Archive for the ‘Israel Wine’ Category

Toast of the Town & am I becoming a wine snob?

Thursday, May 12th, 2011

Once again I had the good fortune of attending the Wine Enthusiast Toast of the town.  This was my 4th year, but this was the first time I attended as a vendor as opposed to as a journalist (OK, blogger).

In a new location (Avery Fisher Hall instead of Koch Theater) within NYC’s glorious Lincoln Theater, Wine Enthusiast put on its annual Toast of the Town event this past Thursday May 5th.

It was bigger than its ever been before with a ton of wine and lots of great restaurants.  This year there were also spirits and beers being poured.

I attended this year on behalf of Israel’s Barkan Winery.  The Barkan lineup this year was a pretty cool one.

The 2007 Barkan Superieur Pinotage is a very cool & interesting wine.  Rich chocolate, toffee & ripe fruit… A great wine that really makes you go “hmmmm”.

Speaking of going hmmmm, we also poured the 3 wines in the “Altitude” series.  The altitude represents vineyards at different heights above sea level, representing different terroirs.  The wines also come from different regions, so the altitude isn’t the only difference.  But the 3 wines (a 412, 624 & 720) are basically all made the same way – so like an experiment with the winemaking as the control.  It was lots of fun to hear the people, most of whom had different favorites amongst the 3.

I did try to hit up a few other tables while I was there and I managed to taste about 30 wines.

In no particular order, I liked the following:

Perry Moore: A 2008 Napa Cab & 2008 Beckstoffers vineyard Oakville Cab that reminded me a lot of the wines I got to work with when I lived in Napa and worked in the lab.

Don Sebastiani & Sons 2007 Aquinas “Philosepher’s Blend”  had great acidity balancing out its ripe fruit.

A Greek wine, the 2004 Oenoforos Lanos Cabernet Sauvignon had dusty fruit & a good earthiness that reminded me of an aged Israeli wine (which makes some sense as they are both Eastern Mediterranean).

The 2004 Batasiolo Vigneto Cerequio Barolo was a WOW wine with great liveliness, subtle burgundian fruit and cola flavors.

Of the whites the one standout for me was a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc (which when done well I find to be so refreshing…I can drink LOTS of NZ Sauv Blanc) the Matua Valley 2009 which had fresh pink grapefruit.

Sooooo….what do I mean by “Wine Snob”?  Sure I prefer good wine to mediocre wine, but the reality is that most wine these days (and surely almost all being poured at events such as this) is pretty good.  I guess I felt like a bit of a snob at this event more because I’m tough to impress.   I’ve come to expect most wine to be good these days.  But good isn’t good enough anymore, it needs to be interesting.  And in the end, very little of the wine that I had the opportunity to try was truly interesting.

Happy Interesting Wine Tasting


Best Wine Club EVER

Sunday, December 26th, 2010

A quick holiday weekend post.

I enjoy drinking wine with friends & colleagues, but my favorite wine tasting are BYOB “wine club” style tastings.

Simply put, gather anywhere from 4 to 12 (or however many you have room for) people and have everyone bring in comparable wines (same varietal, vintage, country of origin, etc).  I’m a fan of the blind tasting, but this can be done blind or not.  The wines are opened and moving through a wine at a time, the group gets to taste multiple wines for the cost of a bottle, and discuss said wines with the group.

In general these discussion are compelling & educational.  When done blind, they are also generally pretty funny…and humbling!

About 10 of us gathered last week for a kosher BYOB tasting – our only theme being cost – that the wine should retail for >$40.  There were 6 wines from Israel including a Castel Grand Vin, Yatir Forest, Single Vineyard Kayoumi Shiraz from Carmel, Bustan Merlot (that seemed to be corked) and two single vineyard Merlot’s from Yarden.  We also had a French Wine (’99 Giscours) and a Cali Cab (City Winery Obsidian Ridge).

The tasting seemed to be enjoyed by all.  Though we tasted blind, we knew ahead of time what the 8 wines to be tasted were.  And by process of elimination, some of us successfully guessed which wine we were tasting.  A feat not typically easily achieved – we decided that there are too few kosher wines if we were able to successfully guess the wines.

Overall it was an enjoyable experience and I’m already looking forward to the next club meeting.

Happy Wine Club blind wine tasting.


Drinking mature wine…

Monday, December 6th, 2010

I had one of my most enjoyable tastings a few days ago.  I got to taste about 20 wines ranging in age from 7-11 years old, all stored in optimal conditions.  I knew which wines I would be tasting ahead of time and was concerned that many would be past their prime and possibly even dead.  Lo & behold, the wines were all alive and quite spectacular.

