Pessach 2010

Yossie’s Wine Recommendations #120 – 3/12/10
Holiday Prep – Pessach Buying Guide #1

NOTE: Scroll to the bottom for the Pessach Recommended Wine Lists

The weeks leading up to Pessach are among the US kosher wine industry’s busiest as more wine is sold during this time than the rest of the year combined. Practically all the new wines are unveiled during this time. A great tasting is being held this Sunday at the über cool City Winery in Soho (details below). The tasting is in connection with the Jewish Week’s Kosher Wine Guide supplement published last Friday, for which I was one of the judges who rated the wines set forth in the guide (which will be distributed at the tasting if you missed last week’s edition of the Jewish Week). I will be at the tasting and really look forward to meeting any of you who will be there – so please let me know if you plan on attending and we can get together over some superb wine!

As is my wont every year, this newsletter includes some of my recommendations for wines in two price ranges – Under $15 and $15-29. I also suggest taking another look at my Under $20 list from newsletter #112. While the lists include many good and enjoyable wines, as a general rule, the wines on the Under $15 list are not complex, cellar worthy or sophisticated (although some are). These lists are not exhaustive, nor do they necessarily represent all the best wines; but rather wines I enjoy and think you will as well. Most of the wines on these lists qualify as YH Best Buys – wines I consider a particularly good way to spend your Shekels. One thing to consider is that 2008 was a great vintage year in Israel, especially for white wine, but, as a result of it being Shmittah, almost no wines are available in the US – just another reason to live in Israel!

Next week I will provide two additional lists – $30-50 and Moshiach Wines which, for my newer readers, are wines I would be proud to serve the Moshiach, were I ever so lucky to have him grace my table with his presence. These special wines sometimes include older vintages I have been storing for a while in my cellar and are not always readily available at your local retailer.

The Pessach requirement to consume four full cups of wine at the Seder brings with it a number of dilemmas requiring some serious consideration, thought and planning. Chief among these, is that four cups of wine is a lot of wine to be consuming at one sitting (even over the 5 or so hours our Seder traditionally lasts), especially given the fact that the first two cups are typically imbibed on an empty stomach. Another issue is the fact that most of us will use the same silver goblets we use for Kiddush. While during the year, the potential negative effect the silver may have on your wine is easily negated by immediately pouring the wine into a proper wine glass after Kiddush, during the Seder the wine has an extended stay in your silver goblet before it gets consumed, giving the metal and wine far longer to consummate their evil plot to destroy your carefully selected wine. Other considerations are the tradition to only drink red wine and to avoid any Mevushal wine (which I obviously don’t view as a problem) at the Seder.

For the last five years I have been spending a splendiferous Pessach in Miami Beach with my family. In preparation for the Chag, I always ship a case or two of Moshiach wines in advance to ensure that the holiday requirements are fulfilled in an appropriate manner. Given my desire to honor the Seder as nicely as possible, we have always consumed a number of these Moshiach bottles during the Seder for the four cup requirement. However, the empty stomach, requirement to consume the entire cup of wine rather rapidly and focus on keeping three little kids from wreaking havoc all combine to significantly detract from ones ability to fully enjoy and appreciate the complexities, nuances of flavor and aroma of these typically magnificent wines.

As a result, I have made an executive decision this year (probably the only executive power I have at home) to avoid drinking Moshiach wine for the four cups. To my family members recoiling in horror at the thought of a – Seder without Moshiach wines – have no fear – I will still be bringing a full compliment of Moshiach wines – we will just be enjoying them during the Seder meal and at all the subsequent meals we will be sharing together.

The decision to forgo Moshiach wines for the four cups leaves me with the dilemma of what wines I should be drinking for the four cups. Being the traditionalist I am, I have decided to stick with red wines for all four cups and will be choosing my wines based on some simple principles. I will be looking for top quality, medium bodied, relatively simple and inexpensive wines (once you consume wine in any significant quantity, your taste buds begin to numb, which further limits your ability to enjoy great wine). Some favorites of mine include Recanati’s Reserve Petit Sirah-Zinfandel, the Gamla Sangiovese and the Capcanes Peraj Petita (the little sister of my all time favorite Spanish wine – the Capcanes Peraj Ha’Abib). As fellow wine connoisseur SG suggests, a light Israeli syrah (like Dalton’s 2007 Syrah which I recently enjoyed at Gotham Wine’s big tasting) would be an excellent choice. To the extent you are looking for well priced whites, Recanati’s Chardonnay, Dalton’s Sauvignon Blanc Fume or Yarden’s Viognier are all good and affordable bets.

