KFWE NY is the largest of the KFWE events. The reason for this is 3 fold – there are more observant/kosher keeping Jews in the tri-state area than anywhere else outside of Israel. This leads to tremendous turnover relative to any other sales region and you therefore have the greatest chance of catching the most up to date vintages in NY. The only area where NY does NOT have something that LA does might be with Herzog’s own Special Reserve or Single Vineyard series wines that are VERY limited production. Those sometimes are more available in Cali (VIP) than in NY. Other than that, you get the bonus of having all of the wines that Royal produces and imports in the same room . This includes all of the Cali wineries like Covenant for instance which do their own distribution in California and therefore are not present at KFWE LA or all of the Israeli wineries that Royal imports but are not distributed by Zur in Israel. The only winery that I can think of that is NOT represented at KFWE NY but is represented at another KFWE would be Netofa which is only represented ant KFWE London (though there are rumors that this also might be rectified in the coming months). So you definitely get the greatest section of wines in NY. Hands down. And because of the turnover, you are also going to get the most recent Royal vintage. that doesn’t mean you are getting the most recent vintage period. Often times Royal will hold back on a current vintage stock runs out – but from KFWE perspective, being NY gets you the latest available. For me, from a tasting perspective that alone makes it worth going to.
This year as in years past KFWE was held at Pier 60 at Chelsea Piers on the West Side. The room was set up with food on either end and the wines in the middle.
I was advised when I was booking this trip that if I do NY , the trade section is NOT optional but mandatory as the evening portion of the show are crazy packed. I got there early – and I was shocked. the place was pretty full. In fact by the end of the trade it was PACKED you couldn’t move. It made tasting through the wines difficult. This was the only KFWE that i went to where even the trade was overcrowded. Something HAS to be done. I mean listen – this event is SUPER successful. It really speaks volumes as to how far the kosher wine industry has come in the last few years. But something has to be done about the space. It was crowded at the trade when it was at peak. When the regular section was in full swing you literally couldn’t move. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The non VIP food at KFWE NY was definitely a step above London – but did not beat Zur (I had not been to LA yet – but it didn’t beat LA either). I mean do you really need chulent and kugel on a Monday? I have to think that NY’ers can find that in abundance and it’s nothing special. Maybe the Williamsburg and Boro Park crowd needs it in order to taste the wine with what they would normally be eating with it. I don’t know. That’s not say it was all bad. Even the kiddush food was OK – just not what I was hoping for. They did have some cool desserts and a couple of other dishes – but the portions were VERY small.
As I wrote above, where NY excels is with the wines. Here are a few highlights of wines that were ONLY shown at NY:
2018 Tabor Adama Savignon Blanc – As many of you know I am not a Sauvignon Blanc fan – but I can judge them on their own merits. For those who love SB, this is a HUGE winner. Great floral and gooseberry nose. Awesome acid and citrus in the mouth. Unfortunately, they had only a few bottles of this available as they are still pushing the 2017 (which was a step down from the 2016 and likely why it is still available. This is a pity as the 2018 is what you really want and quite frankly it’s not like it’s a wine that has a long shelf life – so I hope they start selling it soon.
2018 Or HaGanuz, Amuka White – I think this is the inaugural version of Amuka White. It is a blend of 85/15 – SB/Chard. I really liked the balance here. The Chard some richness and a bit of a heftier moth feel, it’s body is medium plus. Also while acidity is really nice, it’s not overdone. Well made wine here!
2015 Covenant, Solomon Lot 70, Cabernet Sauvignon – As far as American wines, one of the best that I tasted throughout all of the shows, and likely the best kosher American CS of 2105. Really rich but controlled. There are layers and layers of dark blue and black fruit backed up by a hint of earth. Nice acidity and mouth coating tannin. The wine is still very young and the structure here is excellent. Really fun to taste as I don’t think Covenant brings it in to Israel.
