Happy hard to find Herzog Winery wines!
Happy hard to find Herzog Winery wines!
I must be getting old.
I remember wine from 30 years ago (Manishewitz), wine from 20 years ago (Baron Herzog White Zinfandel) and wine from 10 years ago (Herzog Reserve Alexander Valley Cabernet – still a consistently great wine btw).
And while I have not written too much about cooking/food over the years (damn, I’ve been blogging since 2007) I am very much a foodie and remember restaurants from 30 years ago (Shmulke Bernstein’s), from 20 years ago (Noah’s Ark) and from 10 years ago (Le Marais).
Seeing where kosher wine & food has come from makes me nostalgic.
SO you ask, where are kosher wine & restaurants these days…???
Well, there are many Cabernet Sauvignon, cabernet based blends or similar big-bodied wines that have been rewarded with high-scores – and deservedly so. The best of these complex, elegant, full-bodied wines are excellent.
As to restaurants, there are some good ones on the scene now and over the past decade. Places such as Va Bene, Tevere, Le Marais and the Prime Group. Old world Italian, French or American Bistros…places where kosher consumers can bring non-kosher guests & feel proud (kosher isn’t just knishes, hot dogs or deli sandwiches).
Well, the point of this whole personal kosher history is a prelude to my observation that kosher food has surged ahead of wine.
I had dinner the other night at Pardes. This 5 month old restaurant is at the cutting edge of molecular gastronomy with its unique & creative menu, its unpretentious hipster decor & artistic presentation – all at very fair prices. This follows a recent dinner at Basil (whose menu was constructed by the owner/chef of Pardes) as well as quality time out West in Oxnard California where I was treated to the delectable creations at Tierra Sur. My experience at each of these three has me confident that we are seeing a new generation of chefs stepping up the quality level of kosher food/restaurants to yet a new height.
But I fear wine is lagging. Sure there are some great wines to accompany a good steak or roast, but what about dishes such as Pardes’ Salmon Tartare wrapped in Socca & topped with a poached egg, Basil’s Parmesan & white asparagus, wood burning oven pizza or Tierra Sur’s Fennel and orange zest encrusted Ahi tuna??? Sure there is a decent Chablis, a good New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and an expensive but nice Laurent Perrier Brut rose’ & champagne. But the selection of good quality kosher wines OTHER THAN big Cab, merlot, zin or Syrah based wines is limited.
While at Pardes the other night I found myself lacking a quality wine pairing for many of the gourmet courses.
In general, there are few if any good Pinot Noirs (will there ever be a top-line Grand or Premier Cru kosher Burgundy?), no decent German Rieslings, French Sancerre or other well-priced high-quality food-friendly wines. Is there even a demand for these kinds of wines??
While the kosher world should be proud of the upward trend of high quality kosher offerings for both food & wine, I hope kosher wine offerings will broaden to include wines that will allow kosher foodies to accompany their non red meat meals with subtle wines and not just big Cabernet style wines.
Happy kosher food & wine pairing!
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…)
Kosher wine has a ton of stigmas attached to it. It is all sweet, thick, flabby. It is only made from the Concord grape. And of course, it is BOILED.
It a very brief nutshell, NO, not all kosher wine is BOILED – actually I don’t think ANY kosher wine is boiled.
So where does this mis-information come from? It comes from the fact that SOME kosher wines are further classified as “mevushal” – FLASH PASTEURIZED.
Flash pasteurization is a process used by NON-KOSHER wines too, including Louis Latour (“The wine is passed through a heat exchanger that raises the temperature to 72°C for 2-3 seconds”) & Beaucastel (“The skins of the grapes are heated briefly to 80 °C / 176 °F and then cooled to 20 °C /6O °F”) to name two. This pasteurization is sometimes done to bring out aromatics, and other times to remove potentially harmful bacteria & “stabilize” a wine much like fining or filtering does.
Kosher wine that has gone through flash pasteurization does so to enable all people (regardless of religion & level of observance) to handle a wine. (According to Orthodox Jews non-”mevushal” kosher wine may only be handled by Jews to maintain its classification as “kosher”.)
I want to break another stigma.
“MEVUSHAL” (flash pasteurized) wines DO NOT AGE.
I had the good fortune of drinking a 1996 Herzog Reserve Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon wine the other day thanks to a new wine friend.
This wine was gorgeous! At a very mature 14 years old, this mevushal wine was soft & velvety with fresh fruit & berries. An elegant wine that has aged quite gracefully and had a long luxurious finish.
What can I say…don’t believe everything you hear or read (just because you read it on the internet… ;)…).
Yes, some mevushal wines that go through flash pasteurization prematurely age due to poor pasteurization methods. But when done right, this process seems to have no negative effects on the wine. On the contrary, maybe it does in fact rid wine of bad bacteria and make it MORE age worthy…???…I know the mevushal Cab from California’s Herzog Winery sure aged well!!
Happy Mevushal wine tasting!
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…)
I’ve been writing this blog for about 2 1/2 years now. And the most popular post I’ve written was the Best Bet Kosher Israeli wines for Passover post in March of 2008. since that post I’ve gained 2 years of wine wisdom and there are many new kosher wines on the market. So with Passover a short 25 days away, I thought what better time to update this most popular of posts.
Though the Zionist in me is partial to Israeli wines, the reality is that there are some sub-par Israeli wines and some excellent wines being produced in other regions of the world. So we’ll expand this version to include the best kosher wines from throughout the world.
Lets start in Argentina, where Baron Benjamin Rothschild is producing Malbec under the Flechas de Los Andes label. There is a non-kosher version of this wine that is very popular and can be found in stores all over. The kosher version ($25-30) was made in much smaller quantities and is (more…)
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!