Shabbat Shalom,

Under $15

(1) Barkan, Classic, Pinot Noir, 2007
(2) Barkan, Reserve, Chardonnay, 2007
(3) Baron Herzog, Zinfandel
(4) Baron Herzog, Chardonnay,
(5) Binyamina, Yogev, Cabernet Sauvignon-Petit Verdot, 2007
(6) Cantina Gabriele, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, 2007
(7) Casa da Corca, Douro, 2005
(8) Dalton, Sauvignon Blanc Fume, 2009 – one of the few 2009 white wines available
(9) Dalton, (Unoaked) Chardonnay – Crisp, refreshing and delightful – also from 2009
(10) Galil Mountain, Merlot, 2007
(11) Golan Heights Winery, Golan Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007 – party a result of the wineries success, this series contains some hidden gems – this is one of them
(12) Golan Heights Winery, Gamla, Pinot Noir
(13) Golan Heights Winery, Gamla, Merlot
(14) Recanati Yasmin Red – a surprisingly refreshing and tasty wine
(15) Recanati Rose (spring is coming – celebrate with one of my all time favorite Rose wines)
(16) Tabor, Galil, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007 – the Merlot is also worth checking out


(1) Capcanes, Peraj Petita, 2007
(2) Carmel, Appellation, Cabernet Franc, Upper Galilee, 2007
(3) Carmel, Appellation, Cabernet Sauvignon, Upper Galilee, 2007
(4) Carmel, Sha’al Late Harvest, Gewurztraminer, 2006
(5) Dalton, Reserve, Syrah, 2007
(6) Ella Valley, Cab Franc, 2007 – probably my favorite Cabernet Franc today and that is saying a lot!
(7) Ella Valley, Chardonnay, 2007
(8) Ella Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007 – at half the price, this wine is almost as good as one of my perennial favorites – the Ella Valley Vineyards – Vineyards Choice wines
(9) Galil Mountain, Meron, 2006 –Awesome wine (and a crazy weird blend that works).
(10) Galil Mountain, Yiron & Yiron Syrah – hands done, without a doubt the ultimate YH Best Buy!
(11) Galil Mountain, Avivim, 2006
(12) Golan Heights Winery, Yarden, Cabernet, 2006 – as a result of the many news wines available , this wine seems to have become a cliché. Nay I say! It’s delicious, cellarable, and affordable and well worth drinking!
(13) Golan Heights Winery, Yarden, Viognier, 2006
(14) Golan Heights Winery, Yarden, Odem Organic Vineyard, Chardonnay, 2007
(15) Golan Heights Winery, Gamla, Pinot Noir, 2006
(16) Hagafen, Napa Valley, White Riesling, 2008
(17) Psagot, Edom, 2007 – beware the 2006 which is nowhere as good – truly an up and coming/improving winery – the 2008 (Shmittah) vintage wines are amazing!.
(18) Recanati, Reserve, Cabernet Franc, 2006
(19) Recanati, Reserve, Shiraz, 2006
(20) Red Fern Cellars, Syrah, 2005 – a tiny winery from Long Island run by Ari Munk as a labor of love that results in some good and funky wines. Worth looking for and enjoying a bottle or two.
(21) Red Fern Cellars, Chardonnay, 2005 – interesting and delicious
(22) Tabor, Adama, Gir, Merlot, 2006
(23) Tabor, Adama, Bazelet, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007 – the Terra Rosa Cab is also great and makes for some very interesting side-by-side, comparative tasting that really show the importance of terrior.
(24) Teperberg, Meritage, 2006
(25) Teperberg, Silver, Late Harvest, White Riesling, 2007 – the 2008 is even better!
(26) Teperberg, Terra, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007 – another winery that continues to improve every year!
(27) Tishbi, Estate, Cabernet Franc, 2006 – in case you haven’t noticed yet, I love Cabernet Franc


