Covenant Wines’ latest releases, five more QPR WINNER – April 2023
Well, it has been 6 months since my last Covenant Winery post and more than a month since I got the wines and tasted them, my apologies, but I am seriously behind on posts. To be fair, the weather is STUNNING now in NorCal, the rains are finally gone and that means lots of time to climb mountains and see gorgeous wildflowers, so yeah, posts have taken a backseat – apologies there. So, now on to the show!
I received the new Covenant wines in mid-march and I tasted them over a week. My initial knee-jerk reaction is that Covenant continues to show a solid focus on acidity, balance, and fruit.
Fun White Wines
The first wines I enjoyed were the new 2022 whites and rose and they were all QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) WINNERS, outside of the Tribe wines. I must be honest of the seven wines I was sent five were QPR WINNER and the Tribe was not. I know it is important to have Mevushal wines, but sadly, these did not hit the spot.
The Viognier is a wine made to make up for the lack of a 2022 white or rose wine from Israel, as 2022 is Shmita. The Rose and the Viognier were lovely, while the Sauvignon Blanc was another hit, a consistent wine indeed for Covenant.
The wine that really got my attention was the 2022 Mensch Zinfandel, it opened a bit slowly, but once it did, the wine was lovely, ripe, yet balanced, the way a Zinfandel should be! The 2021 Covenant Cabernet, is another hit, not as awesome as the 2020 vintage, but still another solid showing for this storied label.
My many thanks to Jeff Morgan, Sagie Kleinlerer, Zoe, and the rest of the Covenant team and family for sending me the lovely wines to taste. The wine notes follow below in the order they were tasted – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:
2022 Covenant Red C Viognier, Lodi, CA – Score: 92 (QPR: WINNER)
The nose of this wine is varietally true, with fresh and clean aromas, tart peach, fresh cumquat, lychee, and flint. The mouth of this medium-bodied wine is lovely, rich, layered, complex, and captivating, not too fussy, refreshing, and relaxing, with incredible acidity, tart, and fresh almost plush mouthfeel, peach, apricot, lychee, tart limoncello, cumquat, and ripe yellow plum. LOVELY! The finish is long, tart, refreshing, and complex, Bravo! Drink now! (tasted March 2023) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 13.5%)
2022 Covenant Red C Sauvignon Blanc, Lake County, CA – Score: 91 (QPR: WINNER)
The nose of this wine is lovely with lychee, gooseberry, orange blossom, orange notes, and some flint. The mouth of this medium-bodied wine is nice, but it starts a bit austere – give the wine time, with bracing acidity, a lovely mouthfeel, lemon/lime notes, nice gooseberry, precision, good fruit focus, and more refreshing acidity. The finish is long, tart, and green, with lemongrass, flint, orange zest, and lovely lemon notes lingering long. Nice! Drink now. (tasted March 2023) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 13%)
2022 Covenant Red C Rose, California – Score: 91 (QPR: WINNER)
The nose of this wine shows more Syrah/Zin-like characteristics than anything else, a very nice balanced and bright nose, with tart strawberry, raspberry, smoke, and juicy plum. Nice. This is not the classic floral or orange-based rose, this is far redder in its makeup. The mouth of this medium-bodied wine is lovely, again, this starts a bit closed, give it some time, showing incredible acidity, and freshness, with a refreshing profile, and fruit focus, and now the mouth shows more than just the red fruit from the nose, along with peach, juicy orange notes, and hints of orange blossom that linger long. The finish is long, tart, and refreshing with some tannin, smoke, and nice red and orange notes lingering long in a tart bed of acidity. Nice!! Drink now. (tasted March 2023) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 13.5%)
2022 Covenant Tribe Chardonnay, Lodi, CA (M) – Score: 83 (QPR: POOR)
The nose of this wine shows its flaws a bit, it smells correct, but a bit muddled, with cooked/bruised apple, peach, apple blossom, and slight oxidation/reductive notes, like browning apple peel. The mouth of this medium-bodied wine is nice, it has good acidity, but the muddled apple and peach do not get elevated and while the mouthfeel is fresh from the acidity and cleanliness, the fruit is where the wine feels a bit behind. The finish is long, fruity, and balanced. Drink now. (tasted March 2023) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 13.8%)
2022 Covenant Mensch Zinfandel, Lodi, CA – Score: 91 (QPR: WINNER)
The nose of this wine shows me what a good Zinfandel can be, controlled, blue and red, none of that Zinberry (AKA a blend of Blackcurrant and boysenberry), instead you get refreshing and bright red and blue fruit, not pushed, but still spicy, herbal, and yes, fruity! This is Zinfandel! The mouth of this medium-plus-bodied wine is where it loses that step, the mouth shows good acidity, and lovely focus, but the fruit is a bit too ripe for my tastes, still, very meaty, herbal, fruity, smoky, and spicy with juicy boysenberry, tart strawberry, ripe plum, and hints of black fruit, with mouth draping tannin. A solid wine and one that works well with some nice meaty and fatty BBQ ribs. After some time the wine opens and the heat calms to show a lovely, juicy Zinfandel. The finish is ripe, tart, and fruity, with great spice, smoke, roasted animal, and a dense presence. I always wonder if it is me or the wine! These kinds of wine make me wonder more. This one is right on the edge, one side is a fruit bomb and the other is a lovely fruity, balanced Zinfandel. Either way, this wine is a balanced, fruit-focused wine that will be enjoyed by many with my intense ailments! Drink by 2025. (tasted March 2023) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 14.4%)
