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Kalamata Olive and White Bean Soup, Beef Bourguignon, Zemora Cabernet Franc, Gush Etzion Cabernet Franc, Ella Valley Cabernet Franc, and a Four Gates Specialty Blend

This past week saw us hosting our friends for a special night of Cabernet Franc.  As stated already, we really love Cabernet Franc for how true it stays to the fruit, and for its wonderful olfactory qualities.  So when we had the chance to unleash our own Cabernet Franc vertical, it was a no brainer.  I have been saving these for an evening, and it was really nice to say the least.  The meal matched the wine to perfection, if I say so myself.  As was advised here by Daniel Rogov, we paired it with a nice Beef Bourguignon and our ever changing Kalamata Olive and White Bean Soup.  To be truthful, I can never keep to a recipe, I am always tinkering while leaving the core consistent.  The soup is always a shock to first timers, but once they get over the obvious existence of olives in their soup, they come around to appreciate their subtle yet forceful personality. The main course was a combination of Beef Bourguignon that was modified to be gluten free.  The batter for the meat was substituted with ground almonds, which were actually quite nice.  I totally forgot to put my signature on the Beef Bourguignon by throwing in cranberries, which would have matched nicely with the wines.  Still, the Beef Bourguignon went over quite well.  The Beef Bourguignon was matched with a wonderful spinach kugel and a fresh green salad.

If you are interested in my diatribe on Cabernet Franc – it can be found here.  Just a small aside, the wines here were mainly Cabernet Franc, but as always, they seem to be blended with something else.  Some of the wines were blended with Merlot and are so documented.  I did not know they were blended, but saw it in Rogov’s 2009 book.  Otherwise, the wine notes follow below in the order they were enjoyed:

2005 Zemora Cabernet Franc
– Score: B++
There are many who slam this bottle and winery, but my experience was a very pleasant and chocolaty wine. The nose on this bright garnet colored wine screams with chocolate upon opening and slowly calms down as it sits in the glass. The chocolate is complemented with nice floral fragrances, slight heat upon opening, rich plum, rich oak, and hints of vegetal aromas. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine was rich and mouth coating with creamy oak, plum, and cranberry. The mid palate is busy with balanced acidity, and light and integrated tannins. The finish is long with chocolate, plum, sweet oak, and a touch of acidity to round out the package. This was a nice showing for the wine. I am happy I enjoyed it as there is none of this stuff in America anyway.

2005 Gush Etzion Cabernet Franc – Score: B+
The nose on this garnet colored wine was busy with blackberry, plum, chocolate, and oak.  The mouth on this medium bodied wine was not very Franc like, with strong red and black fruit, and some nice oak flavors.  The mid palate was braced with nice tannins and acidity, though not quite balanced.  The finish is medium long with more oak, black fruit, chocolate, and a hint of vegetal flavors.  Some on the table liked this more, but I think it was more Cabernet than it was franc.

2004 Ella Valley Cabernet Franc – Score: A-
This is another hit for this rock star winery that continues to impress. The nose on this dark garnet colored wine is layered with earth, raspberry, floral notes, oak, and spice. The mouth on this medium bodied wine fills out as the wine sits in the glass. Actually, the wine was awesome the next day, so air will not hurt this beast. The mouth cleaned up nicely with rich plum, raspberry, and pencil shavings. The mid palate was soft with well integrated tannins, and slight acidity to balance out the wine. The finish was busy and spicy with tobacco, rich oak, and raspberry fruit. This was a nice showing for the wine.

2005 Ella Valley Cabernet Franc (88% Cabernet Franc and 12% Merlot) – Score: A
The nose on this dark garnet colored wine was hot out of the bottle, but was soon jumping with blackberry, cranberry, raspberry, sweet oak, and a nice amount of vegetal aromas. The mouth on this medium bodied wine filled out as it got more air. The mouth on this medium bodied is layered with rich oak, cranberry, blackberry, plum, and tannins that calm down as the wine sits in the glass. The mid palate is balanced with a rich mouth, just enough acidity, and not yet integrated tannins. The finish is long and luxurious with a playful amount of spice and chocolate that is joined in by rich fruit. This was the winner of our Cabernet Franc lineup for sure, and a home run for this wonderful winery.

2006 Ella Valley Cabernet Franc (95% Cabernet Franc and 5% Merlot) – Score: A-
The nose on this garnet colored wine was hopping with dirt, tobacco, raspberry, plum, oak, and spice. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine starts with an attack of gripping tannins, but follows with a full mouth raspberry and plum. The mid palate follows the mouth with more dirt, tobacco, oak, and tannins that are starting to balance with nice acidity. The finish is nice and long with spicy oak, tobacco, and red fruit. Once the wine had enough air, the mouth fills out and the tannins die down below a wonderful floor of rich fruit and tobacco. Another nice showing for the winery.

Four Gates Red Wine Blend (roughly 50/50) – Score: A
The nose on this dark garnet to black colored wine is hopping with sweet oak, rich plum, raspberry, vegetal aromas, tobacco, and bit of dark chocolate.  The mouth on this full bodied wine is layered and complex with Chicken Cherry Cola, dark plum, and sweet oak.  The mid palate flows from the mouth with more fruit, bright acidity, oak, and vegetal notes.  The finish is long with dark chocolate, tobacco, and more fruit.  Quite a nice wine that lingers long in your mouth after the wine is gone.