Yossie’s Wine Recommendations #121 – 3/18/10
Oenophilic Ecstasy – Pessach Buying Guide #2

Given the length of recent newsletters, I promised myself that this week’s edition would contain nothing more than the promised lists of recommended wines in the $30-50 price range and a list of Moshiach Wines (which, as previously mentioned, are those extra special wines I would be honored to serve the Moshiach when he graces my table). Moshiach wines are especially important on Pessach as the Moshiach actually graces our table during the Seder (or at least we hope he does)! I have tried to keep this little promise to myself but, as you will see below, some of these wines are so fabulous that I felt obliged to sing their praises, if only a little. So, while no real tasting notes are included, there are a few words with respect to a number of the recommended treats.

Additionally, and as with my prior lists, these are neither exhaustive nor comprehensive. The wines below are just some of my favorite wines at the relevant price points. I would also note that wine prices, especially kosher wines, vary widely and may differ from country to country, state to state and store to store.

Shabbat Shalom,

$30-50 (plenty of these are the best kind of Moshiach Wines in quality not price!)

(1) Barkan, Altitude 770, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2005: The Cabernet from their highest “Altitude” and worthy of leading the pack.
(2) Binyamina, Gewurztraminer, Late Harvest Cluster Select, Reserve, 2008: A fabulous change has occurred over the last couple years – there are now many great choices for sophisticated dessert wines. I love this version from Binyamina, but it’s not available in the US given its Shmittah vintage year.
(3) Binyamina, Syrah, Odem, Choshen, 2006.
(4) Chateau Le Crock, Cru Bourgeois, St-Estephe, 2005: Other than the Baroness Nadine Malmaison, this is by far my favorite French wine from a straight value perspective.
(5) Chateau Rollan de By, Cru Bourgeois, 2003.
(6) Castel, Petit Castel¸ 2007: As a result of my known preference for Israeli wines over French, I actually like this wine (“second” in name only) over its more famous and revered big brother – the Grand Vin (which is recommended below on the Moshiach list). I have not yet tasted the 2008 but rumor has it that it’s the best yet!
(7) Carmel, Single Vineyard, Kayoumi, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2006: The Kayoumi Shiraz is awesome as well – there is something special going on in Carmel’s Kayoumi vineyard for sure.
(8) Chateau Tertre Daugay, St. Emilion, 2000.
(9) Covenant, Chardonnay, Lavan, 2008: A white Burgundy style California Chardonnay – absolutely delicious!
(10) Ella Valley Vineyards, Vineyards Choice, Merlot, 2003: The Cabernet Sauvignon is also delightful.
(11) Ella Valley Vineyards, Cabernet Franc, 2006: This wine is from their “regular” series but would be very comfortable in the “Vineyards Choice” series.
(12) Four Gates, Chardonnay, Santa Cruz Mountains, 2007: Four Gates is a small Santa Cruz winery producing very nice wines. Wines are only available directly from the winery by phone. Prepare for a long conversation about wine when you call.
(13) Four Gates, Cabernet Franc, Santa Cruz Mountains, 2006: A great Cabernet Franc with all the traditional bells and whistles.
(14) Francios Labet Puligny-Montrachet: A crisp delicious wine.
(15) Francios Labet, Meursault: One of my all-time favorite white wines (the Yarden Odem Chardonnay is my absolute favorite with Covenant’s Laven a definite new contender).
(16) Golan Heights Winery, Yarden, Ortal Vineyard, Syrah, 2004: Part of the Golan Heights Winery’s blockbuster “Single Vineyard” series and one of the best Israeli Syrah’s I have enjoyed to date.
(17) Gvaot, Gofna Reserve, Cabernet Franc, 2007: As I have written before, Gvaot is a young, upstart winery doing fabulous work with massive additional upside potential.
(18) Herzog, Special Reserve, Cabernet Sauvignon-Zinfandel-Syrah: An interesting blend whereby all the parts contribute to the delightful whole.
(19) Herzog, Special Reserve, Alexander Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon. I actually like the Cabernet from this vineyard over the more highly touted Chalk Hill stuff.
(20) Recanati, Special Reserve, 2006: I always loved this wine and, given that it was my son Zevi’s first wine, even more so since his Bris.
(21) Saslove, Single Vineyard, Sagol, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007: While Barry Saslove’s first entry in the kosher wine making was not great, this wine is delicious – well integrated, tannins, lightly spiced and deep, rich fruits all come together nicely.
(22) Segal, Single Vineyard, Dishon, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2005: Along with the Dovev Merlot, there are some of Segal’s best stuff – well priced (although much better priced in Israel) and delicious.
(23) Tabor, Mescha, 2005: A treat! Check out their red dessert wine as well.
(24) Tanya, Halel, Merlot, 2006: Another winery from whom we have seen significant improvement over the years. Give this one a little time to open and you will be rewarded.
(25) Teperberg, Reserve, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2006: As good as this wine is, the 2007 is better (if you can find it).
(26) Tzora, Misty Hills, 2006: An interesting blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah yielded great results. Tzora is a winery with loads of good wines these days, very few of which are imported into the US. One thing to note is they have a large number of labels that can be confusing at times. Rogov’s book is exceedingly helpful.
(27) Tzuba, Hametzuda, 2007: Another relatively new winery that burst onto the scene with a vengeance and has rapidly (together with Gvaot) become a house favorite of mine.
(28) Tzuba, Tel Tzuba, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2006: Tzuba also produced a Pinot Noir in 2007 that is supposed to be amazing although I have not (yet) tasted it.
(29) Yatir, Sauvignon Blanc, 2007: Simply put, the best (and most expensive Israeli) Sauvignon Blanc.

