8 posts – too many. If I do this again I’m going to have to condense these into something more manageable.
Before I get to my overall impressions of the shows as a whole. I wanted to wait until after all of the KFWE’s to write about the wines – as there is of course a tremendous amount of overlap. If you aren’t travelling the world over to get an advance peek at at releases, the period between Sommelier in Israel through KFWE – and maybe up until mid-March when Israeli wineries for the most part have released Rosés and whites gives you a pretty comprehensive picture of where we are at for the next year. So here are my impressions of where we are at in the world of Kosher wine through the lens of KFWE 2019:
First and foremost 2016 was a rockstar year for top tier Bordeaux reds. Really there were some beautiful wines produced. And quite frankly it’s hard to limit the write up to just a couple, because there were just so many superstars at the higher tier. Having said that – they are all expensive – even more so in Israel. So with no disrespect to the Chateau Clarke, Lascombes, Tetre, Giscours, Le Crock and Pavillion De Leoville Poyferre – all of which were great – I’ll highlight just 2. And they really represent the best of what 2016 Bordeaux is all about
Best Wine Overall at all of the shows was hands down the – 2016
Chateau Malartic – Listen it’s very hard to beat this wine – it’s crazy good! It’s also about $150 a bottle. But, if you want a special bottle to put away, this one is an absolute winner. It’s really everything you want and would expect out of a well made Bordeaux. There is a ton of layered fruit red,blue, black some beautiful leathery meaty notes wrapped up in some earthiness at the edge which you can just tell is going to develop into something which will envelop the rest of the profile nicely. Just a powerhouse.
But the Best Wine that you might be able to afford to buy in some sort of quantity is the 2016 Chateau Montviel – I really don’t know why more people aren’t raving about this wine and how it isn’t sold out. Yes – the Malartic is better , but 2-3 times the price. This wine is a steal at $50-$60. I love herb and tobacco in my wine – and this wine serves it up in spades. Excellent rich red fruit, some mushroom with slight chocolate on the finish. This is THE wine to stock up on in my opinion.
(While we are on the topic of French – Best Budget Red this year (in the US at least) is the – 2017 Chateau Trijet – $12. That’s crazy. No it’s not for aging – it doesn’t have the structure to hold up – but over the next year, if I was living in the US this would likely be my go to bottle for during the week.)
The next thing I learned – 2016 was an excellent year for Cali Cabs. I think 2015 was difficult and a step down from the 2014 – but the really good stuff is only at the super premium level – like the Covenant Lot 70 I wrote about after NY or The Valhall Vineyard which they poured at KFWE London and was excellent. But 2016 seems to be a major step back up accross the board. And King of the hill this year is Herzog. Don’t get me wrong – Covenant’s 2016 Cab – very nice, and their ultra premium Solomon Lot 70 hasn’t yet been released – but with rare exception, all of 2016 Herzogs were great (actually the exception perpetually for me is the Special Reserve Napa Valley – which I usually don’t care for – and this year is no exception). In terms of ultra premium. Clone Six Chalk Hill? Killer. Rutherford District Napa (which is also usually a pass for me)? Really nice – and so on down the line in terms of Ultra Premium.
But between you and me, at those prices I am much more likely to be buying the French top tier 2016. We start to get into the regular price range at the Special Reserve Chalk Hill – which really does provide QPR at $70-$80 range – and it’s excellent. I liked it better than the Clone Six. But the star here is the 2016 Alexander Valley. IMHO it is even better than the 2014.With beautiful rich dark blue-black fruit and warm spice and herbs. Really delightful. Is it better than the Chalk Hill? No – but it’s less than hald the price!!!!!! It is the Herzog Cab to stock up on. and should go a good 10 years – maybe more – it certainly has the acid and tannin to hold.
What’s also crazy is how well Herzog does Mevushal – which is not news, but one might think that the mevushal process has simply been figured out. If you read my post about our blind tasting of the Elvi 2016 Semi-Crianza mevu-vs non-mevu and say hey, it sounds like the wines while different, weren’t far apart. But be warned – that is NOT the case with all wineries. Some excel at producing wines that do not suffer from the process – like Herzog, and Shiloh and now to some extent Psagot and you can add Elvi to the list. But one of the disappointments to me was tasting the 2016 Peraj HaAbib Mevushal and not Mevushal side by side. There is a significant difference there. I tasted them one after the other not knowing which was witch until I looked at the back of the bottles. I like the non-mevu – not on the same level of the ’15 but really very nice. The mevu was a CLEAR step down. Note – the front label is almost identical – your are gonna have to check the back to know for sure.
Last thing I learned was that for me, Israel still can compete when it wants to. For instance even with 2106 Cali Cabs being excellent, the 2016 Flam Cabernet Sauvignon is a great bottle. I tasted it at all 3 non-Israeli KFWE’s while tasting Cali cabs and it stood up to them in every way and confirmed my original tasting notes. Same profile? No. But it’s not meant to be. Their 2016 Merlot is also very nice. Castel also produced 2 good to excellent wines for 2016 the very nice Petit Castel and the excellent Grand Vin. Another wine that I really liked was the 2016 Vitkin Cabernet Franc. I had not had it before (Vitkin really has to do something about there distribution in Israel) and I think it showed really well and was the best Cab Franc that was being poured IMHO. And of course the Previously written about Netofa Dor Tempranillo which I have already written about.
