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A few good red wines along with too many misses – Jan/Feb 2022 Tasting

This is my second QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) WINNER Hit and Miss post of 2022 and while this started in January as a poor showing, I had two more wines in February that made the overall post much better. We started with one QPR WINNER and that grew to three WINNER by February. Still, the star of the show was the first QPR WINNER, the 2016 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico, Assai, Gran Selezione, Chianti Classico!

This post is filled with many more examples of what people are raving about from Israel, the 2018 red vintage, and all I can say is, yes they are not date juice! They are not uncontrolled madness, they are OK, they lack acidity and mostly they are copy and paste of each other with different fruit. Still, an improvement over other vintages. Essentially, much like the 2016 vintage, another highly vaunted vintage, which I described to my buddy EA as: “milk chocolate, either blue or black fruit, loads of cedar and tobacco – copy and paste wines”.

I wish it was better, even when God forces a winery to make good wine by keeping the temperatures at bay, they still make mediocre stuff. Such is life! Thankfully, we are blessed with Terra di Seta, aka TDS, which won my first ever winery of the year in 2019 and a winery that I have been touting for many years now! The newly released 2016 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico, Assai, Gran Selezione, is a stunning wine and maybe their best Assai so far!

The next two QPR WINNER are the 2019 Herzog Winery Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, and the 2020 Chateau Signac Pliocene, Cotes du Rhone. I must say, the 2019 Herzog is shockingly ripe but the level of acidity it has really helped to tamp down the fruit and with time they all work together to make a harmonious wine. Still, it is ripe to start so leave this wine alone for many years. The 2020 Chateau Signac Pliocene, on the other hand, is lovely and ready to go. It is NOT as ripe as the 2018 vintage, but it is nice and very enjoyable for the next few years.

Finally, there is a repeat tasting of the 2019 Pavillon du Vieux Chantre, Puisseguin Saint-Emilion. As I stated in the Moises Taieb post, I needed to taste a few wines a second time and I am happy I did. The 2019 Pavillon du Vieux Chantre showed beautifully and just as I expected it to, after having tasted all the previous vintages. Thankfully, this wine is available in the USA in an easy-to-find location, from Andrew Breskin and Liquid Kosher.

The rest are OK, QPR score-wise, with only one wine garnering a score of GREAT, which is the 2017 Ma’ayan Asis Blend, these are relabeled wines from Tom Winery. The Tzora was nice but overpriced for what it gives.

I also tasted three 2019 Pinot Noirs and the clear winner, of those three, was the 2019 Goose Bay Pinot Noir, Small Batch. It is a lovely wine and one to enjoy over the next couple of years.

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

2016 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico, Assai, Gran Selezione, Chianti Classico – Score: 93.5 (QPR: WINNER)
This vintage of Assai is its best and this wine is 100% Glorious, rich, elegant, focused, balanced, fruity, but tart, refreshing and concentrated – WOW! BRAVO!!! The nose on this wine is pure heaven, it is soy sauce, funk, forest floor, mushroom, fruity, red and black fruit, tar, smoke, violet, very floral, wild herbs, and rich mineral. The mouth on this medium to full-bodied wine is ripe, concentrated, but well-controlled, with ripe plum, dark strawberry, candied raspberry compote, with menthol, licorice, baking spices, all wrapped in dense sweet oak and elegant draping tannins, just incredible! The finish is long, dense, dark, rich, layered, concentrated, yet perfectly balanced, with screaming acidity, rich espresso coffee, mushrooms, almost truffle, forest floor, mineral, charcoal, graphite, and star anise. WOW!!! Drink from 2026 until 2033. BRAVO!!! (tasted January 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 15%)

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Lovely white wines to enjoy now – Jan 2022 Tasting

Now that I am done with my Paris posts it was time to finally catch up on many wines I have been tasting since I came back from hiking Kilimanjaro, in December. I know it is cold and wet outside, but white wines belong in everyone’s cellar/wine fridge for when you want to enjoy some easy-drinking wine with your soup, salad, or fish. I love to enjoy it with Tahini but to each their own.

So, as in the past, I will keep this post super short, really just a bunch of notes and I hope you enjoy the three QPR (Quality to price ratio) WINNERs as much as I did. It was really fun tasting 2021 wines in 2021! The two Hagafen wines were both unique and enjoyable. The fact that they were released within the same calendar year that they were produced, just makes it more enjoyable.

The Tzora white wines were quite nice, not quite a return to the early Aughts, but still, well-made wines and ones I would buy, if they were not so expensive. I finally had a Binah wine that I almost enjoyed, the Gruner Veltliner, but even that was missing something and not where I hoped it would be.

