Apr 172011

Passover starts tomorrow night, which means I have a week of kosher wine drinking to look forward to.  Admittedly, the thought of kosher wine used to make my stomach turn, but over the last few years I’ve started discovering that there are a few gems out there.  This year, I have a few new ones to try.   I’m particularly excited about the Ella Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and the Covenant Chardonnay “Lavan.”

Before I get to those, though, I thought it would be fun to look back at my reviews of kosher wines from the last few years.  One thing I realized is I need to find some good sparkling and white kosher wines because most of the ones I reviewed leave much to be desired.  The red wines, on the other hand, regularly surprise me with their quality.  The 5 kosher red wines that earned 3 or more corks are:


2006 Petit Castel

2006 Petit Castel

The 2006 Petit Castel (winery, snooth) was a blend of was Bordeaux blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Merlot, and 5% Petit Verdot grapes.  The wine had some complexity that made it particularly enjoyable.  It was a bit pricey for not being outstanding, but it was a solid choice and one that could definitely go over well at a Passover Seder.  I gave the wine 3 corks and purchased it $40.


2003 Carmel Kayoumi Shiraz

The 2003 Carmel Kayoumi Shiraz (winery, snooth) was 100% Shiraz grapes and was a wonderful addition to last year’s Seder.  The wine had a nice, big body.  Not only were there black fruits and smoke, but also a touch of meatiness, followed by coffee grounds and a hint of leather.  It was a wonderful food wine and worked perfectly in the charoset (chopped apples, ground walnuts, cinnamon, and wine) I made for the holiday.  I gave the wine 3 corks and purchased it for $33.


2006 Bazelet HaGolan Cabernet Sauvignon

2006 Bazelet HaGolan Cabernet Sauvignon

The 2006 Bazelet HaGolan Cabernet Sauvignon (winery, snooth) was 100% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes.  The wine had a nice black fruits, followed by hints of vanilla and olives.  It had a good body, nice acidity, and was very food friendly.  I actually reviewed the wine as part of Wine Blogging Wednesday #56, which was all about kosher wines.  I posted about 4 wines, and the 2006 Bazelet HaGolan was by far the best.  I gave the wine 4 corks and purchased it for $27.


2006 Galil Mountain Yiron

The 2006 Galil Mountain Yiron (winery, snooth) was 58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% merlot, and 5% Syrah grapes.  The wine had a nice mix of black fruits, cloves, thyme, and cedar.  It was a big wine, with medium-to-high acidity and tannins that definitely benefited from time to breathe.  Once decanted, the wine’s harshness was really toned down, transferring it from one that needed to be paired with food, to one that was food-friendly, but also enjoyable on its own.  I gave the wine 4 corks and purchased it for $20.


2008 Golan Heights Winery Cabernet Sauvignon

The 2008 Golan Heights Winery Cabernet Sauvignon (winery, snooth) was by far the best kosher wine I’ve reviewed over the last couple of years.  It’s made with 100% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, and it dispels all of the stereotypes about kosher wines.  It’s still a little young, so black fruits dominate the wine, but it has a surprising smoothness and promises to develop into a beautifully complex wine.  Even if you’re not looking for something kosher to drink, this is worth picking up.  It will definitely surprise you.  I gave this wine 4.5 corks and purchased it for $16.

Apr 092010

2003 Carmel Kayoumi Shiraz

My office is open on both the Friday before and the Monday after Easter; however, each of us can choose to take one day off as an office holiday.  Good Friday was clearly the day that most of my coworkers picked, as there were only 4 of us in the office all day, but I think that those of us who came in on Friday had the better end of the deal by taking today off.  Last Friday was one of the quietest days I’ve ever had at work.  It was perfect for being productive, as well as for bonding with my coworkers, since we were able to eat lunch together around the lunchroom table.  By the time we all left the office on Friday, everyone was in a wonderful mood, enjoying the weather, and looking forward to a long, holiday weekend.  I celebrated by coming home and opening a bottle of the Shiraz.

