Creme de la Creme (Best of 2015)

#309 – December 30, 2015

With the Gregorian year of 2015 closing in 24 hours or so, it’s time for the best wines of the year. In keeping with “Yossie’s Corkboard” tradition, in addition to the “best” wines of 2015, I have also included a list of the most interesting and exciting wines I tasted this year – many of which give more pleasure than some of their “near-perfect” brethren who are included in the more prestigious list. Similar to the trend that started last year, there are significantly more white wines on the second list than have been historically; indicative of the increasing popularity of white wines. The “Exciting/Interesting” list is also an indicator of the many new and exciting varietals with which winemakers are [successfully] experimenting with, including the latest such wine from Recanati – the Marawi. 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 spittoon every year.

While obviously not news to any reader of Yossie’s Wine Recommendations, after tasting over 1700 different wines this year (significantly more than in 2014), 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 that will be discussed in-depth in Part II (the lookback) of my Annual Trifecta). Unlike last year’s list, it was quite hard to whittle the list(s) down to only ten wines for each and as such, I decided to give those additional deserving wines a place to shine and listed them on an “unlisted” page on my website, which can be accessed here.

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 recently tasted including magnificent wines that are now in their prime like the Domaine Rose Camille 2005, the 2005 Château de Valandraud, Tzora Misty Hills 2007 and Yarden’s 2001 Elrom Cabernet Sauvignon. With the third anniversary of the Rosh Chodesh Clubs coming up, the list would have been overtaken completely by the amazing aged wines we have enjoyed over the last 34 months.

2. In keeping with tradition, the list includes only wines I tasted for the first time during the 2015 calendar year (although barrel tastings form last year that I tasted as final wines this year are included) and doesn’t include not-yet-final wines (only wines that have been bottled can make this list (but they don’t have to have been officially “released)) or newly (or soon to be) released wines I haven’t yet tasted but expect them to be incredible.

3. A handful of wineries are constantly producing so many terrific wines that these list could easily be comprised sole of their wines ([Non-mevushal] Covenant, Flam, Gvaot, Hajdu, Recanati, Tzora and Yatir – I’m talking to you). In order to have some parity and properly reflect the wonderful diversity of quality kosher wines, I have limited the number of entries by any specific winery to ensure at least a slightly more inclusive list.

4. In a marked departure from prior years, I have also tried to avoid wines of such exceptional rarity as to render them one-off experiences. This in an attempt to provide a more useful list for my readers (as opposed to a personal report on the best wines I tasted, many of which are non-commercial (like the Napa Valley Reserve), exceptionally rare/expensive (like the 2008 Special-Edition Covenant Solomon’s Cuvee Lot 117) or only available in limited markets (like the delightful “true” 2012 Burgundy from Domain D’Ardhuy, Geverny Chambertin, 2012, only available in France), rendering each of them effectively “unavailable” and thus inappropriate for this list.

5. Reflecting the international nature of this newsletter’s readership, a number of these wines may not be available in either the United States or Israel, as the top tier wines of many wineries are usually made in smaller than usual quantities and sell out fast or are not exported out of their country of production due to extremely limited quantities and high demand for near cult-like wines).

6. Despite my best intentions, with a day job that limits my wine-tasting travel and time and four children limiting my discretionary income, I didn’t get to taste every one of the more than 2,500 kosher wines released this year. As a result, I’m sure I missed a few (not to mention my slowly failing memory), so the list isn’t 100% set in stone.

As a result of these exclusions and the fact that there is much great kosher wine available from all over the world, there are plenty of terrific and/or interesting wines that are not included on this list (or the “almost” list), but are well worth your time, efforts, wallet and palate. That is what the other 40-odd newsletters are for (remember – I only write about wines I recommend).

Below is my list – I’d love to hear from you on your best and favorite wines of 2015.