Goose Bay continues to crush it. Interesting note, they did not produce wine in 2020, because as you know, they are in the Southern Hemisphere. Harvest time there, for white wines, is around March, give or take a week or so. March 2020, no one was allowed to enter New Zealand, and the OU uses outside kosher wine supervisors. So, they could not produce kosher wine in 2020. I read the OU story of the Masgiach that was in Samoa and had to do crazy travel plans just to get back home. O’dwyers Creek, which is also in New Zealand, and uses the OU, as well, used local folks that Zoom’ed with the OU daily and they managed to produce a LOVELY 2020 Sauvignon Blanc. I was surprised to a 2020 O’dwyers Creek, so I reached out to the OU and that is what they told me happened, very cool, IMHO. Finally, because New Zealand is in the Southern Hemisphere, getting the 2021 wines here in December is not as unique as tasting a California 2021 wine. Either way, the wines were all quite enjoyable from New Zealand and Hagafen.

Finally, the two Viniferia wines were quite enjoyable and well priced. The new 2019 vintage of the Chateau Guiraud G, Blanc-Sec, is quite lovely and would be a QPR WINNER, except for its higher than median pricing.

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

2020 O’Dwyers Creek Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough (M) – Score: 92 (QPR: WINNER)
The nose on this wine is classically New Zealand in style, cat piss, green notes, gooseberry, passion fruit, fresh-cut grass, and bright fruit all over the place. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is lovely, showing nice flint notes, smoke, rock, saline, gooseberry, lemongrass, guava, lychee, and crazy acid, that comes at you in waves, so much fun! The finish on this wine shows more saline, rock, flint, smoke, mineral, gooseberry, freshly cut grass, and intense acid, so much fun!!! BRAVO!! Drink until 2024. (tasted December 2021) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 12.50%)

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The latest crop of simple Kosher white wines with many QPR options!

The QPR graph for the simple white wine category

After going through the 2019 roses in my last post the 2019 and 2018 whites are up next. I am adamant that QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) is where kosher wine needs to go. QPR means well-priced wines. Still, people do not get QPR. To me, QPR is what I describe and explain here.

To restate it again, the Q part of QPR (Quality) is the qualitative part of the QPR score while the P (Price) is the quantitative part of the QPR score. My opinion of a wine, its qualitative score, is 100% subjective, and my opinion, while what the ACTUAL price of the wine (in a public store) is 100% objective, it is NOT subjective, the price is right there on the website! Where I disagree with many about QPR is that many choose an arbitrary price to state that a wine has a good QPR (a good value for the price). Well, that is absurd, I may spend 50 dollars for a bottle of wine and others would not spend more than 10 for a bottle of wine. QPR based upon a subjective price – adds yet another subjective valuation to the mess! That is why I used the actual price of the wine – IN COMPARISON to its peers! That way you get to see wines in the same categories (white, rose, red, sparkling) compared against its peers – where the wine score is now apples to apples. So a 50 dollar red wine that gets a 90 score and 30 dollars red wine (both in the drink now red wine category) that gets a 90 score, makes the obvious choice for the 30 dollar wine. But what is the 50 dollar wine gets a 92 score – well now you need to compare the 92 against its peers, and you may well find that it is still a POOR to BAD QPR even though it gets a subjective score of 92, because there are other peers to it, in its category, that score better or maybe a drop worse (say 91), but cost half as much. Please read the QPR revised post again.

In the Rose world, things were not great. Sure we had two QPR Winners (again a winner is a QPR score of GREAT and a 91 score or higher), but those two JUST sneaked in, as the prices for roses keep rising. The world of white wines is not like that. White wines have loads of winners, 13 in total, and half of them or more are priced well below the Median price.

Also, remember that this post is about simple white wines (AKA Drink “soon” White Wine). I qualify this wine category in my QPR 2.0 Revised post to mean, white wines that will not age 7 years. The ageable white wine list is far smaller and will be released soon.

A graph of the QPR Winners and high scored wines for the simple white wine category

Median Price keeps moving and more wines are Winners

I liked the 2019 Covenant Sauvignon Blanc but it was priced too high when I first had it. Since then, as I keep tasting wines in the simple white wine category (AKA not age-able white wines) the price overall for the category is going up. This is NOTHING new, I say it constantly, kosher wine prices keep going up! This is why we created the QPR idea, as I was sick and tired of seeing such high prices on wines.

Well, the simple white wines are not immune and sadly they too are now rising at a pace that is not great. Still, A rising tide lifts all boats, so, the good wines go from good to GREAT and then to WINNER with really nothing more than a higher tide! As, again, QPR is 50% wine score and 50% price, the 91 score for the 2019 Covenant Sauvignon Blanc did not change – what changed was the price of its peers and as such its QPR score.

