Archive for April, 2009

Different wine styles

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

Following up on yesterday’s post I continue to ponder the divergent styles of wine.  And as such, was somewhat surprised to see this excerpt within an email from “Vibrant Rioja”:

Rioja Tinto Reserva
Flavors – Modern styles of Reserva tend to have flavor profiles towards chocolate, sweet spices, and what Spaniards call sabores balsámicos – fennel, anise, licorice. Classic styles of Reserva tend to have more developed, earthier aromas with less noticeable fresh fruit, but more complexity and finesse

We know the different styles exist.  And I believe there is a market for each style.  Modern vs. Classic.  New World vs. Old World.  Natural vs. Manipulated.  Call it what you want.  These two styles exist.

Which is better?  Well whichever style you prefer of course.  Just as there are critics who seem to prefer one style, there are also those who clearly prefer the other.

I must admit that I am not sure why I am so fascinated by all of this.  Maybe because as my palate has evolved I have seen my own preferences change (from modern to classic).  But the fact is that I still do enjoy many “modern” wines.  Just as there are some supposedly “classic” wines that I find to be lacking fruit, character, personality, etc.

If you have any questions about this feel free to write.  And if you have an opinion please feel free to share.  Either way, forget region, price, rating, label, whatever – try as much wine as you can, figure out your preferred style, and ENJOY!

Happy  YOUR style wine tasting!


Quick rant & “natural” wines

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

It has been too long.  I miss YOU!  Getting back from Israel has been exhausting.  Jet-lag is kicking my butt.   Furthermore, following the Vlog launch, getting back to actual writing has been tough.  But fear not, I am shopping around for what I hope will be the prefect video companion and I expect to get back to Vlogging ASAP (to the delight of my friends who have enjoyed making lots of fun of me).  In the meantime you will have to settle for my prose…

Let’s start with coffee.  I have somehow managed not to become a regular drinker of coffee.  I both fear a coffee dependency, and dislike most of the coffee around.  It either tastes watered down, burnt, or otherwise just not to my taste.  But there is a small NYC chain, “Joe” whose coffee I really like.   I was safe as I only drink their coffee when I find myself near one of their downtown locations.  But while I was out of town the good folks at Joe opened up their 5th location…a short 4 blocks away.  Uh oh…looks like my caffeine intake will be increasing…

OK, getting back to wine, I have been thinking a lot about terroir, natural wines, non-manipulated (unmanipulated?) wines, etc.

I have also been thinking a lot about wines that really get me to say “wow”!

These “wow” wines, and those “terroir” OR “natural” OR “unmanipulated” wines are neither mutually exclusive nor are they necessarily related.  I’ll attempt to differentiate as much as possible in a future post.

But today I bring this up as I (sort of) attended a “natural wine tasting” today.  I say “sort of” as I was accused of being a party crasher at the tasting, and I was subsequently “thrown out”.  While I will readily admit that I was not invited by the host, I was invited by an invited guest.  Disappointed I may have been, a wise man recently told me that he does not care to be where he is not wanted.

I did however have the opportunity to taste several of these “natural wines” before my premature departure.  But I found quite a few of them not only to be un-manipulated but also without any personality.  No fruit or oak aromas or flavors and frankly not much of anything but an OVERLY understated and non-descript wine.

HOWEVER, as much as I may prefer not to admit it, I did find an unusually high percentage of wines that were in fact WOW wines.  When I think of WOW wines I am speaking about wines that are in some way unique, often times complex, and really catch me by surprise.  I tried red & white, dry and sweet, and several of them showed subtle complexity with unusual aromas and flavors.  This is what gets me to go WOW.  Your WOW wine can be a drastically different wine.  As long as the wine excites you and get you to say WOW (or “holy crap” &/or a host of other possibilities).

Two producers whose wines I think are worth mentioning are those of Cristiano Guttarolo as well as Francois Pinon.  Guttarolo poured some Primitivo’s (AKA Zinfandel), each aged in different vessels; one in Amphora (clay vessels), one in stainless steel & a third in large barriques.  While the two still wines of Pinon were of interest as I picked up a hint of sweetness – that “hint” that actually turned out to be A LOT (17 grams RS) of sugar  that was balanced beautifully by a terrific acidity (each with a beautiful bouquet to add to the WOW factor).