Have a great week,

Best Wines of 2015 (in alphabetical order)

Capcanes, Peraj Ha’abib, Flor de Primavera, Monsant, 2012: Utilizing the typical component, the label proclaims the blend to be the identical 35% each of Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache with 30% of Carignan, but my understanding is that the blend may have been slightly different (as with the 2010 and 2011 vintages), all hailing from the tremendous selection of old vines at Jürgen’s disposal. Rich, meaty and delicious the wine has a slightly closed nose of rich black fruit accompanied by earthy minerals, grilled meat, some graphite, saddle leather, espresso, and a touch of freshly paved asphalt. The full bodied palate shows the impeccable balance we expect from Capcanes, presenting the slightly smoked wood, ripe black fruit, slight herbal notes and more earthy minerals in a harmonious package that still needs time to integrate (and the searing tannins certainly need a few years of “togetherness” to settle down and showcase the true magnificence of the wine (which its structure ensures will come to fruition). A long and lingering finish leaves you wanting more as it comes fully loaded with the rich chocolate and mocha from the oak and plenty of slightly bitter minerals evidencing the pleasurable road ahead. As evidenced by this epic tasting, while doable now drinking it now would be wine-infanticide at its best (or worst, depending on how you look at it), so please wait at least 12 months before opening up and then enjoy until 2023, likely longer.

Covenant, Solomon, Lot 17, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2011: While by now everyone has likely heard the story being Covenant’s flagship Solomon wine, named after the Morgan’s business partner – Leslie Rudd who finally acquiesced to Jeff’s request to use his high-end grapes for a kosher wine, far fewer individuals have actually tasted the wine [and even fewer have enjoyed every vintage since 2008, including the “second” 2008 version made especially for the Napa Valley auction in a limited 60-bottle production]. Further labeled as “Lot 70” moniker borne from the numbered tag on the applicable tank (while also representing the numerical value for wine (yayin equal 70 in gematria), and starting with the coming vintage, after using the high-end fruit from Rudd’s Larkmead vineyard, the fruit quality will go even higher with Rudd’s Oakville grapes (kissing cousin to Screaming Eagle) being used for the 2012 vintage and onwards (I’m looking forward to stashing a few 2012 bottles away for Ariella’s Bat-Mitzvah). Similar to the “regular” version, a free-run 100% Cabernet Sauvignon wine with rich notes of ripe black fruit, hints of red fruit, dark chocolate, a hint of minerals and caressing tannins providing the structure for a wine that achieves the holy grail of high-end vinogrophy – approachability on release with plenty of room to grow. With a delightfully acidic and mineral core providing added “oomph” to the luscious fruit and slightly toast yet still subtle oak providing an underlying robustness and added character, the wine was enjoyed over a period of three hours while we watched in open up in wonder. Just coming into its own now, give the wine two hours in the decanter or another 18 months in your cellar before opening and enjoying through 2023. As alluded to above, Jeff has produced so many other epic wines this year, he could have accounted for 30% of this list all on his own, between the “Best” and “Most Interesting” parts with the Covenant Cabernet Sauvignon, 2014 Lavan Chardonnay, 2013 Landsman Syrah all vying for a spot along with the newly released Zahav dessert wine, the coming newly crowned flagship Neshama blend and the Morgan’s new project – covenant Israel [have no fear, all will be covered in depth in my coming newsletter focusing on all things Covenant and Morgan] [Only in the US].

Domaine du Castel, Grand Vin, 2013: As crazy a statement as this may be, the 2013 vintage of Castel’s famous Grand Vin Bordeaux blend is likely the winery’s best wine ever (certainly deserving of its many recent accolades, including the 94 points awarded to it by the Wine Advocate’s Mark Squires). Comprised of its typical Bordeaux-blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Merlot and Cabernet Franc, this exceptionally elegant wine is beautifully made with a tight tannic structure in delightful balance with the 50% new French oak, rich and mostly black fruit while retaining the winery’s old world earthy mineral feel with spicy oak, warm spices, cigar box tobacco, warm cedar wood and dark chocolate while managing to express Israeli characteristics of a herbaceousness and an extracted feel to the fruit which provide it a [welcome] personality all of its own, culminating in a long and lingering finish with rich expressive fruit, slightly smoky oak, chocolate and espresso. Still extremely tight at this point, the wine needs another eight to 12 months to properly come together after which it should cellar nicely through 2023.

