An Evening with M & M Importers

Over the past year or so, I have been trying to sit down and write a full article on M&M Importers in the US. Besides being the US importer for IDS wines, they also have imported a number of French kosher productions on their own. Even more impressive, they have begun contracting their own kosher productions in Italy. They started with bringing in the last kosher run of the company formerly known as Falesco, now known as Famiglia Cotarella. Actually Falesco still exists – but they have split the brand in two with the Merlot (Montiano) and Cabernet Sauuvignon (Marciliano) under the Famiglia Cotarella brand, while other wines such as their Syrah (Tellus – of which I recently learned there was a kosher production of in 2016, though that wine IS NOT imported by M & M – which from David’s notes, looks like a good move by them) remaining under the Falesco label. At the same time, they started production at a number of Italian wineries, with their first release 2018 Botteotto, Montepulciano D’Abruzo, a second press production at Valle Reale. A number of the upcoming releases are very interesting, including the first press Montepulciano from Valle Reale’s San Calisto vineyard, as well as about 20 other wines, including a Brunello (to be released sometime in the next year or two), two Chiantis – a regular Classico to be released this September and a Reserva coming out in another couple of years, 2018 Falesco/Famiglia Cotarella reds, as well as a return of the white Ferentano made of 100% Roscetto (which has not been made kosher since ’05 – I think),  and many others. In light of all of this, I planned on meeting up with Ralph Madeb and David Motovich, the proprietors of M & M, to go through their current releases, AND even more importantly I planned a trip to Italy to immediately follow my NY trip to taste through all of this new kosher production and speak with the various winemakers. Unfortunately, the Coronavirus has put those plans on hold for now – though I fully intend on making that trip as soon as the Italy ban is lifted. In the meantime, I did not want to hold up this post – as there is plenty of wine that I tasted through while in NY.

The truth is, I have known Ralph Madeb for about 30 years. He was very friendly with a cousin of mine and was in my wife’s class in High School. He was a character back then and nothing has changed. Super warm and friendly – really typifying the reception you get from the Syrian community of Brooklyn, which I grew up around. (I still have fond memories of eating fresh Lachmajin out of the oven at a friend’s house.) At some point Ralph became Dr. Madeb, a urologist who spent some time in Rochester doing his residency before returning home to open his practice. The extended Madeb family has long been involved in wine and has bought most of the high-end kosher wine productions en primeur. When the opportunity arose to become the importer of IDS wines, which is responsible for the famed kosher runs of Smith Haute Laffite among others, Dr. Madeb and his partner Mr. Motovich decided to take the opportunity and be involved in the kosher wine industry up close. This past week, we tasted through 14 wines – of which one was a library wine that is on my all-time favorite list and which happens to also be imported by M & M, the 2005 Valandraud. Another was a wine produced in Israel by the new Tabernacle winery, as one of the owners was at the dinner and wanted people’s opinions (I had already tasted these wines and thoughts can be found here.)

Also at the dinner was the US representative of Aegerter, Martin Sylvestre. Currently Aegerter has released three kosher wines, all of the 2018 vintage. These wines are excellent – but super young. It’s nice that we are finally getting a wide variety of kosher Burgundy! In fact, during our conversation, Mr. Sylvestre   expressed interest in perhaps even producing a greater number of kosher run Burgundies from the various sub-appellations. It would be a truly wondrous thing if all of a sudden we were blessed with a Clos-Vougeot! Of course currently, this is just talk. But, you never know….

One other interesting note, M & M has picked up distribution of the remaining Gefen Hashalom wines that had not had distribution until now. That translates to the Hans Wirsching Silvaner, which arrived in NY the same day as the dinner – and, much more importantly, the 2014 Von Hovel Rieslings (both the Hutte Oberemmel and Scharzhofberg) – which has not officially been sold outside of Europe until now. M&M bought up the remaining 3000 bottles from the winery, and they should be in NY soon. The 2014 Von Hovel wines are the absolutely best kosher Rieslings ever produced – and rank up there with the best kosher whites ever produced period. So for those of you in the US, this is truly excellent news.

Here are my notes on the M&M wines:

2016 Gefen Hashalom , Weingut Hans Wirsching, Iphofer Silvaner

2016 Gefen Hashalom , Weingut Hans Wirsching, Iphöfer Silvaner – This is my third or fourth time drinking this wine – The notes really haven’t changed at all. Nice enough stuff – and certainly unique in that it’s the only kosher German Silvaner available, but that’s it. As it happens, this wine was served with a sushi course and went really well. Also on the plus side, the wine has not deteriorated at all even though it is now four years past vintage.

2018 Jean Luc & Paul Aegerter, Bourgogne, Hautes-Cotes de Nuits, Reserve Personnelle

2018 Jean Luc & Paul Aegerter, Bourgogne, Hautes-Cotes de Nuits, Reserve Personnelle  – The first  of the three Aegerter wines, the Hautes-Cotes de Nuits, has a nose of sour cherries, red fruit, and earth. In the mouth, this presents as a really well made entry level Burgundy with typical cherry and earth with a little bit of smoke. On the finish, the fruit is more subdued, and rich earth and tobacco take center stage. This wine is a really nice entry level Burgundy and seems designed to be drunk young. The acid is already integrated – though this should go for a good five years as the acid keeps this really bright and lively.

