Wine Review During a Pandemic?
This is the time of year that I usually send out my yearly wine review. But I was in a bit of a quandary as to whether I should send it this year or not. Would it appear silly, superficial and perhaps insensitive to discuss wine during such uncertain times? People are losing money and jobs, there is great concern for the future, and some of us may know of someone who has contracted this awful disease. And in the midst of this I should come skipping along and start babbling on about wine?
I see a bad moon a-rising
I see trouble on the way…
I see bad times today
Don’t go ’round tonight
It’s bound to take your life
There’s a bad moon on the rise
-Creedence Clearwater Revival
On the other hand, I for one try to keep things as normal as possible. I still get up every morning around the same time, head over to Aish to pray/daven even though I am the only person there. I stay and learn my daf yomi (Talmud page of the day), head home for breakfast but then go back and work in the office at Aish as I would normally do. Plus we still have the holiday of Pesach coming up – albeit with smaller Seders I am sure – and with that the mitzvah of drinking four cups of wine.
So after much deliberation I have come to the conclusion that there are too many things that are already being cancelled (so many hockey games, my kid’s graduation, the Olympics – listed here in order of importance) and I don’t want to be part of that cancel society we are being driven to. I want to be on the side of trying to keep things as normative as possible. So for those who think it unseemly of me to be writing a wine review during these times, please stop reading here.
But for the rest of you…
Adir Ben Zimra Shiraz Israel $25 in Israel, $38 in US. Adir is one of my favourite wineries. Located in the hills of northern Galilee, it is a beautiful winery where you can sample their wines while having a nice goat cheese lunch. I have written before about their Adir A/ blend which is a terrific wine. I cannot say anything about their top of the line, Plato since I just bought and I am letting it age in my wine cooler. But on my last trip to Israel the local supermarket had their Shiraz (which is the same grape as Syrah just a different name) and it too is a great wine. Shiraz/Syrah wines generally have a jammy, fruitier taste to them and are not as heavy as Cabernet Sauvignons. Try this or any Adirs.
Noah Winery. Hevron Heights Winery. So one day I am shopping for wine in Kosher Kingdom and there is a guy who looks like he works there because he is stacking wines on the shelf. He strikes up a conversation with me and offers his assistance. He keeps pushing wines from Noah winery but I told him I have had them a couple times and I am not crazy for them. Well it turns out that he was not a Kosher Kingdom employee but his family owns Noah Winery. Oops… awkward. But then I said, “Wait a sec, my daughter’s friend’s family owns that winery.” Yeah, this guy is her brother; even more awkward. But we did end up having a very nice chat. I still didn’t buy the wine though. But their better wines from Hevron Heights (same family own both), Isaac’s Ram ($33) and Pardes ($30) are worth a go. Haven’t had them for a while but have good memories of them.
White wine. While I am anything but an expert when it comes to red wines – all I know is what I like – I am a complete ignoramus when it comes to whites. But I have been drinking whites more this past year. It is a good alternative if you want something lighter and fruitier, like during the Shabbat afternoon meal or late at night with sushi or pizza. It is less of a commitment than red wines, if that makes any sense. Mount Hermon White ($10-$13) is a simple and basic bottle that is good, year in and year out. Galil Mountain Viognier (pronounced vee-own-yay) is my favourite white but I can’t find it anymore. Viognier grape makes for a richer white wine with nice perfume aromas and I highly recommend.
Baron Herzog (I know, so generic) Sauvignon Blanc ($11) is good and I recently tried their Pinot Grigio ($12) which is lighter and also very nice and refreshing but a bit puckier on the palate. Also, try their Brut Champagne ($13, Best Buy) which is a wonderful champagne that we had at home this week that everyone enjoyed. (I got to sample all these whites because we bought them for Tzippy and Yehuda’s engagement party but the servers forgot to take them out of the fridge.) One white to avoid is Dalton Alma Ivory. It pains me to diss any Dalton because it is another one of my favourite wineries. I bought a case of this online where the wine description claimed that it was a blend of Chardonnay 34% and Viognier 66% and I like both. But when it arrived it was a blend of 74% Semillon, 14% Pinot Gris and 12% Viognier. Opened one bottle and so sour – undrinkable, and Karen agreed. First time I have ever returned a case of wine. Stay away.
Karen’s Kerem Israel (see label at top of essay). Priceless. The only place you will find this wine is in my house and it’s named after the wife. Kerem is Hebrew for vineyard, so I played up the alliteration. But you can get your own private label for yourself. A couple years back I wrote that I joined a wine club thanks to the efforts of dear friend, Michael Chesal who introduced me to AY Katsoff who runs an organization, The Heart of Israel and is doing great things there. (Here is their website: https://www.theheartofisrael.org/ ). Their wine is from the biblical Shiloh region and in fact tastes very similar to Shiloh wines, which is a first class winery that purchase some of their grapes from these selfsame vineyards. I still have a few bottles from the 2017 vintage and the 2018s are due to arrive any day now. It’s an excellent wine and a great conversation piece when bringing as a gift or when serving at your table. Plus you technically lease a piece of the Holy Land and fulfill all the mitzvot associated with Eretz Yisrael. Contact AY at firstname.lastname@example.org for information. Tell him I sent you.
And here is a list of my usual go-to wines that I buy every year because they are consistently superb: Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon ($30), Yarden Merlot ($25), Yarden Syrah ($25), Galil Mountain Yiron ($30 and my all time favourite), Dalton Petit Sirah ($21, but way cheaper in Toronto at Simcha Wines), Gilgal Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah ($14 a Best Buy), Mount Hermon Red or Indigo (another Best Buy $11 ), Ramon Cardova Rioja ($16). Psagot Sinai ($21). Any Shiloh wine but they are not cheap. Their entry level wine, Privilege ($24) has gotten a bit pricey of late; might be worth spending a few more bucks and get the Yarden Cab.
So take a moment to step away from all the bad news, pour yourself a nice glass of wine, loosen up, let your spirit fly, pray that God removes this terrible sickness and plague from us, and drink to a happy future where we can get together once again to celebrate all the good things in life.