With the Jewish Holidays at their end, I must say that I really did enjoy them, but spiritually and wine wise! I have been slowly but surely changing over my collection from wines that I thought I liked to wines I actually do like. Sure, I have a few duds here and there, but for the most part, I think I have thinned the ranks of the unwanted.
Years ago – I blindly bought whatever red reserve Yarden wines the late Daniel Rogov scored a 92 or higher, and to his credit it was a grand time for a bit. But sadly before he passed, his golden touch, in terms of picking the perfect Yarden Reserve red was losing its aura. To be fair it is not a detriment to the man I truly respected. It is simply that my palate and interest have moved so starkly from the overripe notes of old, that I have finally broken down and written my Dear John letter to many Israeli wines.
As I stated 9 months ago in my year in review and ahead, I stated that I would start to track wines that I find overly ripe in style, whether it comes from Israel or anywhere else. I have been doing that in my wine notes, but I and finding less and less of them, simply because I am turning over my library in the direction of wines like Tzora, Yatir, and so on.
To be fair, wineries are making wines like this because that is what the public wishes, or so they say. I understand that a palate is a hard thing to come by, and that it may well be an evolutionary road for many. Still, there is a thing called nuance and then there is a thing called a 2×4. To create wines that are so obtusely in your face – one has to stop and wonder if the winemaker is actually unwilling to trust his wines to you. Maybe it his/her way of saying – here I dare you not to taste something in this wine! Mocking you as the winery takes your money and you are left with that aching feeling that is more akin to a used car lot than a culinary experience.
So, I thought it was time to publicly publish my Dear John letter to wines from Israel or elsewhere that continue to cater to the LCD (least common denominator) – and make wines that only a dead person could miss notes in.
Dear overly ripe wines,
I have to be honest, for the longest time you were a wonderful accompaniment to my weekend dinners. However, in these past 5 years, I cannot help but think that we have drifted apart. Oh come on, do not flutter those sweet and cloying tannins at me, you know how I hate that so. I wish I could say it is me and not you, but I would be lying. This is all on you!
This is not about you or about me “winning or losing”, you know I have lost so much over the years when I happily gave away bottles of the 2004 Ortal Merlot and so much more. There is no denying that we have changed so much, you continue to be so sweet, of course, but what I finally realized is that you are also so empty. Sure you have those wonderful structural qualities, that we all look for in a companion, but the rest is hollow, no stuffing, no meaning, just a flat and empty being.
I tried so hard to make it work, to ignore my wine friends, telling them that it was just a bad night or a really bad weekend, like that bender in December. Sadly, it always turns out the same way when I wake from another night of debauchery, I am thankfully a bit lighter of you and you are always the same – big, bold, loud, and empty!
So, I am happy to say I think I am rid of you from my cellar. I have worked hard to empty it of your kind and thankfully, I can now say that you are in my past. I waited too long to write this letter, for that I am sorry to you and my guests. However, going forward I know that I have made the correct decision and wish you and those wineries all the best. I even have a lovely new moniker for you DJL – if you see that on a note I write, you will know that you have found a wine you will truly come to love. For me, it will be a badge of shame.
Thanks for all the great times, and I am also happy to say good riddance and bon voyage! Read the rest of this entry
I am that the blog has been quiet for a bit of time here and there, but hopefully I will be back into the swing of things soon. I wanted to post three wines that I loved and had recently and ones that are still available here and there – even given two of their ages. The 2005 Hagafen Zin can still be purchased from Hagafen Winery’s library collection. The Galil Yiron 2007 is available at some shops here and there – this one requires effort to still find. The 2012 Petita is available everywhere that good kosher wine is sold.