The 2003 Carmel Kayoumi Shiraz (winery, snooth) was made with 100% Shiraz grapes and was a dark ruby color with flecks of garnet.  On the nose, there were blackberries, cedar, smoke, leather, and a touch of coffee.  In the mouth, there were blackberries, plums, cooking meat, smoke, and ground coffee.  The wine had high acidity, high tannins, and a medium body.

Is this worth a glass after work? Sure…you won’t be drinking anything out of the ordinary, but you’ll have a decent, reliable glass of wine. At $33, this kosher Shiraz was enjoyable both on its own and with grilled chicken I made for dinner.  It was also the wine that I used to make my charoset, which is chopped apples, ground walnuts, cinnamon, and wine.  The Kayoumi Shiraz mixed nicely with the other ingredients and resulted in a delicious addition to this year’s Passover celebration.

Overall: 3 corks

Sep 182009
Once we warmed up our palates with the general Catalonia wines, during the second day of The Wine Academy of Spain’s Spanish wine course, we tasted the very unique and enjoyable Monstants. These reds were all blends that spent some time aging in oak. The Monstants had an interesting complexity that epitomized my feeling that trying to identify all the aromas and flavors while wine tasting is like putting together all the pieces of a puzzle.

Tasting #4 on Day 2


3.5 Corks

2006 Castillo Perelada 3 Fincas Crianza (winery, snooth)
35% Samso, 30% Garnacha, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot
Ruby with a touch of purple
Spicy nose with ripe fruits
Blackcurrant, blackberry, and rosemary
Moderate acidity and high tannins, although not aggressive
Different tasting
Jesus said it’s very “Mediterranean”

4 Corks

2005 Castillo Perelada 5 Fincas Reserva (winery, snooth)
40% Merlot, 20% Garnacha, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon,15% Syrah, 5% Tempranillo, 5% Cabernet Franc
Medium-to-dark Ruby
Very complex nose
Menthol, eucalyptus, rosemary, smoke, cedar, rip blackberry, black plums, blackcurrant, red bell peppers on the nose
Blackcurrant, blackberry, black plums, and bell pepper in the mouth
Nice tannins and acidity
Medium-to-full body
Very unique

2003 Fra Guerau Crianca (winery, snooth)
Medium ruby with a garnet rim
Cherry and white pepper on the nose
Cherry, strawberry and redcurrant in the mouth
Medium body, acidity, and tannins

4.5 Corks

2007 Can Blau (snooth)
Bright, deep bluish purple
Rose petals, violets, cured meat, and smoke on the nose
Blackcurrant, smoke, violets, minerals, and a touch of meatiness and frying fat in the mouth
Good tannins, medium acid, and full body
Long finish
Very unique

Sep 182009

The Priorats were the biggest surprise for me during The Wine Academy of Spain’s Spanish wine course, as I actually tended to prefer them to the Riojas. These wines were the last of the Catalonia wines we tasted, and there wasn’t a bad wine in the group. As I mentioned in my first post about this course, by tasting the wines from Priorat back to back, I was really able to understand as Jesus explained what characteristics were uniquely regional and what characteristics were more likely the result of the winemaker’s techniques. Priorats have nice fruity and flowery flavors, with a depth and intensity that is ideal for the red wine lover. The wines aren’t thick and jammy, but are still chock full of bold flavors, so if you love powerful reds, you should definitely look into these wines. They’ll offer you something that is a little different, while still giving hints of the comforts of the red wines that you enjoy.