Read the rest of this entry

Easy drinking white wines for 2020 – better than I expected

Well, the roses from the 2019 vintage, so far, are not inspiring, and initially, I thought the same for the white wines, thankfully, as I tasted through the last 15 bottles of wines things shifted. There is a reason why I have been pushing Price in relation to its quality, AKA QPR (Quality to Price Relationship).

For this tasting, I tasted more than 70 wines, however, I posted only some 49 wine notes here. Rest assured, the others were either not worthy or I did not have detailed enough notes to make it here on this post.

Interestingly, initially, I had zero hope for the white wines, much as I felt about the roses. However, all of this is data-driven and other than my wines notes, the rest is all prices defined by the USA market. The more, I tasted, the more I felt that there are options in the simple white wine category. I was really ready to give up hope, but thankfully, folks like Shirah, Kos Yeshuos, and other Europen wines really pulled their weight. Sadly, of the top 27 wines, there were a total of 11 from 2019. Of them, only two were from Israel. The rest hailed from California, France, and New Zealand. In the end, so far, the vast majority of the Israeli white wines I have tasted from 2019 are also highly uninspiring.

With that said, the median price for the wine category of non-aging white wines is going up! There lies in my over-arching issue, prices keep going up!! The median price for non-aging white wines, here in the USA, is now 24 dollars! Seriously!! COME ON!! This is crazy! As the kids say, total Cray Cray! Turned around, the total number of wines below the median price of 24 dollars that received a 90 or higher was 12, and many of those are our QPR WINNERS. Overall, 2019 is still a dud in Israel, of those that have made their way to the USA, and Califonia is saving the day, so far.

All the wines here are scored both quantitatively, AKA using my classic wine score described here, and using the newly revised QPR score described here. So, yes, there will be more of the QPR discussion that will arise from this post. Thankfully, we have a good number of wines, 7 from my count, that received the QPR score of WINNER, sadly, they are mostly from 2018. Therefore, I repeat again, I am highly unimpressed with how many 2019 white wines I had and how many are subpar. Please be careful with the ones you buy.

Finally, in order of price, the first of the 7 QPR WINNER wines come in at wine #38, sorted by price! That means there are loads of other wines far less interesting than the 2018 Ramon Cardova Albarino, the most expensive of the 7 WINNER QPR wines. This is the kind of data that makes me scream. This is what needs to change! Wineries are willing to produce wines that are more expensive and less interesting, than more than HALF of the wine I tasted! This is what needs to change, kosher wine has gotten out of control, price-wise.

Do yourself a favor, check the price, you do it for everything else you buy! Check the wine, check the price, and then decide!

The wine note follows below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:

2018 Ramon Cardova Albarino, Rias Baixas – Score: 92 (QPR: WINNER)
This wine is in the 2nd quintile of quality scoring and it is just below the median price line, so this wine SHOULD get a score of GREAT for QPR. However, it is ALSO one of the few white wines that score at least a 91, and that has a price that is below the median price line, so this wine gets the coveted score of WINNER for QPR. Bravo!!!
The 2018 vintage of this Albarino, in its second vintage, shows less tropical and ripe than the first vintage, 2017. This bottle also had the thermal active label, and it shows up when the bottle is at the proper drinking temperature. My only REAL and serious complaint is the cork, why would Royal waste the money and my money of a real cork? Use a Diam or any other amalgamated cork, like almost everyone else is. I really hope I do not hit a bad cork for the wines I have.
The nose on this wine is better than the 2017 vintage, Lovely nose of rich mineral, with loads of straw, with which salinity, and lovely peach and dry pear, with honeysuckle, gooseberry, along with green notes galore. Lovely! The mouth on this lovely green and acid-driven wine has a more oily mouthfeel than the 2017 vintage, showing rich salinity, green olives, with lovely dry quince, green apples, more peach, green apple, but also with lovely lime and grapefruit, no sense of guava or melon-like on the 2017 vintage, with a tinge of orange notes. The overall mouth is lovely and it comes at you in layers. The finish is long, green, with gooseberry, tart fruit, with an incredible freshness, and orange pith, slate, rock, and incredible acidity lingering long. Incredible!! Bravo!! Drink until 2022.

2018 Hagafen Dry Riesling – Score: 91 (Mevushal) (QPR: WINNER)
This wine is in the 2nd quintile of quality scoring and it is below the Median price line, so this wine gets a GREAT score for QPR. However, it is ALSO one of the few white wines that score at least a 91, and that has a price that is below the median price line, so this wine gets the coveted score of WINNER for QPR. Bravo!!!
The nose on this wine is tropical and sweet fruit-focused, with pineapple, guava, melon, peach, but now THANKFULLY the petrol is in full gear, and it commands your attention, with the tropical fruit still very present, along with some nice mineral. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is fun, tart, nice acidity, with more petrol funk, showing nice balance, with good acidity, still, the mouth is sweet and ripe, the petrol and tart notes help, with green apple, tart grapefruit, tart stone fruit, and slate galore, with waxy notes, and tart pineapple. The finish is long, green, with intense mineral, slate, flint, and lovely petrol that gives way to nice acidity, and hints of tannin. The wine has indeed come around and now petrol is more present and the hole in the middle is gone. Drink until 2024. Read the rest of this entry