Domaine Roses Camille, 2011: Despite having produced two of the “best” kosher wines ever (and appearing on this list for years 2012, 2013 and 2014), after achieving the highest level of critical acclaim with the 2005 and 2006 vintages, winemaker Christophe Bardeau rested on his laurels, reverting back to non-kosher winemaking for vintage years 2007-2010 before coming back with [with a vengeance] and releasing not only the 2011 Domaine Roses Camille but also a second Rose Camille wine the Echo (which made last year’s list) and another wine sourced from a neighboring vineyard. As anyone lucky enough to have enjoyed the 2005 or 2006 vintages would expect, the 2011 is so closed and tight at this point as to render is nearly un-enjoyable. Nearly. Despite requiring nearly 24 hours (!) of decanting, the greatness that lies beneath is already perceptible and the 2011 vintage will be a worthy successor to the 2006 (if coming in slightly below both the 2006 and 2005 quality-wise). Once again, this 100% Merlot wine is sourced from the family’s highest quality plot on their three-hectare plot and aged for just north of two years in new French oak. After opening with a still uber-closed nose of mostly black fruit, delightfully expressive and earthy minerals, cedar wood, fresh-cured tobacco leaf, wet forest floor, lead pencil and some bitter anise alongside a lovely hint of barnyard funk, the full-bodied palate more than delivers on the promise with more of the same and layers of complexity that [ever-so-]slowly open up to reveal the treasures that lie beneath. Searing but well-structured tannins and enamel-stripping acidity combine to provide the promised for [relatively] super-long aging, but at this point it would literally be criminal to pop the cork on the wine. Stock up and forget about the wine for at least five years, after which enjoy it through 2026, likely longer [Only in the US].

Elvi, Clos Mesorah, 2013: Officially sharing the “flagship” moniker with the winery’s El26, this is the Cohen’s finest production yet (with last year’s “most Interesting” Herenza Reserva” remaining the most intriguing of them all). A blend of 50% old-vine Carignan and 30% Grenache along with 20% Syrah, the wine opens with gobs of rich [but tempered] mostly red fruit including raspberries, red cherries, tinted with a hint of boysenberry and slate alongside cassis and subtle blueberry, accompanied by a delightfully earthy minerals, rich dark chocolate, spicy oak, fresh-rolled cigars, notes of oaky vanilla and roasted espresso on a full bodied palate where fresh-turned earth, hints of lavender and grilled meat are added to the mix before culminating in a rich and caressing finish that lingers on and on. With near-searing tannins providing a well-structured backbone that will help the wine age beautifully over the next decade, this is one for the ages and reminiscent of Elvi’s inaugural and almost-obscenely great 2009 vintage. A beautifully elegant wine with a lingering and expressive finish to match, do not let this one pass you by. Despite being the current release, the wine is so far from being approachable at this point that it needs eight-to-ten hours of decanting. Give it the time and respect it deserves and stash it away in the far recesses of your cellar, making a note to yourself to check in again with this wine in two years when it might begin to be approachable. It should cellar well through 2025, likely longer.

Flam, Noble, 2011: A blend of 61% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Petit Verdot, 11% Merlot and 11% Cabernet Franc, the wine spent its customary two years in new French oak (the first 12 months each component on its own and then another 12 months as the final blend) and then an additional two years of bottle aging in the Flam Bother’s delightfully cool and dark cellar. If you want to stop reading all you have to know is that the 2011 vintage is even better than the 2010. Golan meticulously selected the absolute best grapes for each varietal from among Flam’s best plots. More Tuscany than California and reflective of the Flam’s winemaking philosophy, the wine is loaded with rich and extracted flavors while retaining elegance and poise, coupled with power and substantial aging ability. Bigger and more expressive than the overly impressive 2011 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (with whom it shares 61% of its composition), the wine is magical and a must have. With a seductive nose of mostly red fruit including ripe plums, dark cherries and tart raspberries along with a hint of gooseberry, warm herbs and an slight minerality, the wine only gets better on the medium to full-bodied palate with luscious fruit accompanied by earthy minerals, subtle oak, spicy black pepper, a hint of pleasing green bitterness and leathery tannins. Long, complex, dense and exceptionally elegant, the wine easily earns its place on this list [and then some]. Similar to Covenant above, the only reason the unbelievable 2011 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon is not on this list was to avoid screeches of nepotism from lesser wines].