As I continue to process the often times “elitist” quest for natural and terroir driven wines I promise to discuss in greater detail.  But in the meantime…

Happy “WOW” wine tasting!


WTG Video Blog # 1 – about tasting & Dalton Sauvignon Blanc

Monday, April 20th, 2009

Here it is ladies and gentlemen.  My first VIDEO BLOG, or VLOG.

I’m still here in Israel and taking advantage of my brother’s technical expertise as well as his super cool video camera.  This is THE FIRST vlog so please bare with me.  I hope future VLOGs will be less rough, more concise and hopefully extraordinarily compelling.

Being that it is the first VLOG I wanted to talk a bit ABOUT TASTING or more specifically tast-ERS.  There is some interesting research on the topic and I have my own little theory.

Tim Hanni Created the “BUDOMETER” briefly detailing the following:

  • Tolerant tasters – fewer taste buds
  • Sensitive tasters – more taste buds
  • Hypersensitive tasters
  • Sweet tasters

To take the Wine tasting Continuum test to determine what type of taster you are click here. article divides tasters by number/shape of taste buds as follows:

  • Hyper (Super) Taster
  • Regular Taster
  • NON taster

And I, WTG have my own little theory of tasters as follows:

  • Beginner tasters – seek out “smooth” wine
  • Intermediate tasters – like fruit forward oaked wine
  • Advanced tasters – prefer balanced wine

Following my (not too brief) discussion on tasters, I proceeded to review the 2008 Dalton Reserve Sauvignon Blanc (link to 2007 version).

In the future I will try to do less talking and more WINE TASTING.

Sooo…without further ado, WTG Video Blog #1 (and I guess #2)…



Happy VIDEO Wine Tasting!


Guest Blog Post – building a wine cellar

Friday, April 17th, 2009

A friend offered to help out while I am away in Israel and composed a post about building a wine cellar.  A worthwhile read that I hope you enjoy…

How to Build the Perfect Wine Cellar

If you are passionate about wine, then you have no doubt contemplated building your own wine cellar at one point. Having your own beautiful wine cellar to safely house your collection can be a practical and rewarding project. Not only are wine cellars stylish, but they can also add to the property value of your home itself. Many potential home owners’ eyes light up upon seeing that the house they are considering comes equipped with its own wine cellar. But who are we kidding? If you plan on building your own wine cellar, then you’re not doing for someone else, you’re doing it because you have a passion for wine. Whether you are a connoisseur of wine or simply enjoy a bottle with dinner, building your own wine cellar is easier than you think.

The most important aspects of a wine cellar are the wine racks. You can either purchase racks from a home goods store or you can choose to build them yourself. Depending on the size of your collection, you may want to start small, while still leaving yourself room to expand upon later. There are even wine racks on the market that allow you to add on more storage pieces as your collection grows. No matter what type of rack you decide upon, take special care to make sure it is sturdy and properly installed. Not only is your collection valuable, but it is also quite fragile. The last thing you want is to descend your stairs to your cellar only to find your wine pooling on the ground.

Wine is a very temperamental and special care is needed to insure that it is stored properly. For starters, natural light will damage your wine over time. It is vital that you store your wine in an area that is dark and will not be exposed to light for extended periods of time. You should also take care to make sure that your cellar is not too humid, as this can damage the corks in your bottles and cause cork rot, which with ruin your wine. Use a dehumidifier if need be to keep your wine cellar somewhere between 60 – 70% humidity.

Lastly, your wine needs to be stored at a specific temperature in order to thrive. Depending on the region in which you reside, this may prove more difficult. Wine needs to be stored in an area that is between 7 – 18 degrees Celsius. Any wines you own that are maturing should be stored at a slightly lower temperature. If your cellar is too hot or too cold then your wine will not age properly and some of the delicate flavors may be lost forever. By keeping these simple factors in mind, you should have no problem starting a wine cellar that you can enjoy for years to come.

Bottle variation??

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009

I’m drinking a lot of Israeli wine here in Israel during the Passover holiday.  Then again that should not come as much of a surprise to anyone who frequently reads this blog as I ALWAYS drink a lot of Israeli wine.