The wine notes follow below:
2007 Galil Mountain Winery Yiron – Score: A-
The nose on this garnet colored wine is hopping with an expressive and intoxicating smokey perfume of licorice, spice, tar aromas, and animal fats. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is truly explosive with now integrated mouth coating tannin, rich mouth feel and concentration of black cherry, ripe blackberry, ripe plum, and raspberry, followed by tart fruit, sweet oak, softening tannin, sweet herb, and nice acid. The finish is long, spicy and expressive with green notes, eucalyptus, graphite, dirt, tobacco, and oriental spices – BRAVO! Start drinking up – this wine has is at peak or very close, and after that who cares – the fun starts to abate, get it while the going is fun!
2012 Celler de Capçanes Montsant Peraj Petita – Score: A- (Mad QPR wine)
This wine is a blend of 55% Grenache, 30% Tempranillo, and 15% Merlot. This is a wine that continues to excel at being a QPR superstar, and this vintage is no different. The nose on this wine is rich and black with loamy dirt, oriental spices, intense graphite, crushed herb, green notes, along with freshly paved asphalt, and earthy goodness. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is crazy with mouth gripping tannins, leather, along with layers of blackberry, black cherry, and inky notes, all coming together with oak and green notes. The finish is long and mineral based with still gripping tannin, tar, and sweet herbs that linger long. This is a wine that really needs another year to come around.
2005 Hagafen Zinfandel – Score: B++ to A-
The nose on this lightly browning wine is filled with rich fruit, ripe strawberry, along with sweet cedar, brown sugar, and great spice. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is ripe and concentrated with layers of ripe blackberry, black plum, red fruit, ripe jammy boysenberry, all wrapped in a cocoon of sweet cedar and mouth coating tannins. The finish is long and rich with great acid, control, and a bounty of fruit, all leading to a chocolate, vanilla, and spice crescendo, with cinnamon, cracked pepper, and nutmeg. DRINK NOW and do not hold on to these a second longer. When opening it, give it 30 minutes and then finish there and then!
This wine sure is fun, the brown sugar, cedar, chocolate, and dark ripe black fruit all mingle with crazy vanilla and brown sugar on a long and sweet finish – BRAVO!!!
A few months ago Heshy Fried, Yitzchok Bernstein’s sous chef and frum-satire blogger, was at the house for a shabbos dinner and he said that Yitzchok Bernstein, was back on the scene. Bernstein is the culinary mastermind behind the epic haute cuisine event that lasted some 27 courses, and which was one of the most often read posts on my blog, in the past year. Bernstein was lurking in NY for a few months – but he returned to Oakland after a short, yet successful, stint at Pomegranate.
So, when I heard that Mr. Bernstein was back – we agreed that a dinner was in order. Fried was not sure what the actual cost of a multi-course dinner was, but after a few back and forth discussions with Bernstein we were set. Well, while the dinner was set, the next two hurdles were a bit complicated; finding and arranging with 10 other participants and then locking down a date. Throughout the process, Bernstein was as professional as they come, and responded almost immediately to our correspondences. Getting the final gang together had a few missteps along the way, but while the overall process was a bit long to arrange on my end, the final outcome was an absolute delight, but more on that in a bit.
Once the gang was roughly worked out, we agreed that the date was not going to work until after Passover. So once that was decided the next step was agreeing on a final date – which took a few emails. After that we were set and then came the fun part, deciding the food and wine menu. The dinner does not include wines, which is fine with me as I am picky about my wines, but wow were the dishes impressive! Initially, there was some interest in lamb, but in the end that did not work out, as I am not that in love with lamb. In the end the set of dishes were truly innovative and fascinating and unique – so I am happy we passed on the lamb for the dishes we got instead.
I laughed so hard throughout the process because initially, the number of courses was set at 12 or so, which was 100% fine. However, throughout the process of setting the menu Mr. Bernstein kept adding courses – it was HILARIOUS, I could not help from laughing whenever I would read the revised menu. It turns out that we were very lucky, Bernstein was trying out some new recipes and we were the beneficiaries of some wicked cool imaginative dishes. To be fair, some worked really well, some were awesome, and some were just 100% off the charts. Read the rest of this entry
This past Passover was such a real kick, we shared food and wine and time with friends and family throughout the entire Passover and it was such a real treat. For the evening of seventh day of Passover, we were alone and I made some braised shoulder roast and my wife had some brisket leftovers from the Shabbos meal.