2018 Jean Luc & Paul Aegerter, Pommard, Reserve Personnelle

2018 Jean Luc & Paul Aegerter, Pommard, Reserve Personnelle – The next Aegerter wine is a clear step up. Overall, the nose here shows dark red almost black fruit, anise, violet, and some earth. In the mouth, things get really interesting with layers of deep juicy red cherry, strawberry, and nice lead. This wine seems built to go far longer than the previous one. The tannin is powdery and mouth coating and needs time to settle a little bit. The finish here is super impressive with rich earth and mushroom, toasted spice, more dark red fruit, and a hint of smoke. I would likely hold off on opening this for another year or two and then drink until the end of the decade.

2018 Jean Luc & Paul Aegerter, Gevrey-Chambertin, Vieilles Vignes, Reserve Personnelle

2018 Jean Luc & Paul Aegerter, Gevrey-Chambertin, Vieilles Vignes, Reserve Personnelle  – By far the best of the three Aegerter  Burgundies. On the nose, we see aspects of both the previous wines. It is darker still with black and red fruit, deep rich earth, and mushrooms. In the mouth, there is a brightness given by the acid that is full of bright red berries, which turn to dark red cherry and then blueberry and plum followed by layers of earth, smoke, and sweet tobacco on the finish. This wine and its two brothers were decanted for about an hour before we got to them – each one needed more time than the previous to open up. I actually saved this until the end of the evening, about three hours later, when it was finally beginning to show. This is a beautiful wine and I wouldn’t touch this for at least three years and then this can go for another 10 after – maybe longer.

2018 Botteotto, Montepulciano D'Abruzzo

2018 Botteotto, Montepulciano D’Abruzzo – This wine is a product of Valle Reale vineyards in Abruzzo. It is actually a second press wine – their kosher first press should be bottled sometime in April. With this wine we have a really nicely made everyday table red. Nose and mouth are primarily in sync with cherry, blackberry, violet, and pepper. Acid is bright and lively and tannin is soft and silky. Not too complex, but an absolute winner with a bowl of pasta or a slice of pizza. Drink now and enjoy for the next 2-3 years.

2014 Famiglia Cotarella, Montiano, Lazio

2014 Famiglia Cotarella, Montiano, Lazio – As noted above, from the same winery that used to be called Falesco. They have moved some of the wines to the Famiglia Cotarella label, including the two wines that the kosher world knows. As always, the Montiano is 100% Merlot. This wine also needed a good 1.5 hours to come into line, as it showed very ripe on opening, but with time it turns into something powerful. On the nose, mostly blueberries and earth. In the mouth is where the party starts.  On first attack, you have sweet ripe blueberry, followed by blackberry and raspberry. You then start to feel the bright acid and the crazy tannin. The wine has a beautiful mid-palate that is more about earth, espresso, and chocolate. The wine finishes beautifully with toasted herbs, more red fruit, and rich supple earth. If you couldn’t tell, I loved this wine. Based on the winery’s track record, I would say you can drink this comfortably for the next 7-8 years.

2014 Famiglia Cotarella, Marciliano, Umbria

2014 Famiglia Cotarella, Marciliano, Umbria –While people usually refer to the Marciliano as Falesco’s Cabernet Sauvignon, it is really a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Cabernet Franc. The Cabernet Franc is what sets this wine apart, IMHO. It brings some excellent green notes and cuts the wine so that it is not overwhelmingly heavy. Don’t get me wrong, it’s plenty full bodied, but with depth and complexity that keeps it interesting. On the nose it is all CS – black fruit and anise, but as the wine opens, more of the CF comes to the fore, with some nice herb, pepper, and then finally the mushrooms at the very end. In the mouth, another party, with black fruit up front, charcoal, and then a hint of bright red tar fruit. As the wine continues, it deepens into those beautiful mushroom flavors with great damp rich earth and a nice fine line of graphite. The tannin here keeps changing as well. It starts out powdery and little out there, but ultimately integrates into the wine, providing an excellent core. The finish here is also great, as the herbs and fresh cut wood come out, as well as some nice tobacco. This is a really nice wine – though believe it or not, I prefer the Montiano slightly, but that’s a personal preference – this wine is equally as good and should have a similar drinking window.

Before moving on to the French wines, we also tasted a barrel sample of the 2016 Brunello that, while showing tons of baby fat right now, shows excellent potential. There is no point in writing notes right now as it’s WAY too early, but I’m hoping for great things.

