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Vitkin Winery’s latest releases

2016 Vitkin Israeli Journey, White, 2016 Vitkin Grenache Blanc, Vitkin Gewurztraminer, 2016 Vitkin Israeli Journey pink, 2015 Vitkin Pinot Noir, Vitkin Grenache, Vitkin Cabernet Franc, VAs I stated in my last post, I landed in Israel and I had very few days to see a lot of wineries. Vitkin Winery was the first winery I visited and I finally got the chance to taste the entire kosher line. Asaf Paz, is the head winemaker there now, after spending so much time helping at Vitkin for years, he is finally at home in his family’s winery for good I hope.

I have written before about Vitkin in passing last year when I tasted his 2015 wines, the first year he made the winery kosher! Yes, as stated last year, Asaf believed that it was time to go kosher, so why not make it on a shmita year! They moved from 60K bottles in 2014 to 100K bottles in 2015 and on. The hope there is that expansion would be possible by moving kosher. Royal Wines is the USA importer for their wines from 2016 and on.

The winery has grown from its early days in 2001 to now making 100,000 or so bottles of wine, and though it has space for more, it will stay there for now. We arrived during the crush for Grenache, so it was fun to see how the tanks are situated in the winery. They do not use pumps to move the wine must to the top tanks, but rather they use hydraulics to move the bins to the top of the tank and drop them into the tank. This makes sure that the fruit and it’s must is not crushed a second time, allowing for better wine. After the wine is finished fermenting, using gravity the grapes and the must are placed into the press and then the resulting wines are then dropped into the barrels. Tank to press to barrels all using gravity, with an assist from the hydraulics at the start. This is not a new scheme, it can be seen all over France, but it is nice to see it in Israel as well (Galil Mountain winery also does this along with others, but not many family-run boutique wineries show such care and concern).

Vitkin has three main lines of wines; Israeli Journey, Vitkin, and Shorashim (the elite wines), and some dessert wines as well. The kosher line started in 2015 and so initially the whites and rose were the only available options. Of the wines, we tasted the rose is in the Israeli Journey line, along with the white Israeli Journey. The other three whites; Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and Grenache Blanc are all in the Vitkin line, sadly there was no 2016 Riesling. The 2016 Gewurztraminer and Grenache Blanc, have the added collector’s edition moniker on them. The current red wines that are kosher all fall into the Vitkin wine label, both the 2015 Vitkin Israeli Journey, Red and the 2016 Vitkin Israeli Journey, Red, along with the 2015 Vitkin Pinot Noir, 2015 Vitkin Cabernet Franc, 2015 Vitkin Petite Sirah, 2015 Vitkin Carignan. The 2015 Vitkin Grenache Noir is the only red with the collector’s edition moniker.

There are two fascinating aspects of the wines produced the Vitkin Winery. One is that 50% of the bottles produced are either rose or white! Think about that for a second! Are you kidding me, that is really impressive if you ask me personally. Israel has changed so much in the last 10 years, in two core aspects. The Israeli public now drinks more wine, and they like white/roses, and the second is that red wines are turned riper – a drum I constantly beat – and one that is not changing yet. Read the rest of this entry

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Kosher Rose wines of 2017 – final take

After all the tastings I have had for rose wines this year – I can say for now, that I am as far along as I can go without being in Israel, or asking people to schlep wines for me from Israel. I am still missing the new 2016 Elvi Wines Rose, the 2016 Terra de Seta Rose, the 2016 Matar Rose, and the 2016 Gvaot Rose. I guess that will have to be. When I get to Israel soon enough I will post again, but just on those wines.

In the end, my overall take on Israeli roses this year has been a huge and utter letdown. To me, there are few roses that I would waste my time drinking. In the end, the Netofa, Vitkin, Psagot, and Castel Roses are the only roses that I would buy this year, other than the untasted wines listed above (Matar and Gvaot), which may well be good.

The real saviors for us have indeed been Spain and USA. France has thrown in the La Vie Roubine, but it is not as good as the Ramon Cardova rose.

So, in closing, I will repeat what I listed the last posting. These wines are the best for each category, nothing I tasted in the last tasting has changed much around them, other than the sweet rose entry, which I would never buy, but is useful for those that like rose that way.

So, here are my recommendations based upon the wines I have tasted:

  1. 2016 Ramon Cardova Rose, is the best rose so far, but it is not a Provence style wine, it is more of a tweener.
  2. The 2016 Chateau Dubois is the best French rose I have tasted so far, but it is a clear non-Provence style rose.
  3. 2016 Chateau Roubine la Vie, is the best French classic Provence style rose.
  4. 2016 Ramon Cardova Rose is the best Spanish rose (that I have had the chance to taste so far, sadly I have yet to taste the new 2016 Elvi Rose)
  5. The 2016 Shirah Rose is the best USA rose. It is not a Provence style wine, it is a massive wine but a really fun one.
  6. The 2016 Netofa Rose is the best rose from Israel, it is as close to a Provence style wine I have found so far in Israel. Vitkin is right behind, along with Castel (but it is really expensive for the wine), and Psagot in the bigger/fuller rose category for Israel.
  7. The 2016 Psagot Rose (when it is on) is the best full bodied rose wine from Israel.
  8. The best sweet rose that is drinkable is the 2016 Contessa Annalisa Rose. Hopefully, a gateway rose to the drier and better options above.

