The Yearly Wine Review
The Purple Sheet
Shabbat Parshat Tazria- April 8th/9th – ראש חדש ניסן תשע’ו
The Yearly Wine Review
It’s that time of year again. Hockey playoffs? No (Well yes, that too) but with Pesach just around the corner, it’s time for the Rabbi Nightingale yearly wine review. The one that all wineries anticipate with bated breath as they know that a good or bad review can make or break their future. Well, not quite because if that were true, Victor Wines would be out of business by now but they, like Spirit Airlines, just keep chugging along despite my efforts.
This is my sixth review and if you want a fuller kosher wine review, sign up for Yossi’s corkboard (Google it). Just a word of warning though, this guy goes on and on and on and on – like forever. I like wine but this fellow is off-the-charts about it. You know how sometimes you think you like something until you meet those extreme types who are soooooo into the same thing to the point that they turn you off and think mebbe you need to bolt because the culture of strange people it is attracting? Btw, that’s what happened to me as a kid and why I stopped collecting comics. I went to one comic convention, saw all the nerds and weirdos and decided I don’t want to become one of these people nor hang around them. So I became religious instead and joined a different group of nerds and weirdos.
Trader Joe’s: I heard that Trader Joe’s had kosher wines and, having never been there, went over one Sunday to get a sampling. They go under the name of Terrenal, generally are from Spain and Argentina and are super cheap at only $5.49 a bottle ($11 Canadian at Simcha Wines in Toronto/Thornhill). They have a few varietals and here are the ones that I have tried so far:
Malbec – This was nice but did not taste like a typical deep and beefy Malbec but more like a French Bordeaux actually. Very worth it. Chardonnay – I am not a huge white wine guy but this tasted as good as any other inexpensive Chardonnays I have had. Also worth the five plus bucks. Tempranillo – I generally like wines from this particularly Spanish grape as they make for easy-drinking, lighter wines compared to your typical Cab or Merlot. You cannot go wrong with the Ramon Cardova brand which has a nice fruity attack (first taste) but does tail off after that. I used to enjoy the Elvi Mati wine made from the same grape but a couple bad bottles and price increase left a bad taste in my mouth – literally and figuratively. I think it’s called Herenza now which also was not very good when I sampled it. Anyway, the Terrenal Tempranillo bombed. Undrinkable and sour. I have a confession to make – when I end up with these wines that I really don’t like, I try to pass them off to Karen. (Sorry, dear.) But when even she cannot drink them, then I know they stink. This one ended up down the drain.
But the best Terrenal is the Seleccionado which is slightly more expensive. At a mere $7 this one is a steal. It’s a really nice wine which is a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Monastrell (aka Mourvedre) which is the 4th most popular varietal in Spain. According to the blog, Kosher wine musings: “Monastrell is a grape that shows a very weird blend of feminine and masculine characteristics. It has very lovely floral notes and it also can show very meaty, dark, and earthy notes that are more masculine in nature.” You should get your hands on this wine, it is different, cheap, good and not mevushal – another plus.
Binyamina Yogev 50/50 Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz (Israel) is my new favourite, best-value go-to wine that replaced last year’sGilgal Cabernet Sauvignon once they upped the price of the latter. I really enjoy this combo since the fruitier/jammier Shiraz (also called Syrah) counters the heavier more intense Cab. It has been in oak barrels for 8 months – though they don’t tell you that on the bottle. The Yogev series is a tribute to the Binyamina farmers (Yogev means farmer) and though I read about the meaning behind the name I still don’t understand what they are talking about. It is something about incentivizing the farmers to produce the best wines. Whatever they are doing, it is working and this is a great wine for the price. Just tried their white Chardonnay/Sauvignon Blanc combo which was also nice. They go for about $14-$16 in stores but you can get it for about $11.50 online at onlinekosherwine.com. (Wait for their shipping sales which they always have so it will only add about a buck a bottle to ship.)
Odem and Psagot (Israel) wineries seem to be following a similar trajectory by recently creating a wine in their line-ups that is not too expensive compared to their other offerings. Odem, which claims to have the northernmost winery in Israel, has a 2013 Cab that is terrific and won’t bust your budget at about $17 a bottle. Psagot similarly created the Sinai series wine at a similar price point. It was nice but not as rich, fruity and tasteful as the Odem. I was curious to find out more about the Psagot Sinai wine and emailed them to find out how long it had been in barrels. Ya’acov Oryah, their winemaker emailed me, “Most wines of our portfolio are kept in oak barrels for 12-14 months. Since the Sinai is a new product and at a new price category, we are still experimenting with the oak duration for this wine. That is why this info is not released, since we do not want to create a ‘label expectation’ while the issue is not yet finalized.” Ok, fair enough. (“Label Expectation” – I like that term.)
2009 Alexander Syrah (Israel). I just love this wine and it is one of my favourites. 2009 seems to have been a better year for wines in Israel than 2010. Kosher Kingdom was unloading these which normally go for about $35 for just $21 so I bought a bunch after buying just one and falling in love with it. It has been barreled for 20 months! – nice and long which makes for a rich and elegant wine. I happen to like the jammier/berry wines and Syrah will always deliver this moreso than Cabs for sure.
Dalton Wines (Israel). Dalton is one of those wineries that produces so many different types that it is sometime hard to figure out their various levels of wine. Kinda like GM cars (How many times do they plan to call a car “Denali” anyway?) Dalton Yuvalim is a very easy drinking and approachable wine but I don’t come across it too often here and it seems a tad more expensive than in Toronto where I first found it. Dalton is very honest on its website and tells you that, “It has no exposure to oak and is ready for drinking and will not benefit from extensive aging.” Ok, so you are saying to drink this as soon as I get it and not to waste good wine fridge space trying to age it. Np, thanks for the tip. Dalton Canaan red which goes for about $14 is a basic good mevushal wine that has been around a while. I could not figure out why I couldn’t get a good handle on it until I found out that it is “a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Sirah and a little Shiraz and some Mourvedre, the proportions of which may vary from year to year.” Ok… whatever. It somehow works though. Dalton’s Big D label (they don’t call it that but I do) Petite Sirah (not to be confused with Syrah) is a nice rich wine with a more spicy, olivey taste that has been aged 10 months in American Oak barrels. Interestingly the Petite Sirah grape does not show up in many places and Wikipedia list four main locales: Australia, California, France, and Israel. Kinda neat that tiny Israel is grouped with the big boys of Australia, California and France.
אחרון אחרון חביב I save the very best for last and the best wine I had this past year was the Yarden El Rom Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 which I bought about five years ago in Jerusalem and kept in my wine fridge ever since. I had this with my wine and steak buddy, Ezra. It was just fantastic. Soooo rich and amazing. “Delightful and hedonistic” one reviewer called it. But good luck finding it; when I recently searched for the 07 it only shows up in one shop in the UK selling it for £110/$155. (I paid about $60.)
So there you have it. Drink up and enjoy. There isn’t a better time to experience really good kosher wines as more and more companies create very fine and lovely wines. L’Chaim!!
They drank up the wine
and they got to talking
They now had more important things to say
And when the car broke down they started walking
Where were they going without ever knowing the way
Rabbi Tzvi Nightingale
Aish South Florida www.aishfl.com