2016 Chateau la Tour de By, Medoc

2016 Chateau la Tour de By, Medoc – Just a quick aside – this wine was decanted with a number of others, but at first was actually poured by mistake in place of the Aegerter Gevrey. The color of course was WAY off, but OK – as soon as you put your nose in, you can’t think PN. This wine was WAY over the top. And boy did it taste that way. Now it could very well be that, because I was expecting a PN and I got something very different, this wine tasted so crazy over the top. But since then my friend David has posted a write up with a similar experience, so the wine simply starts off that way. In the end, I put this glass aside and tasted it in its proper place. With the extra time, it did calm down and showed well enough, but it’s hard to get that first association out of your head. On the nose, after the wine has calmed down, you get black fruit, chocolate, and nice warm spice. On the mouth you basically have more of the same, though some earth and herbs do come out before going back to more chocolate at the end. I think I need to retaste this under better circumstances as it certainly has potential. For now, I would suggest decanting for a good two hours before drinking.

2005 Chateau Valandraud, Saint Emilion Grand Cru

2005 Chateau Valandraud, Saint Emilion Grand Cru – Let’s get this out of the way – this was the top wine of the night for me. I know – you are looking down the list and seeing the 2014 SHL – and yeah, maybe it’s technically ever so slightly superior – but that’s a huge maybe. Certainly in terms of where the wines are at now, the Valandraud wins. I was so happy when I saw this on the table. There were also an ’03 and ’04 that we never got to, but really, this was going to be the star anyhow. I am so happy that M & M picked up the back vintages of Valandraud.  On the nose, red and black fruit with some nice herbs and a little barnyard in the back. In the mouth, boy is this wine layered and beautifully structured. Drinking is like taking a spoon of trifle, where you dig though all of the layers to get the full effect. Ripe black fruit and then raspberry, some smoke, some excellent graphite, with the herbs and tobacco coming in for the finish. The tannin is still firm here but well integrated. This wine is a plush delight. I would say it’s at peak now but it’s not going anywhere for the next few years. Really excellent stuff. As I write this I am setting a reminder to call Ralph and see if I can get some put away. Just beautiful.

2014 Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte, Pessac-Leognan, Grand Cru Classe

2014 Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte, Pessac–Leognan, Grand Cru Classe  – I have been privileged to taste this wine a number of times, and it never disappoints.  What a beautiful nose. You get clear notes of cigar mixed with sweet spice, dark red and black fruit, and some smoked meat.  The mouth is super close. At this point it had been decanted for three hours and I swirled and shook (and made a mess) and swirled some more, and it just started to crack open.  What you do get is a mineral driven wine that starts off with blackberries and moves to quality sweet tobacco, graphite, black licorice, then red berries and mocha.  While the wine is closed, the tannin is not at all harsh – in fact it is silky and firm and provides a beautiful backbone. The finish is loooong with leather, earth, tobacco, and herb. This wine is a work of art. Really beautiful. I likely will not touch mine for at least another five years with a drinking window that likely extends well into the next decade. Consider that the 2000 is drinking beautifully now 20 years later, and it likely has a few years ahead – this wine might even hit the end of the 2030’s.

2017 Chateau Lafon-Rochet, Saint-Estephe, Grand Cru Classe

2017 Chateau Lafon-Rochet, Saint-Estephe, Grand Cru Classe  –  While the 2017 vintage in Bordeaux is hit or miss, as I have written about before, this wine is all hit. In fact, it is my favorite wine to date of the 2017 ‘s. It edges out by a hair the excellent 2017 Chateau Leoville Poyferre. The wine is still super young and very tight. This had been decanted for over 3.5 hours and still needed a ton of swirling to coax it open. There is great mushroom, graphite, and herbs, followed by ripe dark fruit. In the mouth, it opens with the herbs followed by the dark red fruit, tar, charcoal, and graphite. The tannin here is totally mouth coating and the acid presents refined in total balance. The finish is excellent with more toasted herb, tobacco, baker’s chocolate, mushrooms, and rich soil. Excellent stuff.

2016 Chateau Tour Saint Christophe, Saint Emilion Grand Cru

2016 Chateau Tour Saint Christophe, Saint Emilion Grand Cru – The nose on this wine is bright with red fruit and tar with some charcoal and smoke at the back end. In the mouth, you get hit with super red fruit, which turns darker as it plays on your tongue, after which you have herbs and tobacco. The structure here is impressive. The tannin and acid are absolutely in sync. The finish is mostly green and earthy with toasted herbs, mushrooms, tobacco, and earth. Another winner.

Before I close, one other thing that my Israeli readers should know – M&M is now exporting its wines to Israel via Geshem. Currently this includes the Italian wines only. The prices are  basically in-line with The States plus or minus (the Montepuliciano is the same or even less than the shelf price in the US, while the Famiglia Cotorella wines are slightly more expensive but within the margin when you take into account the taxes. Now this does NOT include the IDS wines, which are still imported here in a sort of haphazard fashion. But everything else is potentially on the table in the future. Shmulik Gotlieb of Geshem can be reached at geshemspirits@gmail.com or at 052-474-1441 – to tell you which retail outlets are actually carrying these wines in Israel right now.

My thanks to Ralph Madeb and David Motovich of M & M Importers for this wonderful evening. It was a real treat!

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