Covenant Winery

May 4, 2017

As you know, Covenant’s wines have been continuously showcased on these pages for nearly ten years; however, the last time a full blown newsletter was dedicated to this magnificent winery was in 2011!  Back then, the winery only produced four wines, three under the Covenant label (the eponymous Cabernet Sauvignon along with the Lavan Chardonnay and flagship Solomon) and a “second” wine – the Red “Red C”, made with the press wine from the Covenant Cabernet Sauvignon.  As I read through my prior aforementioned newsletter, I was amazed by how much had changed at Covenant over the last six years or so including their move from Napa Valley to Berkley, expansion of Team Covenant from three to eight people, the launch of Covenant Israel and the growth of their portfolio to include 19 different wines spread across nine different labels.  However, despite all these big changes I realized that the concept elucidated in the book of Kohelet (but in a good way) reigned true here as well – and much had remained the same as well.  Specifically, the Morgan’s have continued to meticulously build, protect and promote and their brand with the same care, vigilance, hard work as effort as they did in the initial years when they were getting Covenant off the ground while maintaining the highest level of winemaking and quality control that ensure their wines continue to provide us with the pleasure to which we have become accustomed.

Say it Loud, Say it Often

I have oft said that the marketing at Domaine du Castel was just as deserving of credit for the winery’s monumental success as the winemaking talent and the same can be said of Covenant.  Despite the rivers of drek still swarming kosher wine consumers, any idiot realizes that quality wines are (or at least should be) the cornerstone of any self-respecting winery.  What many wineries fail to recognize (or at least successfully execute on) is the great advantage in having a terrific story and the tremendous added value in being able to market it efficiently.  While the winemaking skills at Covenant are obvious (Robert Parker has called it the best kosher wine in the world and it consistently makes my annual list of best wines), Jeff’s skills as a storytelling are legendary and his vigilance in protecting and promoting his brand should be a lesson to every other winery out there.  With mounds of winemaking experiences under his belt, Jeff recently launched a blog called “Truth in Wine” where he provides interesting nuggets on various wine-related topics, while carefully using it to promote Covenant and his wines.  Together with Jonathan’s winemaking talent and Jodie’s meticulous management of the business, these extra efforts have had (and continue to have) a significant role in making Covenant the top notch winery it is today.

Given the copious amount of press Covenant has received over the years, driven by those talents, I have no doubt that all my readers are already quite familiar with the story of Covenant and the Morgan family.  From Jeff’s upbringing on the Upper West Side whose sole Jewish experience was attending Ben Stiller’s Bar-Mitzvah, through his decade-long musical sojourn through France and Monte Carlo before returning to the United States to start his wine-related journey which included a respectable career as a wine journalist before his oft-quoted conversation with partner Leslie Rudd on kosher wine (for which Eli Ben-Zaken of the aforementioned Domaine du Castel winery can take partial credit) led to the birth of Covenant and his slow and steady return to his Jewish roots throughout the journey, it is a pretty cool story that is best told by Jeff himself, and if you haven’t heard it from the horse’s mouth, I suggest doing so (if not, you can read about it in the New York Times here or here).  As such, I have not included it in this newsletter, hopefully allowing me to focus on the developments the winery has undergone since my last newsletter on Covenant and to maintain a [relatively] reasonable length for this article.

When we last “left off”, Covenant had recently left the Herzog’s Oxnard facility for the custom crush facility in Napa Valley where they would remain for six years until relocating in 2014 – once again making the move right in the middle of harvest to their current facility in Berkley.  This time the move also included Jeff and Jodie relocating from St. Helena to Berkley in an effort to be closer to the winery and, just as importantly given their continued progression to a more observant lifestyle, a shul.  Over the last six years Covenant has slowly developed their portfolio to include nearly 20 different wines.

Winds of Change

The first big change came in 2011, with the addition of a Sauvignon Blanc to the Red C line (creating a white red C) and launching the Landsman wine club (nearly de rigueur for any successful winery as I have been telling wineries for years [and it’s finally starting to sink in]) which releases three wines a year – Pinot Noir in the winter, followed by Zinfandel in the spring and finally an early summer release of Syrah.  The Sauvignon Blanc has been a consistently delicious wine and a very welcome addition while the Landsman Club has produced a number of very nice wines over the years while enabling the winery to develop a deeper relationship with a tight-knit core of customers with whom they maintain close contact.

