Posts Tagged ‘wine’

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!


Wine & Football

Sunday, January 4th, 2009

My posts have been both infrequent and lacking in substance of late.  The holidays and New Year have been a FUN and BUSY time.  But I will soon be getting back down to business and look forward to sharing more about wine & my wine life with you.

In the meantime, I had a nice Israeli wine with my rare steak while watching playoff football this afternoon.  It just doesn’t get any better than that.  Well, the Vikings could have won, that would have been better.  But as long as the NY FOOTBALL GIANTS kick some ass the next few weeks (and I get to drink more Israeli wine with rare steaks) I’ll be one happy GUY.

Happy 2009 Wine Tasting!


Wine and Pregnancy

Sunday, November 16th, 2008

I spent the afternoon today with some guys I have been friendly with for about 20 years (damn I’m getting old).  We went out to the suburbs and enjoyed a football Sunday.  But this was not your typical “guys, beer & football” afternoon.  Today included wives & kids (of which I have neither…yet).  (Of import of course my beloved Giants CRUSHED the Baltimore Ravens (30-10) and improved to 9-1.  Looking good G-men!)

Of the women in attendance today 2 were pregnant and 3 others have had babies within the last few months.  Although I am not a medical doctor, and not even a Wine doctor (maybe one day), I do encourage pregnant women to drink wine (in moderation!) when pregnant (I believe a half a glass or so 2-3 times a week). While I don’t think my encouragement has changed anyone’s previously made up mind, it has not prevented me from throwing my two cents into the equation.

pregnant wine drinker

There have been countless studies supporting both both moderate drinking and abstaining during pregnancy, but I recently read one posted a couple of weeks ago on Wine Spectator online.  Researched at the University College of London and published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, the study proudly states:

“…not only can pregnant women safely drink a glass or two of wine per week, but  their children performed better three years after birth when compared to children of women who did not drink at all.”

For more information please read the rest of the article.  If you are pregnant (or intend to become pregnant) and want to drink alcohol during your pregnancy PLEASE consult your physician, conduct your own research, and DO NOT use this one study to make your decision.  And if you do decide to drink (pregnant or not) PLEASE do so in moderation.

Happy (pregnant or not) Wine Tasting!


Bottle Shock

Wednesday, November 12th, 2008

I bet you thought the title was referring to the recently released movie that retells the story of the great 1976 wine standoff between France & Napa.  Although the story is a very interesting one and I hear the movie was entertaining as well, that is not what I am writing about tonight.  Sadly I have not seen it yet, but I do hope to catch it at some point.

What I am writing about is a phenomena that happens to wine.  I enjoyed the description from the David Girard Vineyards website:

“Bottle shock is real. It is also a fairly simple concept.  Wines, like people do not necessarily travel well.  That’s true even if the trip is only for the short distance from barrel to bottle.  You might think of it as analogous to travelers who get out of their car after a drive from Sacramento to Los Angeles.  All of their parts are still there when they arrive.  Nevertheless, they may need a while to stop feeling the vibration of the road.  They may need to straighten out their clothes.  They may need to look in a mirror to attend to the finer details.”

bottle shock

So as I understand it there are two variations on bottle shock.  The first is the shock the wine goes into when first bottled (or as referred to above when transferred from barrel to bottle).  And the second is the shock wine experiences when it goes on long journeys – especially those taken via plane across continents.

Those of you who read my post from last night know I attended the “Kosherfest” food & wine convention today.  I am writing about “bottle shock” as I tried a few wines from a very well regarded purveyor of Israeli wines today with some wine aficionados.  I am quite familiar with most of this winery’s wines, and smelled a wine that one of the aforementioned aficionados said was corked.  I was sure that the wine was not corked, but he was right, it was definitely OFF.   The three of us then tried yet another wine and sure enough this too was “off”.  I am proud to say that yours truly theorized that the wines were not corked but actually suffering from travel sickness AKA bottle shock.  I spoke with a winery rep who confirmed that the wines were all flown in from Israel and arrived just a day or two prior to the event.  We all then agreed that many of the wines that seemed off must have been suffering from bottle shock.

While I thought you might enjoy hearing that this phenomena actually does exist and is real I must admit that I am a bit embarrassed to be writing about it given how highly I speak of Israeli wines.  That said, the wines are all excellent, it is the judgement of those who decided to fly the wines in the night before that should be brought into question.