Moshiach Wines (or wines worth blowing your kids tuition money on)

(1) Bustan, Syrah, 2005: I have long been a huge fan of this tiny winery and their Syrah in particular.
(2) Bustan, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2005.
(3) Capcanes, Flor di Primavera, Peraj Ha’Abib, 2001: From my favorite winery, I am rapidly running out of the 2000 and 2001 vintages which I love dearly. The 2005 vintage is readily available, quite delicious and well worth the costs.
(4) Carmel, Limited Edition, 2005: Another prime example of Carmel’s greatness – a fabulous Bordeaux blend that is truly something special – elegant, layered and complex but still approachable.
(5) Castel, Grand Vin, 2006: The closest Israeli wine to a true French Bordeaux – Eli Ben-Zaken’s (the winemaker) French soul clearly flexing its muscles.
(6) Chateau Guiraud, Sauternes 2001: The best dessert wine – period.
(7) Chateau Leoville Poyferre, St.-Julien, 2003: Very expensive, but delicious and very well made.
(8) Covenant, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007: Whatever caused Jeff Morgan to start making kosher wine – we should give blessings daily for such an occurrence. From his first vintage in 2003, Covenant has exploded on the kosher wine scene with a vengeance, and the consistent greatness of his wines proves that he is here to stay. The Covenant Cabernet Sauvignon is rightfully Jeff’s flagship wine being a big, bold and highly extracted wine with great cellaring potential.
(9) Elvi, El26 Priorat, 2004: A well built powerful wine. Spicy with loads of high-powered black fruit.
(10) Golan Heights Winery, Katzrin, 2003: Historically the best (kosher) Israeli – period. While there are many contenders to that title these days, the Golan Heights Winery manages to maintain its edge with fabulous wines such as this. This wine has aged with grace, poise and elegance and is a special treat. I also note the 1993 Katzrin (which was the second time the wine was made, the first being 1990) is still drinking well as I had an opportunity to discover a few weeks ago when I tried one of the last remaining bottles I have from this vintage. These wines are special stuff – worth the money and cellaring for a bit to see how they develop. I will miss the ’93 when I drink my last bottle.
(11) Golan Heights Winery, Yarden, El-Rom Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2004: While the 2001 remains one of my all time favorite Cabernet Sauvignon wines and is drinking beautifully right now, the 2004 is something special.
(12) Hagafen, Prix, Mélange, 2005: Hagafen’s Prix label is only available directly from the winery through membership in their wine club (which, for this reason, remains the best wine club out there). Consistently amazing and interesting wines, of which their 2004 Mélange was my favorite ever. While unfortunately no longer available, the 2005 fills its place well (if not completely).
(13) Hagafen, Prix, Soleil Vineyard, Pinot Noir, 2006.
(14) Herzog, Generation VIII, Cabernet Sauvignon, To Kalon-Napa Valley, 2006: A fabulous wine produced from grapes sourced in Napa’s famous To Kalon vineyard, this is a very very expensive wine but one that might merit a splurge for a special occasion and definitely deserving of the Moshiach Wine title!
(15) Louis de Sacy, Brut, Grand Cru Champagne, n.v.: A true Champagne and worthy of special occasions.
(16) Segal, Unfiltered, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2005: The closest thing to a good kosher Barolo available, this wine is deep, penetrating and great.
(17) Yatir, Forest, 2006: Yatir has long been one of my favorite wineries and everything it has done over the last few years only serves to enhance my adoration for it. From the impeccable Sauvignon Blanc listed above, to their blend and Cabernet Sauvignon (also both included on these lists), they remain one of the very best wineries in Israel – producing their wines in the Negev desert. Their varietal; Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz are also well worth seeking out.

