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Kosher wine tastings in Jerusalem

The next wines that I enjoyed on my last trip to Israel and Europe, came after I had finished tasting wonderful wines from the ever capable Yaacov Oryah (head winemaker at Psagot Winery) at one of the newest hip kosher wine bars in Jerusalem – the Red and White Wine bar – kitty-corner from the beautiful Mamilla hotel (8 Shlomo HaMelech Street at the corner of Yanai Street).

After going to see the Kotel (following the tasting at the Red and White bar), I made my way to where I was staying. It was not far from where we would be having the next two tastings, at our friend’s home DD. While, our host was fantastic, the wines were not so much. Much of that was a shocker to us all, because the wines we brought were not lightweights, they just did not show well at all.

There were some winners, a bottle of the epic Von Hovel kosher Riesling – that we will talk more about in a later post, but for now – the notes were very similar and the wine was insane. It was intoxicating (in its flavors) as much as it was intense, showing mineral, sweet notes, and acidity all at the same time.

The real winner of the night to me (other than the epic Von Hovel) was the 4 Vats red which was really nice and a solid QPR wine.

My many thanks to our friend DD for hosting us in his lovely home! To be honest after all the wine tastings I had up until this point, I was done for, so my notes were not very good this time. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

2016 Yaacov Oryah Light from Darkness (Blanc de Noir) – Score: A-
This is a white wine made from Yaacov Oryah’s Rhone varietal vineyard, using Grenache, Cinsault, and Mourvedre. The juice of the grapes was pressed out of the grapes with no skin contact. The juice of red grapes is clear until it is left to macerate with its red skins.
Really a fun and unique wine never had such a wine showing red fruit notes in a white wine, showing grapefruit, sour cherry, rich mineral, yeasty notes with lovely minerality, green olives, and saline. The mouth is well integrated with lovely acid, rich peach, lemon and grapefruit with tart citrus, dried orange and more saline and slate galore, with nice pith on the long finish. Bravo! Drink by 2018.

2015 Matar Sauvignon Blanc / Semillon – Score: B+ to A-
The nose on this wine was lovely, showing ripe grapefruit, flint, spice, kiwi, and green notes. The mouth on this medium bodied wine has just enough acidity, showing nice focus with slate, saline, and nice peach, with pink grapefruit, yellow pear, and lovely acid. Drink UP!

2014 Von Hovel Hutte Oberemmel Riesling, Mosel, Gefen Hashalom – Score: A- to A
This was my initial notes for this wonderful wine, without knowing I would taste this very wine in the Von Hovel winery and bring a few home! Stay tuned for that post soon.
A nice Riesling wine, great funk, with rich petrol, honeysuckle monster, with great spice, with heather, lavender, with yellow apple, and yellow plum. The mouth is rich and layered and rich acidity that is insane, with layers of rich blossom honey, and layers of never ending oily texture that is dripping with acid and white peach, lovely funk that gives way to minerality and intense lovely saline, with the sweet notes showing instead of the ripping acid/slate that the 14 Nik showed. Bravo!

Read the rest of this entry

My top kosher 25 wines of 2015

wall of wineWell, I have posted my year in review, and now I wanted to get to my top wines for 2015. Please beware that I know I missed many wines and that this list does not include wines that I have tasted that are not available on the open market – like older Covenant Wines and the sort.

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- or higher. Anything less would not be on my list.

On an aside, there continues to be a whole mess of madness around wines notes and scores, even the Jewish Week weighed in on the matter. So, let me explain this really simply – go look at some of my recent blog posts – they talk about some nice enough wines, but wines I would not specifically buy. They have all the nice words and such, which were all true and to the point. But without the final value score, I can tell you a Cabernet is full bodied with good fruit and spice – and you may say cool I want that – but then I would say well, yeah but it was not complex or layered. You could try to reason that out of the words I wrote, because the words complex and layered are missing. However, the simple fact that it was scored a B+ or whatever, would have told you that it is not always a wine worth going after (unless it is the Terrenal or such where it gets a QPR moniker).

My point being that wine notes – without a proper context (AKA a real score) – is like looking at a wedding hall through a slit in the window. Sure you can “see” the hall, but are you really sure you want to get married there? I never scored wines to tell people to listen to my score. I score wines to set the context and to always read the notes to see if that sort of wine works for you!