Gvaot, Masada, 2012: Somehow Gvaot managed to slip through the cracks with two wines on this list, primarily de to the fact that it felt so unfair to leave either off (although the same could be said for the Flam Reserve 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon) and Gvaot somehow remains somewhat off the average aficionado’s radar screen. Historically the flagship wine and for vintage year representing the flagship label as it was joined by a Masada Pinot Noir (made for 2012 in addition to the “regular” Gofna Reserve Pinot Noir). Maintaining the Bordeaux-blend style Gvaot has been utilizing since it introduced the Masada wine with the 2005 vintage, the wine is comprised of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot, which spent approximately 20 months in French oak. Showcasing a highly concentrated and extracted full-bodied palate loaded with rich black fruits including blackberries, cassis and ripe cherries along with warm spices, some flinty minerals, cedar, fresh-cured tobacco and rich chocolate all wrapped around a robust core of powerful tannins that lend credence to the long-term viability of the wine. A textbook “Iron Fist in Velvet Glove” wine with an undeniably moving elegance and a lingering finish loaded with more rich fruit and chocolate along with a tinge of green bitterness lending a final bite to the wine, this wine will make you cry (in a good way). At this point, all you would achieve by opening the wine is showing off your good taste but give the wine 12-18 months and then enjoy through 2023, likely longer.

Hajdu, Hajdu, Proprietary Red Wine, 2013: 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 Hossfeld Hills source for the grapes. While I personally consider the Petite Sirah to be Jonathan’s flagship wine, this wine is better positioned to be the premier wine by both its price tag and limited production. 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. Another “Iron First Wrapped in Velvet” elegant and powerful wine which presents rich notes of blackberries, ripe black cherries, fleshy cassis and tart red fruit are joined by a subtle note of boysenberries wrapped around a robust tannic core that needs some time and air to open up but boded well for the future development of this wine. Freshly-grilled meat, fresh-cracked black pepper and spicy oak add some delightful edginess to the wine and keep the exuberant fruit from overwhelming any food you may enjoy with this tremendous wine. As the wine opens up you are rewarded with green olive nuances alongside some anise, cedar box tobacco, well-worn leather, fresh-turned earth and some minerals which culminate in a chocolate-covered espresso bean finish. Surprisingly approachable now, the wine should be at its peak in 12-18 months which it will hold through 2023, if not longer. Seriously worthy of mention is the 2013 Eaglepoint Ranch Petite Sirah and, like Covenant, Flam and Gvaot before him [on this list] and Tzora coming, everything else this exceptionally talented young man produces is a viable candidate for this list [Only in the US].

Recanati, Special Reserve, Red, 2012: 30% each of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, 25% Marselan and 15% Carignan (basically blending together their high-end Cabernet Sauvignon from with the best grapes that otherwise make up Recanati’s their elite “Mediterranean Reserve” series). Somehow an underappreciated wine that has been eclipsed by some of the winery’s incredible achievements over the last few years including the Mediterranean Reserve series, Gris de Marselan, Special Reserve White, development of the Manara vineyard and others. An always complex, layered and expressively elegant powerhouse of a wine that is content to let you come to it, while it slowly unwraps its multi-layered complexity. Similar to the Flam Noble listed above, each component spends a few month aging in French oak before the final blend is determined and returned to barrels to age as a blend for an additional 18 months or so. Plenty of rich and mostly red fruit on the deep and brooding nose, the wine reveals roasted Mediterranean herbs, tobacco leaf, cedar nots and spicy oak. The full bodied palate contains more of the same on a bed of well-structured tannins that are already integrating nicely and providing a solid backbone for the well balanced and deep wine. While easily representing Recanati’s [unfortunately more and more unique] philosophy for more subtly and nuance over expressive fruit and noticeable oak, the wine is fleshier and more robust than prior vintages, likely a result of the hotter vintage year many wineries experienced in 2012. As a result, the wine is more approachable than usual early on and is more likely to provide pleasure to a broader swath of wine aficionados than previously. Delicious now (and worth giving the wine 45 minutes to an hour in the decanter) the wine will continue to develop and should cellar nicely through 2021.