To enjoy the meal, I opened a bottle of the 2005 Galil Mountain Yiron, a wine that has let me down twice recently, but not on that day! WOW! That wine is insane! Rich, layered, and full of tannin that coats and dusts your mouth – really nice, but please beware – this wine is throwing TONS of sediment, hand painting sediment!
The next day was a real treat! We had friends come over and one of them shared a bottle of 2006 Adir Cabernet Sauvignon, that he received from another wine aficionado – thank you so much Rafi for sharing!!! We paired that with a bottle of the 2009 Adir A, a blend of Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc, a bottle I bought in Jerusalem from my guys: Gabriel Geller and Chalom – partners of the Wine Windmill.
To be fair, we started off with a bottle of 2007 Yarden Chardonnay and while it was not flawed, or a dud, it was way too far oak driven and lacking in fruit and oak reaction. After we moved that off the table, we opened the two Adir wines and then we opened a bottle of the 2008 Covenant Red C – a wine that was so apropos for the whole splitting of the Red Sea thing that happened on the same day, some 3000 years ago!
Food wise, we started with the herb encrusted gefilte fish loaf and side dishes that we made and bought. For the main course we had some great vegetable kugel, and a hunk of rib roast that we cooked slowly and simply using Alton Brown’s Rib Roast recipe.
We had some simple dessert and paired it with some lovely Adir Winery Port Blush. I have friends who call it Port Bluff as it is really only made from late harvest chardonnay grapes and some sugar, but who cares! Tons of French wines use Chaptalization, and in this case the wine is actually quite enjoyable. The added sugar or late harvest fruit is clearly apparent, but the sherry like flavors or almond and nuts either turn you off or captivate you. To me Sherry wine is awesome and unique and that makes it interesting to me, but sure many find it offensive – their loss.
I wrote a bit of the history of Adir Winery in my posting on my trip to the north of Israel. The trip was a kick and I had a wonderful time at Adir Winery, even though it was absolutely pouring cats and dogs outside. When I was there I tasted the 2010 Adir A and the Blush Port, and though this was the 2009 Adir A, both wines were really nice. Read the rest of this entry
The wine I drank was a bottle of the 2005 Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon and it is a wine that is OK now and not going anywhere, but it new world styling was a bit too much for me. The wine did tone down over time, but lost its complexity, so I am not as in love with it as I was with previous vintages. I think the new world styling of Yarden wines are not to my likings, but that only happens when the sweetness is over the top. In this case the wine was overly sweet to start, but did also show nice black and dried fruit. Those fruits stayed, the dates receded, but it lost some complexity – which is a shame, but I fear it is a problem with my manic hatred for all things dates.
Wine notes follow below:
2005 Golan Heights Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Yarden Kosher – Score: B++ to A-
The nose on this wine is screaming with black fruit to start with black cherry, blackcurrant, some green notes, and eucalyptus, over time the wine opens its nose to mounds of graphite and dirt. The mouth is rich and ripe with a bit of date, along with cassis, black plum, crushed herb, bell pepper, concentrated fruit, all wrapped up in sweet cedar and sweet mouth coating tannin. The finish is long and spicy, with tons of malt chocolate, leafy tobacco, licorice, and vanilla.
2008 Weinstock Cabernet Sauvignon, Cellar Select, Napa County – Score: A-
From the score you can see that I liked this wine a bit more than the 2005 Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon, simply because it lacked the new world sweet notes. It is a ripe Cabernet with crazy tobacco notes that make you think you are literally in a Cuban cigar factory (hyperbole never been to one). Still, the control is there and the ripe fruit with chocolate and really good charcoal and pencil shavings. This wine is well worth finding and enjoying. Open the bottle, taste the wine and than leave it to air for an hour and taste again – interesting change in the wine.