Tasting #5 on Day 2

4 Corks

2005 Cruor (snooth)
Garnacha, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Merlot
Ruby with purple flecks
Strawberry, raspberry, violet, and white pepper
Medium-to-high acidity, medium tannins, and medium body
Long finish

4.5 Corks

2004 Prior Scala Dei (winery, snooth)
50% Garnacha, 27% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Syrah
Deep purple with ruby flecks
Red fruits, rosemary, thyme, with a touch of anise, menthol, dust, and earth
Intense tannins and medium acidity
Finish very different from attack

*Jesus said this is a very good example of a Priorat

2004 Cartoxia Scala Dei (winery,snooth)
41% Garnacha 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Syrah
Medium-to-deep purple with a ruby rim
Black plum, black cherry, blackberry, red roses, violets, white pepper
Intense minerality on the finish
Strong tannins and good acidity
Very aggressive
Needs a couple years of aging

2003 Morlanda Criança (snooth)
50% Garnacha, 50% Cariñena
Medium Ruby
Strawberry, red currant, mineral, cedar, leather, pen ink, white pepper
Medium acidity and tannins

Sep 152009

The first day of The Wine Academy of Spain’s Spanish wine course ended with a comprehensive look at Castilla y León. For more than an hour, we watched videos, discussed the climate and soil types, learned about the white and red grape varieties, and talked about various food pairing options that match both the wine and the culture of the area.

There are 6 major regions of Castilla y León, all of which make wines that are worth a second look. Whether it’s the reds from Ribera del Duero, from Toro, from Bierzo, and from Arlanza; the rosé from Cigales, or the whites from Rueda, this region of Spain is one for the wine world to notice. Admittedly, wines from Rueda, which are made from the Verdejo grape, emerged as one of my new favorite types of wine, so expect to see more in the future. These wines were reminiscent of a Sauvignon Blanc, but with a little more body and very strong acidity.

Tasting #4 on Day 1

Castilla y León

The Whites

3.5 Corks

2008 Analiva Pagos del Rey (snooth) from Rueda
Pale lemon gold
Pronounced grapefruit and lemon zest, plus grass, white pepper, and granny smith apples
Lime-like acid, very dry, medium body, long finish

4.5 Corks

2008 Shaya Old Vine Verdejo (snooth) from Rueda
Very pale lemon
Fresh cut green grass, grapefruit—overall, very light on the nose
Bright lemon and grapefruit, green apple, wet stone, minerals—overall, very rich in the mouth

The Reds

3 Corks

2006 Segundo Motivo (winery) from Toro
100% Tempranillo
Deep ruby with big legs
Black plums, smoke, cedar, earth, dust—almost dried out
Medium tannins and acid

2007 El Arte de Vivir (winery, snooth) from Ribera del Duero
100% Tempranillo
Deep ruby with flecks of purple
A little closed on the nose, so could have used decanting
Leather, raspberries, and violets on the nose
Sour cherries in the mouth
A little rough, not elegant, but enjoyable

3.5 Corks

2006 Tercer Motivo (winery) from Bierzo
100% Mencia
Very deep purple with big legs
Cherry, blackberry, mint, rosemary, and licorice
Fruity, but not complex
Medium tannins and acidity
A little different

2005 Condado de Oriza Crianza (snooth)
Very purple
Strong red fruit aromas—strawberry and raspberry—with a touch of white pepper
Big strong tannins and high acidity
Would pair well with lamb chops

Tasting #5 on Day 1
Ribera del Duero

2 Corks

2003 Valdubón Crianza (winery, snooth)
100% Tempranillo
Nice ruby color with garnet rim
Raspberries, strawberries, white pepper, and smoke
Medium tannins and acidity
Short finish—it just falls off a cliff

2003 Valdubón Reserva (winery, snooth)
100% Tempranillo
Ruby with garnet rim
Paprika, spices, and strawberries
Medium tannins and acidity
Something funny on the finish
Missing personality

3.5 Corks

2004 Honoris de Valdubón (winery, snooth)
100% Tempranillo
Deep purple with flecks of ruby
Vanilla and cherry
Strong tannins and high acidity
Long finish
Could definitely spend some time aging and will likely be beautiful in a few years
Pairing with heavily flavored meat might make it less aggressive

4.5 Corks

2005 Neo (winery)
Deep purple
Smoke, cedar, blackcurrant, blackberries, and touch of leather
Flavors border on jammy
Medium tannins, high acidity, surprisingly light in body

…and that was the end of Day 1 of my Spanish wine course!