I’ve had the wine before. It is a kosher Cabernet Sauvigon from California. Not Napa Valley, but Alexander Valley fruit. Having tasted previous vintages of it, I was not surprised to hear that it was awarded 90 points from Wine Enthusiast.
2005 Herzog Special Reserve Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
For those of you who do not know, The Alexander Valley is in Northern Sonoma County just North, Northwest of the more famous Napa Valley. Like Napa it is littered with wineries where they produce great wines. And while the nuances of the wines made in Napa & Sonoma are different, my experience has been that the styles of wine are similar. Big, extracted, fruity, high (but generally balanced) alcohol, etc.
I’ll make a confession here…I like big fruity wines. As a matter of fact my favorite meal is a rare steak & big bad cab. Sure these tooth staining wines will overpower the flavors of most dishes but it goes oh so well with steak and other hearty rich meats, stews & chops.
So the 90 point score was of no surprise to me. A big Alexander Cab got a high score. But then I tried it…
WOW. This wine reminded me immediately of the wines from another California winery; Edmunds St John. Steve Edmunds makes leaner, lower alcohol, terroir driven wines. And his “Rocks & Gravel” GSM (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre) blend is a favorite of mine – when I’m not eating steak
So tasting this lean, earthy, minerally wine was a real treat. A Cali cab that I can enjoy with more than just a steak. At 13.8% alcohol with its nice tight structure, this wine wont overpower some of my other favorite foods like chicken, salmon or pasta. My wife commented on the pretty floral nose while I enjoyed its clean, tart, forest berry flavors.
And to top it off this wine is mevushal (flash pasteurized). But no stewed or cooked fruit. Just real lean & fresh. Beautiful.
So if you are looking for Cali Cab that got a 90 from the critics but isn’t a fruit bomb go check out the Herzog Special Reserve Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.
Happy non-fruit bomb Cab tasting!
I saw my hand specialist today.
FUN NEWS…I got a new cast.
My wrist is NOT healing on its own. I broke my scaphoid bone. This is a bone in the wrist, and the location within the scaphoid where I broke it receives very little blood flow – no healing power. So sadly, after almost 6 weeks in a cast, the break appears to be just as big as it was 6 weeks ago.
It appears that surgery IS in fact in my future. I am off to Israel tomorrow so surgery will not commence until I return. This gives me a glimmer of hope that MAYBE it will show signs of healing over the next 2 weeks and we can avoid surgery. But if not, then it will be 8+ weeks in cast, maybe 9 before surgery. Then surgery (screws put into my broken bone), re-cast, rehab…arghhh
But did I mention I am going to ISRAEL!!! WoooHooo!!!!
I have blogged before about “mevushal” or flash pasteurized wine. And in general, though the technology is improved, and I believe that the harm done to mevushal wines intended for early consumption is minimal, I must admit that I am not an advocate. I guess I just figure that if I can have a non-boiled wine or a boiled one I will choose the “fresher” version every time.
Now the biggest knock that people have against mevushal wine is that the flash pasteurization process expedites the aging process, deeming mevushal wines unworthy of long term cellaring.
This past weekend I celebrated a momentous time in my life and while celebrating with new family members imagine my surprise to find a bottle of 1997 mevushal wine, in a closet, standing upright. The wine, Herzog’s Reserve Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. A very fine wine in its youth. But this one was standing upright (prime cork drying conditions), in a closet without any climate control, and did I mention; the wine is MEVUSHAL – FLASH PASTEURIZED. These wines are not age worthy. They are boiled. Come on Wine Tasting Guy, don’t even bother opening up the bottle – it is SURE to be a goner.
Well, my hand is now hurting, and I took no formal tasting note, but…
…the wine was BEAUTIFUL! Alive, soft, complex & DE-LIC-IOUS!
Dare I say my biases against mevushal wines are fading???
Happy (and healthy) mevushal wine tasting!
OK, the “break” references will end soon. I’ll get used to this broken wrist thing. And all will be normal in BLOGLAND.
But I want to give a quick wrist update. GOOD NEWS – It appears (X-ray & CT scan) that my break is non-displaced & in the part of the bone that should lead to normal healing. SO, for now I get a cool cast & no immediate need for surgery (metal objects drilled into my bones).
Healing time for this injury is still between 8-12 weeks, so no party. But the preliminary diagnosis is good. I follow up with the hand specialist in 2 weeks & will keep you updated.
Now my quick wine related part of this post is something I eluded to in my last post. I recently met with the proprietor and original winemaker for a NY State (Long Island) winery. Since I live in NY this is a local winery for me. The proprietor has since brought in a trained winemaker to take over, but I learned in my conversation with the gentleman that he is still very hands on.
The winery is called “Red Fern”, and they make 4 types of wine, all single varietal. They make a Cabernet Sauvignon, a Merlot, a Syrah & a Chardonnay. I’ll be writing an article about the winery & their wines for a local paper, but I want to tell you that these wines are GOOD. Very modern in style, the winemaker gets nice extraction out of the fruit which produces fruity, full bodied wines. I think this is of interest as NY state wines sometimes have a problem with ripeness. And when the fruit does not fully ripen the wines tend to have a lean & green dynamic to them. So making wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon & Syrah, varietals that needs lots of sun/heat to fully ripen can be considered a bit risky. I’d like to see this winery experiment with some Cabernet Franc or Riesling, varietals more commonly associated with NY given their affection for the NY climate. Nonetheless, these wines (I tasted the 2005′s) were very nice and get my recommendation. And oh yeah, they just happen to be kosher.
Happy locally produced wine tasting!
Wine Tasting Gimp