The last couple of weeks have been a bit crazy for me. My niece Zahava got married, and the entire family flew to the US for the wedding and sheva brachot week. (Shout out to my dear friends Yael & Donny, who hosted our entire family of seven while we were visiting for this trip – you guys are the best!) From there I flew to France for my annual trip with David Raccah to survey this year’s wines (posts on that to follow). Then back to Israel where I landed just a few days before Rosh Chodesh. I knew I had my friends Greg and Daphna coming from the US, who were interested in their first Israeli RCC, but with so little time, I doubted I could get it together Luckily, Chef Amrom Pitterman was available. And so in just three days we put this RCC together. As there was so little time, rather than holding it in Jerusalem, for the first time I hosted it myself at home in Beit Shemesh, and quite honestly, it turned out great. The food was all on point, and I think people had a really nice time. And, because I was already home, I was able to really enjoy the wines fully. In term of dishes, highlights for me included the souse vide salmon and the lamb tacos. Really great stuff. But, enough about all of that – you guys are interested in the wines and so here they are.
Golan Heights Winery, Gamla, Brut, NV – No real change from my last notes. The acidity here is just wonderful, and this wine is super fun to drink. As always, simply one of the best buys in kosher sparkling wine.
Weingut von Hövel, Riesling, Saar, Kabinett 2015 – While not as awesome as its 2014 brothers, this is a really solid German Riesling that is now fully in its drinking window and likely at peak (having very little experience with aged quality German Rieslings, I like to be conservative), with really excellent acidity that balances out the fruit wonderfully. The petrol notes that started showing about a year and half ago are more integrated. The wine is at a really nice place right now. Enjoy!
Herzog, Special Reserve, Chardonnay, Russian River, 2015 – If one is looking for a classic American butterball chardonnay – you found it. That’s not a bad thing if this is a profile that you are into. For me – this was a bit out of balance – the smell of buttered popcorn on the nose was quite simply overwhelming – and that follows into the palate. But I am sure there are going to be those that really like it like this; for me it was simply a bit too much.
Barkan, Altitude 412, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2003 – (Bonus Bottle – tasted blind) – Interesting to see how a 19 year old 60 shekel bottle tastes. I mean it wasn’t TOTALLY dead – but pretty damn close. Still impressive enough for a bottle that should have been drunk about 15 years ago.
Latour Netofa, 2014 – Yum, yum, yum. Close your eyes, and you are drinking a nicely aged Rhone wine. Absolutely at peak. On the nose, some really wonderful earth, mushroom, roasted meat, and toasted herbs. In the mouth, tons of earth, mushroom, espresso, with the fruit bringing up the rear – mostly blueberry and raspberry. The acid and tannin are still holding well. Really in terms of QPR this bottle is a star! For me this was the most enjoyable bottle of the night. I would say it will likely hold for another year or two before it starts to decline.
Terra di Seta, Chianti Classico, Riserva, 2015 – Sadly, this was a bad bottle (likely a faulty cork or poor storage). Too bad – it’s really usually a wonderful bottle.
Carmel, Kayoumi, Shiraz, 2012 – Not sure what the issue is here – I have had this wine a number of times in the last year and it has been wonderful. The wine wasn’t bad per se, just a bit underwhelming; perhaps a storage issue?
The next 4 wines were tasted in pairs (the two Rioja Reservas and the two 2015 Cali Cabs) – each paired with one of the main dishes – in the case of the Riojas, a wonderful, shredded lamb “taco” in a rice paper shell (my favorite dish of the night) and the Cabs with the coffee rubbed ribs. Both pairings worked well and the comparisons were interesting.
ElviWines, Herenza, Rioja Reserva, 2010 – Always nice doing the same bottle from different vintages side by side. In this case, one showing its age and the other not. No real change on my notes since the last time I posted – though, I can say that a few people have noted that they have come across bottles that are in decline. So, while this the was the best showing of this bottle for me over the last two years – and it was by far the favorite bottle of most of those that attended the RCC, its best to drink up. It won’t get any better than it is right now – so why risk it?
ElviWines, Herenza, Rioja Reserva, 2014 -This bottle is still SOOOO young. Really – it hasn’t really moved in the last year. Not an inch. The acidity is still through the roof – but that really went nicely with the fatty lamb that it was served with (though not as awesome as this now legendary pairing). While, as noted, most of the table preferred the 2010, I adore this wine – and for me it was by far the best wine and in the top two in terms of enjoyability right now. But really – no rush at all here. This bottle has years ahead of it.
Herzog, Special Reserve, Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, 2015 – 2015 was an odd vintage in California. Started off hot then got very cold, then got very hot again – and on top of that, it was the start of the almost annual wildfires we unfortunately seem to see. In any event, the growing conditions caused low yields with very concentrated ripe fruit and wines that were unusually accessible at release. This was the case with both of these wines. The 2015 Alexander Valley is sandwiched between two stellar vintages – and, as such, perhaps it doesn’t get the respect it deserves. I can say that it showed extremely well here with nice dark ripe but restrained black fruit, plum and black cherry, lead pencil, tar, and earth, with cocoa and espresso on the finish. Really nice showing for this underrated bottle.
Covenant, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2015 – As noted above, 2015 was not the easiest vintage in California. Still, this wine like the Herzog, performed well – though perhaps because it comes from an excellent winery and is highly rated, it set expectations a bit too high. Here too, the wine shows very ripe – with opulent dark red and black fruit, plum, raspberry, red and black currant, followed nice earth, herb, and some vanilla with milk chocolate, coffee, and tobacco on the long finish. The consensus at the table, though, (and I agree) was that the Herzog showed better, which is something I would not have expected. But as I said – this bottle was still lovely.
Château Guiraud, Sauternes, 2000 – Sadly, this bottle was slightly over the hill. Still enjoyable to an extent – but the acidity was light here and the profile in general was less intense than one would hope. Still very nice after 22 years, with some honey and sweet citrus, a bit of funk, and some almost sherry- like undertones. Another wine to drink up if you are holding.
That about wraps it up for me. Chodesh Tov – and happy drinking!
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