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The 2021 Wine Review

The 2021 Wine Review

A bottle of red, a bottle of white

It all depends upon your appetite

I’ll meet you any time you want

In our Italian Restaurant

-Billy Joel

As we are close to Pesach, it is time for the yearly wine review. While searching my wine review archives I have noticed I regularly pick Parshat Vayikra as the week to write it. Vayikra is the third book of the Torah, called Leviticus in English and primarily deals with Korbanot – Offerings and Sacrifices. I guess this is one of the reasons, in addition to the proximity to Pesach, that I have chosen this week to write about wine. Let’s face it – sacrifices are not the most relatable part of our Torah. So instead let’s talk about wine.

Teperberg Wines come from Israel and until recently I have not been a big fan. It was founded in 1870 and they claim that it is Israel’s oldest winery. Which is kind of interesting since it really did not seem to burst onto the wine scene until a few years ago. First time I had their wine was when I took Moishe and his buddies out for dinner in Jerusalem years ago when he was a Yeshiva student. It wasn’t anything special – the wine that is, not the evening. That was probably because I had their entry level wine, Vision which costs about $11 bucks.

But then all of sudden Teperberg wines entered my life in a much more positive fashion. The first instance was when Karen and I went out for dinner in Boca (Yeah, when we are desperate to get out we sometimes go to Boca – Zzzz.) and ordered a bottle of Teperberg Inspire Devotage 2018 $22 and it was quite nice. It’s a combination of Malbec and Marselan grapes which is a nice break from the usual Cabernet Sauvignon wines that flood the market. Malbec wines can be pretty intense but the Marselan grape off-sets that and this is a very pleasant, easy-drinking wine.

Then my brother, Sid told me he really liked the Vision Malbec 2019. “Nice spicy oak flavour” was what he said. And finally, my mechutan (there is no proper translation of that word – my son-in-law’s father) brought us a Teperberg Essence Cabernet Sauvignon $37 which is one of their higher end wines and he said it is excellent. I have not opened it yet, but Danny Gordon knows what he is talking about when it comes to wines, so you can trust him.

Speaking of not yet opening wines, I have to admit that I have some wines that I may never open. That’s because I get more enjoyment showing people that I have these wines that are very difficult to find and which might be one of the last bottles around anywhere. Yeah, I have probably held onto some of them too long and they are past their prime. So what – they are good conversation pieces. I have a Segal Unfiltered 2002, Galil Mountain Yiron 2004, 2006 and 2008, Yarden Avital Slope Syrah 2008 (which I bought because we have an Avital – maybe I will open it at her wedding.) and a half dozen Yardens from 07-09. Call me to arrange a viewing of my wine museum.

But the wine I will probably never open was given to me by my son-in-law, Yehuda. It is a Baron Herzog Generation VIII 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon and I am embarrassed to say how much it costs; it’s way more that I would spend on a wine. (What a son-in-law! And he treats Tzippy nicely as well – a bonus.) It is such a pretty bottle with a cool metal label that I’ve placed it on our bookshelf as an art piece. (See photo at top of email.)

Ok, enough about wines I won’t open. Here are a few that I have had this year and liked, or didn’t.

2017 Covenant Winery Mensch Red Zinfandel California $20. This is a unique tasting wine which is a nice break from the usual wines out there. Red Zinfandel wine from Lodi California has a very distinct jammy and spicy taste. (Even the Baron Herzog version that goes for about $12 does as well.) It is a medium body wine even though their website claims it’s full-bodied. But this is a lighter wine than the usual Cabs or Merlots. And even the screw top in place of the cork, combined with the heavier than usual bottle makes this for a unique, lovely gift if you are invited out for a Shabbat dinner.

Elvi Clos Mesorah 2016 Spain $75. Judging by the price this seems to be the flagship wine for a Spanish winery that I have enjoyed in the past but have not had much of recently. A bunch of years ago they produced a really nice Rioja called Matiz for a very reasonable price. This wine though was my biggest wine disappointment this past year. Firstly the bottle tells you nothing about the wine. All they say is that it is from “familia Cohen-Aleta. A transmission of heritage where the small secrets flow from generation to generation.” Yes, such a big secret that I had to go to their website to discover that it is “a blend of 40% Carignan made from 90 year old vines, 30% Grenache, and 30% Syrah.”

If this is their flagship, then they need to find a new flag and ship. My son brought me a bottle as a gift and we had it one Shabbat dinner. We both agreed it was very mediocre and ridiculously overpriced. The next day I spoke with a couple other wine lovers and the moment I mentioned the name Elvi Clos Mesorah they had the exact same reaction as me and Yoni – nothing special that would justify the cost. Which just goes to show you that a high-priced wine doesn’t always deserve it. Stick with their Elvi Herenza Rioja Crianza which is a wonderful wine and costs 50 bucks less. 

Jerusalem Hills Reserve $19 is produced in the Judean Hills and a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, 70%, Merlot, 20%, and Syrah, 10%, then aged 12 months in French oak barrels. The bottle says it is “Rich red in color, the nose is intense with aromas of ripe cassis, liquorice, and spicy notes, combined with fine smoky oak.” Intense is the operative word here. That it is. I am just not sure if I like it or not. I feel so mixed about this wine. On the one hand it is pretty good and Karen likes it, on the other I just cannot seem to want more than a glass of it, if that. Might be too intense my delicate nature, I guess.

Galil Mountain Meron Israel $26. I really like Galil Mountain wines and have enjoyed this mostly Syrah blend that is very fruit forward. But recently they have put this wine in a less substantial bottle and I am wondering if that prejudiced me when I had the 2017 vintage which I didn’t like as much as previous vintages. I wonder if they feel the same and downgraded its presentation. Maybe it was an off year and the cheaper bottle reflects the less quality wine, or maybe they are just trying to save a few shekels and it’s just as good but I am a very superficial person who allows himself to get influenced by exteriors. I will have to try another bottle and decide. One other thing, this is one of those wines that is somewhat off the radar screen. With less popular wines it is a good idea not to buy them straight away but rather wait a while until the seller get shpilkes and worries that he cannot unload them and then puts them on sale. That’s what I do with this wine, I never buy it for full price.  

Dalton Alma Crimson $25 Israel is a blend of 64% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Merlot, and 9% Cabernet Franc aged for 14 months in French oak. That is a good chunk of time to sit in barrels. It is a great all-around, middle of the road wine that will please everyone at the table. This has been my go-to wine for much of the past year. It is another one of those under-the-radar wines that you can score on sale. Related is the Dalton Alma Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre for about the same price but much lighter and not as good in my opinion as its sister wine. All the Dalton “Oak Aged” line of wines are solid and you can never go wrong with them.

And finally the wines that are just great year in and year out and are all pretty reasonably priced that I have mentioned in past years: Gilgal Cabernet Sauvignon $15 but often on sale is probably the best bang for your buck of all wines in my opinion, Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon $30, Yarden Merlot $25, Yarden Syrah $25, Galil Mountain Yiron $30 – my all time favourite, Dalton Petit Sirah $22, Ramon Cardova Rioja $16, Psagot Sinai $21, Shiloh Privilege $23. Oh and one more – just had it this week at Café Noir – Binyamina Moshava Chardonnay $13.

Enjoy and, please God, this Covid thing will diminish further so we can go back to spending more time with each other over a nice glass of wine. 

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