2012 say slightly more subtle changes as the source for the Covenant Cabernet Sauvignon was switched from Larkmead (from which the fruit had been sourced since the initial 2003 vintage) to Leslie Rudd’s Oakville vineyard (located a stone’s-throw away from the vineyards producing Screaming Eagle) and a number of plots located on Mount Veeder.  While these vineyards had always been used for the flagship Solomon wines, incorporating them into the eponymously-named  Cabernet Sauvignon certainly yielded immediate results as the 2012 and 2013 vintages were the best produced up till that point and after the anomaly of the 2014 vintage where insufficient quality fruit forced Covenant to bottle Covenant as a blend (instead of a Cabernet Sauvignon), 2015 (and the 2016 which is currently in barrels and beyond) returned to their roots (get it?) as Cabernet Sauvignon wines sourced from Rudd’s vineyards (plus a tiny amount from two additional plots deemed “Covenant-quality”).

The portfolio was enlarged again for the 2013 vintage with the addition of a Rosé to the Red C label, returning Jeff to his original winemaking roots (his initial foray into winemaking was a Rosé-only label called SoloRosa, launched around the same time he was hired by Leslie Rudd to be Dean and DeLuca’s wine director – “beginning of a beautiful friendship”).  As an aside, Jeff also wrote a pretty in-depth book on Rosé around the same time – check it out!  The 2013 was also the inaugural vintage for Covenant’s two mevushal labels – Mensch and The Tribe.  Correctly identifying the tremendous potential market for better (but still well-priced) quality kosher mevushal wines while utilizing the valuable Covenant brand, Jeff was determined to make a better mevushal wine, looking to the newly available (in California) French flash détente methodology as a way of achieving his goal.  Focusing on the two primary outlets for mevushal wines, the lower-priced and unoaked Mensch is intended for catered events while the higher quality (and more expensive) Tribe wines spend nine months in oak and are aimed at restaurants which unfortunately still allow only mevushal wines (in the US) – a travesty I hope will be corrected as soon as possible!  With a red and white wine under each label, Covenant has been able to service a rapidly growing area of kosher wine without harming his brand recognition by sacrificing the quality it has come to represent in the kosher marketplace.

The portfolio was expanded again for the 2014 vintage with the addition of two special wines, both of which represented a shift away from the single-varietal wines Covenant had been focused on up to that point – the red Neshama blend and Zahav – a late harvest Muscat dessert wine.  However, the biggest change in 2014 was the aforementioned move to a place all of their own – where they could finally control every aspect of production.  While not an official tasting room (as the location is zoned only for wine production), with proper advance planning, Covenant can also host folks in their lovely tasting room where their delicious California (and now Israeli) wines are served on a gorgeous table comprised of local hardwood (get lucky and you may enjoy some home-cooked food as well).

Covenant Makes Aliyah

Reaching back to 2013 for a minute, it was also the inaugural vintage for Jeff and Jodie’s newest venture – that of Covenant Israel represented by a Syrah-driven blend sourced 6,000 miles East of Covenant’s regular hunting grounds –Israel’s Upper Galilee and Golan Heights.  With Israeli winemaking representing the natural evolution and next step in Jeff’s journey back to his Jewish roots, I was only surprised it took his so long!  After using his time-tested methods of starting with a small production of approximately 1,000 bottles, Jeff went big by increasing production to 6,000 bottles for 2014 and huge for 2015 with an increase to nearly 30,000 bottles of annual production, a number expected to continue for the current 2016 vintage as well.  Covenant Israel currently includes four different wines under two labels – their flagship Syrah (primarily sourced from Tel Phares in the Golan Heights) and three wines in the Blue C series (an Israeli twist to his popular Red C label) – a rosé, Viognier and a red blend with additional varietals being experimented with as Jeff slowly learns a whole new terroir and winemaking environment.

The Sum is Greater than its [Many] Parts

There you have it – two wineries, nine labels and nineteen wines for now which, in case you lost track includes Mensch (currently Roussanne and Zinfandel), The Tribe (currently a red blend and Chardonnay), Red C (a red blend, Sauvignon Blanc and rosé), Covenant (Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Solomon), Neshama, Zahav, Landsman (Pinot Noir, Zinfandel and Syrah), Covenant Israel Syrah and Blue C (red, Viognier and Rosé).  With annual production around 100,000 bottles (70,000 at Covenant California and 30,000 at Covenant Israel), we can expect plenty of great wine to go around, hopefully for years to come!

