KFWE London 2023

To wrap up KFWE season, Royal Wines hosted its annual London event last week. As I have mentioned previously, the show in London is perhaps my favorite. It really has nothing to do with the wines – the vast majority of which I had tasted before. It more has to do with the Chevra. First of all, the wine drinking crowd in London are just super nice. Really – a higher caliber social group it would be hard to find. There is no posturing, no grandstanding. Just people who enjoy drinking wine and are happy to share in their experiences and hospitality. This is pretty much my experience each time I visit. On top of that, London allows me to spend time with friends from the US whom I get to see far too infrequently – and almost never at the same time. In general, whenever people visit Israel, they are usually coming with a number of obligations and have very little “hang” time. The same is often true when I am in the US – I have either work or familial obligations and rarely have chucks of time open for socializing. But, in London, if you are coming from the US or Israel (and were not originally from the UK) you have no obligations and so whenever KFWE London comes up, I get to spend some quality time with friends eating, out, touring, and just having a wonderful time hanging.

This year was no different. As has now become almost customary, the KFWE was proceeded by a festive dinner. Rather than hosting us at his house as we did in the old days, Andrew Krausz hosted us at his newly opened restaurant “The Fireplace by Blue Smoke”. The attention to detail in putting this spot together in what amounts to his backyard (next to the retired airplane) is incredible – as was the food (pictures of which are below). Having said that, I do miss the more intimate feeling of being at home. This was more of a formal setting and a guided tasting hosted by Royal and led by both Menahem Israelievitch and Joseph Herzog, which paired each dish with both French and Californian wines. As is always the case with food and wine – there were some hits and some misses – but none of that really matters. It was about the experience, which was fun. On the food side, believe it or not, my favorite dishes were the fish – both the gravlax and hake. Andrew just does them both exquisitely. On the wine side, for me France took the night handily with wonderful showings of the 2019 Gazin Rocquencort, 2020 Le Hardi Gevrey-Chambertin, 2016 Château Lascombes and the 2020 Château Léoville Poyferré. We also had a couple of unique tastings, including the never released first edition of the Generation VIII, which was a 2002 North Coast Cabernet Sauvignon, as well as a barrel sample of the 2021 Warnecke Vineyard CS. Interesting indeed. I have to spend a moment also on the dessert. The original dessert that Andrew planned did not set properly, and so he whipped up a substitute. While a brownie may seem mundane, this was one of the best I have ever tasted. I can’t say that it paired well with the 2018 Château Piada – but like I said, it was unplanned – and excellent.

The next day was spent touring a bit in various art galleries and bookstores followed by a nice lunch at the Tony Page @ Island Grill near Hyde Park. In general, most of the kosher establishments in London don’t have a reputation for excellent food. I can say that everything we had at Tony Page was on point from the Risotto to the lamb to the sticky toffee putting we had for dessert – excellent all. To top it off, they have a very decent wine list!

But of course, the reason for being in London was KFWE. As in previous years, it was held at Sheraton Grand London Park Lane Hotel in Piccadilly.  As I have mentioned previously – I am not a fan of the layout there – and the rooms are ridiculously overpriced. Having said that, this year’s event was run very well. Even though it was right in the middle of summer, there was adequate AC and for the most part, the room is big enough for the number of wines being poured. The only note I can give is that there were not enough spittoons set up. Often there was one spittoon for two tables to share and they were stationary, meaning if you were at the far end of the table and wanted to spit, it was bit of a nightmare. But that aside everything went smoothly.  For the most part the food was nicely done – if not to my particular taste. However, at least for the press section, which ran from 2:30-5:30, there was plenty of canapés to go around, if you so wanted. One oddity, for the main event, which started at 6:30, they have canceled the VIP area. I understand that perhaps the food was not up to par the last couple of times – (even though it was trending better year over year), and so, I guess people didn’t feel it was “worth it.” But, this did have the unfortunate ripple effect of keeping everyone in the main room for the most part (yes there was a little food outside and on the floor above, but if you wanted to both taste wine and eat, that really didn’t work). So by 7:30pm the place was a zoo. Luckily for me, by then I really had to make my exit to catch a flight back to Israel. So I avoided this for the most part.

As I often note, these events are really not ideal for writing detailed notes – and certainly not for giving full scores. Having said that, I do like to point out some nice wines that I tasted for the first time. First, with probably the best “new” wine for me was the 2018 Elvi Herenza Reserva. WOW! Firing on ALL cylinders here. Best vintage of this wine since 2014 for sure. I would love to taste in more ideal settings with some time to sit and take it apart. A true pleasure. Next up a new release from Netofa, the 2021  Matzpen, which is a GSM blend. Delicious. This is a little consolation after confirming a couple of things regarding Netofa. First, the base level Domain Netofa is no more (White, Rosé, and Red) . Second, gone also is the Ruby Port. These wines made up a fair portion of my regular intake. I am actually really bummed about all of that. But here are other wines that are coming eventually to fill in the portfolio – and the Matzpen is certainly a great place to start. It is a classic Rhone GSM blend made by the orginal Israeli Rhone Ranger himself. Tasty! Lastly I’d like to highlight wonderful new releases from Dalton. They too have done a little bit of rebranding and shifting of product lines. One of the new lines is Family Collection. I can say the 2020 Dalton Family Collection Cabernet Sauvignon is very, very nice. This is upper impressive as I find most varietal CS’s produced during the tough 2020 vintage to be way over the top. This wine, while very new world and fruit forward, is proper and controlled. Very nice indeed! As I was finishing up I also sampled Dalton’s Gin and Vermouth and made myself a quick Martini. Good stuff!

My thanks of course to Royal wines for hosting me at this event and the other KFWE’s and to my friends Yossi and David who made this one of the more fun outings I’ve had of late. Already looking forward to next year.

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