Tzora Vineyards Winery latest release – April 2019

My posts on the wines and wineries I visited in Israel for Passover continue with my visit to Tzora Vineyards Winery. I have posted many times about Tzora Vineyards and as always I am impressed by the winery, it continues to push back against the tide of date juice. Even before I got to Israel I was texting with Eran Pick, the head winemaker, and General Manager of Tzora Vineyards Winery. Once again, Avi Davidowitz, of KosherWineUnfiltered, joined me on Monday, and I really have to thank Mr. Pick for allowing us to come while work was being done in the cellar.

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!!

Tzora Vineyards Winery

Of course, you all know my great affinity for all things Tzora Vineyards! It is clearly one of the top 3 wineries in Israel and one that continues to focus on well balanced new-world style wines, while Israeli wineries continue to create fruit-forward crazed wines that lack balance and something to call their own.

If there is a winery that gets terroir in Israel it would be Tzora. I wrote about the late founder, Ronnie James, who sadly passed away in 2008. He saw the power of terroir in Israel. He understood what vines to plant where and why! It was his passion and belief that great wines could be made in Israel, that continues to fuel Eran Pick MW (Master Of Wine), the head winemaker and General Manager of Tzora Vineyards and the rest of the winery, forward. I love that the winery is defined by its vineyards both in name, Tzora Vineyards and in reality! I have had the honor to meet with Mr. Pick many times at the winery now, and each time it is always a joy to see how the winery continues to grow leaps and bounds above the rest of Israel’s date juice producing masses. For the few that can understand the quality and beauty of Tzora’s wines, there is a treasure to be reaped for sure! Here is a winery that cares, and does not sell out to the million bottle siren and the date juice wines that it demands.

It had not been long since I was last at Tzora Winery, but there were new wines to taste, 2017 red and the 2018 whites, as well. Once again, the winery put out these incredibly fragile and lovely wine glasses, from Zalto – just to make sure we were on our toes during the tasting and very careful!

The wines continue to be imported by Skurnik Wines, who has been importing Tzora wines for many years now, and they have all of these wines in NYC, even the shmita wines! I continue to buy from NYC, either kosherwine.com or Gary at Taste Co – email him at info@tastewineco.com or call at (212) 461-1708, even though Skurnik has set up a west coast operation. Read the rest of this entry

A few new and old wines this past Shabbat. 2017 Petit Guiraud, Sauternes, 2010 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico, Reserva, and 2007 Tzora Vineyards Misty Hills were the winners

This past Shabbat we had some friends over and I opened many a wine, 13 to be exact. There were a few new wines, including the new 2017 Petit Giuraud, the 2nd of three wines that will be released from Chateau Giuraud. The first one was the G of Guiraud, which is a lovely dry wine. The second was the Petit Guigaurd, a Sauternes which has recently been released, and IMHO is better than the 2016 Chateau Piada. The third will be the 2016 Chateau Guiraud, which will be the first release since the 2001 vintage was released many years ago.

Besides, the Petit Guiraud, there was a 2nd tasting of the 2016 Matar Cabernet Sauvignon. We last tasted it in Israel, and it did not show well. Here it did not show well, but it showed better. It was less fruit-forward and absurdly ripe than at the tasting in Jerusalem.

The real winner of the evening, IMHO, was the 2010 Terra di Seta along with the 2007 Tzora Vineyards Misty Hills. It was a lovely wine and shows what Israel can produce when it wants to build wines for the future and not wines for the present alone.

My many thanks to all the folks who shared the dinner with me, and may we all be blessed to enjoy more meals together!

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

 

2014 Roc des Moulins – Score: 88
Classic nose of the cheap Bordeaux Superieur wines, mushroom, dark cherry, rose, earth, and simple notes. At open this wine is very simple, not much complexity, but has solid acid, and nice fruit. With time, it opens nicely, to show a more complex mouth, still clunky and simple, with more cherry fruit, dark currant, and herb galore, along with saline, and mounds of bitter herbs, with tobacco, and forest floor. Nice. Drink by 2021.

