Wine of the week

The River Wine of the Week: Jonathan Tishbi Special Reserve,
Sde Boker 2007

By Mitch Curzon

1984 was a pivotal year in the Israeli wine world. Up until then, Israel’s handful of wineries had largely produced sweet, sacramental wines, but by the early-1980s, demand for dry, varietal kosher wines was on the rise, and in 1984 two of Israel’s legendary wineries opened their doors, the Golan Heights Winery and the Tishbi Winery (then known as the Baron Winery). Tishbi was founded by Jonathan Tishbi, whose family have been vintners in Israel since 1882. He was encouraged by Baron Edmund de Rothschild to plant vineyards in what was to became the town of Zichron Yaakov.

In 1998 Jonathan Tishbi launched the Jonathan Tishbi Special Reserve Wines (The first thee vintages of which were named the Best Wine in Israel). Jonathan Tishbi Special Reserve is one of Israel’s best wines.

Barrel aged for two years, this blend of 48.8% Merlot, 35.9% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6.8% Petit Verdot, 5.1% Cabernet Franc, and 3.8% Shiraz, was made from grapes grown in both the Negev Desert and the Judean Hills. Full bodied, with a deep-garnet color, this wine has rich bouquet of black currents , red currents, cherries plums and smoky oak, with notes of fresh herbs and well aged leather. The flavor has elements of cherries, red currents, plums, blackberries, and cherry brandy, with a background of smoky/earthy oak. While this wine has been on the market for a few years, it has finally reached its drinking peak. Drink within the next three years. Score: 92. $6


Gamla Reserve Merlot, Galilee, 2010:
The Royal Wine of the Week Wine of the Week - March 29, 2013
By Mitch Curzon


In 1983, Israeli wine was known to be sweet, syrupy, and unpalatable, if, that it is, it was known at all.  That was soon to change.  For 1983 was year that the newly formed Golan Heights Winery hired a team of Californian winemakers to help them make their first wines.  The team was headed by a particularly talented winemaker named Peter Stern. 
Stern, who at the time knew nothing about kosher wine has since become “the” consultant winemaker for the kosher wine world.  Besides his work in Israel—where in addition to his relationship with the Golan Heights winery, he has worked with a diverse number of wineries, including Carmel and Yatir—Stern spent about two decades as the head winemaker for Californian kosher wine giant, Herzog Wine Cellars. 
Today Stern is working on his latest kosher wine project, the new reserve line of wines from Gamla; and one of the best wines in this line to be released thus far is Gamla’s 2010 reserve Merlot.  Made from Merlot grapes grown in the Galilee, this ruby to garnet colored wine has aromas and flavors of cherries black currents, red currents, and blackberries with hints of mocha and pencil lead.  Super dry, with an abundance powdery tannins, this wine would go nicely with a pot roast or beef stew.  Drink now until 2017.  Score 90, $20.

Herzog Special Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Zinfandel Syrah 2010:  
The Royal Wine of the Week
Wine of the Week - March 22, 2013

By Mitch Curzon
Bordeaux has Cabernet Sauvignon, Australia had Shiraz, and California has Zinfandel.  Yes, Zinfandel is perhaps the quintessential Californian wine grape.  While this grape’s origins are a bit unclear, many wine historians now believe that Zinfandel may have come to America as an unnamed vine-cutting from the Austrian Imperial Nursery in 1829; and when some adventurers who had gone west to prospect for gold in the 1849 California gold rush became farmers in the 1850s, they had Zinfandel vines shipped to them from the east.  Zinfandel has been grown in northern California ever since. 
Zinfandel is very well suited to the Californian climate can produce a wide spectrum of wines, from dark full-bodied reds to pale light-bodied rosés, and in Herzog’s 2010 Special Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Zinfandel Syrah, the Zinfandel  add a delightful jamminess to this well-crafted blend, and gives the wine a real Californian feel.
This full bodied, dark garnet colored blend is composed of 63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Zinfandel and 10% Syrah, all of which were aged separately before blending.  The wine has a rich bouquet of cranberries, cherries, black currents, dark roast coffee, oak and cedar, with just a whiff of a rich, unsmoked cigar.  Look for flavors of cherries, cranberries, and raspberries, with a smoky/spicy overlay, and a nice earthly note on the finish.
This food-friendly  blend—which would go well with lamb, mutton and other gamey meats—has a nice level of tannin, which still needs to mellow and open up a bit, and while drinking well now, will really be at its best from 2014-2017. Score 89, $36.