Katlav Cabernet, Ella Valley VC Cabernet, Zemora Castra Red, and Tajine

Tajine Pot

Tagine Pot

This past weekend I decided it was time to go out and make some food that was not quite run of the mill.  On my last trip to Israel I went to a Moroccan Restaurant and fell in love with Tajine (there seems to be a discussion about the correct spelling of Tajine or is it Tajine :-), either way the food tastes great!).  So I started searching for recipes to how to make a Tajine.  Well the official manner is with a Tajine itself used to slow cook or braise stews.  The beauty of the Tajine is the evaporative and condensing powers it beholds.  You see the genius behind this earthenware pot is in its tight seal and its tepee cover.  The tight seal means none of the flavors or good stuff evaporates outside of the pot.  Meanwhile inside the pot crazy stuff is going on.  The meat, fruit, and spices are percolating away and getting denser and richer and flavors are melding into the liquid which is evaporating under the oven’s heat.  But because of its ingenious cover, the liquid that evaporates and does not leave the well sealed pot, condenses and further adds flavors to the overall dish.  The sad thing is that most of us do not have one of these killer pots, or one big enough to feed 12 people.  So I went with my Le Creuset knockoff from Lodge, which did the trick.  The dish came out fantastic and was really a hit.  Of course with all that spice packed food, one needs wine that will stand up to the intense flavors.  So I had a few wines that have been sitting in the cellar waiting for their time on the table.  All of them hail from Israel and they were fun to drink, but No A’s today, my friends.  One wine scored an A- but no knockout.  Still they were enjoyable and kept up with the meal, which was the most important thing.

On an aside two of the wines traveled with me from Israel (the Castra Red and the Katlav Cabernet).  You remember my visit to the Katlav Winery and my visit to the Zemora Winery on my previous trip to Israel.  The good news is that you do not need to go to Israel and schlep one back.  The Katlav Cab and Merlot are available here in the US – it is imported by Abarbanel (who is really not stepping up – but that is a different topic for another time).  Do a quick Google on Katlav Cabernet and you will find many reputable shops that carry the wine (along with the far better Merlot).  The Zemora wine is not currently exported to the USA – but the winery is supposedly being sold, so I have no more information at this time.

The wine notes follow below:
2004 Zemora Castra Red – Score: B+
This wine is a blend of 65% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc, 3% Shiraz and 2% Petit Verdot. The nose on this inky black wine is very Syrah like (which is strange given that the wine is so low in Syrah) Blackberry, cassis, mint, and wood. The mouth on this full bodied wine is layered, starting with cassis and blackberry, but mixed with some tart cherry and blueberry. The mid palate is a tannic and green, the finish is nice but dominated by wood and acid

2002 Ella Valley Vineyard’s Choice Cabernet Sauvignon – Score: A-
The nose on this black colored wine has blackberry, cloves, plum, and wood notes. The mouth on this soft full bodied wine is filled with blackberry, cassis, and wood. The mid palate is lush and balanced with caressing tannins. The finish is long with wood, tobacco, and hints of chocolate. This soft and full bodied wine is another example of the 2002 curse. It is a wine whose fruit is going fast and one that is well balanced without an overpowering wood presence.

2005 Katlav Cabernet Sauvignon – Score: B+
This nose on this deep garnet colored wine is filled with blackberry, cloves, and spicy wood. The mouth on this medium bodied wine has notes of blackberry and plum. The mid palate is acidic and herbal. The finish is filled with oak, oak, and more oak. The spicy oak overpowers the finish and I think takes away from an otherwise decent wine.

Zemora Winery

On a dry but cold winter morning we set out for Zemora Winery.  Tucked in Moshav Beit Zayit – just below Jerusalem and in particular, Har Nof can be found a small but budding kosher winery.  The winery has been in business for some time now, but only started producing kosher wines as of the 2004 release.   We had heard of Zemora from Rogov’s site and we contacted Baruch Yosef and he agreed to meet us at the winery in the morning.  Unfortunately he was not available to meet us in the end, but Moshe the masgiach was more than happy to assist.  The road into Beit Zayit is quite windy as we came down from Har Nof into the moshav.  The road down passes through the Jerusalem Forest – which is a one way road and quite harrowing given the wet roads from the previous days rain.  Once down we winded to the entrance only to find out that the road into the moshav was actually the easy part!  The road to the winery was a dirt road made for 4 wheel drives – not the low framed Toyota that our friend was driving.  In the end, we made it to the winery and it was well worth the trip.  The winery overlooks the Moshav’s lake/creek that fills in as the winter rains increase.  The lake is home to many a social scene during the late winter and early spring days when the banks are overflowing from the winter’s abundance.

The winery’s output is now around 50,000 bottles and produces wines from the following varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot (for blending), Cabernet Franc, Shiraz, Viognier and Chardonnay.

We would like to thank Baruch and Moshe for their hospitality and time when visiting the winery.  Following are the tasting notes which we sampled at the winery.

Zemora Viognier 2006 – Score: B-
The nose on this straw colored wine is filled with honey and apricots.  The mouth of this medium bodied wine has honey, apricots, citrus, and ripe fruit.  The finish is medium long with a nice crisp sensation.

Zemora Chardonnay 2006 – Score: B+
The nose on this straw colored wine is filled a strong aroma of burnt wood and citrus.  The mouth of this medium bodied wine is filled with spicy wood, apples, strong acidity and medium structure.  The finish is medium long and filled with spice and lychees.

Zemora Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 – Score: A (aged in oak for 15+ months)
The nose on this purple to black colored wine is strong with black cherries, currants, and cassis.  The mouth on this medium – full bodied wine is filled with black fruit, spicy wood, and cassis.  The finish is long and laden with black cherries and wood.

Zemora Cabernet Franc 2006 (Barrel Tasting) – Score: A
The nose on this light garnet colored wine is green with red fruit.  The mouth is floral with strong cherry notes, and more vegetation.  The finish is medium long with a bit of acidity and toasted oak.

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