2014 Chateau Roquettes, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru – Score: NA
We opened this wine before Shabbat, and it tasted like the notes below. We then tasted it at the Shabbat table, and it was oxidized. The cork is fine. I am not sure if this is an issue of bottle variation or just a bad bottle.
The nose on this wine is super closed and tight to start, with mounds of tobacco, smoke, herb, red fruit, and nice mushroom, showing lovely dark and red ripe fruit. The mouth on this full bodied wine is lovely, with lovely and rich extraction, with still ripping tannin, that is rich and layered, with concentrated fruit, dark plum, forest berry, with dark raspberry, and rich earth, mushroom, and lovely terroir, and nice sweet oak. The finish is long and rich, and layered, with rich minerality, lovely saline, forest floor, foliage, with graphite, tobacco, and saline. Bravo!!

2010 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico, Reserva – Score: 92
Wow, the nose on this wine is coffee, toffee, and heavy smoke, with crazy oak, and red fruit galore, hidden in the background, is dark red fruit, and lovely brightness. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is rich and layered, and really alive, with tart fruit, showing raspberry, cherry, and lovely herb, showing rich tobacco, herb, with mint, oregano, with lovely mouth draping tannin and rich mushroom, with wet forest floor, and great chocolate. The finish is long, and green, and herbaceous, with lovely dirt, and green notes. Drink by 2022. Read the rest of this entry

Tzora Vineyards Winery latest release – November 2018

My posts on the wines and wineries I visited in Israel continue with my visit to Tzora Vineyards Winery. I have posted many times about Tzora Vineyards and as always I am impressed by the winery, it continues to push back against the tide of date juice. When I got to Israel I made it my business to get to the winery and drove poor Eran Pick nuts. He and the winery were so kind as to make time for us on a short Friday, and I really wanted to thank them for that.

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!!

Tzora Vineyards Winery

Of course, you all know my great affinity for all things Tzora Vineyards! It is clearly one of the top 3 wineries in Israel and one that continues to focus on old-world style wines in the new world and fruit forward crazed wineries of the Holyland.

If there is a winery that gets terroir in Israel it would be Tzora. I wrote about the late founder, Ronnie James, who sadly passed away in 2008. He saw the power of terroir in Israel. He understood what vines to plant where and why! It was his passion and belief that great wines could be made in Israel, that continues to fuel Eran Pick MW (Master Of Wine), the head winemaker and General Manager of Tzora Vineyards and the rest of the winery, forward. I love that the winery is defined by its vineyards both in name, Tzora Vineyards and in reality! I have had the honor to meet with Mr. Pick many times at the winery now, and each time it is always a joy to see how the winery continues to grow leaps and bounds above the rest of Israel’s date juice producing masses. For the few that can understand the quality and beauty of Tzora’s wines, there is a treasure to be reaped for sure! Here is a winery that cares, and does not sell out to the million bottle siren and the date juice wines that it demands.

It had not been long since I was last at Tzora Winery, but there were new wines to taste, the newly bottled Misty Hills and the 2016 reds and the 2017 whites, as well. Sadly, Mr. Pick was busy elsewhere but the winery made time for us, and it was a real treat as always. Once again, the winery put out these incredibly fragile and lovely wine glasses, from Zalto – just to make sure we were on our toes during the tasting and very careful!

The wines continue to be imported by Skurnik Wines, who has been importing Tzora wines for many years now, and they have all of these wines in NYC, even the shmita wines! I continue to buy from NYC, either kosherwine.com or Gary at Taste Co – email him at info@tastewineco.com or call at (212) 461-1708, even though Skurnik has set up a west coast operation.

As always, Tzora Winery has three labels. The first is Judean Hills with two wines under it, a red blend and a white blend. Next is the Shoresh label, it also has a red blend and a white wine as well, that is pure Sauvignon Blanc. The Shoresh brand also has a dessert wine called Or. Finally, there is the flagship wine – Misty Hills.

Tasting

We were a large group that descended upon the winery, AO, JK, OM, AD, and myself. We had the chance to taste through the current wines.

The tasting consisted of the current 2017 whites, the 2016 reds, along with a brand new 2017 Judean Hills, red, and the now bottled 2016 Misty Hills, and the 2017 Or dessert wine.

My thanks to Mr. Eran Pick and the winery for a wonderful tasting. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

2017 Tzora Judean Hills, White – Score: 91 to 92
This wine is a blend of 75% Chardonnay and 25% Sauvignon Blanc. The wine is lovely, definitely one of my top white wines of 2017. The nose on this wine starts with rich vanilla that gives way to sweet green Apple, lovely grapefruit with bright fruit and classic cleanliness. The mouth on this medium bodied wine has great acid with Asian pear, rich lemongrass, and a great tart freshness. The finish is long and bright, with great tart fruit, lovely slate, and mineral. Drink by 2019. Read the rest of this entry

My top 25 kosher wines of 2017 including wine of the year and best wine of the year awards

I wanted to make this post short and sweet – so the criteria are simple I could care less about price, color, or where it was made. All that matters is that it is/was available this year sometime to the public at large and that I tasted it in a reliable environment, not just at a tasting, and that it was scored an A- to A or higher. Also, there are a few lower scoring wines here because of their uniqueness or really good QPR. I also included some of the best wines I tasted this year – they are at the bottom.