The nose explodes with blackberry, cherry, cassis, rich smoking tobacco, like in a cigar factory, and sweet cedar that almost dominates the nose. Over time the wine calms down and the tobacco recedes, with graphite and mineral slate taking control. The mouth is rich, layered, and unctuous, with clear black fruit attack, layered with cedar and concentrated black plum, all wrapped together in a sweet tannin shell – quite nice. The finish is long and spicy with black pepper, herb, and tons of minted malt chocolate. Read the rest of this entry
Two weeks ago, before I left for all of the Royal wine events, I went searching through my cellar for more Petite Sirah wines to make up for the sleeping beauties (at least they were beautiful before) I had to endure two weeks ago. Two weeks ago I posted about my failed attempt to find great Petite Sirah wines. Why? I do not know, these wines used to be great and I doubt they are dead, but rather in deep sleep. So, I tried to open all the Herzog Petite Sirah wines I had to see if they were any better. We did have a Herzog petite Sirah two weeks ago – the newest Herzog Petite Sirah that has been released, the 2010 Princeville PS, and it too was so-so, again I think something was wrong with my bottle or I and the rest of the table had an off day.
So, I tried a different table of people (mostly) and a different set of wines, and these came out better, but not awesome, other than the 2009 Baron Herzog Petite Sirah P.S. Limited Edition! That was a beast of a wine and lovely. The clear take away here is that these wines need a lot of time in a decanter and only then are they ready to play. Along with PS wines we also enjoyed three older wines from the Four Gates Winery, and a bottle of the 2005 Galil Yiron.
There was talk that the 2005 Yiron was going down hill, and I can say that the wine is fine and going nowhere but it was shocking when tasted side by side the 2005 Four Gates Merlot M.S.C. The Merlot was bracing with black fruit and acidity, while the Yiron was full of black fruit but flat in terms of acidity, and I think that is what people are concerned about the Yiron. The Yiron is much like many of the older Yarden or Galil wines, they are flabby, oaky/cedar, and black ripe/sweet wines.
It is a continued theme in Israeli wines, the sweet notes and ripe fruit that overpowers the palate and takes away from the other attributes of wines. Having tasted many Israeli wines during my trip to Israel, I have found many wineries who have found a way to calm the sweet or new world notes and show more bright and ripe flavors without overpowering sweetness or fruitiness. The Yiron wines are not one of those, they normally show sweeter notes, and planks of cedar, but they continue to be bold and enjoyable. This one was no different, very enjoyable but the wine’s clear lack of acidity was truly shocking. Read the rest of this entry
This past Jewish Holiday press left me away from home for much of the time – whether at friends or family and that enabled me to enjoy many a wine, some that I bought, some that I enjoyed at other people’s homes, and some that I enjoyed or did not enjoy at synagogue.
The Jewish holidays following the high holidays – are meant to be ones filled with joy, food, and wine, yet I happen to always be separated from the very people who really understand my madness. Do not get me wrong I love my family – but they really are not oenophiles – and that leaves me at a major disadvantage – when my main objective is to drink and enjoy as much wine as possible in a very short period of time! Sure, they sip at the glass and are happy to drink it – but the joyous side of the High Holidays to Sukkot religious gauntlet is meant to be a relief valve, a way to thank the lord for all the good and for another year to do his bidding. So, how do Jews celebrate? Why with prayer, food, and wine of course. I know I am a bit over the top when it comes to wine and food – but I crave the interactions with others around the table, a table filled with joy and food, and also some wine chatter.
So I was faced with the classic dilemma of a lone wine fanatic attempting to enjoy wine amongst those who find wine to be a tool rather than a purpose. Do I buy and enjoy by myself an expensive bottle of wine and drink half at night and the other half the next day – and continue this through the meals – or should I dial it back a touch because, it is just myself and the expensive wine does not always taste as good the next day?