That said I had the opportunity to get a terrific wine at a very affordable price here in Israel that unfortunately is NOT an Israeli wine.  Capcanes, a Spanish winery whose wines I have previously written about makes two kosher (and kosher for Passover) wines.  The big boy is the “Peraj Ha’abib”, which is just like perach Ha’Aviv or “Spring Flower” in hebrew.  So through a friend I was able to get my hands on a few bottles of the 2005 Capcanes Peraj Ha’abib here in Israel for the rough equivalent of about $40.  This wine sells for about $60+ back at home in NY, so I figured I’d grab a few bottles and indulge.

I opened up the first of the 3 bottles with my family at our Friday night meal.  It was showing BIG/STRONG oak characteristics, with almost over-powering cloves.  Not everyone at the table picked up on it, but it was unmistakable to me.  The mouth feel of the wine and the underlying fruit were both very nice, but this wine was dominated by its toasty clove aromas.

I then opened up the 2nd bottle on Monday night while dining with the special lady at a fancy Jerusalem restaurant.  This bottle was the same vintage, same winery, same wine…and I believe SAME CASE.  Yet it was COMPLETELY different from the first bottle.  This time the wine had a similar mouth feel yet the dominant clove aromas were GONE.  Beautifully integrated oak and fruit, with the fruit shining through. 

SO, getting back to the title, there is something in wine known as “vintage variation”.  This happens as hand crafted wines will vary from vintage to vintage.  Different weather patterns, longer/shorter growing seasons, more/less rain/sun, etc… – all these factors lead to differences in vintages and wines from different vintages that are remarkably different from one another.

But to happen to the SAME wine from the SAME vintage and the SAME case?

I suppose this could happen in a tiny winery where the wines were aged in different barrels and then bottled without being re-blended???  But I would imagine that most wineries, even small one, will mix all the barrels together in a tank of sorts before bottling.  So how/why could something like this happen?  Have you ever experienced anything like this before???

Happy same wine different flavor wine tasting!


Katlav Winery

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

I apologize for my extended absence, but I’M IN ISRAEL!!!!  I’ve been here for about a week and making time to post is (sadly) not on the top of my priority list.

Yesterday I traveled with some friends and the special lady through the Jerusalem Hills.  We did a couple of short & beautifully scenic hikes, and ended the day at a winery.  Katlav winery, located in Nes Harim within the Judean Hills was started by Yossi Yittach.  Unfortunately Yossi was not available, but we were treated to a tour & tasting by his trusty assistant Aviel.


The winery grows its own fruit and purchases some additional fruit, but only from the Judean Hills region.  I believe that the Judean Hills is a prime region with its high elevation (6-800 meters above sea level), hot days & cool night, and porous soils.  At present the winery is only making about 10,000 bottles but plans to grow to about 20,000 soon and even more in the future.  Many of the Katlav wines are exported – probably a wise business decision by proprietor and winemaker Yittach.

Aviel started us off with the 2007 Katlav Chardonnay.  I was there with a bunch of other people and did not take formal tasting notes.  However I remember thinking that the Chardonnay was interesting.  It clearly saw some time in oak as it had an attractive toasty nose.  It also evidently underwent some malolactic fermentation as its nose was creamy/buttery as well.  But on the palate this wine showed some of the bitter grapefruit & tart apple characteristics that I’ve been seeing in some un/lightly oaked Israeli Chard’s, and as such I am led to believe that maybe it only went through a partial malolactic (secondary fermentation that converts bitter malic acid into softer lactic acid).  A nice and interesting Chardonnay.

We then moved onto the 2006 reds.  The 2006 Merlot is already sold out, so we tried the ’06 Cab & the ’06 blend.

Beginning with the blend, which is comprised of 60% Cabernet, 30% Merlot & 10% Syrah (from purchased fruit), this wine showed a lot of the Israeli terroir – herbal in nature with thyme & sage overlapping the black fruit characteristics.   These wines are not fined or filtered and the richness of this wine was evident.  A tasty red that is sure to pair wonderfully with herb infused/marinated Mediterranean dishes.

We ended our charming visit with the 2006 Cabernet.  A muscular wine with many of the aforementioned herbal traits this wine was my buddy’s favorite.  Showing nice black fruit, this wine will age well and I would guess begin to show off some secondary characteristics with a little age.  Pair this with a roast and savor the spicy Mediterranean terroir!

Happy Israeli boutique wine tasting!