This year I am adding the “wine of the year”, and “best wine of the year”. Wine of the year will go to a wine that distinguished itself in ways that are beyond the normal. It needs to be a wine that is easily available, incredible in style and flavor, and it needs to be reasonable in price. It may be the QPR wine of the year or sometimes it will be a wine that so distinguished itself for other reasons. This year, it is not the QPR King of 2017, that went to the 2016 Chateau Les Riganes. No, this year “the wine of the year” is indeed a QPR superstar, but not the king, it is the 2014 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Reserve, Alexander Valley. The best wine of the year, well that was easy, it is the 2015 Chateau Leoville Poyferre. So, yes, that means that the top wines of the year are both made by Royal wines, such is life, and I could care less for the most part.

Again, the list is missing wines I have yet to taste, like the 2015 Chateau Pape Clement, which I am sure would have been on this list if I had tasted it, or the 2015 Hajdu Proprietary Red. There are also interesting wines below the wines of the year, think of them as runner-up wines of the year. There will be no rose wines on the list this year – blame that on the poor crop or rose wines overall, they did not even crack the interesting list. Also, this year, we were given a bounty of top wines and finding the list this year was really a task of removing then adding.

The supreme bounty comes from the fact that Royal released the 2014 and 2015 French Grand Vin wines within the same year! The 2014 vintage wines were released in 2017 and the 2015 wines were released (in France in 2017 as well)! Throw in the incredible number of kosher European wines that are coming to the USA and being sold in Europe and this was truly a year of bounty for European kosher wines.

Now, separately, I love red wines, but white wines – done correctly, are a whole other story! Sadly, in regards to whites all we had this year that were exceptional, were epic Rieslings from Germany (Von Hovel) and the fantastic sweet wines from Sauterne and Yaacov Oryah. But dry white wines from elsewhere in the world was sadly lacking. There were a few exceptions, and they were all Chardonnays, but to me, the winner in that story (dry white wine that was not a German Riesling), was the 2015 Herzog Chardonnay, Reserve, Russian River. It does not rate in the wine of the year list, but it is in the interesting wines below. The new Chablis is also nice, as is the Shirah Whites.

Some of these wines are available in the USA, some only in Europe, and a few only available in Israel.

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:

The 2017 kosher wine of the year!

This one was a no-brainer to me. The 2014 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Reserve, Alexander Valley is a crazily affordable wine that got rave reviews from me and from the press. Congratulations to Herzog Winery and Royal Wines.

2014 Herzog Cabernet SauvignonSpecial Reserve, Alexander Valley – Score: 92 to 93 (QPR Superstar)
Lovely nose, impressive elegant and old world nose, peaking with a blackcurrant showing blackberry and lovely smoke and tar. The mouth is old world, wow, give me a break, in ways the wine is crazy better than the Warneke (Special Edition), but with years the Warneke will pass it. The mouth on this medium body, is great layered and rich, green, spicy, and rich with concentration, with sweet oak and sweet dill galore, with green notes, loads of foliage, showing dried strawberry, ripe raspberry, black forest berry, all wrapped in mouth coating and drying tannin, with earth and spice. The finish is long, and richly green, with nice spicy notes, leather and scraping mineral, showing bright and ripe fruit that is impressive, elegant, rich, and layered, with licorice, graphite, and forest floor that lingers long. Bravo!! Drink from 2020 till 2030.

The 2017 best kosher wine of the year!

This one was really tough. First of all, the one I chose is not available yet for purchase in the USA. Also, in terms of score, it did not beat out the Von Hovel Rieslings of 2014 or the 2014 Tour Blanche Sauternes, or the 2015 Chateau Giscours, or the 2014 Chateau Smith Haute Lafitte. In the end – for its sheer awesomeness it beat out a very crowded field. In the end, the winner of the BEST kosher wine of 2017 goes to the 2015 Chateau Leoville Poyferre, and it deserves the crown – bravo!!

2015 Chateau Leoville Poyferre – Score: 95
This wine was very close to what we tasted from the barrel. The nose on this wine is rich and black, with floral hints, smoke, mineral, and really pushed for now, but incredible and redolent with a perfume of ripe fruit, chocolate, and green notes. The mouth is rich and layered with an incredible finesse of perfection, richly extracted and incredible with rich mineral and saline that is so perfectly hedonistic it is impressive, with chocolate heaven, showing earth, loam, finesse, and elegance beyond explanation, showing soft yet focused with a tight-mouthfeel, with rich raspberry, blackberry, ripe plum, all focused and concentrated with perfection. The finish is long and rich and paired with an acid and mineral that is never-ending, almost ripe and tart at the same time, with draping tannin, graphite, and charcoal with expressive and focus. Drink from 2022 to 2040.