I also would note that the Golan Heights Winery produced no less than three single vineyard Merlot wines (from the Ortal, Tel Phares and Kela (formerly Sha’al) Vineyards,) all of which are just over $50. If you can afford it, they make a delicious and very interesting side-by-side tasting.


Yossie’s Wine Recommendations #121.5 – 3/28/10
Short, Sweet & to the Point – Pessach Buying Guide #3

After last week’s title got the newsletter ensnared in many a spam filter, I decided to go with a more benign title this week. Also, as I have been on vacation most of this week with my kids (although vacation with kids is pretty much an oxymoron), this week’s edition is really only 1/2 an edition and is mainly being sent out to wish you all a great Pessach and hoping that you took advantage of the past two newsletters to stock up on some great vino at some of the really good sales. If not, you still have 48 hours or so to make sure you welcome the Chag in an appropriate manner!

I took the opportunity while down here to check out the wine selections in a number of the local stores and was actually pretty impressed with the selection here in Miami Beach where I will be spending Pessach – even the prices weren’t that egregious. Any readers down here for Pessach – give me a shout – I’d love to meet you!

In the event that the 82 recommendations I provided over the past two weeks were insufficient to slake your thirst, I am adding another ten highly recommend wines that would all greatly enhance your Seder or any other meal. Given that I only included three dessert wines among the prior recommendations, the wines below are all amazing, sweet, sophisticated, dessert wines that would either enhance any dessert or, for some of these wines, serve as a dessert onto themselves.

(1) Carmel, Vintage, Fortified Petite Sirah, Appellation, Judean Hills, 2007 – a great “port-style” fortified wine.
(2) Hagafen, Late Harvest, Sauvignon Blanc, Sonoma Coast, 2008
(3) Hagafen, Prix, White Riesling, Rancho Wieruzowski, 2008 – I loved the Prix 2006 late harvest Chardonnay – this is just as good!
(4) Hafner, Gruner Veltliner, Eiswein, 2002 – the only kosher Hafner I have enjoyed and its delicious.
(5) Herzog, Chenin Blanc, Late Harvest, Clarksberg, 2007
(6) Taylor Fladgate, Porto Cordovera, Late Bottled Vintage, 2004 – a fine addition to the Porto Cordovera port family. While a more sophisticated offering, I actually prefer the ruby port.
(7) Binyamina, Reserve, Late Harvest Cluster Select, Gewurztraminer, 2008 – my new favorite Israeli dessert wine.
(8) Chateau Piada, Sauternes, 2001 – prior to the kashering of the Guirard, this was the flagship kosher Sauternes and it remains an awesome wine.
(9) Tzuba, Chardonnay Dessert Wine, Tel Tzuva, n.v
(10) Golan Heights Winery, Heightswine, Yarden, 2007 – a play on “ice wine”, this wine is supple, layered and delicious.

Shavua Tov and a Chag Kasher Ve’Samaech to all!