Tzora, Misty Hills, 2012: Quoting the Midrash Raba on Sefer Breishit, “Achron, Achron, Chaviv” (loosely translated as “last but not least”), this wine was certainly worth the wait as you read to the bottom of this treasure-laden list. Together with one of its other “Top Five Israeli Wineries” sibling, Gvaot, despite making world class wines for at least five years, Eran Pick and Tzora don’t seem to get the recognition they deserve. While it goes against my own interests to promote it (as opposed to letting it languish on the shelves for me to load up at better prices), I can’t help myself since the wine deserves to be seen, heard and most of all enjoyed! As with nearly every other Misty Hills wine produced by the winery, it ranks among Israel’s best and very much requires some patient cellaring in order to achieve the unbelievable greatness intended for it. A blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon and 45% of the winery’s incredible Syrah, the first word that comes to mind (after “wow”) is elegance. A perfectly balanced wine showcasing earthy minerals and robust black fruit with plenty of acidity keeping the extracted fruits in check and hints of near sweet red fruits in perfect harmony with subtle oak nuances. With layers and layers of complex flavors that unwrap themselves slowly as the hours tick by including rich cassis, luscious black plums, slightly sweet red summer fruits, all on a lush and full-bodied palate that seems nearly viscous at times, this is truly a magnificent wine that deserves as much attention as you can spare. Still very tight, if you insist on opening now, I’d give the wine two to three hours of decanting time or wait 18 months and then cellar through 2021, likely longer. Like its aforementioned brethren, pretty much every wine made by Tzora could be on this list, but certainly 2013 was certainly a huge winner for them with the Or and Red Shoresh along with the 2014 White Shoresh (the 2013 was on last year’s list) all equally deserving of a spot on this list.

Most Interesting / Exciting Wines of 2015 (in alphabetical order)

100 Tropez, Côtes de Provence, Rosé, 2014: With my love for Rosé well documented, it should surprise no one that at least one Rosé made this list (simply not one I had tasted when my annual Ode to the Pink went out in May). Capitalizing on the Rosé-mania that has gripped the wine world, a number of kosher Rosé from Provence was produced including this one, which at ~$22 and 12.5% AbV, was one of the summer’s bigger hits. Rosé the way the French intended it with gobs of bright and tart summer red fruit including strawberries, red grapefruit, cherries, tart raspberries combining with floral notes and pleasing slightly saline minerality with plenty of acid to keep the fruit honest, my only regret regarding this delicious citrus and fruit-laden Rosé was that I didn’t buy enough of it. Drink Now [Only in the US].

Avidan, Fringe, Cabernet Franc, 2013: After the winery’s founder and winemaker, Tsina Avidan, passed away in 2012, the winery sat idle for a vintage before being taken over by the Shaked family, who “turned kosher” and installed Yotam Sharon as temporary winemaker for the 2013 vintage (before handing the reins to Amit Toledo (Trio’s current winemaker) for the 2014 vintage and onwards). I tasted the first four kosher Avidan wines from the barrel in early January (in addition to this Cabernet Franc, a Nebbiolo, Malbec and Mourvèdre) but really enjoyed this wine the most and, upon tasting the final bottled version was happy to find that the wine had retained its qualitative edge along with a vibrant freshness somewhat uncommon among Israeli Cabernet Franc wines (to say nothing of those clocking in at 14.5% AbV). With bright red cherries, dusty plums, a hint of green bell peper and a roasted herbaceousness combining to produce a near classic Cabernet Franc, the wine is well made with good acidity and gripping tannins providing the background for this delicious wine. Well priced and worth seeking out, if only to remember what quality Cabernet Fran can taste like (especially given how many Israeli wineries seem to have left this gem of a varietal by the wayside) [Only in Israel].