Like all things – I decided the best rule of thumb in these situations is to do both! I bought some good wine and some nicer wine, but no crazy wines, which in hindsight was a great idea, as I really got sick and could not enjoy them anyway. The first night we drank a bottle of 2010 Galil Mountain Winery Barbera, which I wrote up about on a previous post about QPR, and it was OK, but not a QPR winner. We also tried a bottle of 2010 Joseph Mellot Sancerre. Sancerre white is the archetype Sauvignon Blanc for many. Many believe that Sancerre best defines the truest form of Sauvignon Blanc. However, some are now pointing to New Zealand and California for what they have done with the grape. Unfortunately, while the classic Sancerre is meant to be bone dry, with intense fruit expressions and mineral to boot, this bottle was so-so at best. It lacked the bone gnawing dry palate that I crave in a Sancerre, balanced perfectly with nice bright fruit and good acidity. Instead, this Sancerre was green, tart, and without fresh fruit, making it for a very passable wine to quaff, but not much more.
On an aside, there is a growing demand out there for truly bone gnawing dry wine with fresh fruit and bright acidity. The closest I have found to that is another kosher Sancerre from Bokobsa, but the 2007 vintage is slowly dying. The need exists, but the answer unfortunately is lacking for now. Please do not get me wrong there are MANY lovely kosher Sauvignon Blanc wines on the market – but they all have varying degrees of residual sugar, making them feel flabby, which to many is as annoying as nails against a chalkboard. Read the rest of this entry
- 2009 Bazelet HaGolan Cabernet Sauvignon – 90
- 2007 Binyamina Cave – 90
- 2009 Yarden Chardonnay – 89
- 2008 Yarden Pinot Noir – 89
- 2009 Domaine du Castel Petite Castel – 89
- 2009 Segal Chardonnay, Special Reserve – 89
- 2007 Barkan Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve – 88
- 2007 Barkan Merlot, Reserve – 88
- 2009 Binyamina Cabernet Sauvignon/Petite Verdot, Yogev – 88
- 2009 Dalton Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot/Cabernet Franc Alma – 88
- 2009 Segal Merlot, Special Reserve – 87
- 2009 Galil Yiron – 87
- 2010 Teperberg Meritage – 86
- 2007 Binyamina Merlot, Reserve – 85
- 2010 Barkan Merlot/Argaman, Classic – 85
- 2009 Binyamina Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot, Yogev – 85
- 2010 Segal Merlot/Cabernet Franc/Cabernet Sauvignon, Fusion- 85
- 2009 Binyamina Sauvignon Blanc/Chardonnay, Yogev – 84
- 2010 Barkan Pinot Noir, Classic – 83
- 2009 Binyamina Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz, Yogev – 83
- 2007 Binyamina Zinfandel, Reserve – 82
Personally, I have a few things to comment here. First of all I am so very happy to see Israel again being taken seriously and having their wines scored, whether for the good or the bad.
Secondly, these scores are VERY much in line with expectations, though there are a few shockers in there as well, more on that soon. The wines that were tasted were not blockbuster superstars, on the contrary these were second tier wines, for the most part, and many of which we have scored in the very same manner. In other words, the reason why these “low” scores are such good news is that they are VERY legitimate scores for the wines reviewed.
Read the rest of this entry
Rosemary and Lemon Roasted Chicken, Brown Basmati Rice, Chicken Soup, and 2007 Galil Mountain Winery Yiron
On the weekend of October 28th, 2011 we were not feeling so well, a common ailment that happens to me after the Simchat Torah festivities. So we made a lovely chicken soup that was killer and one that really hit home. My wife whipped up a batch of Rosemary Lemon chicken that was great, and I ate some, but I was totally fixated on the chicken soup! We also had some lovely Brown Basmati rice and fresh green salad as usual. To pair with this meal we opened a lovely bottle of 2007 Galil Mountain Winery Yiron. Like the Recanati wine from last week, Galil is another of Israel’s leading kosher wineries with a very high QPR.