OK, enough of the darn score rant for the day, back to the matters at hand, being wines of the year. The list is long – get over it. It is a list of wines that I would buy, have bought, and will buy again – simple enough I hope. I did not differentiate by another other criteria or aspect – if it was solid (A- or higher) it made the list. I hope you enjoy!

2013 Elvi Wines Clos Mesorah – Score: A- to A
This is the flagship wine of Elvi Wines (though the Herenza Reserva may have a word to say about that) and it is a blend of 50% Carignan, 30% Grenache, and 20% Syrah. Elvi Wines makes 7K of these bottles. The wine was sourced from vines that are 20 to 100 years of age. The nose on this wine is insane and intoxicating with aromas of watermelon, root beer, ripe boysenberry, blueberry, along with chocolate and black fruit. The mouth on this full bodied wine hits you with layers of concentrated fruit, with an attack of blue and black fruit, balanced perfectly, showing great elegance, along with mad mineral, graphite, slate, rich and freshly tilled earth, along with deeply concentrated black fruit. The wine is the perfect example of elegance and balance with ripe fruit that flows into a plush mouth made from mouth coating tannin and rich fruit structure. This is truly a wine speaks for itself. The finish is long and intense, showing rich roasted animal, lovely mushroom, and floral notes. With time, the wine shows mad barnyard, mushroom, and even more loamy dirt. Bravo!!!

2010 Elvi Wines Herenza Rioja Reserva – Score: A- to A
There are only 4K of these bottles made and each one is a true gift! The wine is closed and slow to open, but with time and a fair amount of decanting, the nose shows of mad soy sauce (like the 2009 Herenza Reserva), chocolate, richly tilled earth, loam, along with crazy mushroom and mad mineral. This wine is the epitome of umami, showing intense layers of umami with white summer fruit, cranberry, craisins, blackberry, pomegranate, and tart cherry in the background with mounds of earth. The finish is intensely long and dirt filled, with  dark chocolate, licorice, blueberry and red fruit. BRAVO!!!!

2012 Chateau Haut Condissas, Medoc – Score: A- (and much more)
The 2011 was very nice, but the 2012 a slight step up. The nose on this wine is rich and redolent with lovely dirt, dark black fruit, barnyard, earth, and mushroom. The mouth on this full bodied wine is rich, ripe, and in your face with nice chocolate, mad toast, mouth drying tannin, all wrapped in crazy acid, but bigger and riper than the 2011, almost Israeli in nature, but classically French-controlled, with blackberry, raspberry, plum, with mineral and graphite. The finish is long and dirty, with hits of herb, along with layers of concentrated fruit, more mad mineral/earth/dirt/mushroom with dried raspberry, and rich garrigue. WOW! BRAVO!

2010 Chateau Fourcas Dupre, Listric – Medoc – Score: A- (and more) (CRAZY QPR)
This wine is on the list for its insane value and its goto ability above all wines from France for the price! The 2010 was a nice wine – but the 2012 is even better! The nose on this wine is lovely with rich dirt, cherry, crazy tart and juicy raspberry, followed by more dirt and mineral galore. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is lovely and still young but give it time, the acid is impressive along with nice spice, mouth coating tannin that is gripping along with lovely blackberry, cassis in the background, along with crazy mushroom, and layers of fruit and earth and forest floor that come at you and do not give up. The finish is long, with insane acid and more mouth drying tannin, more earth, dirt, tart lingering fruit, and lovely mineral/graphite. The fruit and mineral lingers long – BRAVO!!!! Read the rest of this entry

Some great new kosher wines to enjoy!

This past weekend I enjoyed having some family over at the house, and we enjoyed a few new kosher wine options that were quite enjoyable. First off, thanks DB and NB for swinging by – it was a real joy to see u guys again!!!

Now on to the new options out there. The first is the 2013 La Fenetre Pinot Noir and the new 2013 La Fenetre wine blend and Cab. I only tasted the new 2013 Pinot, and it needed a day of air to lose its ripe flavors. We had the 2011 La Fenetre wines before and the 2012 over Passover, so I am happy to see the kosher selection growing and improving! From the get go, the wine had a massive mouth and attack. However, it also displayed far too much sweet and ripe notes for me. With time the tannins stayed and the sweet notes receded to show a wine ripe with fruit but balanced with mad coffee, tannin, and sweet spices – lovely!

