not just flavored on top – really cool.  We of course served it cold with a nice cold eggplant salad.  We make our own, but it is available in small plastic containers at the supermarket as well.

The fish and eggplant went well with the Castello di Cesare and the Tierra Salvaje Chardonnay.  After the fish appetizer, we moved on to the main course of Sweet and Sour Brisket and roasted root vegetables.  I have described it a few times before, but put simply I braise a whole brisket and ONLY a whole brisket.  I have no idea how anyone can braise any other version of a brisket, really.  Without the top layer of fat to keep the meat moist, it would turn into shoe leather, which I have been forced to eat from time to time.

My World Famous Whole Brisket Recipe
10 white onions sliced thinly and browned in batches
1 10 or more pound whole brisket
1 can of whole berry cranberry
1 cup of ketchup
20 or more garlic cloves
1 bottle of a nice Cabernet or full bodied Merlot

So Anyway, place the browned onions in the bottom of a large roasting pan.  Then take a whole brisket and rub it with garlic powder, black pepper, and tons of paprika on both sides.  Next take the cloves and puncture the top of the meat (fat side up) and place a clove in each whole – make sure to NOT puncture the meat all the way through.  Finally, place the meat fat side up into the roasting pan, and pour the cranberry and ketchup mixture on the meat and then pour the bottle over the mixture.  The liquid should NOT cover more than half of the meat – if it does stop and add no more liquid of any kind.  I need to stress this, as the meat exudes tons of liquid and the fat melts on top of that.  Anymore and you will have a mess and worse a boiled chunk of meat, which is NOT what is meant by braising meat.  Finally roast the meat for 4 or so hours.  After it finishes cooking, let it cool over night and then slice it the next day and rebraise before serving for at least another two hours.

The roasted vegetables were pretty simple; toss whatever vegetables you want to roast in a deep pan with oil, garlic, paprika, and cumin.  Roast until just puncture soft by a fork.

The wine notes follow below:

2001 Four Gates Merlot M.S.C. – Score: A
The color of this wine is a beautiful deep garnet. The nose on this wine has strong aromas of blackberry, dark plum, cranberry, eucalyptus, and oak. The mouth on this full bodied wine is layered and complex. The mouth is full with blackberry, plum, and raspberry and then layers in mint. The mid palate adds core acidity, eucalyptus and lovely integrated tannins. The finish is long and satisfying with black fruit, chocolate, and vanilla. A wonderful wine – it is at its peak if not a bit over the other side – drink up!!

2005 Kadesh Barnea Gilad (Undisclosed mixture of Merlot/Petit Verdot/Syrah) – Score: B+
The nose on this garnet-brown colored classic Cote’ de Rhone wine blend, is heavy in earth, cranberry, cassis, and oak.  The mouth on this balanced medium to full bodied wine follows the nose with cranberry, cassis, and earth.  The mid palate is jammy with red fruit, acidity, and nice oak.  The finish is smooth, balanced, and long with red fruit and oak.  The clear winner of the night, and just as good as when I tasted it in NY.

2002 Chateau Graveyron-Carrere Bordeaux – Score: B
The nose on this ruby/light garnet colored wine was the best part of this wine, with pencil shavings, blackberry, mineral, and oak.  The mouth on this astringent medium bodied wine was unbalanced and really not there.  The fruit was there, but overpowered by the mineral and musty French flavors.  The mid palate had a nice acid core, but the finish was what threw the wine into a tizzy.  It needed a ton of air, and even after all that, it was the least appreciated bottle of the night.

2007 Galil Mountain Winery Cabernet – Score: B
The nose on this dark ruby colored wine was also the best feature of this wine, it had lovely notes of blackberry, raspberry, and spice.  The mouth on this medium bodies wine was also off and astringent.  It may have been the bottle, or the fact that it was shipped to me recently.  I will be taste wine again in the future and will repost.  The fruit did show, but was overpowered by the acidity and astringency.

2007 Castello di Cesare Bianco Lazio Toscana – Score: B
The nose on this straw colored wine is super crisp with citrus, apple, peach, and lychee.  The mouth on this light bodied wine is extra dry, with citrus and green flavors.  The mouth is not as crisp and sharp as the nose is and is a letdown, almost flat.  The mid palate is citrus with a nice but not so long finish.  A bit brighter and fresher than what we tasted in NY.

2008 Tierra Salvaje Chardonnay Estate Bottled – Score: B+
This wine is controversial to say the least.  Many people on the table hated it while I really liked it.  This is not a democracy; it is more like a benevolent dictatorship.  Still, it is important to tell readers that many hated this wine, and that it may not ring true with you.  So on to the notes:

The nose on this brilliant golden colored wine with green halos is almost sweet with clear vegetal leanings, bright acidity, spice, green apples, pear, and lychee.  The mouth on this medium bodied wine is not sweet at all; rather it is almost bone dry, which is funny given its sweet nose.  The mouth is semi rich with green apples, flowers, and dry tea flavors.  The mid palate is acidic and dry.  The finish is medium long with more apples and nice acidity.  This is not a big or complex wine, but a nice dry change of pace and a quite nice quaffing wine, especially given its dirt cheap price.

2007 Borgo Reale Chianti Classico Vespertino – Score: B+
I must start by stating that this wine needs air like Frankenstein needs a new marketing agent!  It was the second worst bottle of the night, but I truly felt all it needed was air.  Sure enough 24 HOURS later, it was really yummy and tasty.  The wine had opened and now the ruby colored wine has a nose filled with cherry, raspberry, and cranberry, along with a nice dollop of chocolate.  The mouth of this medium bodied wine follows the nose with more of the same fruit, in a soft mouth that you feel throughout.   The mid palate is still bright with acidity, and the finish is long with more bright fruit and chocolate.  A really nice showing, it just needs a TON of air or time.

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