The Annual Wine Review
Purim is past us, Pesach is around the corner so it’s time to talk wine. My Mechutan – there is no exact translation for that term other than the generic “in-law”. But it more specific than that and refers to the father of my son-in-law. Anyway, Mechutan Danny says that my wine review is his favourite Devar Torah of the whole year. Hmmm…I am not sure how I should take that.
He drinks a whiskey drink
He drinks a vodka drink
He drinks a lager drink
He drinks a cider drink
(and it should say “He drinks a wine drink”)
Oh, Danny boy
So it only fitting that I begin with a wine that Danny Gordon introduced to me a few years ago.
Adir A/ 2013. $55 ($30 in Israel). On our last trip to Israel in January we visited the Adir winery in the Upper Galilee region. Adir has a beautiful visitor center and I hear from Karen and the JWRP ladies the lunch there is fantastic. We arrived for a tasting where they serve some of their goat cheese to sample in between wines. We started with their Adir A/ white which is nice but truth be told, I never get too excited about white wines. We then moved onto their Kerem ben Zimra Cabernet Sauvignon which was fine but only made me appreciate the Adir A/ Red Blend which was next in the tasting lineup. There was no comparison. The Adir A/ was so much fuller and tastier and only confirmed why I love this wine and will stick with it. I’ve told my son, Yoni who is presently studying in Israel to bring me back a couple more because for some reason I don’t see this vintage beyond 2013 and want more before they are no longer on the market.
Speaking of a wines which are quickly disappearing, a few years ago I wrote about Chateau Thenac Fleur du P’erigord 2010 (France) which is a super smooth Merlot from a winery in France that had a kosher run for just this one year. French wines are unique in that many of them are from regular non-kosher wineries that will also make kosher versions of the same wine. I had my last bottle of it recently and when Karen says she likes a wine, then I know it’s good. Couldn’t find it anywhere online but then checked Kosher Kingdom in Aventura and bought out their last five bottles. Philip, the excellent wine buyer there called his distributor and they still have 2 cases which her ordered for his store. Used to be $21 but now $27 – hey, supply and demand baby. I know I am shooting myself in the foot by publicizing this, but do get a bottle. It is really at its peak and you should drink it soon. Plus, it’s kinda cool to have a wine that is on the opposite end of the ubiquity-of-Barkan scale.
HaYotzer Wines Israel. I don’t know. I had a couple of these in Israel about a year ago and I now see them being sold here in the States. The bottles and labels look upscale and you think you are going to get a good wine by the presentation, but they are really Meh. Try one and lmk if you think otherwise.
Vitkin Wines Israel. I am always suspect when a restaurant is pushing a wine which is what happened at the Pagoda restaurant located on the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) which we visited on the aforementioned trip. We went twice and both times he was suggesting Vitkin. Pagoda happens to be an excellent restaurant, and its sister establishment, Decks is a JWRP favourite. But don’t listen to their wine recommendations. It was a mediocre wine at best, and at about $22 a bottle, overpriced. Its mediocrity was confirmed when a Shabbat guest brought a bottle over recently. Another Meh – pass.
Gilgal Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 $14-16. I have always felt that this wine is the best bang for your buck, bar none. Even better than they also fantastic value of the Mount Hermon Red or Indigo for $10-12. Both are from the always reliable Golan Heights Winery. This wine is aged for 12 months and is just fantastic given its price point. The 2016 just arrived and I had some for the first time last week. I was wondering if it would be as good as past years and it delivered. Cheapest place to get it is Suhag Wine and Liquor in Queens, NY or online at Kosherwine.com. And since we are speaking of Golan Heights winery, their Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 or 2014 that is aged for 18 months is great every year. On my JWRP men’s trip last October, my JWRP brothers liked this wine the best. $29-$34.
The only time Golan Heights Winery slipped was with their Yarden Petit Verdot 2014 $33. Petit Verdot grape is generally used in small amounts to add to other varietals to give the wine some body, finesse and structure. On its own, it can be a bit harsh and that was the case here. At our Shabbat table, myself and others couldn’t even finish the bottle – and that seldom happens. It was ok at first but it quickly became a chore to drink.
Chateau Trijet Bordeaux Organic 2017 France. This is a very nice inexpensive wine for $12 or $13. Cheap French wines taste exactly that, cheap and French. But I bought this just to check it out and was very pleasantly surprised at how nice and easy drinking it was.
Syrah. When you visit Israel do try to visit their wineries. Some of them have beautiful visitor centers with wonderful restaurants. We checked out Tishbi Winery which is just south of Haifa and had a great lunch there. There is an adjacent shop selling fantastic chocolate and where you can sample and purchase their wine. Sorry to say, but their chocolate is better than their wine. They had a tasting which we skipped but I did ask to taste their higher-end Syrah which they were selling for about $40 a bottle. They didn’t have an open bottle of it and the fellow said he would open one for me. I wasn’t comfortable with that because what if I didn’t like and didn’t want to buy? He said no problem. It wasn’t anything special and I declined buying it with a bit of a guilty feeling. But we bought plenty overpriced chocolate which assuaged my guilt. Stick with the Yarden Syrah which is much nicer, tastier and smoother and about $25.
Where to Buy: For my fellow Torontonians, go to Simcha Wine at Steeles and Bathurst and get the Daltons – they are the exclusive distributors with no middle man which makes the prices excellent. Their Daltons are one of the few wines cheaper in Canada than in the US. Get my favourite the Petit Sirah, a steal at $19 Canadian. New Yorkers, check out Suhag in Queens. We bought wine there for my son’s wedding in January and my other son Matty just got the Gilgal for a great price. Ask for Samir. Kosher Kingdom is still the best selection and best prices in South Florida, new Hollywood kosher establishments nothwithstanding, and Philip is very helpful.
An issue I have run into recently when buying online is getting it from stores in New York. You know how governments can get in the way of business with over regulation? Well this is another example of that. There are some new laws in place which make it much more expensive to ship wines out of state, not making it worthwhile for shops to do so. I heard this from Suhag and another NY wine shop. A shame.
Kosherwine.com has decent prices and they are the last of the free-shipping, so it makes it worthwhile. Koshercorks.com is a scam. They have amazing prices but you know what they say, “If it is too good to be true it usually is.” Tons of complaints that they charge your credit card, don’t deliver the wine and never answer the phone. Stay away.
Drink up, drink responsibly and enjoy.
Chag Shushan Purim Samayach.