With an increased winemaking portfolio now spread across two continents, much of the day to day winemaking in California has been turned over to Covenant’s impossibly talented winemaker – Jonathan Hajdu while Ari Earle (the winemaker for Bat Shlomo and possessing prior Napa Valley winemaking experience) handles the winemaking for Covenant Israel; in both cases using the Jeff’s winemaking methods and protocols including utilizing native yeast fermentation, stirring the lees for many of the red wines and limited filtering as much as possible.

Stylishly Current

With so many different wines one would be forgiven for thinking that maintaining a consistent style would be impossible but the Covenant wines do showcase a particular style of winemaking and manage to stand out among the thousands of kosher wines produced every year (and not only by representing the upper echelon of quality).  All of Covenant’s wines showcase scrupulous winemaking alongside rich and extracted fruit with the red wines showcasing pleasing herbal and cigar-box notes while being approachable on release with plenty of gas in the tank for long-term aging and improvement.  While the effort to ensure the wines are enjoyable on release (which is still unfortunately when most kosher wine consumers open their wines) come at the cost of giving the wines 10-15 years of aging as opposed to the potential 15-25 years one could get from this level of quality fruit, it seems to be the right decision – especially given the current market for the wines.

With only a few Israeli releases I am hard-pressed to pinpoint a style yet but it is clear that Jeff isn’t trying to replicate California in Israel (as evidenced by focusing on more Rhone-style varietals like Syrah (a varietal I have long espoused as particularly suited to Israel’s climate), Roussanne and Viognier) but rather to allow Israel’s unique terroir to speak for himself while utilizing the winemaking skills he has honed over the last 13 vintages of making some of the best kosher wines out there.

Napa Valley Quality = Napa Valley Pricing

One additional positive note of progress since my last newsletter relates to the one area of concern I noted back in 2011 – pricing.  The passage of time has served to lower the severity and impact of this problem (while not eliminating entirely) in two different ways.  Over the years we have (and will continue to) experienced an increasing willingness of kosher wine consumers to pay high prices for quality wines and Covenant has worked hard to expand its portfolio to include a wide range of wines spread across many different price points..

Given the large number of wines, listing notes for each and every wine is beyond the scope of this newsletter, but I have included a number of wines that represent the depth and breadth of Covenant’s portfolio and showcase the immensely talented folks behind this amazing winery and I look forward to continued growth, success and amazing wines from them!


Covenant, Mensch, White, 2015:  Reflecting Covenant’s shift away from its previous Bordeaux focus, this wine is made from 100% Roussanne sourced from Lodi.  The refreshing and aromatic nose showcases a medley tropical fruits that includes honeydew, pineapple, guava and kiwi along with orange citrus, white peach and apricot and hints of fresh-cut grass and slightly bitter minerals.  Great acid on the medium bodied palate prevents the fruit from getting too heavy on the palate and more fruit and serous citrus notes help provide some complexity to this refreshing delight. Drink now through 2018 (mevushal).

The Tribe

Covenant, The Tribe, Chardonnay, 2015:  From Covenant’s higher-end mevushal line primarily destined for restaurants, this 100% Chardonnay wine is well made with some complexity and showcasing the skill with chardonnay evidenced by the winery’s flagship chardonnay under the Covenant label.  With lovely near-sweet fruit on both the nose and medium to full bodied palate, the six months the wine spent in oak is noticeable by the slightly smoky undertones that wrap themselves around the baked apple and Anjou pears.  Warm spices and notes of apple pie are back by nice acidity and flinty minerals they keep things honest and create some welcome depth to this wine.  Drink now through 2018 (mevushal).  14.2% AbV.

Covenant, The Tribe, Red Blend, 2014:  Sourced out of Sonoma’s Dry Creek Valley, the wine is a rich field blend of Petite Sirah, Grenache and Zinfandel which spent nine months in oak before being bottled.  With a rich and vibrant nose of red cherries, tart raspberries, red plums and a hint of anise along with fresh-cracked black pepper, anise and a pleasing note of roasted Mediterranean herbs along with hints of blue fruit and Oriental spices leading to a full bodied lush palate of more rich and deep mostly red fruits with a hint of black as well, this is a well-made wine with plenty of lush fruit wrapped around a nice tannic core with plenty of spice and minerals keeping things interesting for the more discerning aficionados while providing delicious enjoyments for everyone.  Give the wine 15 minutes of air and you will be rewarded.  Drink now through 2018 (mevushal).  14.8% AbV.