Rest of the top 25 kosher wines of 2017

2015 Chateau Grand Puy Ducasse – Score: 94
This wine was very close to what we tasted from the barrel. What a nose, this wine is mostly Cabernet Sauvignon and a drop of merlot. This nose is green and red and really mineral focused with dark but red fruit focused, showing lovely elegance, dirt, and herb. The mouth is medium bodied with rich extraction, rich currant, red fruit, with dirt in the background, wrapped in rich and searcing tannin mouthfeel, with roasted herb, and rich tobacco that is backed by elegance and control, blackberry, plum, that gives way to dark chocolate epic control, foliage, and oregano that lingers long with graphite, pencil shavings, and rich leather. Drink from 2024 to 2034

2015 Chateau Giscours – Score: 95
This wine was very close to what we tasted from the barrel. The nose on this lovely wine is super dry, with more of a classic Bordeaux nose, less ripe than some of the previous wines, with the ever classic blueberry notes of Giscours, with black and red fruit galore backed by roasted herb, rich mineral, and lovely saline. The mouth is rich, incredible, massive, full-bodied and incredibly extracted with rich saline, with layers of unstoppable concentrated fruit, with blackberry, raspberry, with blueberry, rich spice, mushroom, and herb. The finish is never ending with green notes, roasted herb, incredible drying tannin, with a deep fruit base followed by the mineral, black fruit, earth, graphite, and rich spice, cloves, and dark chocolate. BRAVO! Drink from 2023 to 2035

2015 Chateau Lascombes – Score: 94.
WOW, how this wine changed from when we tasted it in the barrel. This wine is a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 46% Merlot, and 3 to 4% Petit Verdot. It is the flagship wine of Chateau Lascombes. The nose on this wine is even crazier than the Chevalier, showing more umami and soy sauce if that is possible, with incredible finesse, showing massive power, but great mineral and concentration, with black and red fruit, foliage galore with tar and roasted animal. The mouth is full bodied and incredible with the same style as the Chevalier, but with more finesse, mouth coating soft tannin that is extracted with blue fruit, earth, rich concentration, with more saline and power, yet showing incredible precision that is coating and impressive. The finish is long and lovely, with saline, mineral, tobacco, refined dark chocolate, and rich mushroom. Incredible! Drink from 2022 to 2032. Read the rest of this entry

Tzora Vineyards Winery continues to impress

As I have been posting so far, I enjoyed my last trip to Israel and Europe, and I am almost done with my Israeli winery posts. Last we left off, I was talking about – Domaine du Castel 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 them on that Friday, and in this post, I will cover the second of those three – that one being Tzora Vineyards Winery.

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 Winery, Flam Winery, and Tzora Vineyards, along with a winery I wish I could enjoy, though sadly it is not kosher – Sphera Winery – run byDoron Rav Hon, who made some of the best Chardonnays and Pinot Noir in Israel when he was in Ella Valley – those were great days!!

Tzora Vineyards Winery

As we arrived that morning, Eran Pick was busy crushing the last of his red grapes – the Petit Verdot. The last grape that Tzora takes in is the late harvest Gewurztraminer that is used in the making of the lovely Or wine – that is “frozen” late harvest Gewurztraminer.

Of course, you all know my great affinity for all things Tzora Vineyards! It is clearly one of the top 3 wineries in Israel and one that continues to focus on old-world style wines in the new world and fruit forward crazed wineries of the Holyland.

If there is a winery that gets terroir in Israel it would be Tzora. I wrote about the late founder, Ronnie James, who sadly passed away in 2008. He saw the power of terroir in Israel. He understood what vines to plant where and why! It was his passion and belief that great wines could be made in Israel, that continues to fuel Eran Pick MW (Master Of Wine), the head winemaker and General Manager of Tzora Vineyards and the rest of the winery, forward. I love that the winery is defined by its vineyards both in name, Tzora Vineyards and in reality! I have had the honor to meet with Mr. Pick many times at the winery now, and each time it is always a joy to see how the winery continues to grow leaps and bounds above the rest of Israel’s date juice producing masses. For the few that can understand the quality and beauty of Tzora’s wines, there is a treasure to be reaped for sure! Here is a winery that cares, and does not sell out to the million bottle siren and the date juice wines that it demands.

It had not been long since I was last at Tzora Winery, but there were new wines to taste, the newly bottled Misty Hills and the 2016 whites, as well. Sadly, as stated, Mr. Pick was busy with the last of harvest, but we still had the chance to taste the wines with him, as he came to talk to us for a few minutes, and he even threw a few barrel/tank tastings in as well. Once again, the winery put out these incredibly fragile and lovely wine glasses, from Zalto – just to make sure we were on our toes during the tasting and very careful!