And in the world of whites, there is no contest – while very few 2018’s have yet been released, 2018 is going to be a KILLER year for whites in Israel. I have heard this now from 3 different winemakers and you can taste it in whatever has been released. While it may have only been at ONE of the KFWE’s the Domaine Netofa – is a perfect example. I mean it’s ALWAYS good (I can’t remember a bad vintage) – but this year it’s great. I hope for all of you living in the US that Netofa works out its issues with Royal or finds distribution. This wine just rocks. The other 2018 Israeli whites I tasted were also very , very nice.
In terms of Rosés the only Rosés I really really liked were again from Netofa in London but to be fair, there were very few released.
There were other excellent wines at the shows – lets get that straight – the 2015 Capcanes Samso was of the charts Terra Di Seta’s Chinati Classico Reserva and Assai Gran Selezione were all excellent as was Elvi’s Clos Mesorah and EL26 as always. I mean the list goes on and on. But I really can’t go into all of them. Suffice it to say, just being able to taste through these incredible wines makes going to any of the KFWE’s worth it.
But if you ask me what was the wine I ENJOYED most? It was the 2014 Elvi Herenza Rioja Reserva. No it was not the best wine – like I said the Malartic is better (it’s better than almost ANY other kosher wine) – but you really can’t beat the magic that happens when wine and food go together well. The Reserva with the Cured Flat Iron Steak, Black Garlic Emulsion, Poached Turnips, Charred Wild Onions and TRUFFLES. Holy crap. Seriously. I get to eat at a lot of wine dinners – nothing has worked as well for me as that pairing. It just shows you, wine is meant to be consumed with food. When we taste wine apart from food – it really only gives you part of the picture. How much you will enjoy that bottle will GREATLY be impacted by the food you are having it with and the people you are sharing it with. Just take a look at the company of wines this bottle was served with to give you an understanding of how well this worked to so stand out.
And that brings me back to the shows. Which is the best? The answer is, its complicated. The best selection of wines is in NY. Period. If you can only choose a single show and your main goal is to taste through as many of Royal’s offerings as possible, go to KFWE NY, splurge for the VIP and come early. In terms of a self contained show from top to bottom, I would say it’s LA. Food is better than NY overall and far better than London, and simply put, the space was sufficient for the number of people who attended at all times – whereas in both NY and even London that just wasn’t the case. So LA wins for overall experience.
Now I haven’t included Israel in the deliberations. There are 2 reasons. First – its a mini-KFWE. Zur does not represent all of the Israeli wineries that Royal does abroad, nor do they represent Covenant or Capcanes in Israel. On top of that, the unfortunate pricing structure on the French and much of the American stuff available here means that we don’t always get the newest vintages as it takes a lot longer to move. Taking all that into account, if you are in Israel, it’s a show that you shouldn’t miss! In terms of quality wines and food being served it is the best value HANDS DOWN of any wine “festival” in the country. But if you live in Europe or the US, it’s not a show you are going to fly in for.
But if you take all of what I said above into account and asked me where I had the best time, the answer is London – hands down. Why? Because when you look at the legs of any trip you end up judging the entire leg not just the individual event. First of all, they really make KFWE a week long celebration there with a dinner before (which I attended) and an RCC after (which I unfortunately did not). Second, the hospitality in London is second to none. As I’ve written, the wine drinking community there is really SO warm! A number of people who came in for KFWE week also stayed through shabbat! I really can’t stop gushing about what wonderful people there are there. Over the years I’ve gotten to know a number of the chevra through Facebook or in person when they visit. These guys are the best! My heartfelt thanks to everyone there for making it the experience that it was.
The last reason is that wins is that it ended up being a bonding experience for a number of us who had flown in. It was the only venue on which all of us who were doing the tour had extra time to hang out. That was a VERY special 3 days. So again, who you are hanging out with will certainly have an impact on the how you feel about any of these events. So let me take the opportunity to thank Simon Jacob, Yossie Horwitz & David Raccah. Having done different legs of this trip before, they all gave me great advice. I have learnt much from each of them and am thankful to count them all as friends. I also wanna give a special shout out to Moises and David Cohen of Elvi. One day I hope me and my son can have as much fun roaming around the world drinking wine as the two of you seem to do. You guys are an inspiration!
As this is my last post about KFWE 2019, I want to thank Gabriel Geller of Royal who helped sort out the various things required for me to make this a reality and who also is just a great guy in general. I have the pleasure of spending time with Gabriel and his wife Yael whenever I am in NY. Naturally on this trip Gabriel was super busy – it was work for him after all – and we had no time to hang out. That was probably the only real bummer on this trip – not having him in the touring crew.
And of course to the greater Royal family – thanks for hosting me at these events. They were a blast….. Now back to our regularly scheduled wine writing.