Rose winemaking approaches

If you read the previous article, you would have read that there are classically three ways to make Rose; Maceration, Saignée, and blend.

The interesting thing we are seeing is a slight variation to the rose making – that is after they make the rose, using any of the aforementioned approaches, they are adding in some white wine! This is straight up genius! Why? Because as explained in the previous post, red grape juice has very few phenolics in it! The real phenolic powerhouse – for red wines, are the skins! White wine does not need skins to give it their phenolics, they have it innately from the juice alone. So, when you take red grapes and essentially crush them and bottle them, with minimal grape contact, what you get is a fun wine, that has very few phenolics in it. So, you have a few options, either let the liquid sit longer on the grape skins, thereby improving the phenolics, but that takes away from the classic rose look, as skin contact turns the juice darker. So, if you want more phenolics and less grape skin contact to keep the classic rose color, you can add in white wine!

The Ramon Cardova is a perfect example of this. As is the Elvi Rose (a wine I have not tasted), and the Jezreel Rose (see below). These three wines all added in different white wines, and it is a clear bump in the correct direction, but to the purists, it is not cool! I cannot speak to the purist’s issues, and yes, I can see that the Cardova is not a classic Provence wine, but it is a very enjoyable summer wine, and in the end, that is what rose to me, is all about!

Read the rest of this entry

Kosher Rose wines of 2017 – take 2

2016 Covenant Red C Rose, Twin Suns, Psagot Rose, Bat Shlomo, Chateau L'oasis, Tabor Adama, Chateau Dubois, Ramon Cardova Rose, Kos Yeshuos, Chateau Laurier Rothschild, Vitkin, Borgo Rea

This post is an update to my previous article on the kosher rose wines of 2017. Sadly, not much has changed, yes a few more options have been released, but shockingly some are still not here, even as the official summer season has begun! Come on, guys! The good news is that we have a new winner for 2017, though it falls apart very quickly, so open it and drink it all up ASAP! As I have stated below, I have yet to find a single rose from the 2016 vintage, that I could think would last through the summer months.

Also, there are still another seven Rose wines I would love to taste, but some are not here and some are actually here, but not yet being released. Those are the 2016 Jezreel Rose (Finally in the SA, but not yet available at kosherwine.com, the online store I buy almost all my wines now because of free shipping). Along with the Galil Rose (It is here in the USA – but need to get my hands on it – but it is available at kosherwine.com), The 2016 Elvi Wines Rose, the Terra de Seta Rose, the 2016 Matar Rose, the 2016 Gvaot Rose, and the 2016 Kadesh Barnea Rose.

I thought about repeating the text from my previous post on Rose wine, but I decided against it. So, please read that before continuing on here. I will be reposting all of the wine notes, here along with the five new wines roses that I tasted as well.

However, what I did want to talk about here, beyond the five new Rose wines, is rose wine styles, and examples of each from the wine notes below.

Rose Wine Styles

When I think Rose or Sauvignon Blanc, I think classic Provence and New Zealand. I think lithe, ethereal, but packed with acid, mineral, fruit, and lovely terroir. That is what I like in Rose, but there is another style, it is the fuller bodied rose, NO not those disastrous red wines that want to be a rose, those are just horrible – Beaujolais want-to-be.

No, this is more like the 2016 Psagot Rose, that wine is a full bodied acid core wine, but it is not the classic Provence style rose. That is is no way an affront to this wonderful wine, when the bottle is good, no it is more a description of what the wine is like.

If you are looking for a wine that you can enjoy with a steak or a burger than you would be a wine like the Psagot, though to me the best rose out right now of that style is the newly released 2016 Shirah Rose. It reminds me so much of the 2013 Rose, which was a true joy.

So, here are my recommendations based upon the wines I have tasted:

  1. 2016 Ramon Cardova Rose, is the best rose so far, but it is not a Provence style wine, it is more of a tweener.
  2. The 2016 Chateau Dubois is the best French rose I have tasted so far, but it is a clear non-Provence style rose.
  3. 2016 Chateau Roubine la Vie, is the best French classic Provence style rose.
  4. 2016 Ramon Cardova Rose is the best Spanish rose (that I have had the chance to taste so far, sadly I have yet to taste the new 2016 Elvi Rose)
  5. The 2016 Shirah Rose is the best USA rose. It is not a Provence style wine, it is a massive wine but a really fun one.
  6. The 2016 Netofa Rose is the best rose from Israel, it is as close to a Provence style wine I have found so far in Israel.
  7. The 2016 Psagot Rose (when it is on) is the best full bodied rose wine from Israel.

Rose winemaking approaches

If you read the previous article, you would have read that there are classically three ways to make Rose; Maceration, Saignée, and blend.