Sadly, the Alsace Pinot Gris was not fun at all, it tasted like a somewhat complex Bartenura Blue Bottle, which I am sorry to say is not much of a compliment! The 2014 Dalton Pinot Gris is a very different story – this wine may still be in travel shock, so let it rest for a bit. I popped mine open and it was dull for a day, until it popped open and had ripping acid and saline and lovely coating minerals. The 2009 Reacanati Carignan is still very old world and rich, but it is coming to its end soon, so drink up!

Sadly, the 2009 Yatir Syrah, a wine I brought from Israel is showing its age already – which blows my mind, but it too was showing over ripe fruit, so start drinking up as well.

The 2009 Four Gates Cabernet Sauvignon, is still insane in its complexity and its structure. Finally, 2014 Tabor Sauvignon Blanc, may be a tiny step behind the 2013 but who cares – it is a lovely and awesome SB for Israel! The 2010 Fourcas Dupre continues to impress and crush with its sick body and mineral and its very impressive price.

So to recap, the wines I loved over Shabbos, are on the top wines for Passover post, and they are:

  1. 2010 Chateau Fourcas Dupre
  2. 2014 Dalton Pinot Gris
  3. 2014 Tabor Sauvignon Blanc
  4. 2013 La Fenetre Pinot Noir (needs time!)

The wine notes follow below:

2012 Cave de Ribeauvillé Giersberger Pinot Gris – Score: B
This is an ok Pinot Gris but lacks the crazy acid and is a bit too “sweet” for me. There is residual sugar, and the sweet fruit annoys me. The nose is ripe with honey. honeysuckle, almond, dirty earth, loam, and ripe white fruit. Too sweet for me, with ripe summer fruit, and rich fig. Nice enough, but stick with the 14 or 13 Dalton PG. The mineral is its saving grace. Read the rest of this entry

My top 25 kosher wines of 2014

Well, 2014 has come and gone and my top wines of the past year were too many to limit to 10. Now these wines comprise a list of wines I enjoyed over the year. Some were released in 2014 and many were released a long time ago. Either way these are wines that made an impression upon me and that is the only characteristic that I used to define this list.

Some of these wines may not score a solid A, but they deserve to be here because of their trail blazing characteristics Take for instance – the 2012 Recanati Marselan. It is the only kosher Marselan and it is very good. The 2013 Yarden Sauvignon Blanc, one of the best whites to come out of Israel along with the 2012 Tzora Shoresh White, a wine that I believe is better than the 2013 Shoresh white, were both on my list last year, so they are not on it this year. The 2013 Tzora Shoresh is on this year’s list and if you have not gotten any – you are making a huge mistake. I had both in 2014, and even though I liked the 2012 a bit more, the 2013 is an epic white wine, in its own right. The best rose, hands down, was the 2013 Hajdu Pinot Gris rose. It is tied for best ever kosher rose with the 2012 Shirah rose, but that was already enjoyed in 2013. The next white wine was the epic 2013 Dalton Viognier, a wine that is worthy, once again, of the Dalton reserve label. It beats the 2012 hands down, and reclaims the title as the best kosher Viognier that is available in the US or Israel. There may be a French Viognier that is available there, but I do not know of them. The final non red wine was the 1996 Four Gates Chardonnay, which while never released officially, it was an awesome wine indeed! I tasted while tasting an entire vertical of all of Benyamin’s Chardonnay wines and this was the best of the bunch. Many others were solid A- and maybe a bit more wines, but the 1996 was a A- to A wine that was truly epic.

The rest of the wines are red, and there are many special wines there including the fantastic 2012 Recanati wild Carignan and Syrah/Viognier wines. BRAVO! There were many more French wines, but they will have to fall till next year, when I get a chance to sit down and enjoy them over a long meal. The 2012 Chateau Giscours, the 2012 Pavillon de Leoville Poyferré, and the 2012 Roches de Yon Figeac are lovely wines and may well get on the list next year. In the end, California, France, and Spain continue to be my sweet spot. There are a few exceptional wines from Israel, like the epic and insane 2000 Yarden Katzrin and others. Along with current releases from Tzora Winery, Recanati Winery, and Yatir Winery. In the end, Israel will improve by having 2009, 2010, and 2011 in their rear view mirror, all the while enjoying the new 2012, 2013, and from what I hear 2014 vintages.

