Looking back on a very good year for kosher wine.
When 2010 drew to a close, it ended what had been a remarkable decade for the kosher wine industry. In the past 10 years the quality and quantity of kosher wines around the world has expanded at a far more rapid pace than anyone would have predicted.
During 2010 I had the opportunity to taste some truly splendid wines, from bold Israeli reds to decadently sweet Ports. So for this month’s Fruit of The Vine, I have put together a list of the best wines I tasted in 2010. It’s important to note that that this list should not be viewed as definitive, but rather, a sampling. With more than 1,300 kosher wine produced around the world, and nearly 500 on sale in the United States, it is nearly impossible to taste them all.
1. Yarden, Rom, Golan Heights and Upper-Galilee, 2006: This inky dark garnet-colored, full-bodied blend of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot is remarkably good. Made in a joint project between American winemaker Zelma Long and Israeli winemaker Victor Schoenfeld, and aged in French oak barrels for 21 months, this supple and smooth fruit-forward wine has a captivating bouquet of cassis, red currants, cherries, cedar and wild herbs.
Look for flavors of cherries, red currants, crème de cassis, blueberries, cedar and oak, with hints of mocha, pencil shavings and eucalyptus. Although drinking very well now, the wine still needs two or three years for its structure to fully develop, and should then age well until at least the end of the decade. This is perhaps the best wine the Golan Heights Winery has ever produced. Score A. ($139.99. Available at Goldpath Wine & Spirits, 45 Route 9, Monsey,  356-0222.)
2. Covenant, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, 2008: Made from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes grown in the Larkmead vineyard, this rich, full-bodied, bright garnet-colored wine has a big nose of cherries, cranberries, cassis, and toasty oak, with hints of pipe tobacco, cedar, eucalyptus, and spice. Look for flavors of cherries, cassis, red currents, and blackberries, with hints of mocha and anise. Drinking well now, with luscious, silky tannins, this wine should be able to age for at least another decade. Score A. ($90. Available direct from the winery: Covenant Wines, www.covenantwines.com, 707-963-3887.)
3. Brobdingnagian, Syrah, Santa Barbara County, 2007. Made by Jonathan Hajdu, the associate winemaker at Covenant Wines, and named for the giants of Jonathan Swift’s “Gulliver’s Travels,” this luscious, full-bodied, dark-and-inky wine has a truly intriguing bouquet. At first the nose is dominated by cherries, blackberries, and an I-know-not-what earthy element. As the wine opens up this makes way for aromas of cranberries, mint, violets, nutmeg, and smoky cedar. Look for flavors of cherries, cranberries, black pepper and cedar, with an herbal undertone, and a hint of sweetened espresso on the finish. Best 2011-2016. Score A. (No longer available.)
4. Prix Vineyards, Syrah, Reserve, Napa Valley/Sonoma Valley, 2005: Dark garnet in color, with a medium-to-full body, this delightful Syrah has a nose of black cherries and wild flowers with a whiff of fresh herbs. Look for flavors of black cherries, herbs de Provence, crème de framboise and mocha, with a nice hint of smoke. Drink now to 2013. Score A. ($65. Available direct from the winery: Hagafen Cellars, www.hagafen.com, 888-424-2336.)
5. Hagafen, Merlot, Napa Valley, 2007: Made from Merlot grapes grown in the eastern foothills of the Napa Valley, this full-bodied, dark garnet-colored wine has a bouquet of cherries, cassis, cedar and oak. Look for flavors of cherries, cassis, and cedar, with hints of raspberry, fennel and toasty oak, and an abundance of silky-smooth tannins. Ready to drink now, this wine should be able to cellar until at least 2016. Score A/A-. ($32. Available direct from the winery: Hagafen Cellars www.hagafen.com 888-424-2336.)
6. Four Gates, Pinot Noir, Santa Cruz Mountains, NV: This elegant, bright garnet-colored, medium-to-full bodied non-vintage blend of Pinot Noirs from 2007 and 2008 has flavors and aromas of cherries, blackberries and oak, with a hint of crème de framboises. This wine is still a bit too tight, and will be at its best between 2012 and 2016. Score A/A-. ($36. Available direct from the winery: Four Gates Winery, www.fourgateswine.com, 831-457-2673.)
7. Carmel, Mediterranean, 2007: This unique blend of 37 percent Carignan, 26 percent Shiraz, 20 percent Petit Verdot, 15 percent Petite Sirah and 2 percent Viognier results in a delightfully smooth and approachable wine. Look for flavors and aromas of cassis, raspberries, cherries, and lavender, with notes of toasty oak, herbs and black pepper. Ready to drink now, this delightful wine should be able to cellar until at least 2013. Score A/A-. ($59.95. Available at Skyview Wine and Spirits, 5681 Riverdale Ave., (718) 548-2320)
8. Four Gates, Frere Robaire, Santa Cruz Mountains, 2006: This full-bodied dark-garnet colored blend of 49 percent Cabernet franc, 46 percent Merlot and 5 percent Cabernet Sauvignon has flavors and aromas of cassis, plums, and black cherries with hints of dark chocolate, eucalyptus, oak, allspice and wild herbs. Drink from release until 2017. Score A/A-. ($46. Available direct from the winery: Four Gates Winery, www.fourgateswine.com, 831-457-2673. Please note that this wine will not be released until later this month.)
9. City Winery, New York City Cab, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, 2008: With a full body and a dark-garnet color, this luscious wine has flavors and aromas of cherries, cassis, and blueberries, with a nice layer of minerals and hints of mint and smoky oak. Drink now-2014. Score A/A-. (Available direct from the winery: City Winery, 155 Varick St., Manhattan, 212-608-0555.)
10. Porto Cordovero, Late Bottled Vintage Port, Porto, 2004: Made in Porto by the noted Port lodge of Taylor, Fladgate & Yeatman, this rich, sweet, medium-bodied, garnet-colored wine has a delightful nose of red currents, stewed rhubarb, and prunes.
Look for flavors of raisins, red currents, prunes, dried figs, and mocha, with a nice hint of spice. Ready to drink now, this enchanting wine should able to cellar for at least another four or five years. Score A-. ($40.01. Available at Shoppers Vineyard, 875 Bloomfield Avenue, Clifton, N.J., 973-916-0707.)