NON-wine alcoholic options for Passover

Monday, April 6th, 2009

Here is an interesting article written in the LA Times about your alcoholic options (outside of wine) for Passover.  Oh, and the author quoted some guy in his article who seems real excited about the kosher for passover tequila.  Wonder who that guy could be…


Happy Passover (tequila/vodka) tasting!


Passover wine recommendations

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009

Welcome to my 2nd annual Passover wine recommendations post. I hope you will forgive me as I begin with some shameless self promotion. My 2008 Passover wine recommendations can be found here.  While I recently wrote an article for the Jewish Press about “blends” for Passover here.

Before I make my recommendations I want to reiterate something I constantly preach.  DRINK WHAT YOU LIKE.  Too many people focus on what critics, salespeople, friends or contemporaries tell them they SHOULD like.  Nobody knows your palate but you.  So try as much wine as you can and pick out wine that YOU will like for the Passover seder and your 4 cups.

OK, onto the wines that either I WILL be drinking or that I’d like to be drinking.

When in the US, I generally get deals on wine and rarely pay full price.  A perk of working in the biz.  But when I am in Israel, besides the occasional free bottle from winery friends, I generally pay full price.  Considering that a 10 person seder X 4 cups per person equates to anywhere from 8-12 bottles, many of us will be watching our wallets and buying modestly priced wines.

Some of my favorite Israeli budget wines include the Golan Cabernet , Carmel Private Collection Cabernet, Dalton Canaan Red or just about any wine from Galil Mountain.  The 2007 Galil Mountain Merlot is great, but I might look to spend a bit more and get the Galil Pinot Noir or newly released Galil Barbera.  The first 4 wines can be found for the equivalent of about $10-12 in Israel and $12-15 here.  While the mid priced Galil wines (Pinot & Barbera) should be under $20 in both countries.  Others to consider in this price range are The Yogev wines and the Segal “Fusion” (blends I need to better familiarize myself with).

The focus of my recommendations will be non-mevushal Israeli wines.  But if I were to pick a mevushal wine in the under $15 category I’d probably go with the Herzog old vine Zinfandel. I’ve been known to go for this wine in a restaurant that only serves mevushal wines as it’s both reasonably priced and of good quality.

Something I have not heard people consider when discussing the options for their 4 cups is sparkling wine.  I know people like to drink red and sparkling is made for sipping (not chugging a full “cos”), but there are some nice sparkling options that should be considered.  A favorite of mine, if you can find it, is the Yarden Blanc du Blanc.  I have also tried the Adar de Elvi Cava Brut and enjoyed it.  I have heard nice things about the Bellenda Prosecco as well as the Teal lake Sparkling Muscat.  All of these sparkling options are under $20 and worth a shot.   Did you know that sparkling wine is said to be “food neutral” and pairs well with ALL cuisine?

Before I dive into the Israeli selections there are a couple of non-Israeli wineries out there I’d like to briefly mention.

In New York I have been hearing really great things about Red Fern Cellars.  I have not tried these wines yet, but I have been told that they are excellent.  Just make sure you are getting wines from the 2005 vintage as earlier vintages were not as successful for this Long Island based winery.

From California, if you can find it, Four Gates is making great wines.  Also worth considering are the wines of Hagafen or of course some of the Herzog reserve wines.  While Four Gates is not mevushal, all the Hagefen wines are and most of the Herzog reserve wines are (now) mevushal as well.

From New Zealand I really like what Goose Bay has done with their Sauvignon Blanc as well as their Pinot Gris.  While I enjoy all the Goose Bay wines these two in particular have a mouth watering acidity and freshness that are quite delicious.

I find most Kosher French wines to be either too expensive or simply not that good.  But I admit that I am not as familiar with these as I’d like to be.  Similar story with Kosher Italian wines though I have heard positive things about some of the Borgo Reale wines.

From Spain there are some high end wines that I really like.  the Capcanes “Montsant” (AKA “Peraj Ha’Abib”) is a great wine as is the Elvi “El 26″.  Problem is these wines are quite pricey ($50-60).  The lower level wines from these wineries are nice, but I still think better options abound at these price levels from Israel.

Which is a good segue back into Israeli wines.

The Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon (2004) was actually the first ever Israeli (or kosher) wine named to Wine Spectator’s prestigious Top 100 wines (of 2008) list.  I also like the 2003 Yarden Syrah.  The 2002 is past its peak so if you are buying this wine make sure it is the ’03 or ’04.  It has a classic peppery-ness with some old world gamey/smoked meat qualities.