Capcanes, Flor de Flor, Samso (Old Vine Carignan), 2013: As you all know, Capcanes has always had (and retains) a very special place in my heart and my most recent [truly epic] visit a few weeks ago was simply a confirmation of the fact [with a full report coming in a week or so]. Continuing to improve and innovate, the winery added a new wine to their upper-tier “Flor de Flor” label; a 100% varietal Carignan (Samso) sourced from 107 year-old vines (I was recently privileged to “meet” in person). With Recanati’s stunning Old Vine Carignan clocking in at around 40 years, the deep earthy complexity and rustic “bite” of Capcanes’ much older vines was an interesting comparison that was delightful to taste. With a brooding nose of near-sweet dark cherries, plums, loamy dirt, minerals, graphite and bracing acidity continuing on a full bodied palate with much of the same along with gripping tannins that need time to integrate, an earthy “edginess” that pleases, a rich spiciness, dark espresso and some slightly smoky oak lending it additional character, the wine is simply delightful and a welcome addition to the portfolio. With the 2014 version as good but with less character, I’d load up on 2013 and enjoy over the next five to eight years.

Cotes de Galilee Village, Jacques Capsouto Vignobles, Cuvee Eva Blanc, 2014: Long renowned for promoting Israeli wines at his Tribeca restaurant; I met and became friends with Jacques Capsouto years ago when we co-judged the Jewish Week’s Annual Kosher Wine Guide. After Hurricane Sandy forced the closure of Capsouto Frères, Jacques turned to the Holy Land for his next pursuit, acquiring vineyards in the Upper Galilee in order to make wines under his own label, the first vintages of which were recently released (this wine, a Rosé and a “reserve-level” red to be released shortly). Stay tuned for a full-blown article on the man, the story and the wines coming soon. Exceptionally well-priced and more reminiscent of Provence than the Galil, both wines are well-made, unpretentious and delicious (with my tasting of the Rosé missing my topical newsletter by two days). An esoteric (Rhone-driven) blend of Mediterranean-suited blends including Grenache Blanc (60%), Roussanne (19%), Clairette Blanche (14%) and Marsanne (7%); this medium-bodied wine is loaded gobs of judiciously utilized acidity that make it surprisingly light on its feet. Loaded with fresh-cut grass, summer stone fruit, Mayer lemon, sweet citrus, a streak of bitter herbs and a whiff of the Mediterranean, the wine is simplistic and sophisticated at the same time, providing both mindless beachside drinking pleasure and armchair contemplation. Near-elegant and delicious, I’d buy all you can find (but beware, the wine is an exceptional YH Best Buy, so that could end up being quite a bit). Drink now [the accompanying Rosé would have made the list over this wine but as it is completely sold out, I didn’t think that would be fair].

Hagafen, White Riesling, Dry, Rancho Wieruszowski, 2014: Similar to a few other wineries (Golan heights winery and Matar immediately come to mind), Hagafen’s recent success with white wines has significantly eclipsed their reds (a good thing given the resurgent popularity of white wine mentioned and linked to above). With three different variations of Hagafen’s delightful Riesling already on the market, one would be forgiven for being slightly incredulous that Ernie decided to try his hand at yet another version. That is, at least until you tasted a welcome addition to the quality and bone-dry kosher Riesling “community” (with the 2013 Kayoumi from Carmel being another). With plenty of ripe tropical fruit and saline minerals on the nose reminiscent of Hagafen’s “other” versions, the medium-bodied and bone-dry palate showcases a completely different and refreshingly austere version of what Ernie can coax out of these grapes. Plenty of tart fruit, saline minerals, a slight viscosity and hint of petrol creeping in on the lingering finish combine to make this a wine I could (and intend) to drink forever [Only in the US].