The wine notes follow below:

Wines of Spain

2012 Capcanes Peraj Habib (Crazy QPR) – Score: A- to A
Before I talk about this epic wine, I must sadly say that one of the wines that was on my list last year – the 2012 Capcanes Carignan – never made it into its own bottle. Sadly, it was not deemed worthy of a leading role. Thankfully, it found its place here, in this fantastic 2012 Peraj Habib! The wine blend for 2012 is not far off from 2011, consisting of 40% Grenache, 30% Carignan, and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, sourced from very old vines.

The nose on this dark and impenetrable purple colored wine is redolent with roasted animal, intense black fruit, and mounds of dirt and mineral. The mouth on this full bodied wine hits you with an intensely inky structure, filled with layers of of rich concentrated fruit, ripe freshly squeezed black berries, cassis, plum, along with tart fruit, spice, and mouth coating tannins that may well make some people think that this is the best Capcanes Peraj Habib ever made. The finish is long and purely mineral based to start, like sucking on a salt and graphite stick, as it recedes, you sense the incredible balancing acid, which is then immediately replaced with richly roasted coffee, sweet and herbal spices, more black fruit, a sense of animal fats, leather, hints of tobacco, and finally followed by bitter notes on the long finish. BRAVO!!!! Read the rest of this entry

Yatir Winery – one of the most consistent and top wineries in Israel

Yatir Winery's high tech wine tank farm-smallWe left Midbar Winery, and we drove the 3 kilometers that separate the Midbar Winery (in the outskirts of Arad) from Yatir Winery (in Tel Arad). By now most of the readers of this blog know my deep affinity for all things Yatir, and I was looking forward to tasting all the wines. We arrived a bit late and as such Eti Edri, the assistant manager, was holding down the fort and keeping the guests from Finland happy as we showed up a few minutes behind the time. Thankfully, we caught up with the crowd and we were able to watch Eran Goldwasser in action.

Say the name Eran Goldwasser and I cannot help but remember how the late Daniel Rogov called him one of the very the top winemakers in Israel. The winery is state of the art, it was state of the art in 2002 and it continues to add to its technology. The picture to the left shows the immaculate state of the tank room where the wine must/juice goes into after being crushed outside and pumped into the tanks. When the red wines have gone through the desired fermentation the wine is pressed with the press you see behind Eran. For whites they are either pressed immediately and then left to lie on their lees in barrel or in the tanks themselves.

Yatir Winery Barrel Room-smallEran than took us around the barrel rooms where he explained the time the wines stay in the barrel before being bottled. Depending on the wine – it may stay longer of shorter and than finds its way to the glass entombment that keeps the wine fresh until it graces your table.

If you look at the success of this winery it is clear why Carmel winery built this edifice to the wine gods and why they continue to fund it. The vineyards that are sourced to make the wine are high above Tel Arad, in a forest called Yatir Forest. The forest was the brain child of the late Ben Gurion, the first Prime Minister and one of the founders of Israel. Many scientists, according to lore, told him that it could not be done, that a forest could not be grown in the arid air and ground of Arad, in and around desert land. In classic Ben Gurion style, his response was, great than lets change the scientists! The result is the amazing Yatir Forest for which the winery is named and for which the flagship wine is named.

Ettie and Doron at Yatir Winery-smallThe vineyard was planted in 1997 and the inaugural vintage was the 2001 vintage. Initially, the winery pumped out two wines, an Australian blend (Bordeaux grapes and Shiraz) along with a more high-end Bordeaux blend the Yatir Forest. The Yatir blend in some ways has now taken a more secondary importance to the newer wines. In 2004 Yatir released their first white wine – the Yatir Sauvignon Blanc. In 2005 the Yatir Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz were released. In 2007 they released a lovely Viognier. Then in 2008 they released a new label again – the Petite Verdot which was killer! All the while, they continue to pump out the Forest and the blend and each of the varietal wines as well.