In between the trade section and the evening portion of the event, KFWE-NY closes down for an hour to reset. During that hour I took part in what was one of the strangest tastings ever – in terms of locale. In London, we were discussing the switch to mevushal for the Elvi Semi Crianza with Moises and David. We intended to do a blind tasting of the 2016 non-mevu, 2016 mevu and 2017 mevu at KFWE London, but the local Royal rep couldn’t get them all together so we were trying to figure out a time where we could all get together and taste. As we were all going to NY and Moises and David were going back to Spain for Shabbat, we decided to try and do it together in NY. But where? Royal is rightfully crazy strict about removing wines from the main hall, so if they brought them in, there would be no way to bring them out. What to do…. ? Simon Jacob to the rescue. Simon said that he would take of getting us an area to taste these wines. To make it more interesting Moises suggested also doing a vertical of InVita which seemed to be stuck at 2016 at all KFWE’s – while they had already sold out of 2017 in Europe and were were all ready to release 2018! So we agreed that we would all meet up in the dead hour after trade in NY. . No one knew what to expect in terms of being able to taste. It was freezing outside, and there was no room inside. What did Simon come up with? A party bus.
He had the bus there at the start of trade so Moises could drop off the wines and refrigerate the whites. The bus then dutifully came back at 4pm where we all boarded and the tasting could start. A word about the bus – we had to be the most tame crowd the driver ever had – I mean the bus had a stripper pole – it made for quite a festive atmosphere. On to the wines.
We did the Semi Crianza tasting blind. 2 things to note:
- 2016 Mevu is really a very well made mevushal wine. It’s perhaps a half step off of the non-mevu, but that’s it. not sure what the aging potential is here – and time will tell, but really nice. And at the price point, it should be the wine of choice for many people’s smachot.
- 2017 was easy to pick out. It’s much heavier than the 2016 and will likely have a whole bunch of fans who aren’t looking for the subtleties that can be found in these beautiful Riojas. There is a TON of smoke on the nose. In fact even after rinsing a glass, the smoke was still present. Not sure where this came from as this is the first time I ever got that from as Semi. But for me it was less than fun than the ’16. But this likely has nothing to do with it being Mevushal. Again, this is a great simcha option.
We then moved on to the InVita vertical – we did 2015-2018. The Invita is always a blend of Pansa Blanca and Sauvignon Blanc with approximately a 65/35 split. For me this was the first time tasting 3 out 4 of these vintages. ’15 was never sold in Israel, the 17 will likely not be sold in Israel, the US or the UK as it’s already mostly sold out – and who knows about the ’18. Again this is a pity. OK, the ’15 was missed in Israel as originally it was sold via another distributor before moving to Zur and that distributor went bankrupt. So until distribution got settled, there were a couple of missed vintages in Israel. The problem is, the ’16 is a nice wine but not more than that. In Israel especially, where there are SO many good whites to choose from at reasonable prices, this means that these wines are stuck. Same is true in NY and LA. Not sure what the answer is, but something needs to be done when there is an off vintage that doesn’t move. The distributors and the wineries need to get together and decide on a protocol . It does no one any good to have a sub-par vintage sit there. It kills the brand. No one benefits from that int he long term. End Rant.
Back tot he InVitas, the 2015 is till showing excellently with a couple of years ahead of it , and while the 2016 was not the best, it is a pity that almost no one will get to taste the 2017 – which was GREAT. Luckily though the 2018 is even better and might be even better than the crazy 2013 which is still alive and well. I mean I am sure that they are going to sell this baby in the non-Royal markets in Europe and it will sell out like the 2017. On the other hand, its also super young and could use a year or so to settle down – so there is hope that there is time for something is worked out and that we don’t miss out on this vintage too!!!!
After the party bus, I went in to the VIP to get a quick taste. The VIP was held in The Current which is technically part of the Pier 60 complex, though you had to go outside to get to it. And it was COLD. But the space is nice even really nice. And the food here might have been the best overall – though LA is close. Reserve cut did a killer job on the meat. This is definitely what you want out of a VIP section. Done professionally. Really top notch. On the wine front, while there was definitely what to drink here, at this point it started to fill up and I didn’t have the strength. I figured I would go check the main hall and see who it was and it was CRAZY packed. Didn’t even bother going all the way in.
So in summary – KFWE NY is definitely the show to hit if you want to taste the largest and most up to date selection of what Royal has to offer. While the food in the main hall is pedestrian compared to most other KFWE’s, it’s done well – and the food in the VIP is just crazy good. The real suggestion here is to change the venue. Thankfully this event has grown. It’s a testament to the great job that Royal is doing in promoting kosher wine. But in order to house it, either it needs to be broken up to multiple days or a larger venue needs to be found. But kudos to Royal – job well done.
My thanks again to Royal who hosted me at this event.
For the last post int his series, click here.
Next up, KFWE LA.