Mia Luce, Rosso, 2012: Kobi’s current release is 97% Carignan sourced from Recanati’s famous “wild” vineyard and blended with 3% Syrah from the Upper Galilee. While the wine showcases the typical animalistic traits of Recanati’s wine, the Rosso is more dialed-back and approachable, especially at first attack. With dark notes of blackberries, currents and other black forest fruit, grilled meat, warm spices, dark chocolate, white pepper and anise on both the nose and palate keep lively and somewhat bright with great balancing acidity, this medium to full bodied wine has plenty of saddle leather, earthy forest floor and saline minerals to balance out the fruit and oak with a lingering finish that, to quote one of my favorite wine-writers “feels like a love train connecting all the people of the Mediterranean basin”; yielding a personality-laden wine that Kobi can truly call his own. Buy all the bottles you can find. Honorable mention to Mia Luce’s 2011 French Colombard-reviving Bianco [Only in Israel].

Psagot, Moav, 2014: While Ya’acov Oryah’s first slew of 2014 vintage wines at Psagot includes a number of interesting wines including a varietal Viognier and an interesting Rosé comprised of five different varietals, the most interesting version is a continuation of his epic Semillon-driven success at Midbar with this blend of 69% Semillon and 31% Sauvignon Blanc (with Matar producing a similar blend), both sourced from Tzuba and co-fermented (30% of it in new oak) on its lees for four months. With a portion of the grapes harvested early I believe Ya’acov is onto something with re: solving Israel’s hotter growing season “issues” that can lead to flabby and low-acid grapes [to be discussed in greater depth in a coming newsletter. With 12.5% AbV and a rich tropical nose tempered by delightful acidity and a healthy dollop of saline-driven minerals, this was a delicious and intriguing wine that bodes every well for Psagot’s continued development and promising future [Only in Israel].

Recanati, Marawi, 2014: With the background story behind this wine outlined in last week’s newsletter, I wanted to focus solely on the actual tasting note for this list (click on the above link for the details). [Only in Israel]. Despite feeling that the 2015 will leave this inaugural 2014 version in the dust, I enjoyed the 2014 which opened with a distinct nose of tart green apples, white peaches, a hint of honey infused citrus and spicy notes along with floral notes, an interesting funkiness that blew off after a few minutes and an intriguing salty component. The light to medium bodied palate was loaded with much of the same presenting as a simple quaffer with decent acidity, some added bodied from the [older] oak barrel fermentation and the ensuing salinity ensuring a complexity that pleases. Well worth trying for the story and enjoying for the no-thinking-required pleasure the wine provides.

Roger Moreux, Sancerre, Chavignol, 2012: Having enjoyed a number of bottles of the magnificent 2007 vintage (that wasn’t “officially” imported into the US), I was overjoyed to find the 2012 vintage on offer at KFWE back in February and even happier to discover it being commercially available. Not only is this wine one of the only “real” kosher Sancerre wines available, it is also quite delicious and well worthy of your attention, palate and wallet. Leading with a highly aromatic nose redolent of blooming flower, citrus zest, slate minerals, a hint of tropical fruit and warm spices, the medium bodied palate has much of the same alone with intriguing salinity that make this one for the ages. Buy all the bottles you can find and then pester your retailer for more! [Only in the US]

Shirah, Aglianico, 2013: After “discovering” Italy in their 2012 Coalition, the brothers continue to forge ahead determined to expose the kosher wine-loving world to as many varietals that they can comfortably source at a high-enough quality and another Italian grape – Aglianico – was their next target, sourcing the grapes from the acclaimed Paso Robles AVA. While my first experience with the varietal, it is instantly recognizable as a Shirah wine and reminiscent of some of their older humongous favorites. With an impenetrable inky dark color, the wine [finally] opens up to reveal a highly expressive nose of plums, blueberry, tart cranberries, rich floral notes, earthy minerals, smoke, rich chocolate and plenty of spices. The full bodied [yet surprisingly light] palate has plenty more extracted fruit alongside near-sweet herbs and menthol, anise, more chocolate and gripping tannins that still need time to integrate and play nice. A finish laden with more tannins and tart fruit lingers nicely. Even more than usual for Shirah, at this point give it the time it deserves to open up before enjoying it. I’d wait at least a year before opening and then enjoy its development through 2018, maybe longer (with no prior experience with the varietal – better safe than sorry in this case). As an aside, given the grapes trait as an acid-laden and sun-loving varietal, I’d be interested in exploring how the varietal might do in the hands of a few of my favorite Israeli winemakers [Only in the US].