Red C

Covenant, Red C, Sauvignon Blanc, 2015:  Easily the wine with the highest QPR within Covenant’s portfolio, it has been a winner every year since its inaugural release and a wine to whose release I look forward every year anew.  A bright and refreshing with great acidity and clean fruit showcasing loads of mouth-watering citrus along with gooseberries, fresh-cut grass, flinty minerals and some near-sweet fruit that pleases.  The five months the wine spent in barrels added  welcome oomph to the body without compromising the tart and refreshing acidity that keeps everything light and fresh.  The medium bodied palate has more rich citrus, stone fruits and warm spices with some subtle and slightly bitter herbal notes adding some additional nuance.  Crisp refreshing and simply delicious.  Drink now.

Covenant, Red C, Red, 2014:  Historically my least favorite Covenant wine as I struggled to find sufficient value to justify the high price tag.  However, over the years the wine had moved away from being solely the press wine from the Covenant Cabernet Sauvignon and has become much more of its own man (while still containing  small percentage of the press wine, the majority is free run juice from Covenant’s newer vineyards) – and an enjoyable one at that. Having experienced many older vintages recently, I can safely saw that stored properly, many of them certainly benefit from some patient aging which allows the fruit to settle down and reveal some of the secrets below.  This year’s wine spent 14 months in French oak and is an extracted blend of Merlot, Petit Verdot, Syrah, Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon with loads rich and deep mostly black fruits on the nose and palate with great balance between the juicy fruit, characteristic herbal notes, slightly smoky oak and gripping tannins, all wrapped around a deep acid core.  Saddle leather, lead pencil, roasted espresso beans and rich baker’s chocolate all find a spot on the harmonious full bodied palate, each bringing something to the table.  Drink now through 2020.


Covenant, Lavan, Chardonnay, 2014:  While many of the self-declared wine sophisticates were off beating the unoaked-Chardonnay drums, Covenant continued to make the wine they wanted to – rich and buttery Chardonnays that were well made and boasted gobs of mouth-watering acidity all in fine balance with the toasty oak and rich fruit yielding a highly pleasurable drink.  Unfortunately the one-time magnificence from the Bacigalupi Vineyard was not to be repeated but the current source – Scopus Vineyard – has been providing great fruit for the last few years as well.  16 months in 10% new French oak and full malolactic fermentation may sound a bit much in today’s minimalistic age but give the wine a try and you will see how round the drum-beaters have been.  Rich and lively, this full bodied wine is loaded with tart green apple, white peaches, rich lemon curd, honeysuckle, toasty oak, white pepper and the winery’s characteristic herbal kicker that runs through it.  Fresh-baked apple tart and roasted nuts combine with flinty minerals on the round and mouth filling palate for a pleasurable and serious wine that will improve with a bit more aging.  Drink now through 2020, maybe longer.

Covenant, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2015:  After a brief hiatus from its core mission, the wine returns to its roots with 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, sourced from two of Leslie Rudd’s vineyards – Oakville Valley and Mount Veeder.  While not quite at the magnificent level of the 2012 and 2013 vintages, this is a terrific wine, well deserving of Covenant’s stellar reputation and showcasing the winery’s ability to provide a consistently great wine year after year.  With a voluptuous nose of rich black fruits along with hints of tart red fruit and earthy minerals, the nose slowly reveals its hidden charms with rich baker’s chocolate, subtle aromas of gooseberry and blueberry, slightly toasty oak that provides comfort, black pepper, anise and Covenant’s characteristic whiff of roasted herbs.  The full bodied palate has already nicely integrating tannins with good acidity backing up the lush black fruit which remains in balance with the oak and segues into notes of fresh-turned forest floor, more dark chocolate, tobacco leaf, vanilla and more dried Mediterannean herbs.  A lingering finish pleases.  Enjoyable now with an hour or so of decanting, give the wine another six months and then cellar through 2025.  14.5% AbV.

