Blog Archives

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.


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

Four Gates Cabernet Franc and Kos Yeshuos Vin Gris – strut Cali style

Kos Yeshuos Vin GrisThis past Shabbat was a quiet one and a very enjoyable one given the wines I had to taste. The meal was a simple and quiet one; with black bean soup, and for the main course – my meatballs recipe, quinoa, roasted veges, and green salad.

For the wines I enjoyed two wines that are not publicly available yet, though one will be soon. The Cabernet Franc was the soon-to-be released CF from Four Gates Winery, though this one was sourced from another location than his usually vaunted vineyards. The wine is very unique and very mineral based and a true joy, but I will wait for Benyo to talk about it before I say more.

The other wine was from a young man who I watched grow up in my midst – here in San Jose, CA. His name is Joshua A. Rynderman and his story is a unique one at that.

When we first moved into this community more than 20 years ago, the Rynderman family was already here and they were, and are still, a pillar of the community. Young Joshua at that time was far too young for me to gauge where or how his interests would take him. Sadly, the 2000s came around and with it the horrific decimation of human and real capital in Silicon Valley. Many companies shuttered their doors, and sadly the Ryndermans, and others, moved east for a myriad of reasons.

Fast forward to some few years ago, and the pull of the Silicon Valley has once again reached into the far crevices of America and the Rynderman family has once again gone west – and the San Jose community is once again blessed by their presence.

In their return to the Bay Area, we were once again reunited with their family, who was not a bunch of young children any longer, but rather a group of young men and a lady each showing strengths with their interests. Unbeknownst to us, during their departure – Michel had inculcated the love for all good things to his family, including art (his wife is a world-renowned artist), food, and wine. While Michel was part of this community he was affected by the many wine makers that were and are still part of this community; including the then owner of Gan Eden WineryCraig Winchell, the afore-mentioned Four Gates Winery owner and winemaker – Benyamin Cantz, and Ernie Weir’s Hagafen Wines.

So, when we invited them to a Shabbos dinner some 6 months ago, Josh was already becoming quite the wine aficionado – and I never knew it! I have to say, living in San Jose and finding another person who really gets wine – is like finding a gold coin while walking down the street! Of course there are folks like JR (AKA Jim Bob) and others who love and make a mean glass of wine, but a wine freak is an entire other matter! Of course I say that with great affection. Anyway, it turns out that he had been helping Benyo for a bit already and that he was talking about making wines. JR had already made a wine two years ago and again last year – so I hope to taste his new creation sometime soon as well, the last one – Quail Hill – was quite nice! Read the rest of this entry

Wines enjoyed over purim

Well, the OTBN of last week flowed right into Purim this year and that meant there as a lot of wine consumed over a short period of time. That is all fine with me, but it took some time to get this down is all. Though I will be very short this time, I did want to highlight a few wines that surprised me on the good and the bad. The 2011 Hagafen Cabernet Sauvignon opened nicely, but then turned on me very hard – not quite dates, but far too sweet and unbalanced for my liking. The 2010 Carmel Cabernet Franc, while showing nicely in Israel, and lush here was fine for the first few hours, but then went straight to date juice. This was the Israeli label I hand carried back home, so I do not think this wine is long for cellaring – but nice out of the bottle.

Finally, the 2013 Dalton Viognier is ready to go. Last year the wine was tight and closed, and needed a real decanting to bring it to life. That is not needed any longer! It is delightful from the bottle and I think has three or so years left in the tank, but it is clearly ready and very close to peak, if not there already.

The wine notes follow below:

2013 Dalton Viognier Reserve – Score: A- (and more)
All I can say – IT IS BACK!!! Thank goodness for that! It has been too long without a GREAT kosher Viognier option. The 2012 was a nice wine, but it paled in comparison to the 2007-9 vintages. The 2013 is CRUSHING in comparison and is the best kosher Viognier I have ever tasted, so BRAVO!
The last time we had this wine it needed air galore, that is not the case anymore. Beyond that, there is not much that has changed about this wine!
The wine continues it heritage of wild yeast fermentation and was aged in French oak for four months. The nose on this wine shows beautiful notes of ripe melon, pear, peach, along with crazy floral notes of violet and rose. The mouth on this full bodied wine is oily and textured with layers of honeyed notes of peach and apricot, spiced melon, mango, crazy acid and intense concentration of ripe summer fruits, all balanced with bracing acidity, bitter notes, and sweet oak. The finish is long and intensely spicy with saline, mineral, slate, white pepper and hints of vanilla and lovely bakers spices. BRAVO on many levels!!!!!

2009 Shiloh Legend – Score: A-
The nose on this mevushal purple colored wine explodes with ripe blueberry, dark cherry, ripe raspberry, licorice, and lovely spice, with a hint of roasted meat and smokiness which leaves soon enough for more crazy spices and ripe fruit. The mouth on this full bodied, ripe, round wine is expressive with sweet fruit, blackberry, ripe strawberry, plum, more blue fruit, along with sweet cedar, and mouth coating tannin that lingers and makes the mouth feel ripe, sweet, and round. The finish is long and spicy with nice vanilla, cinnamon, chocolate mocha, black pepper, cloves, nutmeg, and mint.

This wine is slowing down – so DRINK UP!!!