Speaking of Syrah, and getting back to Galil Mountain, is the Galil Yiron Syrah.  The brother to the classic “Yiron” (a bordeaux blend that is a long time favorite of mine) is  different in style from the Yarden Syrah.  This one screams California or even Washington State Syrah.  BIG blueberries and plums, with a hint of pepper.  A lovely new world style Syrah.

Staying in Israel, some wines I have raved about before are two “Appellation” wines from Carmel.  The Carmel Appellation Carignan & Carmel Appellation Petit Syrah are unique varietals done very nicely by Carmel.  They each come from old vines (which leads to deeper & richer wines) and are worth checking out if you want to try something different.

Speaking of unusual, when many of us think of red wine we quickly think of Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot.  But these wines are almost always very BIG and can over-power delicate foods.  Some nice options for red wines that are not quite as big bodied are the aforementioned Galil Mountain Pinot & Barbera as well as my next recommendation; the Recanati Reserve Cabernet Franc.  Cab Franc is one of the 5 Bordeaux varietals and this wine from Recanati is both light bodied and complex, showing interesting herbaceousness as well as chocolate notes.

Another winery that makes a Cab Franc is Ella Valley.   I’d like to better familiarize myself with their wines which are a little bit higher in price ($20+ for the low end “Ever Red” and $30-$50 for their higher end and “vineyard choice” series), but I hear very good things.  With vineyards throughout the Judean Hills this winery seems to be doing a great job with the fruit from this premium grape growing region.

Heading back up north to the Galilee I’d like to mention Dalton again.  I grew up on the Dalton Canaan Red, moved onto the Dalton Estate Shiraz (a very rich & extracted wine) and have progressed to appreciating the Dalton reserve series.  This progression is very common for wine drinkers.  We begin enjoying easy to drink reds.  Move up to big, fruit forward reds.  And graduate to subtle, complex and elegant wines.  While the subtle wines of Dalton don’t always garner the highest scores from critics (for reasons I don’t understand) these wines are sure to please the wine aficionado at your seder.

Two of the largest wineries in Israel, are Barkan and Binyamina.  For many years these wineries were producing mediocre wines that were sold throughout supermarkets in Israel.  But in recent years these wineries have really stepped up to the competition and have improved the quality of their offerings.  I hear the Cabernet reserve from both Binyamina and Barkan, each priced around $20, are well worth the money.

Before I get to dessert, I’d be remiss not to mention the darling of Israeli kosher wines, Castel.  This family run winery produces wines that are very old world in style – less fruit forward, more balanced, with subtle fruit, herbs & earth characteristics.  The wines are not cheap, but if you want to splurge on something special you can’t go wrong with the Castel Grand Vin.

If you are still reading, CONGRATULATIONS, you are a real wine-O!  Or at least an aspiring aficionado.

I’d like to finish off by mentioning some terrific dessert wine options.  And they come from Israel’s most well known wineries, Yarden & Carmel.  Beginning with the Yarden Muscat, this wine, which comes in a 500ml. (and very aesthetically pleasing) bottle is a fun treat.  It costs about $15 and is fortified with Brandy.  It is a nice digestif and goes great with anything sweet.  Carmel makes their “Shaal” Late Harvest Gewurtztraminer, which is also a very nice option.  Or you can splurge a bit ($30 for 375 ml.) and go with the highly rated Yarden “Heightswine” (a play on “ice wine”).  Made from Gewurtz grapes frozen in a commercial freezer, this rich & syrapy wine IS dessert.

Happy Passover kosher wine tasting!


Couple of wine shout-outs

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

First I’d like to congratulate my WINE group buddy, organizer & fearless leader Jeremy.   Wine snob extraordinaire, Jeremy is also an author – and a PUBLISHED one at that.

All Jokes aside Jeremy is a brilliant writer and I am thrilled to help him announce the release of his new book.  I haven’t received my signed copy yet, but you can go ahead, check it out and even BUY a copy here

Second shout out is to a group of 40 bloggers who got together and formed a wine related April fools site called “Dregs Report”.  Sure I was deeply hurt by not being asked to contribute, but they probably knew how busy I’ve been, what with Passover and all.  I took a quick peak at the site and it looks pretty funny.

Happy wine related (and otherwise political) reading & TASTING!