It is said that 95% (or thereabout) of wine in consumed within 24 hours of its being purchased.  Which leads me to believe that most people have not had the extreme pleasure of drinking a wine that has had time to mature in the bottle, a bottle aged wine.

From “The Billionaire’s Vinegar”: “Crudely, the molecular changes known to unfold in a sealed wine bottle that has been laid down for years involve the gradual interaction of oxygen and wine.  Simple chemical compounds break down and recombine into more and more complex forms called polymeric phenols.  Acidity and alcohol soften.  The largest compounds – the harsh, astringent tannins – drift down into a carpet of sediment, taking with them the saturated, inky pigments.  They leave behind a mellowed, unfathomably subtle flavor and a brick-red hue.  Everything knits together, resolving into an ever finer complexity expressed fragrantly in the wine’s bouquet.”

The chapter gets into more detail about mature wine (while discussing Bordeaux purported to be from Thomas Jefferson’s cache dating back to the late 1700’s, and declares that “a wine is considered mature when it has maximized its flavor possibilities but has not yet begun to deteriorate”.

I still believe that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  Some people prefer the primary aromas and flavors of a young wine, while others prefer the tertiary characteristics.  Of the wines I tried at the tasting I was shocked to discover that not only were most of the wines alive, but they were still displaying youthful fruit.  Their color was almost across the board still ruby, not showing very much (if any) of the brick color that is indicative of an aged wine (as it goes from purple to ruby to brick and ultimately towards brown as it reaches the end of its life).

I tried 5 Bordeaux, 3 Spanish wines, 2 wines from California and 9 wines from Israel.

The Bordeaux was all quite nice and I wish I had time with each bottle to enjoy it as it evolved.  Sadly this was a bit of a speed tasting for me as my job on this evening was simply to verify that the wines were still alive.  They were alive yet I couldn’t help but think they all seemed a bit lite.  They were definitely light in body.  I wonder what types of characteristics would have been revealed had I had more time with these wines.

Next were the Spanish wines from Capcanes; A 2000, 2001 & 2003.  These were probably my (more…)

Wine of Israel “Mediterranean Inspiration” 2010

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

Following the success of the first Wines of Israel tasting, the Israeli Economic Mission with the help of the Dunn Robbins group put on the 2nd Wines of Israel event today in NYC (following a similar event in Houston this past Monday).

Though I was able to sneak around and taste the wines of some other Israeli wineries I spent a majority of my time at the Carmel table, proudly pouring wine.

As a Carmel (and Yatir) employee I don’t think it too appropriate to get into too many details about specific wines, but I would like to share a few general thoughts.

The number of wineries represented at the event was down from 20 last time to 15.  I believe this is in large part due to the significant investment required to participate (cost of wines, airline tickets, hotels,  “table” cost, etc.).  Given the exposure I think it is worth every penny, but it is still a significant expense that is probably not fiscally possible for many of the smaller wineries.  (I do believe all the large “commercial” wineries were there.)

There was a four person panel and once again I was a bit disappointed by the overall tone which seemed a bit negative.  Sure Israeli wines have had a challenging time overcoming the stigma of “kosher wines”, but I think Israeli wines have across the board made tremendous strides and most industry people recognize this   As a whole the industry would be better served by focusing on the positive developments rather than the challenges it still faces (which I think is a topic more appropriate for internal discussion).

Overall however this was really a tremendous event.  Well attended by members of the press & trade, people I spoke with were WOW-ed by the wines they tried.  Of the wines I tasted at other tables I felt almost all were very well-made wines that we can all be quite proud of.  Sure there was an overly oaky Chardonnay, an overripe Cabernet and lots of wines with alcohol levels exceeding 14% abv, but there were few (if any) wines I’d be embarrassed to serve in my home.

I now, more than ever, firmly believe that there IS a place in the mainstream wine world for Israeli wines.  I hope today’s event helped many of the attendees to share that sentiment.

Happy Israeli Wine Tasting!


Israeli wine is the best!

Sunday, October 17th, 2010

Call it writer’s block, call it a much needed vacation or blame it on the J-O-B…what can I say?  I took 10+ weeks off from blogging.  It is like the gym, once you stop going for a while, getting back into the routine can be difficult.

Well, I’m back…and with a purpose.  I’m here to explain why Israeli wines are the best.

OK, maybe not the best (yet), but I do believe that many of the better Israeli wines are also some of the most interesting wines in the world.

I was compelled to post this thought given the incredible award recently bestowed upon the Carmel Winery, Israel’s oldest and largest winery.  Decanter Magazine in their annual awards declared the Carmel 2006 Kayoumi (single vineyard site) Shiraz the best Rhone varietal over £10.  This meant the wine was deemed better than Syrah/Shiraz from famed French Chateau & Australian wineries.

