It’s been a while since my last post as I was in NY for a Bar Mitzvah last week. My trip happened to coincide with the annual Jewish Week Grand Wine Tasting at City Winery which was a real treat as I rarely get to experience shows out of Israel. It was even more special this year as work took me out of the country for Zur/Royals’ KFWE-Israel, so this was a great opportunity to see what is out there in the wider kosher wine world.
First, a few words about the show itself. I really enjoyed the venue. The place has a great vibe and really reflects the neighborhood it’s located in – 155 Varick Street is in the SoHo neighborhood of the city – about a half an hour from the LES where I lived before I made Aliyah. Cool, funky and relaxed is how I would describe it. The layout was on 2 floors and there was enough room for the various stalls and adequate munchies were provided for people to snack on as part of the cover for the evening (which was on the expensive side). The only gripe I would say that I had would be with the VIP ticket. It gave 1 hour early access and was supposed to give access to some limited wines during that first hour. I came about 30 minutes into the hour and there were no special wines in site for people to taste through as part of the early access as far as I could tell. Other than that though, I was pretty happy with how the event was run. There was a real mix of wine vendors present – from distributors to individual merchants who were pushing specials at their stores or wines that they had a hand in importing. That sort of led to the same brands being marketed at multiple stalls – but for the most part, I don’t think there was any direct overlap of any specific wine/vintage at more than a single stall. It was just weird seeing the Herzog Chalk Hill for instance being marketed at a stall other than Herzog/Royal.
On to the wines. It is a little sad to see wine merchants marketing older dead vintages of Rosés and Whites (and even some Reds!) to an unfortunately unsuspecting public. Barely any 2017 ‘s were out for tasting and that is a shame. Here in Israel Rosé season is in full swing! But there were a couple. In fact best white of the night goes to the 2017 Amos Mont Blanc which was being marketed by Yehoshua Werth of the Grapevine in Monsey. I believe it’s a 50-50 blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc (I was not allowed to handle the bottle – I got instantly homesick for Israel) as my quickly typed notes indicate. An absolute winner. Fresh and in perfect balance. Ya’acov Oryah has become the consulting winemaker there with the 2017 vintage and the bump in quality is apparent with the Rosé also being very nice. The other 2017 white that I tasted was the Hagafen Sauvignion Blanc. While not as floral as many of the current Israeli SB’s, this one is a winner too with excellent acidity without it being overly austere as many SB’s often are these days. This wine is really fun to drink – a great summer wine! It was also nice to see the 2015 Von Hovel Saar Riesling (I think I tasted it at the Whole Foods stand where they were incorrectly telling people that it was not yet available when I already bought some from Gary Landsman at Taste Wine Co….) The 2015 is dryer than either of the 2014 version Von Hovel Rieslings and is very nice – but not as complex . Then again, unless you live in Europe, the 2015 is all you have access to – and its very nice in any event. As far as Rosés go, Hagafen’s Don Ernesto Beret which is a Syrah based Rosé gets top honors from me – really nice and refreshing. There was one other new (for me) white wine that I tasted worth noting – City Winery’s Brut Nature – a zero dosage sparkling wine. Crisp and bone dry – with a nuttiness I really liked and the usual granny smith apples and lemon. A nice bottle – but at about $50 a bottle it is hard to recommend, there are as good or better options out there for half the price.
On the red side, there was very little new to excite me. Best wine that I drank there was the 2014 Capçanes Samso – but really that’s not a shocker, it’s such a great bottle – and while I have tasted it many times, I couldn’t resist – as there really wasn’t a lot going on on the red side IMHO. Most unique wine was the 1990 Gan Eden Cab made by Craig Winchel which showed OK for a 28 year old wine. Someone was also pouring the 2012 Chateau Montroc which is holding up REALLY nicely and has very nice QPR. About the only NEW wines I tasted on the red side worth noting were the Tres Buhis Spanish wines (with the Tempranillo being my favorite). These wines are not complex at all but are QPR winners at $10 a bottle.
So while this was a fun night out, it wasn’t necessarily the best wine-wise. In fairness, I skipped most of the Israeli wines as I drink them all of the time, concentrating on wines that I don’t have easy access to or were new. So there were definitely Israeli winners there, but that was not where my concentration was focused that evening. I was looking to taste stuff that I hadn’t before – and outside of what I mentioned, there wasn’t much else that piqued my interest.