Covenant, Napa Valley Blend, 2014:  Faced with the low yields of the 2014 harvest, the winery was forced to bottle their mainstay as a blend for the first time in 12 vintages.  Primarily sourced from Oakville, the wine is a blend of 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% Merlot and 12% Petit Verdot which spent about 18 months in 50% new French oak.  The wine has a fresh and ripe nose of blackberries, cassis, black cherries, cracked black pepper, toasty oak, cedar cigar box, black pepper, espresso, star anise, thyme, a whiff of menthol and vanilla.  The extracted, layered and complex very full bodied palate is loaded with more rich fruit including notes of blueberries, dark rich chocolate, more toasty oak, butterscotch toffee, spices, anise, fennel all backed with good acidity and chewy tannins that need a bit of time to settle down and leading into a lovely and lingering finish that caresses.  A delicious and elegant wine with more finesse but potentially less staying power than its pure Cabernet Sauvignon brethren.  Drink now through 2023.

Covenant, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2013:  After making their 2012 vintage the best to date, Covenant surpassed themselves with this wine representing the best they have created so far (showcasing just how good Leslie’s Mount Veeder fruit really is).  A rich and extracted nose of ripe blackberries, black cherry, cassis, sweet cedar, sage, rosemary, slightly toasty oak, delightfully austere minerals lead into a round, mouth-filling and delicious full-bodied palate.  With rich, mostly back fruit wrapped around mouth-coating tannin and good acidity, the palate showcases rich baker’s chocolate, mocha, earthy minerals and graphite backed up by layers of more rich fruit and good acidity all in good balance with careful oak usage that enhances the aromas in the wine without overpowering them.  Drink [with immense pleasure] now through 2025, maybe longer.

Covenant, Zahav, Late Harvest Muscat Canelli, 2014:  The first dessert wine from Covenant and the brainchild of its “other” winemaker” – the uber-talented Jonathan Hajdu.  100% late-harvested Muscat from Babcock Vineyard located in the Suisun Valley, the wine opens with an intoxicating nose redolent with ripe peach and apricot alongside tropical notes of guava, candied hazelnuts, spice and loads of slightly spicy honeysuckle and sweet honey with orange citrus and a hint of raisins as well.  The full bodied palate is viscous with good acidity balancing out the rich fruits and intense sweetness (although I personally would have preferred a little more acidity) and a lovely lingering finish with more honey, candied nuts and a whiff of toasty oak.  Drink now through 2024, maybe longer.

Covenant, Neshama, 2014:  2014  was a year of blends for Covenant with the anomaly of their Covenant produced as a blend for the first (and likely last) time while also launching a new flagship wine representing something Jeff had been wanting to try for quite some time – blending some of the best lots he had been sourcing into something special.  Hebrew for soul, this blend of Petit Verdot (60%) and Malbec (25%) from the Sonoma Valley together with 15% Syrah sourced from Bennet Valley is hedonistic and simply delicious.  Each component aged individually in the 30% new French oak for 18 months before being blended directly into the bottle where it “bottle-aged” as a blend for an additional 9 months.  Rich, lush and approachable with deep red fruit and black cherries along with earthy minerals, fresh-rolled cigars, just-paved road and just the right amount of spiciness, with velvety tannins already nicely integrating and a whiff of herbaceousness as well.  Full bodied, round and mouth-filling this is a well-structured plush wine that will bring immense pleasure.  Very enjoyable now, the wine benefits from a bit of decanting and should cellar comfortable through 2025, maybe longer.

Solomon – Lot 70

Covenant, Solomon Lot 70, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2014:  With plenty of ink already spilled on the wine’s “name”, this note focuses on the wine itself.  14.5% AbV.  Labeled by the editors of Food & Wine as “the best kosher Cab made in the U.S.” while remaining a “world class wine”.  While I am not ready to crown it the best of a class of 2014 that showcases some of the best Cabernet Sauvignon I have seen to date out of California (with Herzog having some amazing stuff in their lineup as well), I wholeheartedly concur with the second part – this is a terrific wine and certainly a step up from the already lovely Covenant Bordeaux Blend reviewed above.  With an extracted and voluptuous nose loaded with crushed black forest fruits, cassis and chocolate alongside slightly smoky oak, anise, rich minerals and pungent earthiness while retaining that hint of herbaceousness that typifies Covenant’s offerings, with enough time one could lose himself in the aromas alone.  However that would be a shame as the extracted and full bodied palate has plenty to offer as well with rich, dark and deep fruits alongside complex layers of herbs, spices and more chocolate that slowly evolve if they are given enough time.  While enjoyable now, I’d recommend giving the wine at least another 12 months before opening after which it should cellar nicely through 2025.