Israel is considered by most to be a “new world” wine producing region.  Which makes sense when you consider that the MODERN wine-making culture in Israel is only about 30 years old.  But this New World region is like a child with an OLD SOUL.  You know those kids…the ones whose maturity is well beyond their years – who seem to literally possess an old soul.  Well, so too Israel & its vineyards.  These are vineyards that are planted amongst ancient (3000 years +) wine presses.

So what does all this have to do with Israeli wine being the best?  Well, other “New World” wines are generally fruit driven.  While typically “Old World” wines are earth or spice driven.

Talk to people in the know about Israeli wines and you will hear about wines that are a mix of fruit & spice.  The warm Eastern Mediterranean sun ripens the grapes and gives the wines a fruity character.  In addition to this fruitiness there is a unique & interesting spicy herbaceousness to Israeli wines.  Some say it is the wild herbs that grow all over the country.  Others say it is the magic of the place.

If you ask me I believe that all are contributing factors.  No matter…all I know is Israeli wines are really good, and starting to garner international recognition.

Happy Israeli wine tasting!


Ying Yang Wine

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

As the US rep for Israel’s Carmel Winery I have many responsibilities…beyond increasing sales.  I am proud to be working for Carmel as Carmel the winery has followed nicely in the wine progression.  Recent years have seen the winemaking at Carmel move beyond the fruit-bomb, powerhouse wines to finesse, more elegant wines.

If you are a wine lover who enjoys big robust wines you are no alone.  The truth is, depending upon my mood, I too love these wines.  But at this stage in my wine progression I have come to appreciate the subtle elegance of wines that have not been aged in lots of new oak, that do not have 15% alcohol, whose acid is still quite apparent and that might actually be overpowered by a big rare steak (my favorite food) – something that would NEVER happen to a Cabernet Sauvignon.

I bring this up (again) as we will be unveiling a new Carmel wine here in the US in the coming weeks; Carmel 2007 Mediterranean.  The wine, as its name might indicate is a blend of (mostly) Mediterranean varietals made in a subdued style with very little new oak.  This wine is not a fruit bomb and is not robust.  While it does have a nice extraction, I worry that consumers will try it and be disappointed.  It is easy to put a big, brawny wine in one’s mouth and say WOW – this is good.  But it is much more difficult to fully appreciate a wine that doesn’t scream at the top of its lungs.  The restrained wine may possess an endless amount of brilliance, but in a world of muscle-neck wines the quiet wine could easily get lost.

There are many wine critics out there and the ones that have been most successful seem to advocate on behalf of big, robust wines.  I wonder if they truly believe that these are “better” wines, or if they have come to realize that these wines are easier for the masses to appreciate and as such would prefer to recommend this style to a style that might leave people wanting more.

Who knows.

What I do know is that the Carmel “Mediterranean” is a well made wine that will require a lot of hand selling.  But I look forward to talking wine with those who are truly “wine curious” and I hope I am able to enlighten some of these people to the benefits of a restrained and elegant wine.

Happy non-fruit-bomb wine tasting!


Best Bet Passover Wines – Vol 2.1

Sunday, March 7th, 2010

Ahhh…Israeli wines.  A combination of two things I most cherish (along with my wife & family of course) in this world; Israel & wine.

Working in the wine industry has afforded me many opportunities to taste wines.  In recent years however it has also prevented me from participating in wine events (such as the Gotham Kosher wine Extravaganza) in the role of wine writer as I had in previous years.  As such there may be wines I will write about strictly on how I remember them (probably previous vintages) or based recommendation from respected friends.  And further, there may be wines that I omit, as negative feelings following a break up (professional) prevents me from speaking nicely about an Ex.

Many of my favorite Israeli wines (more…)

Kosher Food & Wine has arrived

Friday, February 5th, 2010

My posts have been increasingly inconsistent of late as my new job has me working night and day representing amazing wines and helping to plan fabulous events.

This past week saw it all come together with the culmination of the 4th annual “Kosher Restaurant & Wine Experience” on Feb 1 in NYC & the 3rd annual “International Food & Wine Festival” on Feb 3rd in Oxnard, CA.

I helped out with a bit of the planning for the NYC event and have been ecstatic to hear all the positive feedback (with a dash of criticism thrown in of course).

And while I had little (OK, nothing) to do with the planning of the West Coast event, I was privileged to represent Israeli standout wineries Carmel & Yatir – whose wines also received rave reviews from the attendees.

Though high priced items such as the Yatir “Forest” attracted lots of attention, having spent MANY hours (on my feet) pouring the Carmel/Yatir wines I found that people were pleasantly surprised by the resurgence of Carmel and the new “Private Collection” (new label & no longer mevushal/flash pasteurized) & “Appellation” series wines.  Though the Appellation Carignan & Petite Sirah (both old vines incidentally) have been cult favorites for years among Israeli wine lovers, other Appellation wines such as the 2007 Cab Franc (in NY) or the 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz (in CA) were also very positively received.