Happy SHOCKLESS wine tasting!


kosher restaurant & kosherfest

Tuesday, November 11th, 2008

I went out with some colleagues tonight to an upscale kosher restaurant.  This restaurant is very well regarded.  Sadly, kosher restaurants (whose certifying organization holds to the highest standards) in the US only allow kosher “mevushal” wines.  Without getting into the whats, whys, and hows of “mevushal”, simply put – mevushal wines are those that are put through a flash pasteurization process which then allows them to be handled by everyone (rather than just observant jews).

(A quick aside, most Israeli wines, considered by some [myself included] to be the best kosher wines in the world, are NOT put through this process.)

In any event, this fancy restaurant and its kosher certification meant that if we were to order wine it would have to be a mevushal wine.  Although I would never choose a mevushal wine over wine that had not gone through the flash pasteurization, when not given a choice I’d rather have wine with my dinner.  Especially since this restaurant is known for their steaks and I wanted to order a steak.  Can you imagine, a steak without some nice red wine.  Seemed sacrilege to me, but that is exactly what happened.  My colleagues felt strongly about not ordering a wine that was mevushal.  And not wanting to be the only one at the table with wine, I too had my steak with…a glass of water.


“A meal without wine is like a day without sunshine”.  It was a dark dreary day today.

I’m off to kosherfest for the next two days.  I’ll be working in the wine area, but i will do my best to walk around a bit and see if there are some standout items worth reporting back about.

Happy steak and WINE tasting!


Wine, art & music

Saturday, November 8th, 2008

Why do art and music always seem to go hand in hand?  This question was posed to me by a musician at an event I attended last week.  The musician is a harp player, and he was playing with a jazz musician at the art exhibition.  I thought the question was a good one.  And my response was an obvious one, but I wonder if there is more to it?

wine art

I responded that art, music and wine are all cultural STUFF.  Things that can be pondered.  Things we wonder about, are curious about, and want to learn about.

And what I find most interesting is that these are all things people either like or don’t like and can’t be wrong about – at least their preference.  You can love or hate a wine, a picture, or a song.  And nobody can tell you otherwise.  They can have the exact opposite feeling about that wine, art or music.  But they would be right also.  We are all individuals and have personal likes and dislikes.

What do you think about the link between art, music & wine?

Happy culturally enhanced wine tasting!


Wine after workout

Thursday, October 2nd, 2008

I hope that all who celebrated had a nice Rosh Hashana holiday, filled with fabulous wine & great food.  I know I did!  So much food & wine that I was compelled to hit the gym last night after returning home from 48+ hours of overeating.  A good workout & I felt a whole lot better.

Now I must admit that I did not really crave a glass of wine after last nights workout but I often do like a glass of something with whatever I am eating following a workout.

Don’t tell my fellow blogger Kevin about this one  5Kcab

Having recently read a Wine Spectator Health Q & A question regarding drinking wine after a workout, I thought I’d share.  The answer to whether one can/should drink wine following a workout came from a registered dietitian, who advised against it stating “Drinking wine, which contains around 10 to 13 percent alcohol [yeah, more like 12-15%], can interfere with the refueling of your muscles by stopping your liver from sending out any glucose. Alcohol delays recovery from exercise.”

The whole answer, found via the link above wasn’t all negative.  And frankly for every “professional expert” against a behavior I feel like there is another for a behavior, but…

Just something I found interesting that I thought you might appreciate hearing about.

Happy muscle strengthening wine tasting!


Wines for the New (Jewish) Year UNDER $30

Saturday, September 27th, 2008

I’m sorry for the delay in writing this post.  I have gotten MANY requests for my Rosh Hashana suggestions.  I’m pressed for time (aren’t we all) so here goes…

shana tova

I decided not to write about wines that typically retail for more than $30.  If you are spending in the $30+ price range please feel free to contact me through the site and I’d be more than happy to discuss your best options with you. (more…)

High Holidays & Wine at CITY WINERY

Wednesday, September 10th, 2008

Just wanted to let everyone know about an upcoming event held at what I expect to be a very cool facility.  I’ll be there and it would be great to see you there…

WTGhh flyer

Wine Wine Wine

Friday, September 5th, 2008

WHAT A WEEK!  And it was only 4 days long.  Feels a bit more like an 8 day week.  Don’t get me wrong, I was busy running around selling wine and I had a blast.  Oh yeah, there was also a bit of NFL FOOTBALL thrown into the busy mix.


But for the most part The pre-Jewish holiday rush has officially begun and I have been selling fabulous Israeli wine all around the NY Metro area.   While for the most part it is referred to as “kosher” wine I am plugging the idea of Israeli wine.  The industry people hear it, respect it, and then let me know it is not viable…YET.  But it will happen…eventually.

Have a great wine tasting weekend everybody.  Hope you will be popping a special bottle!