Over the last year I have started visiting the US more and more – primarily to have the opportunity to spend time with my grandmother who is 94 and my parents and siblings who I see far too infrequently. I also usually get a chance to enjoy wines with friends that I also see all too infrequently (truth be told, if you ask my family they’ll tell you that all of my free time is spent drinking wine with friends and the visiting family thing is an afterthought – I should work on that).
On this trip I ended up at a Covenant tasting in West Orange, having dinner with Yael & Gabriel Geller at their home in Teaneck and at a French Wine instructional evening held by the RCC-BC (Bergen County) group. Rather than go through each wine I tasted – some were truly excellent, some were not drinkable – I thought that I would just give a recap of the best and/or most interesting wines here as going through the 40+ wines that I tried over the week would just be way too much – and quite frankly my notes were inconsistent (as is evidenced below) especially with the wines that were in the middle of the pack. Also, my phone was acting up this trip – so I appologize for the lack of photos….
Covenant, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, 2016 – Truly representative of what Napa fruit has to offer. 2016 was an above average year for Napa. Take that and pair it with the steady hands of Jeff Morgan and Jonathan Hajdu and the result is a well made perfectly balanced NW CS. Full-bodied and fruit forward yes, but not at all too ripe or overbearing. On the open nice red fruit followed by tobacco and sage. The wine is young and the tannin needs to settle a bit, but this one is winner.
Covenant Israel, Syrah, 2016 – Drinking really nicely now, this is an Israeli Syrah made in a Cali style if that makes any sense. Yes. its big and bold – with less emphasis on the spice and more on the fruit, but overall, as with most (but not all) Covenant wines (I’m looking at you 2016 Mensch Zinfandel), this one is well balanced and well made and will likely age gracefully for a few years. I stocked up.
Netofa, Tel Qasser, Roussanne, 2017 – What can I say – elegance in a glass. Beautiful minerality in harmony with the pear and nut. Really special. Funny and oddly not uprising that my first time tasting this Israeli wine which is not imported to the US is at the Gellers’ house in Teaneck.
Jean-Phillipe Marchand, Hautes Cotes De Nuits , Le Parc De Faye, Bourgogne, 2017 – Yup you read that right – 2017. Super young – but what a find. I don’t know of a better PN at that price point and a true Bourgogne to boot! I had this at GG’s house – it was the second of 2 new Bourgognes we tasted and it was the clear winner. This is a classic Burgundy PN – slightly darker and fuller bodied perhaps, but the flavors were spot on – classic cherry and maybe some cherry blossom. Went great with the chicked that Yael served. Also, this guy has a bit of aging potential too -. If it were sold locally, I would be stocking up (I might end up buying some in the NY and mule it over slowly…. anyone reading this who has plans on coming for a visit to Israel and wouldn’t mind schlepping a few bottles – please be in touch!). This was probably my favorite find of the trip, not the best, but the wine I am most happy to have tried.
Allaham Reserve, Meritage, Insignia, Napa Valley, 2014 – This is wine is produced by Herzog for Reserve Cut and is usually available only at the restaurant – so it had to make my list just for it being an interesting bottle. It also happens to be really good. Truth is it shouldn’t be surprising. I happen to think most of Herzog’s 2014 run was good to great. I guess with the Albert Allaham giving direction for a wine that is meant to be enjoyed with huge beautiful steaks, I didn’t know what to expect. As it happens, the Gellers served me a huge beautiful steak (OK, maybe not on par with Reserve Cut, but Gabriel always manages to grill me a perfect med-rare and what more could you want) and this wine worked really well.
Dalton, Anna, NV – This wine is made of Muscat of Alexandria in the solera style over a period of 8 years. The style and varietal match the Yaacov Oryah The Old Musketeer, While similar, the Old Musketeer is the clear winner with far greater depth and complexity, still, the Anna is a REALLY nice addition to the available kosher white desert wines produced here – and it’s a hell of a lot cheaper (less than half the price). As noted, the flavors are reminiscent of the Old Musketeer, so if you like waffles and maple syrup, this wine is for you….
Château Piada, Sauternes, 2016 – Super good for a wine so young. Nice amount of complexity already developed – typical apricot, honey and maybe some sweet mandarin orange. This one is a keeper – and certainly more budget friendly than the incredible first growths released last year.
Champagne Drappier, Brut Nature, Zero Dosage, NV – I normally go for the opposite profile of a Brut Nature – yeasty & toasty instead if acidy fresh – but this wine is just awesome. Great citrus & apple Super refreshing.
Château Guiraud , G, Bordeaux Blanc, 2017 – This guy had one of the best noses on this trip. Really beautifully floral. In the mouth first thing that registered for me was the minerality. Flinty goodness. Nice slightly sweet citrus with bright acidity to hold it in check.
Château Grand-Puy Ducasse, Pauillac, 2015 – this is probably the “best” wine I tasted on the trip – but that is no surprise. It’s everything you want in a Bordeaux – layers of flavor earthyness, tobacco, dark fruit – all cleanly presented – layer by layer as it unfolds in your mouth until you get to this rich warm spice and chocolate finish. Truly excellent. Of course it’s still a baby. Tannin is off the charts. Needs a hell of a lot of time – but will be one of the greats!
Château Fayat, Pomerol, 2015 – Yummy. yummy yummy. Not sure how long this was open or decanted before I tasted – but it was just great. Tons of red fruit (and a lot more fruit forward than I was expecting) but all held in check by firm tannin and a healthy dose of acid. I hate using this word – but this wine is smooth. I know that is not a good descriptor for wine. And I don’t mean it in the whisky sense. More like it projects smoothness in the cool sense of the word – like you know you are in for a good time as soon as it hits your mouth. Really nice – and as it is made by Pierre Miodownick I am reasonably sure I can score some of this locally….
Other nice/interesting wines that I tasted:
Covenant, Mensch, Roussanne, 2016 – Nice light expression of a Roussanne . A little flat on the finish – but for this price, nice.
Covenant Israel, Blue C, Viognier, 2017 – No change since the last time I had it – remains one one of the best whites released in Israel for 2017.
Covenant Israel, Blue C, Rose, 2017 – Still drinking nicely. Happy that it made it’s way over to the US this year. One of the better Roses this season.
Pascal Bouchard, Le Classique, Chablis, 2016 – So this guy makes the list because I have been pretty critical of previous editions of this Chablis. This one works though and is worth giving a spin.
Domaine Pradelle, Crozes-Hermitage, 2015 – As I have mentioned before, I am always on the lookout for QPR buys. This Rhone winner goes for about $25 and is worth every penny. Were it available locally, I would be stocking up.