Barkan Classic Sauvignon Blanc, 2012:  The Royal Wine of the Week 
Wine of the Week - March 15, 2013

By Mitch Curzon
Sauvignon Blanc, Bordeaux’s noble white grape, is one of the world’s most versatile wine grapes.  It can be used to make sweet and rich dessert wines such as Sauternes, creamy wines like Pouilly Fume, and even sparkling wines.  However Sauvignon Blanc is probably at its most popular when used to make dry, crisp light-bodied wines such as Barkan’s Classic Sauvignon Blanc.
With a nose redolent of honeydew, citrus, and hey, this crisp, light bodied, straw colored Israeli Sauvignon Blanc is just the right sort of wine for leisurely sipping on a sunny spring day.  Look for flavors of grapefruit, lemon, and apple, with a lovely note of melon on the finish.
Sauvignon Blancs are best drunk young, and this one should best be consumed, with citrusy poultry, fish, fish or salad dishes within the next year.  Score 85. $13.

Capçanes Peraj Petita, 2010:  The Royal Wine Corp
Wine of the Week - November 9, 2012

By Mitch Curzon
The Capçanes winery is a unique kosher wine success story.  Founded in 1933, the Capçanes winery is cooperatively owned by the grape growers in and around the village of Capçanes in the hilly region of Montsant, about 100 miles south of Barcelona, Spain.  For most of its history, the winery was little known, but in the mid-1990s, the Jewish community of Barcelona asked the winery for a kosher wine.  The kosher wine, Peraj Ha’abib, proved superb, and is largely responsible for giving the winery its current good international reputation.
In recent years the winery has expanded its kosher portfolio.  In addition to Peraj Ha’bib, the winery also makes a super-premium wine, La Flor del Flor de Primavera, and a “second wine,” Peraj Petita.   Second wines are meant to be a simpler, less complex, less expensive wines, which are made in the style of a winery’s flagship wine—they should give a drinker a hint of how the flagship wine will taste, for a fraction of the cost—and Peraj Petita (the name is a blend of Hebrew and Spanish meaning “little flower”) is a very good exemplar of what a second wine should be.

The 2010 Peraj Petita is a blend of 50% Grenache, 30%  Carignane and 20% Tempranillo. It has a medium-to-full body, a rich garnet color, and a bouquet redolent of blackberries, black currents and raspberries, with notes of cedar and smoky tobacco.  Look for flavors of blackberries, black cherries, and black currents, with a rich minerality, and pleasant woodsy element.  Peraj Petita is a very food friendly wine, and would go well with savory  grilled or roasted fowl or game.  It would be a particularly good choice to serve with a roast turkey on Thanksgiving.  Drink within the next 3 years.  Score 88. $20.


Carmel Single Vineyard Shiraz, Kayoumi Vineyard, 2009: 
The Royal Wine Corp. Wine of the Week - October 22, 2012

By Mitch Curzon
Since its founding in 1882, by Baron Edmund de Rothschild, the Carmel Winery has always been Israel’s largest wine producer.  Yet for most of that time so much of what they produced was oh so ho-hum.  These days, though, things at Carmel are really humming along.

After a decade of redevelopment—including new equipment, new facilities, new vineyards, and new leadership—Carmel has repositioned itself to become one of the leading producers of quality Israeli wines.  While keeping their old mainstays, such as their sacramental wines, they have started to produce whole series of new wines that seem to focus on highlighting the high quality of Israel’s varying terroir.

An exemplar of the sort of wine that “New Carmel” produces is their 2009 Single Vineyard Shiraz.  Made from grapes grown in the Kayoumi Vineyard in the Upper-Galilee, and aged for 15 months in French oak barrels, this dark garnet colored, full-bodied wine has an impressive bouquet of plums, blackberries, currents, cigar smoke, and oak.  Look for flavors of blackberries, plums, currents with a hint of spice, all built on a layer of toasted oak.  This Shiraz is well balanced, and imbued with abundant supple tannins. Very food friendly, this wine would be an excellent accompaniment to savory beef and lamb dishes.  Drink now through 2017.  Score 92, Suggested price $35. 

Binyamina Reserve Gewürztraminer: The Royal Wine Corp. 
Wine of the Week - Ocotober 5, 2012

By Mitch Curzon
As far back in history as the days of the ancient Rome, winemakers have known that waiting to harvest grapes to allow then to shrivel on the vine, will lead to a more sugary grape juice, and thus a sweeter wine. In some of these “late harvest” wines this shriveling process is intensified by what the French call pourriture noble or noble rot (Botrytis Cinerea) a fungus which will shrivel the grapes further, leading to the potential to create wines with a remarkable sweetness. Today’s late harvest wines tend to fetch a premium price, yet most vintners are reluctant to make them, since waiting to harvest grapes does have its risks. For one thing, Botrytis Cinerea can come in a second form know as pourriture grise or grey rot, a far more common condition, that has been know to destroy whole crops of grapes during the late harvest season. It takes a grape with a lot both acid and flavor to balance out the sugar in late harvest wines, and as winemakers in both France and Germany have known for centuries, Gewürztraminer is one of the best grapes for this purpose. At Israel’s Binyamina Winery, winemakers have started experimenting with making late harvest wines, and their best to date is their 2009 Late Harvest Gewürztraminer. Made from hand selected bunches of Gewürztraminer, including some touched by the noble rot, this richly sweet, full bodied, tawny colored dessert wine has flavors and aromas of lychees, oranges, kumquats and mangos, with notes of cardamom and pepper. Well balanced, with a nice level of acid, this would be a good wine to serve as an aperitif, with pates, or with buttery desserts. Drink ice cold, and within the next five years. Score 89. $25.

