Tribute to Daniel Rogov

NOTE: This is from newsletter #184, written a week before he passed away (and communicated privately to him as well).

Finally, the event that will most likely have the most impact relates to Daniel Rogov, Israel’s undisputed top wine & food critic, for whom a tribute dinner was held this past week in Israel. The catalyst for the event was Rogov’s recent illness, that has precluded him from maintaining his breakneck pace of tasting and evaluating over 1,000 wines a month in addition to authoring his annual wine guides and multiple columns and other publications and maintaining his wine forum – an invaluable source of information for the kosher wine world and one that I often frequent. While the nature of his illness and its impact are not widely known, it has forced him to significantly slow down. While Rogov has more than his fair share of critics (as anyone at the top of his profession is prone to), his contributions to the Israeli (and kosher) wine industry are unparalleled and indisputable. For decades he has written and educated the Israeli and kosher wine aficionado masses on wine, long before they were interested in it, helping to elevate the country’s wine appreciation to today’s respectable levels. He has also been a tireless promoter of Israeli wines around the world, making a substantial contribution to their relatively newfound recognizance and prominence around the world. Rogov has also maintained the aforementioned wine forum of which I have been a participant for over eight years (both in its prior incarnation (that I preferred) and its current one) in which he has responded nearly immediately to any and every question posed there on wine related topics. He also managed to maintain a blessed air of civility even when conversations grew quite heated on non-directly wine-related topics including politics and religion. This was nearly always done with professionalism, a delightful acerbic wit and good humor, touched by his personal trademark of gentlemanly curmudgeonliness.

On a personal note, I have learned a ton from Rogov and benefited from his generous impartation of wine-related knowledge, both on his forum and via personal communication. I was unfortunately unable to attend the evening, but I decided to honor Rogov with a bottle of special Israeli wine and a good steak – two of his favorite things (most of his other favorites are decidedly non-kosher). The wine I choose was the Katzrin 1990 from the Golan Heights Winery, the oldest living kosher wine today and easily one of the best, a fitting form of tribute in my opinion to one whose age remains a mystery and whose contributions to Israeli wine are near mythical. I have included my notes on this near-mythical bottle of wine below.

As mentioned in my recent newsletter, Mike Steinberger wrote a three-piece article about wine tasting, its profound subjectivity and some of the science behind different folks’ ability to taste. Definitely a well-researched and thought-provoking article that is well worth your time. After reading it, I felt justified in the importance I have always placed on servicing your own palate (as opposed to any particular writer or critic, or worse, public opinion) and finding a wine writer or critic whose palate matched your own as opposed to the most prominent ones (i.e. if you prefer refined and restrained wines to oaked fruit bombs, following Robert Parker’s recommendations might not be the best of ideas). I have always considered myself lucky that for the most part, I agree with the majority of Daniel Rogov’s recommendations, which has helped me discover many new wineries and wines, long before they made it to the mainstream.