In America – Something Old, Something New

I recently finished a lightning quick trip to the US primarily to visit family and attend my grandmother’s unveiling (before rushing off for an even quicker trip to France to taste this year’s releases from Royal, Koenig, and Taieb – more on that soon). It’s hard to believe it’s been almost a year since her passing….

Usually on these trips, I try to hang with friends and if I can squeeze in some wine on the way, even better. This trip I committed myself to running a tasting for a group on one of the nights and I had family obligations as well, which left little time to catch up with friends. I also try to set a night each trip to catch up with the Gellers, but Gabriel was flying out the day after I landed leaving only one night of overlap – and to make matters worse, he was already committed to attending a media dinner for Kosherfest. Well, if Mohamed won’t come to the mountain…. So I attended this dinner which was held at ETC. In general I usually prefer Nobo to ETC in terms of Teaneck dinner places, but they did a great job pushing out food to the 30 or so attendees. The sponsor was Royal, and the wines needed to be mevushal for the restaurant – and so that is what we drank. The highlights for me included the following recently released wines:

2015 Chateau Rollan de By – This wine is a beautiful example of what the 2015 vintage is – even in mevushal. In fact being mevushal actually helps here as it is more expressive than most at this stage than I would have expected. While not fully there yet (can probably use three years of aging) – it is showing beautiful red tart fruit, with toasted herbs wrapped in a nice earthiness. Body is somewhere between medium and full with firm tannin and great acidity to keep it bright. Really a great choice.

2017 Herzog Lake County Cabernet Sauvignon – From my vantage point, this was the crowd favorite among the 30 or so attendees. They just pounded the stuff. While I often make fun of how the American palate is stuck on CS, when done right, you really can’t complain. This guy is just beautiful with dark red fruit up front with some nice pencil shavings, then some bright red fruit and toasted herbs at the end. It is a rich full-bodied wine with a rocking amount of both tannin and acidity at this point. IMHO it also needs a good 3 years or so to show best, but it is an absolute pleasure right now too.

There were another couple of new wines to note:

Herzog Lineage Momentus – This wine was NOT for me – it was off-dry and simply not what I look for in a sparkling wine. So why do I bring it up? It is a GREAT alternative to the Bartenura Moscato. It is not cloying and for what it is, was balanced enough. IMHO – this can be a great gateway wine into more serious sparkling wines – and certainly a way to wean off of the Moscatos of the world.

2018 Hagafen Dry Riesling – This was a major disappointment for me – as the 2016 was exceptional. In fact, it almost tasted oxidized – so I made a mental note to try and taste this one again before I left.

I spent Shabbat with a number of my oldest and closest friends (30+ years) where we shared a few wines. I was hosted by my friends Yael and Donny at their home. They have been building a nice little wine collection and I was asked to select a couple for the meals – I chose two Yatir bottles – the 2007 Forest and the 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon. In addition, I brought over another bottle of the Hagafen Dry Riesling mentioned above to see if it was just a bad bottle or a problem with the vintage. Lastly my friends Michal & Yeruchum brought over the recently released 2018 Hajdu Old Vines Mission from his Adventurer’s Guild series.

2010 Yatir Cabernet Sauvignon – This wine showed beautifully – and in fact it just shows you how important storage is. The last time I had this wine was a little over a year ago, and while it wasn’t bad, there was no real progression from where it was a couple of years earlier. After tasting this well-kept bottle though, I have a little more faith in how the pre-2014 Yatir wines may show (I have found that from 2014 – and in some cases even 2013, there was a significant drop in quality with the Yatir wines, as they likely followed Yarden’s lead and went more over the top and sweet). This bottle showed great earthiness with dark red fruit and creamy milk chocolate on the finish. The body was medium plus with the tannin, while still firm, was fully integrated and at the center of the wine. The acid is slightly dropping off here from where I remember it, but this was still super enjoyable. My friend Raanan, who is usually just sticks to beer, also found this enjoyable -and my guess is because there was balance here and it was not pushed or over the top like so many CS’s currently produced in Israel are… Drink and enjoy now if you have some of this left. It’s certainly not getting any better.

2007 Yatir Forest – This wine was past peak – not bad, and still enjoyed by most at the table, but definitely on the steep decline. Mostly you had rich dark fruit and some nice spice (the PV always comes through on this wine) with some earthiness in the background. The tannin was barely there and the acid was fading as well. Drink up.

2018 Hajdu Old Vines Mission – Both old and new in a way. The Mission grape is thought to be the oldest varietal planted in California. According to Wikipedia, it was brought there by Franciscan missionaries in the late 1700’s and traditionally used to make sacramental sweet (think kiddush) or fortified wines. Also according to Wikipedia “table wine made from the fruit tends to be rather characterless, and thus its use in wine making has diminished in modern times.” This is the second wine made of the Mission grape this year. The first was from Camuna cellars – and it was really abysmal. It came off as semi-sweet, but thin – with an off putting texture and flavor. When I saw this bottle, I had hoped that Mr. Hajdu — with his reputation — had produced something far more professional, especially using “Old Vines” where one could expect better concentration, perhaps overcoming the natural blandness of this grape. This wine, while dry – was not really any better and quite frankly might even be worse. At least with the Camuna bottle, as it was left semi-sweet, one could vaguely see a market for it with casual drinkers with a sweet tooth. This wine was described by another old friend at lunch as tasting like weak tea. I’ll leave it at that.

2018 Hagafen Dry Riesling – As I noted above, I really wanted to taste this wine again after the poor showing on Monday. I am happy to report, this bottle was MUCH better. Let’s get one thing straight – it’s NOT the epic 2016. But, it’s nice enough, showing a touch of petrol, nice lime, and a lot of stone fruit – which quite honestly, doesn’t really do it for me especially in Riesling. The acid here is what saves the wine – there is plenty of it to balance out the fruit.

Well, there you have it – a few older wines, some new ones, and an old grape making a(n unsuccessful) comeback. On Sunday I headed to the airport for a four day whirlwind tasting in France. More on that in the next few posts.

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