Shiloh Mor 2009: The Royal Wine Corp. 
Wine of the Week - September 14, 2012

By Mitch Curzon
Winemaking has a long history in the land of Israel, dating back to antiquity.  Archeologists have remnants of ancient wineries from the Golan Heights in the north, to the Negev Desert in the south.  Yet while Israel’s wine industry may be millennia old, it is not the least bit hidebound.

Indeed Israeli winemakers are often among the world’s first to embrace new winemaking techniques and technologies—from computer controlled drip irrigation of arid vineyards to artificial Botrytisization of grapes for dessert wines.  At Shiloh—a boutique winery founded in 2005, located in the Binyamina region of Judea and Samaria—Winemaker Amichai Lourie uses a relatively new technique, cold maceration, to create one of the winery’s most popular wines, Mor.
Cold maceration is a process that begins directly after the grapes are pressed.  The grape-skins are soaked in the grape juice for a number of days, and this mixture is kept at a constant temperature below 50°F in order to delay the start of fermentation and to prevent any spoilage.  The cold maceration process draws out phenolics and other compounds in the skins, which—as is the case with Shiloh’s Mor—will often lead to a richer, more complex, more fruit-forward wine.
Mor is a very approachable, easy drinking red, with a nice bit of complexity.  Made from a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, and 20% Barbara—an Italian grape variety which helps give this wine a Mediterranean feel—Mor has flavors and aromas of cherries, currents, and dried cranberries, which all balance against notes of black pepper and toasty oak.  Mor is a very food friendly wine which is just light enough to be served with savory chicken and turkey dishes, but would also be a good accompaniment for beef stews and chulents. $35. Score 90.

Pacifica Evan’s Collection Oregon Pinot Noir 2010:
The Royal Wine Corp. 
Wine of the Week - April 27, 2012

Philip Jones, is the talented wine maker behind New Zealand’s kosher Goose Bay Pinot Noir decided to start making wine in Oregon.
The first fruit of this new venture is the rather tasty Pacifica Evan’s Collection Oregon Pinot Noir 2010.  This is a bright garnet colored, fruit forward, medium bodied wine.  The wine tastes of cherries, plums and berries, with lively notes of black pepper and mixed herbs on the finish. 
This wine is very food friendly, and would go well with poultry and game dishes.  Drink anytime within the next three, perhaps four, years.  Score:  88.  $30.


Baron Herzog’s Chenin Blanc Clarksburg 2010: The Royal Wine Corp
Wine of the Week - April 20, 2012

By Mitch Curzon

Chenin Blanc is one of the world’s most popular white wine grapes.  In France’s Loire Valley, where the grape was first cultivated, Chenin Blanc is the base of some of the most intensely sweet dessert wines made anywhere on earth.  Yet in the New World, Chenin Blanc is more often used as a blending grape in dry table wines.
In California, where these days more Chenin Blanc is under cultivation than in France, Chenin Blanc is used in a wide variety of wines, from dry to sweet, and from light to full bodied.  While the grape is planted all over the state, the best Californian Chenin Blancs tend to come from the San Joaquin Valley, and in particular from the Northern end of the Valley, in the area near the town of Clarksburg. 
At the Herzog Wine Cellars, Winemaker Joe Hurliman uses Chenin Blanc grapes from the Clarksberg area to make the always enjoyable Baron Herzog Chenin Blanc.  This pale-straw colored, medium bodied, semi-sweet wine has vibrant flavors and aromas of nectarines, peaches, grapefruits, and lychees.  With a nice level of acid to balance the wine’s sweetness, this crowd pleasing wine is sure to be a hit at your next party.
This wine is very food friendly, and would go well with fish and poultry dishes and is good choice to serve with a spicy fish dishes such as curried salmon.  Drink anytime within the next two years. 
Score:  86.  $10.