Covenant, Solomon’s Cuvee, Premiere Napa Valley 13, Lot 117, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2008:  Together with the inaugural Solomon wine, Covenant also made this limited 61-bottle edition “special” Solomon, with 60 bottles auctioned off for the Napa Valley Vintner’s annual charity event – “Premiere Napa Valley” and the winery retained one bottle for itself which it opened at a Landsman Wine Club event.  The entire lot was bought by a kosher wine retailer from whom I was fortunate to acquire one bottle.  In order to differentiate it from the winery’s flagship release, this is a blend of the “regular” Cabernet Sauvignon (sourced from Larkmead) and the Solomon (which came from Rudd’s Mount Veeder vineyard).  While the nose has calmed down a bit from its extremely aromatic heyday, it remains rich with gobs of ripe blackberries, red cherry, plums, cassis together with anise, fresh-cracked black pepper, smoky oak, earthy minerals, warm spices and a slightly bitter streak of roasted herbs.  Much of the same is present on the deep, rich, inky and full bodied palate where velvety supporting tannins and a good acidic core are joined by additional notes of rich chocolate, toffee, espresso, freshly-rolled cigars and more earthy minerals reveal themselves slowly as the wine takes on some air and patient time.  A lingering finish caresses.  14.5 AbV.  Drink now through 2020, maybe longer.

Covenant, Landsman, Pinot Noir, 2015:  Comprised of 100% Pinot Noir from the relatively cool Carneros Valley, the wine spent 18 months in 30% new French oak before bottling.  With bright acidity backing up the red cherry and ripe plum notes on a backdrop of earthy minerals, some roasted herb and Oriental spices, the wine provides enough complexity to please the more sophisticated wine drinker while offering sufficient pleasure for anyone enjoying this wine – with or without food. Drink now through 2019.

Covenant Israel

Covenant Israel, Blue C, Rosé, 2016:  After the inaugural 2015 release of the Blue C Rosé, this year’s release builds on its success and utilizes the saignée from the winery’s flagship Syrah.  An aromatic nose has lovely sweet red summer fruits, floral notes and lovely citrus alongside a whiff of minerals.  The medium bodied palate has more red fruits and mouth-watering citrus with sufficient acidity but is a tad too sweet for my tastes but will be enjoyable by most.  Drink now and enjoy chilled.  13.1% AbV.

Covenant Israel, Blue C, Viognier, 2016:  Similar to the Syrah, Jeff is of the view that Viognier does well in Israel and is particularly happy with his current source of this wine and expects the varietal to remain a constant presence in the Blue C line-up.  100% Viognier sourced from a Manara vineyard, the light to medium bodied wine has notes of pears, summer stone fruits and Meyer lemons alongside a hint of spiciness and crème fraîche. With crisp acidity and sweet fruit this is a delightful wine that will be perfect to enjoy all summer long, especially at 12.2 AbV.  Drink now through 2018.

Covenant Israel, Blue C, Red Wine, 2015:  Comprised of 90% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Syrah (the same blend as the 2015 Blue C Rosé for a reason, it’s bled juice was the source along with a hint of Viognier that was added to it), the wine is well-made with good balance between the voluptuous fruit, nuanced oak and good acidity all backed by nicely integrating tannins.  Notes of blackberries, tart raspberries, cassis, black cherries, rich chocolate and roasted Mediterannean herbs slowly revel themselves after about 15 minutes in the glass.  Enjoyable now through 2020, maybe longer.  15.4% AbV.

Covenant Israel, Syrah, 2014:  In a shift from the inaugural 2013 release as a “red blend” and representing Jeff’s feelings that Syrah is “Israel’s Varietal”, the 2014 is comprised of 90% Syrah and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, both sourced from Tel Phares vineyards located in the Golan Heights and which spent 18 months in 40% new French oak.  The wine opens with a rich nose of blackberries, tart raspberries, red cherries, cassis and slight notes of blueberries and earthy minerals along with rich smoke and warm herbs.  The full bodied palate is rich and lush with deep ripe black and red fruits wrapped around a core of acidity backed up by caressing tannins with black pepper, cloves, nutmeg and other warm spices, lead pencil, fresh pulled espresso, vanilla.  The wine shows the same balance and well-made structure we have come to expect from Covenant while showcasing its Israeli personality with slightly richer and sweeter fruits alongside more pronounced herbal notes.  Enjoyable now, the wine gains complexity over a few hours of decanting and should cellar nicely through 2021.