2022 Covenant The Tribe Cabernet Sauvignon, Lodi, CA (M) – Score: 83 (QPR: POOR)
The nose of this wine is ripe and not my cup of tea, it shows less about Cabernet Sauvignon and more about an early-released wine. The nose and mouth of this medium-plus-bodied wine are less ripe than it is just not fully finished before being bottled, showing fermentation notes, hints of banana, black fruit, blueberry, and nice acidity, but sadly that cannot bring this all together, still, it has nice acid, mouthfeel, and tannin. The finish is long, ripe, intensely fruity, and out of balance for my taste buds. Drink by 2024. (tasted March 2023) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 14.5%)
2021 Covenant Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, CA – Score: 92.5 (QPR: WINNER)
It may be me, but is this the first year that the Covenant Cabernet Sauvignon used an amalgamated cork? Just wondering – I drove for this for so long, just wondering. At the start, the wine shows riper than I was expecting and used to from Covenant Cab, but with time it calms, as expected. The nose of this wine is ripe, dense, and fruity, with ripe black and purple fruit, dense smoke, tar, anise, chili pepper, white pepper, iron shavings, and nice minerality. The mouth of this full-bodied wine is on the edge of balance or anarchy. On one side, is an elegant bold wine showing dense fruit, with fruit focus, herbal notes, tart/sharp chili pepper, blackberry, boysenberry, smoke, roasted herbs, anise, and a dense yet elegant mouth-draping tannin. On the other side is a wine that thankfully calms and becomes what I expect. The finish is long, fruity, ripe, dense, herbal, smoky, spicy, and mineral-driven, with lovely iron, graphite, intense and elegant mouth-draping tannin, juicy boysenberry, blackberry, Asian spice, and anise lingering long. Lovely! Drink from 2026 until 2034. (tasted March 2023) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 14.8%)
Covenant Winery Israel – the next step in a spiritual and physical Journey
When I think of Covenant Winery, what leaps to mind for me, is Jeff and Jodie Morgan, Jonathan Hajdu – Covenant’s top-notch associate winemaker, and their world-class kosher Covenant Cabernet Sauvignon, Lavan Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc. Sure, they also make a lovely and unique Red C wine, rose, and Landsman series of wines, but that is what comes first to mind.
When I first met Jeff and Jodie, it was at Herzog Winery, in 2006 where Jonathan Hajdu and they were pouring their wines at the first ever Herzog IFWF on the west coast. Since then I have made it my business to go to the winery at least once a year and meet with the Morgans and to taste their wines. I state that very specifically, as I have found that wines do follow their creators, and the open and accessible Covenant wines that also age to perfection, intrigued me and I wondered what their creators were like.
If you have had the opportunity to meet with Jeff and Jodie Morgan you will find two people who are passionate about their Jewish roots, though more traditional in nature than Orthodox, but still two people on a spiritual journey with their wines as their guides. From the start they decided that their wines would be kosher, and that they would be creating wines that were mimeographs of themselves, whether they realized that – or not.
To be honest, this article is a long time coming, a post that I think is more about my relationship with the Morgan’s, Mr. Hajdu, and their wines, and less about their story. The now famous story about Lessie Rudd and his grapes, his apprehension to letting the Morgan’s use his grapes, as he feared that they and their kosher process would ruin them, has been written about over and over. Humorously, the fact that the story is in every post about Covenant wines, and that the story is so well-known and repeated, is once again a representation of the wine and Jeff – both are wonderfully gregarious while also being quiet but confidently capable of spinning a tale of what they both have to offer.
Sure, when you meet the Morgans, and trust if you come to the KWFE in NYC – you will meet them, you will find two lovely, affable, and equally impressive humans that have honed their skills, with care and effort. However, it takes a bit more to see beyond the initial blustery interface, and to get deeper into what they see in the future. Yes, they are always looking forward to what the winery can become, but it is far more interesting to get to the story behind the tales, the story of a couple who are equally passionate about their tradition and history as they are about their impressive with their skills and craft.
As always, I am as straightforward as they come, there is really little left to read between the lines on my blog, though some think there is always another story. To me, Covenant Winery is a world-class winery, one that has the best track record, in my opinion across all California wineries (other than maybe Four Gates Merlot) of hitting a home run with every vintage of their Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. Were they all A- to A, not always, but they never were less than a classic 91 score and I am hardly the only person with that opinion. Look at Wine Advocate and you will know where this winery stands in the mind of Robert Parker and his minions. Read the rest of this entry