Rashi Vineyards’ Joyvin Red: The Royal Wine Corp. 
Wine of the Week - April 13, 2012

By Mitch Curzon
For centuries Malvasia has been one of Italy’s most important grapes.  It grows in a broad range of colors, and can create a broad array of wines: from sweet reds to dry whites.  Indeed, during the middle-ages, Malvasia was such an important grape in Italy, that wine shops in northern Italy were simply known as Malvasie.
However, if you’ve never heard of Malvasia before, it’s not surprising. Although Italy has more than 100,000 acres of Malvasia grapes under cultivation, these days Malvasia is almost always used as a blending grape.  It’s a component in some of Italy’s best known blended wines, including that  perennially popular kosher Italian blend, Joyvin Rouge.
Joyvin Red is a fun, light bodied, lightly sparkling, sweet, dark-rose colored wine.  With vibrant, fruity flavors and aromas of cherries, watermelon and peaches, this merry little wine is sure to be a crowd pleaser.
Joyvin Red is a versatile wine that can be enjoyed with a broad array of foods.  Or try drinking Joyvin out of an ice filled tumbler on a hot summer’s day.  Score: 83.  $10.


Herzog Wine Cellars’ Mount Veeder Wildcat Mountain Vineyard Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2009: 
Wine of the Week - April 6, 2012

By Mitch Curzon

Since its founding in 1985, Herzog Wine Cellars has been one of California’s leading producers of quality kosher wines.  While initially the winery primarily focused on producing budget-friendly wines under their Baron Herzog label, in the last few decades Herzog has been producing an ever broadening array of high-end wines, some of which are among the very  best kosher wines available today.

In recent years, the wine making team at Herzog, led by Head Winemaker Joe Hurliman, has become particularly successful at sourcing grapes from some of California’s best vineyards, and putting those grapes to very good use.  Herzog’s most recent exemplar of this sort is their new Cabernet Sauvignon from the Wildcat Mountain Vineyard in Napa Valley’s Mount Veeder appellation. 

Herzog Mount Veeder Wildcat Mountain Vineyard Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 is a bright-garnet colored, full bodied wine, with an abundance of smooth tannins.  Look for a potent bouquet of cherries, red currents, plums, cassis, and crème de cassis, with woody notes of oak and cedar.  In flavor, the wine tastes of cherries, red currents, crème de cassis, dark chocolate and oak, with a lingering note of black pepper on the finish.

This wine is very food friendly, and would go well with beef, lamb and game dishes.  It would be a particularly good choice to serve with a juicy ribeye steak.  Drink anytime within the next five years.  Score:  92.  $75.


Carmel Appellation Judean Hills Old Vines Petite Sirah 2007: 
Wine of the Week - March 30, 2012
By Mitch Curzon
The Carmel Winery is one Israel’s oldest commercial ventures.  The winery was founded in 1882 by Baron Edmund de Rothschild, and since that time it has always been Israel’s largest wine producer.  However, while Carmel may have always been the biggest, it has not always been the best.
Yet, in the last decade Carmel has undergone some very radical changes:  They have planted new vineyards in high altitude areas, built three new boutique wineries—not to mention completely refurbishing their main winery in Zichron Ya’acov—and hired a new, young wine making team.  As a result of these changes Carmel is now making some of the best wines in Israel.
Carmel’s Appellation Judean Hills Old Vines Petite Sirah 2007 is a very good example of the sort of wine that “New Carmel” can produce.  Made from Petite Sirah grapes that were grown on vines planted more than 35 years ago, this dark-garnet colored, full bodied wine has a spicy bouquet redolent of cherries, red currents, and wild herbs, with just a whiff of anise and allspice.  Look for flavors of cherries, red currents, cassis, plums, black pepper, cardamom and anise.  
While this wine would pair nicely with rich beefy dishes, it would be a particularly good choice to serve with a roasted duck.  Drink within the next two years.  Score: 90. $30. 

Binyamina Reserve Carignan 2009:
Wine of the Week - March 23, 2012
By Mitch Curzon
For more than a century Carignan has been one of Israel’s most heavily planted red wine grapes.  A hardy, black-skinned grape of Spanish origins, Carignan has thrived in Israel’s warm Mediterranean clime, but until recently Israel’s Carignan crop has largely gone into making sweet sacramental wines. 
In the last few years, a small number of Israeli wineries have set themselves the goal of finding the full potential of this oft-overlooked grape, and some of the resulting wines have been remarkable.   One of the best of this new breed of Israeli Carignan wines is Binyamina’s 2009 Reserve Carignan. 
Made from Carignan grapes grown in the lower-Galilee, and aged for 12 months French oak barrels, this inky-garnet colored, full bodied wine has a wonderfully fruity aroma of cherries, blueberries, and raspberries, with a lively note of smoky oak.  Look for flavors of cherries, blueberries, plums and oak, with a hint of violets and a note of freshly brewed coffee.
The wine is very food friendly, and would go well with beef and game dishes.  It would be a particularly good choice to serve with a juicy prime rib.  Drink anytime within the next three years.  Score:  89.  $22.