The interesting thing we are seeing is a slight variation to the rose making – that is after they make the rose, using any of the aforementioned approaches, they are adding in some white wine! This is straight up genius! Why? Because as explained in the previous post, red grape juice has very few phenolics in it! The real phenolic powerhouse – for red wines, are the skins! White wine does not need skins to give it their phenolics, they have it innately from the juice alone. So, when you take red grapes and essentially crush them and bottle them, with minimal grape contact, what you get is a fun wine, that has very few phenolics in it. So, you have a few options, either let the liquid sit longer on the grape skins, thereby improving the phenolics, but that takes away from the classic rose look, as skin contact turns the juice darker. So, if you want more phenolics and less grape skin contact to keep the classic rose color, you can add in white wine! Read the rest of this entry

The kosher roses – so far – of 2017

It is almost Shavuoth, which means it is almost Summer, so that means it is Rose time! 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!!

Even worse, is that wine manufacturers may well have jumped the shark! There will be some 50 dry-ish kosher roses available in the USA this year! That may not sound like a lot, but when all you had was Herzog White Zinfandel 10 years ago – it is insane. The first high-end rose was Castel’s 2009 rose and that was only 7 years ago. Back then, there were few to no real Rose wine options, other than a handful of Israeli wines and almost no French Rose made it here. Now we will have tons of Rose, and I really think the real question here is will people drink it?

Wine Color

What is a rose wine? Well, simply said, a 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 changes color and the light gold moves to darker gold shades.

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 yellowish to dark yellow grape skins (depending upon what varietal is used to make the orange wine).

Read the rest of this entry

Vitkin, Tzora, and Flam Winery tastings along with 2015 rosé and whites from Israel

KotelWell, I am back, landing the day before the Shabbat preceding Shavuot. I was there for my Nephew’s wedding and we stopped off in Paris for two days – that post can be read/seen here. From there we jumped on an EasyJet plane and we were in Israel, but those kind of things do not just happen. In hindsight I would use EasyJet again – simply because there really were few other options. The direct flights were these (listed in cost order); Transavia (I wonder if the count sleeps in luggage), EasyJet, Arkia (Israel’s second largest airline), El Al, and Air France. I tried to use miles on AF – but they were crazy high. So, in the end, EasyJet it was.

EasyJet is one of those airlines that will nickel and dime you all the way to and in the plane. But the best plan (since I had no checked luggage), is to pay for seat assignment and then you get a roll on and backpack. I was stressing about my rollon, it was a bit heavy, and I was worried they would nickle me to death. In the end, the dude at the counter was very nice and they took the rollon – asking to check it, which was fine with me. The trip was fine, as there is a lounge in the CDG terminal, and what we really wanted was just a place to be normal in a land of madness.

Once we got to the gate they were boarding us only to leave us in the gateway for a good 25 minutes – no idea why. Once we boarded, I was asleep, which was a blessing. I had lots to watch – but sleep was what I craved. Once I awoke we pretty much landed, with maybe 20 minutes or so before landing anyway. Once we landed we disembarked quickly, and then well – no one was there at security check. There were loads of people backing into the anteroom. It would be another 20+ minutes before folks actually arrived and started to cut through the backlog.

Once we got through our bags were there already and we were off to get our car – or try! Look I like Budget in Israel, they normally treat me well, but this trip was horrible! They made us wait 1 hour or more and then they treated us in classic Israeli style and gave us a car that was smaller than what we ordered/paid for and then told us to leave them alone! Love people like that!

Anyway, we were off and really that is what I cared about – I wanted to be home! After that, I can say that the trip was really about tasting late 2014 released wines and 2015 wines. Before, I get into that – let’s recap the state of 2015. As stated here, this is what happened in 2015 and after tasting some 40+ wines from 2015 – nothing has changed my opinion.

Well after two world-class vintages in 2001 and 2008, 2015 was a huge letdown. The white and rose are for the most OK, and nice. The white and rose wines are not at the level of 2014 (more on that below), but they are very respectable. The 2015 reds on the other hand is an entirely different subject.

Shmita 2015

A few things going on here – first of all the weather was perfect through August – looking like yet another blockbuster Shmita vintage. Wet winter, tons of rain and no deep freezing, followed by very moderate spring (making for good bud formations). This was followed by temperate highs and nice cool evenings throughout the summer, except for a few spikes here and there, that was all until August! In August nature took a very dark view on Israel – starting with some of the worst highs in the history of Modern Israel, and power consumption that peaked for an entire week that broke record after record. August continued with crazy heat – but it was early September when all hell broke loose. September saw a return of the epic sandstorm – but this time it reached almost biblical proportions in September. Just look at these satellite images – they are crazy!

Overall, the season was not what it was meant to be. The sand storms brought even higher temps, it all unravelled at the end. The funny thing is that – the wineries that pull early, AKA do not produce date juice, were affected far less – like Recanati and Tabor. The ones who pull later or pull from the Galilee – even if they are great wineries – were affected. In some ways it will mean that lower level wines at wineries will have normally better fruit. It will also mean that many wineries will have less of their flagship wines. Of course this is all from what winemakers and wineries have told me so far. Only time will tell to see what really comes out, but agriculturally, it was not a great year. Read the rest of this entry

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