2013 Don Ernesto Vin Gris – Score: A-
WHAT a nose fresh squeezed strawberry, rose hips, raspberry, and peach. The mouth on this Syrah rose, is viscous, medium weight, and lovely, with great acid, lovely mineral, and awesome fruit. The strawberry explodes with kiwi, guava, currant, quince, cranberry, and orange marmalade. The finish is long and spicy and bitter with hints of herb, orange pith, saline, mineral, and slate – BRAVO!!!!

2005 Hagafen Zinfandel, Reserve, Estate Bottled, Moskowite Ranch Block 61 – Score: B+
Sadly I kept this too long. This bottle felt thin and dying, still had great acid and spice, with OK fruit. Drink up!!!

2011 Hagafen Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley – Score: B+
The nose on this purple colored wine is rich with prefume of blackberry, lovely black fruit, hints of blueberry, nice anise, and dirt. The medium body is tinged with mad acid and mineral, along with a lovely mouth coating tannin that gives the wine body, along with great acid and mad graphite, cassis, CRAZY kirsch black cherry, and green foliage. The finish is long and green with bright fruit, leather, chocolate, vanilla, and lovely sweet dill and tobacco leaves. Very nice.

With time, an hour or two, this wine breaks down very quickly. I would be careful.

2010 Carmel Cabernet Franc, Vineyards – Score: B+
Vineyards is essentially the Appellations label and a lovely CF it is. This is the Israeli label, the US label continues with the appellations label and animals.
This wine is blend of 85% Cab Franc, 10% Cabernet, and 5% Petit Verdot. The nose on this wine is rich and lovely with raspberry, dark cherry, plum, sweet cedar green herb, and foliage. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is rich and unctuous with mad green bell pepper, tart juicy raspberry, mad tobacco, and lovely mouth coating tannin. The finish is long and green, with sweet herb, firm tannin and more tobacco.
I did like this wine from the start, but after an hour or two it went straight to dates, this is not a wine for long cellaring – and this was the Israeli label.

Hagafen Winery Visit

The day started out as a lovely and sunny Sunday, the last one of 2009.  We took a long and enjoyable last look at massive Clear Lake, which our hotel wrapped around, and headed south on CA-20.  As we closed into Lower Lake, we were supposed to continue south on CA-29, but plans are just that – plans!  Instead, we took the road less traveled, the Knoxville-Berryessa Road (lovely pictures of the road linked here from a motorcycle rider).  It is so called because, it is a road that runs through government-owned land, counted some 5 or so structures from Lower Lake until Berryessa Lake.  For some 30 or more miles, at a rate of maybe 35 mph, we saw no one – period.  Truly a road less traveled.  Finally, and blessedly, right before Lake Berryessa, we came upon a truck, and two folks fishing (actually, I think that was not public knowledge :-), and they told us where we were.  I guess this teaches us, that if we do not want a GPS or expensive phone contract (with GPS on it), and instead want to go retro, we should act retro, and carry around a map or two!

Well after a fair amount of driving, we came to the Hagafen Winery, a bit late, at a not so warm time of day.  It was some 40 degrees outside, and we went inside to meet Josh Stein, Hagafen Winery’s Brand Manager.  I stated the temperature, because Josh started the winery tour outside where every vintage starts – in the vineyard of course!  I asked about the way the vines are managed, and Josh quickly replied that the vines have been managed using CCOF (California Certified Organic Farmers) rules for many years now, but they are now in the second year of their CCOF certification, and hope to be certified within a year.  Of course, as we have spoken about this topic many times, the wine will NOT be organic, but the vineyard will be.  There are three full time employees, Ernie Weir, the owner and founder of Hagafen Winery, who is also the manager of the winery.  The other two full time employees, manage the winery’s most important other asset, the vineyards.  The winery started some 32 years ago, after Weir had made wine, at a custom crush site in Napa, CA, for a couple of years.  He decided to start making kosher wine.  He started his production with 25 cases and a single SKU.  Today, Hagafen makes some 8000 cases of wine, under three labels, and 30 or more SKU.  Hagafen started with no vineyards, and then in 1986 they bought the land that the winery sits on presently.  The vineyard in those days was planted with Pinot Noir and Chenin Blanc, but it was replanted in 1997 with what stands there today, 12 acres of clone 7 and clone 337 Cabernet Sauvignon, named the Weir Family Vineyard II.  The Weir Family Vineyard III came online later with 9 acres, 3 acres of Cabernet Franc, 3 acres of Syrah, and 3 acres of White Riesling.  Many of Hagafen’s wines are labeled as Estate Bottled, though they are not actually on their estate at all, as seen here on Hagafen’s vineyard map.  They source grapes from vineyards as far south as Fagan Creek, and as far north as Soleil and Moskowite vineyards.  So, how are they allowed to use the term “Estate Bottled” on their labels?  Well, the rules are a bit more simplistic, though not well known.  As described here on the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), the Estate Bottled tag line has three requirements to be added to your label.

  1. The vineyard must either be owned by the winery or under the winery’s 100% control
  2. The vineyard to be in the same viticultural area
  3. The grapes are crushed, fermented, aged, and bottled in the winery or on the winery grounds

Hagafen has continued to expand its own vineyards, while perfecting their relationship and processes with its many vineyard partners.  They have long term contracts with the vineyards, and have recently taken control of many of the coveted blocks within the upper echelon of Napa Valley vineyards. Read the rest of this entry

%d bloggers like this: