A Very Good Year (Best of 2016)

Following last week’s newsletter summarizing the trends and occurrences in the kosher wine world, this week includes my annual list of the “Best Wines of 2016” and the “Most Exciting / Interesting Wines of 2016” (many of which give more pleasure than some of their “near-perfect” brethren who are included in the former, more prestigious, list). When you taste an incredibly large number of different wines every year, a different varietal or flavor profile certainly helps the wine to stand out among the hundreds or thousands of wines that pass through one’s tasting glass every year; thus the inclusion (and importance) of the second list.

While obviously not news to any reader of Yossie’s Wine Recommendations, after tasting over 2085 different wines this year (significantly more than in 2015), I can safely say that the world of Israeli and kosher wine continues to improve and there are great things ahead for the industry. The kosher wine consumer continues to develop and evolve and is learning to appreciate good wine for what it is (a topic discussed in depth in Part I of my Annual Trifecta).

Obviously the job of compiling these end of the year lists would be enormously easier if I scored wines since I could then simply list the ten wines I scored highest during the year. However, given my well-known abhorrence for the practice of scoring wines (to the constant chagrin and complaint of many wineries and retailers), the task is significantly more complicated and thus, a fair number of caveats are in order (attorney day job, caveats would likely have been involved anyway) as set forth below.

  1. The list doesn’t include older vintages of wines I tasted throughout the year, including magnificent wines that are now in their prime like the Château Smith Haut-Lafitte 2005, Château Pontet-Canet 2003, Capcanes Peraj Ha’Abib 2005 or the Yarden Katzrin 2007 and 2008. With the fourth anniversary (!) of the Rosh Chodesh Club just around the corner, this newsletter would be completely overtaken by the magnificent cellared wines participants of the various 15 franchises have enjoyed over the last 47 months.
  2. In keeping with past practice, the list includes only wines I tasted for the first time during the 2016 calendar year (although barrel tastings from 2015 that I tasted as final wines this year are included). Only wines that have been bottled are eligible for this list (“components,” “near final” blends and wines not yet filtered won’t appear on this list.
  3. A handful of wineries are constantly producing so many terrific wines that the list could be comprised solely of their wines (g. Capcanes, Elvi, Hajdu, Covenant (missing from this list due to sheer timing issues relating to when I tasted their wines during 2015 and 2016), Flam, Tzora, Gvaot and Recanati). In order maintain a modicum of parity and also reflect the wonderful diversity of today’s quality kosher wines, I have limited the number of entries by any specific winery to ensure a slightly more inclusive list.
  4. Following on my experiment from last year, I again avoided wines of such exceptional rarity as to render them one-off experience, thus ensuring the usefulness of this list to the bulk of readers. As such, wines I personally tasted and loved throughout the year that were non-commercial (like the Napa Valley Reserve 2010-2013), exceptionally rare and/or expensive (like the 2014 Château Pape Clément or the incredible 2013 Lot 70 Cabernet Sauvignon from Covenant) or only available in limited markets (like the amazing 2000 Sauternes from Château Guiraud or 2009 Château Smith Haut-Lafitte) were not included in the list (but definitely get your hands on some if you can – you will not be disappointed).
  5. Reflecting the geographically widely disparate location of my readers (currently about 65% are based in the United States, 25% in Israel with the remaining 10% spread throughout the globe), some of the wines may not be readily available in one market or another (a winery’s flagship wine(s) are typically produced in relatively small quantities and thus sell out fast or are not exported).
  6. Despite my best intentions and efforts, four children and a rather demanding day-job continue to limit my wine-tasting travel and I wasn’t able to taste every one of the more than 3,000 kosher wines released this year. Combined with a slowly failing memory, these lists aren’t 100% set in stone and there are dozens of other worthy-wines worthy of your time, attention and wallet.

Below is my list – I’d love to hear from you on your best and favorite wines of 2016.

Best Wines of 2016 (in alphabetical order)

Capcanes, Peraj Habib, 2014: As noted above, Capcanes is one of those perennial contenders for this list with the 2012 earning a top slot last year and the 2014 showcased for this year’s list (I tasted both the 2013 and 2014 this year and, while both would make this list, I personally enjoyed the 2014 more). As always, a blend of the winery’s three varietals – Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache and Carignan (the latter two also bottled as individual varietals in the La Flor series), with this years blend having more Grenache than usual (45%) and contributing to a more approachable and sensual wine than in prior years. Give the wine 15-20 minutes in the glass and you will be rewarded with a lovely nose redolent with rich red fruit, smoky oak, black pepper, sweet spices, dark chocolate, slate, a bitter tinge of pleasing herbaceousness, graphite and plenty of lavender and floral notes from the Grenache. The full bodied palate nicely fulfills the nose’s promise, with plenty of the same on a backbone of velvety and powerful tannins with hints of blueberry, flinty minerals and extracted black fruit leading into a rich and powerful finish that lingers long with notes of smoky oak, chocolate and anise. One for the ages, this is a rich and layered wine that can be enjoyed now but will also age through 2025, likely longer.

Chateau Piada, Sauternes, 2013: With the last kosher vintage of this wine being 2006 and the Golan Heights Winery ceasing to produce the delightful “Noble Sémillon” as of the 2007 vintage, the non “Port-style” kosher dessert wine cupboard is somewhat bare. As such, this wine was warmly welcomed and sold out pretty quickly (it’s decent pricing contributed as well); a somewhat surprising development, given the lackluster popularity kosher Sauternes typically enjoys among the general kosher wine consuming public. However, as noted in the 2016 “lookback”, “times are changing” and folks are thankfully more willing to explore wines outside their comfort zone. With a voluptuous nose bursting with sweet tropical fruits including guava and pineapple along with apricot, orange blossom, rich citrus notes and honeysuckle and a full bodied palate drenched in more sweet fruit and honey with plenty of acid keeping the wine honest and spices, candied ginger, minerals and hints of graphite adding welcome complexity to a wine that will develop over the coming years as it sheds a bit of “fat” and allows the layers of complexity to come forward. Abundantly enjoyable now, the wine should continue to evolve and develop through 2020 and then cellar nicely through 2025, maybe longer.

Domaine Roses Camille, Rose Camille, 2012: Another winery repeating its success from last year where the 2011 vintage earned a spot (following a five-year dry spell since the last kosher vintage in 2006), the 2012 vintage yielded another layered and complex elegant wine with plenty of power providing a stage on which the wine will star for years to come (after a recent visit to the winery and taste of the 2014, 2015 and 2016 vintages, one should expect to see these wines safely ensconced on this for the foreseeable future). At this point the wine is so tight, it needs 12-18 hours of air before it starts to yield a little, giving one a glance at the greatness that lies beneath. As typical for Pomerol, the wine is comprised of 100% Merlot sourced from the winery’s vineyards located a stone’s throw from Château Pétrus which spent approximately two years in French oak. Once aromas can be coaxed from this über-young wine, one is rewarded with rich black fruit, earthy minerals, pungent forest mushrooms, garrigue along with hints of near-sweet red fruit, saddle leather graphite and layers of rich spices that warm the soul. The full bodied and extracted palate is loaded with dense fruit, gobs of wet forest floor, freshly-wrapped cigars, savory tannins, a hint of roasted meat all wrapped around a core of gripping tannin and gobs of acidity that will ensure the wine gets the long life it deserves. A long and lingering finish is replete with more dark fruit, minerals, roasted coffee beans, a touch of herbaceousness and more warm spices. It would be criminal to open at this point, so wait [at least] four years before opening and then enjoy as the wine continues to improve and evolve through 2028 [Only in the US].

Elvi, Clos Mesorah, 2014: Yet another perennial contender for top billing on this list, the Clos Mesorah represents some of the best kosher Spanish wine on the market. Along with the Peraj Ha’Abib listed above (while hailing from relatively proximate locations, these two wines are hugely different stylistically), you would be hard pressed to find a better duo to represent [kosher] Spanish terroir and winemaking. While I find the 2013 to be slightly more impressive, the 2014 certainly earned its billet by sheer merit. As with prior years, the wine is made from old vine Carignan and Grenache blended with some “newer” Syrah. A slightly different blend from last year, with Grenache taking up 50% of the blend, a fact that is evident on both the aromatic nose and the sensuous palate. On the nose, the Grenache and Syrah team up against the Carignan to yield rich and near-sweet red fruit, hints of blueberry and boysenberry along with concentrated plum and cherry backed up by milk chocolate, lavender, cloves, spicy oak, freshly ground coffee and slate minerals on a backbone of dusty tannins that need time to integrate. The full-bodied and highly extracted palate is complex and layered with much of the same, with a royal elegance that is evident amongst all the raw power. Give the wine another 18 months before opening and then enjoy through 2025.

Flam, Noble, 2012: It was at this point in composing the list that I realized listing which wines hadn’t been on last years list would have been an easier task, as both Noble predecessors (2010 and 2011 were the first vintages of this marvelous and extra-special wine) made the 2014 and 2015 lists, respectively. Similar to last year’s blend but with Syrah added to the mix, each component (67% cabernet Sauvignon and11% each of Syrah, Merlot and Petit Verdot) represents the absolute best specimens from Flam’s vineyards which was aged for 12 months individually before being blended and then spending another 12 months as the final blend. Once bottled, the wines were regulated to Flam’s cellars for another two years to allow the wine to meld together perfectly and only then was it released. More reminiscent of the 2010 vintage with a big and rich nose of expressive mostly black fruit and a full bodied palate replete with blackberries, cherries, plums, candied cranberries and tart raspberries along with rich chocolate, fresh-cracked black pepper, roasted herbs and earthy minerals, the wine is far more approachable than the 2011 while also representing a more “new world” style than the more subtle 2011 vintage. Very different than the 2011 (which I personally preferred), but definitely worthy of its spot on this list and it should be a welcome addition to any self-respecting oenophile’s cellar. Enjoyable now, the wine will continue to evolve over the next three to four years, after which is should cellar nicely through 2025, maybe longer.

Gvaot, Masada, 2014: Gvaot remains somewhat off the radar screen, an unfortunate fact I chalk up to its initial impression of being overpriced. Regardless of the rationale, every self-respecting wine connoisseur should have “getting to know Gvaot” high on their personal oenophilic “to-do” list for 2017, and their flagship Masada wine is as good a place to start as any. Maintaining the Bordeaux-blend style Gvaot has been utilizing since it introduced the Masada wine with the 2005 vintage, the wine is comprised of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and 20% Petit Verdot, which spent approximately 22 months in French oak and yielding 14.5% AbV. Highly extracted and complex, the wine showcases layers of rich black fruits, plenty of tart red fruit providing nuance along with fresh-cured tobacco leaf, mocha, roasted coffee, flinty minerals and warm roasted Mediterranean herbs providing a pleasing bitterness in the mid palate that enhances the near-sweet fruit and provided a welcome contra to the richness. Retaining Shivi’s characteristic elegance while presenting an immensely powerful wine, I’d give this one the time is deserves to become all that it is intended to be. Enjoy 2018 – 2024.

Hajdu, Proprietary Red, 2014: Giving the wine an air of mystery to go along with its utter deliciousness, the varietals and percentages are not officially disclosed with the only information being the Napa Valley Howell Mountain source for the grapes. Despite capitulating to market demand and producing a Bordeaux blend (instead of sticking to his beloved Rhone varietals), the wine easily maintains his characteristic style of highly-extracted rich, dense and near-sweet fruit with searing tannins and oak influence all of which are kept in check with tight control and finesse, exhibiting grace and balance of the epic components he put together. This powerful and rich wine needs plenty of time to come together but once it does, you will be rewarded with rich notes of blackberries, ripe black cherries, fleshy cassis and tart red fruit, joined by hints of ripe blue fruit and plenty of spice; all backed by toasty oak and a dense core of gripping tannins and judicious acid which bodes well for the future development of this wine. A full-bodied palate with highly extracted and mostly dark fruit is enhanced with rich baker’s chocolate, forest floor, earthy minerals, a hint of eucalyptus and anise with more smoky oak undertones providing a delicious nuance that lingers. Give the wine 2-3 hours of air or 12 months before opening and enjoying through 2024 [Only in the US].

Herzog, Special Edition, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chalk Hill, 2013: Herzog continues to evolve and has a number of wines these days that could contend for the “flagship” moniker, including the Generation VIII and the Clone #6, however this was has held that slot for nearly two decades, showcasing incredible longevity, especially for a mevushal wine (other than the delightful 1997 vintage, which is still going strong) and finesse. Consistently excellent, the 2013 ranks among the best yet, with the 2014 surpassing it (although not for this list as I only recently tasted the wine in 2017) but only barely. Rich, dense and powerful this is simply a great wine that showcases elegance and excellence without flaunting it. A densely rich nose of blackberries, black cherries and plums with freshly cracked black pepper, sage, thyme and eucalyptus, cloves, baker’s chocolate and some spicy oak leads into a full bodied palate has plenty more ripe black fruit, more spicy oak, some earthy minerals and cigar-box tobacco notes along with a pleasing and subtle hint of eucalyptus.  A lingering finish of more near-sweet black fruit, slightly toasty oak, warm spices and rich baker’s chocolate leaves you wanting more. Drink now through 2029.

Kishor, Savant, Riesling, 2014: I was strongly tempted to have half the list be white wines, with the 2014 Kayoumi Riesling from the perennially under-appreciated Carmel Winery getting beat by this wine by half a hair and the Shirah Furmint, German Riesling and the Elvi InVita (all listed on the “Most Interesting / Exciting” list below) all nearly making this list, but in the end the sheer finesse and elegance of many wines on this list beat the crisp and clean lines of the white wines I continue to adore. That said, Kishor is certainly a winery well worth knowing (stay tuned for a full blown post in the next few weeks), both due to the nature of its employee makeup (comprised of special needs adults) and its consistently improving winemaking, with recent vintages really showing beautifully and this wine is no exception. While off dry as opposed to bone dry, the wine represents one of the only “Mosel-style” wines produced in Israel with a subtle nose and a shy demeanor that belies the elegance and flinty minerals that lie beneath. As the wine opens, look for tart green apples, an alluring combo of eucalyptus and mint, a whiff of petrol, fresh-brewed green tea and a stiff saline background backed up by sufficient acidity to make this wine enjoyable on its own or with a host of different dishes. Enjoy now and over the next 12-18 months [Only in Israel].

Tzora, Shoresh, White, 2015: While the vast majority of wineries covered on this list so far all have multiple wines that easily compete for additional slots on this list, Tzora stands a head and shoulders above the rest and I believe safely ensconced in the top slot for best winery in Israel. Some may find it strange that a 100% sauvignon Blanc wine beat out the incredible 2013 flagship Misty Hills or the [best yet] 2014 Shoresh Red blend or event the luscious 2013 late harvested Gewürztraminer “Or”, but to me the sheer elegance and sophistication coaxed out of the grapes along with the sheer dominance of the Shoresh terroirs so tied to Tzora’s personality on the medium bodied palate, made this the wine I felt most represented what Eran accomplished at Tzora this past year. With a vibrant nose of classical Sauvignon Blanc notes of rich grapefruit, citrus pith, fresh-cut grass, boysenberry and blooming flowers, the wine gets under your skin as son as you uncork the bottle and doesn’t stop until it has you completely under its charm with judicious acidity keeping the flavors lively and fresh on the medium bodied palate, hints of near-sweet tropical fruits giving the wine additional layers of complexity and a pleasing bitterness laden with chalky limestone minerals, hints of tart green apples, more grassy notes, some pepper and warm spices and loads more sweet and bitter citrusy notes all blending together in one harmonious and joyful pitch. Drink now through 2020 and drink as often as you can.

Most Interesting / Exciting Wines of 2016 (in alphabetical order)

Domaine La Ferrage, Cote De Brouilly, Beaujolais, (Louis Blanc Selection), 2012: While Beaujolais Nouveau has periodically had decent representation in the kosher wine world, its tradition for being consumed immediately on release, made it a hard one to track down and enjoy over any extended period of time, giving me another reason to rejoice in the discovery of this wine, different in style than the Nouveau while providing the same rich and red fruit and joyful expression of the Gamay grape the genre represents (I was initially surprised by its 2012 vintage before realizing that this wasn’t your typical Beaujolais Nouveau). 100% Gamay as dictated by tradition, the medium-bodied wine has well-rounded tannins and exhibits the typical Beaujolais characteristics of ripe currents, black cherries and boysenberries along subtle notes of tart red strawberries and raspberries, with earthy minerals and hints of cherry, with a not-unwelcome touch of banana in the mid-palate joined by fresh lavender and a hint of gun smoke with black fruit and pleasantly slightly bitter tannins rising on the lingering finish.  Drink now an over the next 12 months [Only in the US].

ElviWines, InVita, 2014: A terrific blend of Pansa Blanca (60%) and Sauvignon Blanc (40%) sourced from La Roca del Vallés located in the Alella DO. While I have had a soft spot for this wine since its first release in 2009 given its crisp complexity, refreshing citrus notes and bracing acid, at my recent visit with Moises we tasted it side by side with the 2010 vintage which provide some real insight to what the grape (and wine) can do with a little extra time in the bottle. While $15 wines don’t typically get put away for aging, I’d urge you to make an exception for a few bottles of this wine as the time will enable it to evolve into a richer and more viscous wine with plenty of oomph. The 2015 was just released, is not yet in the US and I have not tasted but the 2014 is bright and fresh with an aromatic nose bursting with zesty citrus, green apple, hints of ripe and tart raspberries long with plenty of floral notes, a hint of the viscosity the wine will develop over time and with a core of acidity that keeps the wine dancing on your palate and making it more than a match for a delightfully wide array of foods. Medium bodied with plenty of the racy fruit accompanied by saline minerals, more green apple and robust citrus, this is another of those white wines that will make a convert out of any remaining “only red wine” drinkers. Even without the bargain price tag that grants it the YH Best Buy label, this is a wine that is well worth seeking out and enjoying over the next 1-3 years [Only in Europe].

Golan Heights Winery, Yarden, Katzrin, Late Disgorged, Blanc de Blanc, 2000: I first learned about this wine many years ago from Daniel Rogov who posted about it on his forum in 2011, for some reason its existence was denied by the winery when I inquired about it. However, good things come to those who wait and the wine was released to great fanfare a few months ago. Despite the exceptionally limited quantities, the wine is still available for purchase (500 NIS) at the winery’s visitor center in the Golan Heights and I recently tasted the wine on two separate opportunities. While not as fresh or vibrant as I had expected, the wine retained a lovely mousse and offered up plenty of the yeast brioche, lemon pith and orange notes so present it its [much] earlier disgorged sibling, while also showcasing more vanilla, fresh-baked apple turnovers and nuanced notes of mocha and minerals. With sufficient acidity keeping the wine fresh and vibrant it was a delightful experience and a welcome (albeit expensive) opportunity to try something new. Stay tuned for the 2005 late disgorged as well [Only in Israel].

Gvaot, Jandali, 2016: While Recanati’s 2014 Marawi was the first wine to put Shivi Drori’s ancient wine research on the global map, the glowing New York Times article back in 2015 already mentioned his next big hit – that of the Jandali grape. After watching Recanati assume the glory from his research, Gvaot decided to go at this one alone, with this wine being the second commercially produced wine coming out of Shivi’s research center in Ariel University. Both Avi Feldstein and the Crimesarian Winery have previously produced a Jandali-based wine, but Gvaot’s is the first kosher option. A subtle nose of funky tropical fruit, grassy notes, a hint of melon, bell pepper and spices, the medium bodied palate has good acidity levels keeping the wine crisp and refreshing while providing a completely new flavor profile that intrigues [Only in Israel].

Mia Luce, Syrah with Stems, 2015: As any reader of this newsletter is well-aware, I have been a huge fan of the wines turned out by Kobi Arbiv under his Mia Luce label for nearly a decade now. With Ido Lewinsohn recently decamped to Barkan and Gil Shatzberg assuming new duties at Recanati’s Northern facility, it remains to be seen what will happen to his role at Recanati, but his winemaking prowess will undoubtedly continue to impress at Mia Luce, regardless of what the coming months may bring. Departing from his traditional Carignan-based blend, for 2015 Kobi launched two new and impressive wines – a Carignan/syrah/Marselan (“CSM”), “Mediterranean-influenced” blend and this wine – a rich Syrah, reminiscent of those sourced from Crozes-Hermitage. Fermenting 33% of the grapes in whole clusters and another 33% with separated stems yielded a rich and succulent Syrah with gobs of rich red fruits including candied cherries that maintain great structure and provide a juicy and succulent wine with streaks of black pepper, grilled meat, lavender and floral notes providing an austere elegance and sexy backbone that pleases immensely. The medium to full bodied palate has nicely integrating and near-sweet tannins along with bracing acidity keeping the luscious fruit in check. Spicy oak, earthy minerals and warm herbs provide some savory nuances that add complexity and tantalize the palate as it opens up with air. Drink now through 2021, maybe longer [Only in Israel].

Psagot, 7, White, 2015: One of the few wineries to produce “keep Shmitah” in full while still producing commercial levels of wine, Psagot decided to make only two wines for 2015 – one red and one white, while blending all of their respective grapes into one of these two wines. Unlike some other examples of what I like to refer to as “kolboinik” wine, this one turned out pretty decent, showcasing Yaacov Oryah’s exceptional talent for all things white-related. Plenty of sweet tropical fruits on the heady nose are tempered by lovely spice and near sweet citrus notes of tangerine and grapefruit with additional intriguing notes of lychee, heather, spicy clover honey and slate minerals leading onto the medium bodied palate where sufficient acidity keeps the fruit in check while also providing a background holding everything together. Intriguing and delicious with sufficient complexity to hold the interest of even the more jaded wine lovers. Drink now through 2018 [Only in Israel].

Shirah, Furmint, 2015: Continuing to experiment with exotic varietals, among this year’s new releases was a dry Furmint from the Weiss Brothers. Best-known for its role in Tokaj dessert wines due to its propensity for late-ripening (and botrytis); Furmint also plays a lead role in some of Hungary’s single-varietal dry wines. Sourced from the Alder Spring vineyard that has produced so many of their recent hits, this 100% Furmint wine spent nine months aging in 15% new oak before being released. With pleasing hints of guava, pineapple, Bosc pears and slightly smoky oak, white pepper and other spices, the wine is intriguing and well made (and improves dramatically with 1-2 hours of decanting), providing the “different” experience all us wine geeks continuously crave – while also pairing well with a multitude of dishes [Only in the US].

St. Urbans-Hof, Nik Weis, Gefen Hashalom, 2014: While the ultimate kosher “Holy Grail” (d’Yquem) remains out of reach [for now], as the ranks of kosher wine lovers continues to swell, many former such “Holy Grail” wines continue to fall by the wayside with former contenders including kosher quality versions of “real” Port, Burgundy, Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and many others. This wine constitutes the most recent unicorn to fall, representing “true” German Riesling. While Alsace has produced some very nice kosher options over the years, for many wine snobs, real Riesling only comes from Germany, with the Mosel region representing the birthright of the varietal. As you will see from the notes, it’s truly a delightful wine and while decently priced, was not widely distributed. Likely a result of the widely held aversion many Jews continue to have with respect to German products, (a position shared by my family which made procuring everyday items somewhat challenging growing up in Israel during the 80s when reparations where at full throttle and e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g in the country those days came from Germany), many missed out on this delicious wine which, standing on its own – is a treat. With my experience limited to the few Alsatian versions produced over the years, I found the wine to showcase more depth of character than most other versions I have enjoyed in the past. Rated trocken on the dryness scale, the wine opens with voluptuous nose of apricots, peaches, quince, heather is accompanied by the “traditional” notes of petrol knows as among the wine’s primary aromatic characteristics, with ripe tangerine, warm spices and slightly savory notes rounding out the nose. A medium bodied and oily palate in rich and deep with slate minerals and a hint of chalky limestone, more tropical fruits and austere citrus notes rounding things out and giving the wine a lovely edginess that does a good job of balancing out the near-sweet fruit (alongside the well-balanced acidity that does its part as well). At 11.5% AbV (and assuming you are OK with German products), this is a wine that needs to be an integral part of your drinking portfolio (and another good contender for your Thanksgiving repast). Definitely enjoy now, but try and put a bottle or two away and see how it ages through 2022, maybe longer (the 2015 was recently released in the US) [Only in the US].

Tenuta Monchiero, Barolo, 2010: While the kosher wine world continues to enjoy the continued breakage of glass ceiling after glass ceiling, certain facts and circumstances continue to stand in the way of certain genres including Barolo, Brunello and others, with the unifying theme being wines that require a v-e-r-y long time before they are approachable, and thus “sellable” to mainstream consumers (most of which, open the cork within 45 minutes of purchase). With only a handful of kosher Barolo options, I was happy to “discover” a new option, a remnant of somewhat less-than-fortuitous circumstances that ended up with a happy ended – at least for us kosher wine lovers! Obviously a completely different manifestation of Nebbiolo than the California-version above, the wine needed hours of airtime before it started to shed its skin and reveal itself. Sage, thyme and other warm Mediterannean herbs opened up the wine’s nose, enveloping the notes of black cherries, dark chocolate, black pepper, garrigue and cured tobacco leaf in a green velvety wrap. The medium to full bodied palate opens with searing tannins that need time to settle down and continue to integrate but the elegant structure and balance are easily identifiable with plenty of minerals, fresh-paved asphalt and more tobacco leaf lending themselves to an intriguing palate that reveals itself, slowly, one layer at a time. Really nice wine and worth giving it the time it deserves to be fully appreciated. 14% AbV. It can be enjoyed now with at least two hours of decanting; I’d recommend giving the wine 12-18 months more before enjoying through 2025, maybe longer [Only in the US].

Yaacov Oryah, Alpha Omega, 2014: A limited edition (less than 300 bottles) blend of Roussanne, Viognier and Sémillon that was prepared like an Orange Wine and was allowed to macerate on its skins for over two months (73 days) yielding a rich, bold and funky wine that I found to be fascinating but won’ be to everyone’s taste. With his first attempt at Orange wine spending just two weeks on the skins, the Alpha Omega represents a quantum leap forward in this regard. With my only experience in Orange Wines being Yaacov’s I am hard pressed to better describe it but using the biblical “HaKol Kol Yaacov VeHaYadayim Yedei Eisav” (“the voice is the voice of Yaacov, yet the hands are the hands of Esauv”) wouldn’t be inappropriate in this case. A rich aromatic nose is redolent with rich orange and lemon, honeysuckle, candied citrus peel, scented candles, a whiff of oily petrol, jasmine, lavender and crazily enough – subtle notes of smoked meat. The medium bodied and layered palate has a slightly oily feel to it that is backed up with plenty of acidity that also keeps the rich fruit in check and a completely unnerving tannic structure that can provide whiplash if you aren’t expecting it. With gun smoke, melon, tart green apple and more juicy citrus, the wine toys with your senses and reveals layers and layers of notes as time passes by. A long and lingering slightly tart and savory finish rounds out this incredibly different (and delicious) wine. Made in Yaacov’s house without any formal hashgacha the wine doesn’t carry any kosher symbols but like his prior wines, he vouches for it, which was enough for me. Definitely a must try which is enjoyable now and should cellar nicely through 2020, likely longer [Only in Israel].