The wine note follows below:
2007 Galil Mountain Winery Yiron Kosher (Israel, Galilee) – Score: A-
The nose on this dark purple to black colored wine is hopping with an expressive and intoxicating smokey perfume of minted chocolate, licorice, spice, black pepper, black cherry, raspberry, blackberry, plum, crushed herbs, and oak. The nose is alcoholic at first but it calms down over time. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is truly explosive with still not integrated tannin, rich mouth feel and concentration of black cherry, blackberry, ripe plum, and raspberry. The mouth gives way to a balanced mid palate of ripe plum, oak, tannin, vanilla, and chocolate. The finish is long, spicy and expressive with minted chocolate, mounds of vanilla, loamy dirt, black cherry, plum, blackberry, oak, and crushed herbs. This is a wine that is fine now, but is really not ready to settle down with for a long evening. If drinking now, open this wine a few hours before enjoying it and watch it evolve in the glass.
This past Sukkot we hung out with family and enjoyed a bunch of great wine and food. It was a potluck of sorts, each one of us bringing some food, and it was a grand ball. Sukkot is one of those truly happy times of the year, all the heavy and deep inner inspection is over and now you get a chance to let loose of all of your pent up concern and angst. In its place you find joy and contentment from your efforts over the past 6 weeks, a time truly made to be shared with friends and family.
For our part, we brought the second chunk of meat that we cooked for Rosh Hashanah (and froze immediately after the holiday) and some lovely brisket. We also brought a BUNCH of wine! Hey it is a let loose holiday – right? I was in such a rush to get the wines that I went to my local wine shop and all they had were Galil and Yarden wines – so we brought Galil and Yarden wines. Many turned out really nice, and others were OK, but they were all enjoyable. In case it is not obvious, Yarden and Galil Wines source their grapes from the Galilee. This tasting was a true Israel Galilee tasting. We also went through some 6 bottles of Sara Bee Muscat. Galil is one of the top QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) wineries in the kosher market. Yarden is an OK QPR winery, especially in their basic line, but some of their upper echelon wines are so out of reach that they lose a bit of the QPR luster.
So, here are all my wine notes – enjoy and remember, wine is not just about the flavors, it is also about the happiness and memories you get to keep when you enjoy them with friends and family.
The wine notes follow below:
2005 Galil Mountain Winery Yiron – (Israel, Galilee) – Score: A-
This is a seriously lovely and opulent and redolent wine that is initially hot out of the bottle, but quickly shakes off the alcohol coat and shows super rich and ripe black plum, toasty cedar, black cherry, blackberry, vanilla, tobacco, chocolate, and herbs. The mouth on this rich and concentrated black colored wine is screaming with what initially feels like searing tannins, but then quickly your mind gives way to the true source – toasty cedar, blackberry, black cherry, and super ripe plum, all wrapped up is a velvety package that cuts through almost anything you throw at it. The mid palate is packed with black cherry, cedar, chocolate, tobacco, and nice integrated tannin. The finish is super long and very spicy with rich plum, toasty cedar, blackberry, chocolate, tobacco, black cherry, and a nice dollop of vanilla. The black cherry, vanilla, tobacco, chocolate, blackberry, and herbs linger.
2006 Yarden Syrah – (Israel, Galilee, Golan Heights) – Score: A-
The nose on this purple to black colored wine is not a classic syrah, excepting for the roasted meat, along with blackberry, ripe cassis, chocolate, plum, raspberry, cherry, and oak. This wine starts off super hot and need a good hour to open up and blow off its coat of alcohol. I must admit that I enjoyed this with friends in a house that was being used as a barbeque pit, as the outside was too wet, still, the nose showed well with the black and red fruit, along with the oak and chocolate. The mouth on this rich and muscular black wine was opulent and powerful with more blackberry, inky black, ripe and rich cassis, and plum, and tannins that are still finding their way around the house, but are slowly learning the premises. The sinews rippling on this bad boy easily handled the char broiled meats that were superb! The mid palate was balanced with acid, chocolate, nice oak, still tight tannins, and more inky black. The finish is super long and crazy spicy with a hint of leather, chocolate, blackberry, ripe plum, and more inky black density. Read the rest of this entry