The wines continue to be imported by Skurnik Wines, who has been importing Tzora wines for many years now, and they have all of these wines in NYC, even the shmita wines! I continue to buy from NYC, either kosherwine.com or Gary at Taste Co – email him at info@tastewineco.com or call at (212) 461-1708, even though Skurnik has set up a west coast operation.

As always, Tzora Winery has three labels. The first is Judean Hills with two wines under it, a red blend and a white blend. Next is the Shoresh label, it also has a red blend and a white wine as well, that is pure Sauvignon Blanc. The Shoresh brand also has the dessert wine called Or. Finally, there is the flagship wine – Misty Hills.

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 two extra older library wines, and some early barrel tastings, but I did not post those as barrels are for Eran to work with, I normally only write notes of bottled wines. Last time we were at the winery was in March, and we tasted many great wines – and we did taste a few of those wines again, along with the now bottled 2015 Tzora Misty Hills, and some library wines.

The tasting consisted of the newly released 2016 whites along with two library wines and the now bottled 2015 Misty Hills. It was great to taste the 2013 Shoresh white, it is a wine I had not tasted in some time. The wine showed how much it can change is so short a time. The last time I tasted it was already past its oaky start, showing crazy acid and lovely brioche. Now, the wine is balancing out very well, showing a balance between oak, fruit, and mouth texture – impressive. It is so vastly different than the 2016 vintage which shows far less oak. I asked Mr. Pick when he was so kind to join us, and he agreed that indeed there is less oak showing on the 2016 Shoresh white, but he said rest assured it is there and may well come out with time. The other library wine was the 2012 Tzora Shoresh Red. It was beautiful and showing very well. Read the rest of this entry

A Shabbat in Jerusalem with epic old world wines

As I have been posting so far, I enjoyed my last trip to Israel and Europe, and I am almost done with my Israeli winery posts. Last we left off, we had just had our second kosher wine tasting at DD’s house, and the first of the three wineries we visited on Friday – Domaine du Castel Winery. However before we get back to the other two wineries we visited on Friday, I wanted to post about the wines we enjoyed over the Shabbat that followed.

I will leave the story for another day, but I can say that Jerusalem was smoking hot Friday and Shabbat (chamsin-like), but thankfully dry. I spat throughout the tastings on Friday, where we went to Tzora Winery, Flam Winery, and the afore-posted Castel Winery. However, some of the group were less careful about spitting and combine that with the searing heat that did not cool till almost midnight – and that made for a viscous 1-2 punch that slowed some folks at the dinner table on Shabbat. However, come Shabbat day all were active and wine was flowing like bonkers. I brought over two wines, as I was asked to drink and forget Israeli wines, please, which is all I could have access to!

However, I was able to find the lovely 2016 La Vie Roubine rose and a total pass of a wine, the 2016 1848 White blend, flat and unimaginative, and the fantastic NV Yaacov Oryah Old musketeer, so I was 2 for 3, which is a very high batting average, but not a good wine present average. Though the NV Yaacov Oryah Old musketeer hopefully makes up for it.

Friday Night

The walk to dinner was preceded by a quick davening in a Sephardic shul that brought back memories of my youth when I spend Shabbosim in Jerusalem. Old and young mingling and davening with their own expressions and intonations, but all still together in spirit and fervor, a real joy. Of course, the other great part is that there was no schlepping of any sort! Gotta love praying in Jerusalem! There was a class by some Rabbi, but I remember none of it, I think that is clear enough.

As we made our way up to our host, the heat was receding a bit, but that is like saying it is easier to walk through torrential rain than a hail storm. It was tough, and it was straight uphill, a small fact that everyone felt free to not disclose to me ahead of time, very nice! To be fair I was not the one schlepping the 8 bottles of wine up that hill, those were strapped to the back of the “not so with us” participant, who courageously powered up the hill, weaving here and fro but upwards all the same! I had to stop once and when we arrived at our host’s home, I was literally blanched and unable to stand – the heat, the hike uphill, it took a toll on me and I must have drunk a gallon of water until I was human again.

Finally, we were ready for kiddush, at least most of us, and that was done on grape juice! Like what! Grape juice! Then I realized – this may be the home of a Frenchman, but it is also home to a few kids who drink grape juice first and then wine. The smallest of the three drinks wine just fine, but the other two enjoy tasting it. The house itself is quite lovely and the fact that it is still standing, notwithstanding the three young terrorists that live within its walls, is a testimony to the building skills of the masons and builders of Jerusalem!

I will skip the food as I was not really tracking what I was eating, not because it was not great, but more because I was greatly enamored by the wines in front of me and the need to sleep ASAP, it had been a long day at that point. Read the rest of this entry

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