The winery’s vineyards are cut up into five sections, which has grown as the winery and its success has grown. The roughly 100 acres of vines have a maximum altitude of 900 meters and in the hot arid heat here in the southern tip of the Judean Hills, every meter counts. The Negev may well be in eye sight, but the region is without doubt the Judean Hills and it is for that reason that the winery chose to use the lion (the symbol of Judea) as its company logo. I am not sure if you caught this video of the Robert Mondovi Of Israeli Wine – Adam Montefiore and his interview with Erin Burnett, one of the anchors on the CNBC network – who happens to have a thing for all things camel!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BqzopL4OVI4 Read the rest of this entry

2012 Herzog International Wine Festival – part two of wine notes

As stated in the previous posting on this lovely event, there were many wines to taste and there was no way I could post all the wine notes in a single posting. Here is my follow-up posting on the wines tasted at the event, including the wines that I loved and did not love.

The wine notes are listed in the order that I tasted them:

2010 Domaine Netofa – White – Score: B++
The nose on this light gold colored wine shows clean and lovely nose of green apple, peach, grapefruit, kiwi, light quince, and rich/nice loamy dirt and mineral. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is rich and balanced with nice minerality, along with nice bright fruit that mingles well in the mouth. The finish is long and spicy with nice quince, tart green apple, grapefruit, and green tea.

2010 Binyamina Chardonnay, Reserve, Unoaked – Score: B
This wine did not show nearly as well as its 2009 sibling, the wine was flat without much to grab your attention. The nose on this straw colored wine has apple, lemon, nice mineral, bright acid, and melon. The mouth is somewhat plush and the finish has citrus to round out the wine.

2010 Binyamina Chardonnay, Reserve – Score: B+
This wine did not show nearly as well as its 2009 sibling, though not as bad as its unoaked twin. The nose on this dark straw colored wine has light oak, brioche, lemon, nice spice, light creme, and honey. The mouth is round with spice, summer fruit, and oak influence.

2011 Tulip White Tulip – Score: B++
This wine is a blend of 70% Gewurztraminer and 30% Sauvignon Blanc with the sweet and floral notes of the Gewurztraminer showing nicely with honey and guava, while the green apple and bright lemon notes from the Sauvignon Blanc blend together in a unique manner. The nose on this straw colored wine hits you with mineral, light honey, bright lemon, green apple, and guava. The mouth is nice and honeyed with light petrol, and citrus. The finish is long with both sweet lemon creme and bright lemon at the same time, along with fig, and tart notes. This is a great wine that would go well with fish or sushi.

Read the rest of this entry

Yatir Cabernet Sauvignon Yatir Forest

This past week was a quiet one and comfort food was of interest to us.  So we created a new version of Mollie Katzen’s Vegetable Stew from the classic Moosewood Cookbook.  The recipe was mostly followed but we broke off by adding more vegetables and Seitan.  Seitan is a great food when done correctly.  Unfortunately, I have not made it in so long that I overloaded on the liquid.  It worked out by adding in more whole wheat flour (ran out of Seitan).  The fake meat and extra vegetables gave the stew an added texture that hit the spot.

A wine that would best match the stew needed to have a fair amount tannin and acidity.  The closest thing I had (and one I wanted to drink already), was the Yatir Forest Cabernet Sauvignon 2002.

Yatir Forest Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 – Score A-

This wine is at its peak or a bit below it. The nose on this black to purple colored wine is filled with cassis, blackberry, and sweet wood notes along with a bit of dates. The mouth on this full bodied wine starts with cassis, black fruit and a complex layer of wood intermingled with fruit. The mid palate is somewhat tannic still. The finish is long with sweet wood, and hints of chocolate and tobacco. The mouth becomes much meatier as the wine opens. I would say that the wine shows itself best at the point where it transitions into the meaty phase. Once there too long the wine degrades and loses everything other than the tannin and wood. A nice wine for the 2002 vintage.

Finally, the wine is throwing off sediment at an impressive rate.  When I decanted the bottle and left the dregs at the bottom, there was still a fair amount of sediment in the decanter and in my glass after that.  It does not take away from the wine as much as it adds tannin and bitterness to the picture.

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