Though my wife makes fun of my food critiquing, I am far from a food critic (can you say Food Tasting Guy?).  Yet I managed to sneak away from my post at the CA show a few times and marveled at the culinary genius of Tierra Sur Chef Todd Aaron’s creative and delectable cuisine.  It was so good I reserved a precious spot to go back for dinner prior to my return flight to NY early next week.  Now if I can only figure out a way to get the company to cover the tab…

Happy mind blowing-ly good KOSHER food & wine tasting!


go work out, old vine wine & turkey talk

Monday, November 16th, 2009

You know, writing and maintaining a blog is a lot like going to the gym.  Once you lose momentum, it can be real hard to motivate to get going again.  Speaking of which, I have got to get my growing ass back into a gym.  Sure my surgically repaired wrist has been a convenient excuse, but it is not like I can’t exercise other muscles.  Heck, I forget what the inside of a gym even looks like.  Come on…motivate Wine Tasting Guy!!!!

My writing focus is all out of whack.  Nothing overly compelling to write about, so I suppose I might as well talk about the compelling wine I drank the other night.  It was an old vine carignan and it was quite spectacular.  From Carmel vineyards in Israel, this wine comes from 35-40 year old vines – some of the oldest in Israel’s modern day winemaking world.

No official tasting note taken, but this rich extracted wine, with its notes of berries, herbs & bittersweet chocolate is a great alternative to a Cab or Merlot.  I think that among the special things one is rewarded with from an old vine wine is complexity.  And these complexities generally show themselves as the bottle is open for a little while.  This bottle was enjoyed by MANY (and I do mean enjoyed) at a large meal, so it did not have a chance to fully open and show its complexities, but I am sure to revisit it.

Finally I want to start talking a bit about the pending arrival of one of my favorite holidays – TURKEY DAY.  Thanksgiving is a short 10 days away and I am psyched.  The thanksgiving wine articles are starting to appear and I’ve begun to think about what wines to suggest to friends and what wines to open up at my meal.

But before I divulge what wines I DO suggest and which wines I might pop the cork on I figure lets start with what wines NOT I will likely shy away from.   Though some of my favorite wines are the BIG, ROBUST, FRUITY tannic reds, these are wines I will probably steer clear of.  These wines (and their big fruit flavors) will tend to overpower most meals,  let alone a nuanced meal centered on turkey.  These wines do real well with stinky cheeses and fatty cuts of beef.  An aged red will be softer than its younger counterpart and could be a better match, but you might want to reserve those young Napa Cabs for your weekend roast or Sunday BBQ rib-eye.

More on the wines I think do compliment a Thanksgiving meal soon…

Happy old vine sippin’!


Road to recovery

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

It has been 10 days since surgery and all seems to be going well.  Pain is subsiding, I’m not in a cast & I get my stiches out in 2 days.  Is it possible I may be able to bath like a human being again soon??  I understand that if I commit to babying the wrist and remaining in my wrist gaurd that the doc may not require a new cast.  WOOHOO!!!  Two handed showers, here I come!

wrist gaurd

So wrist stuff is going well Wine Tasting Guy, but what up with the wine????

Plenty of wine stuff to discuss.  And staying close to the heart, it is all Israeli wine related.

This past Friday night I opened up a couple of Bordeaux style blends from Israel.  Both were from the 2003 vintage and both considered to be top notch wines from value wineries.  I’m excited to report that both were showing complex secondary characteristics and were drinking quite beautifully.

Though the two have nothing to do with each other (Israeli wine & mevuhal), I just heard about some new MEVUSHAL Israeli wines hitting the market.   Anyone who has followed my posts over time knows that I take issue with mevushal (flash pasteurization) wines (why would anyone want to heat up a wine?).  That said, for caterers & restaurants, places where ONLY mevushal wines are allowed, new quality Israeli offerings are welcome news.  I’ll report more as soon as I’ve had the chance to try them.

Finally I want to let you know about a wine tasting event TOMORROW night.  Some information about the event can be found here.  In a nutshell I’ll be leading a tasting of high end, small batch Israeli wine.  Hard to find wines from Saslove, Sea Horse & La Terra Promessa wineries will be tasted.  And as an incredible bonus,  Chef Eran will be pairing these Mediterranean beauties with his exquisite cuisine.  The tasting has only 5 spots left (as of this writing) so please RSVP ASAP if you’d like to join us.

Happy two-handed Israeli wine (dare I say even mevushal) tasting!