Sep 112009
The first day of The Wine Academy of Spain’s course at Jaleo in the Crystal City started nice an early on Monday morning. Registration began at 8am, and by 9am, we were well on our way to learning about the Spanish Wine Market. We started with a 10-minute video that gave an overview of Spain before delving in the history of Spain and how it affected the development of the wine market. Whether it was during the time of the Romans (when wine thrived), the Barbarians (when winemaking came to a halt), the Visigoths (when winemaking made a comeback), the Muslims (when cultivation expanded, but winemaking itself slowed), or the Reconquest (when the religious community took over winemaking), each period of Spanish history noticeably impacted the winemaking culture of the country.

After covering the history, an in-depth look at the Spanish import/export market began. It should be no surprise that the amount of wine that is imported is fairly small. It also may be no surprise to some that Cava is the largest Spanish wine export, with Rioja and Sherry following close behind. But, did you know that the USA is the third largest importer of Spanish wines?

Once we finished looking at the Spanish wine market, we covered Aragón and Navarra…and then dove right into our first tasting.

Tasting #1

3 Corks

2004 Barón de
Magaña (winery, snooth) from Navarra
40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 40% Tempranillo
Deep ruby color
Red plums, black currant, violets, and smokiness

Strong tannins, medium-to-full body, medium-to-long finish

4 Corks

2006 Magna Calcheta (winery) from Navarra
Vibrant deep purple with a ruby rim
Lots of fruit—Cherry, blackberry, fennel, smoke, vanilla, and a touch of spiciness
Good tannins, medium acid

4.5 Corks
2003 Viñas del Vero Gran Vos Reserva (winery, snooth) from Somantano (in Aragón)
Medium ruby with a garnet rim
Rose, black pepper, raspberry, strawberry, and perfume on the nose
Red Fruits, cedar, and spice in the mouth
Firm, but not aggressive tannins, nice complexity

2004 Secastilla Somantano (winery, snooth) from Somantano (in Aragón)
100% Garnacha
Purple with ruby flecks
Strawberry, cherry, white pepper, and something floral on the nose
Very ripe red fruits and mineral finish in the mouth
Soft tannins, medium-to-high acidity, medium body

2006 Alto Moncayo Garnacha (snooth) from Campo de Borja (in Aragón)
100% Garnacha
Very purple
Oak, chocolate, coffee, vanilla, white pepper, nutmeg, and cherries on the nose
Fruity up front and oaky on the back in the mouth…reminiscent of a Zinfandel
Good tannins, high acidity

Mar 072009

Monday was one of those days…not a bad day, but just one of those days where I wish I had just played hooky.  A big snowstorm was predicted for Sunday night/Monday morning, and while I tried not to psych myself up for a snow day, I couldn’t help myself.  So, when I woke up and discovered that I still had to go to work, albeit several hours late, I was crushed.  Hubby decided that he was calling out, but I just couldn’t justify it, especially since it stopped snowing by the time I had to leave.

By the time I got home from work, you can imagine that I just wanted to make dinner, relax…and of course, open a new bottle of wine.  I decided that I was in the mood for a warm, red wine to help counteract the cold, snowy weather, so I grabbed a bottle of that was given to me as a present—a 2003 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon

Let me start by saying that it was wonderful!  Since the wine was a little older, I specifically looked for the orange hue around the top rim of the wine that I was reading about in my wine class textbook and was very excited when I saw it.  I made Hubby come over to look as I put my new tasting skills to the test, and he was surprised that he, too, saw the tint that gave this wine its deep ruby/almost-garnet color.

The wine had a nice, medium nose that centered around raisins, vanilla, and anise (my new found herb!).  The anise, in particular, really stood out, and when I whiffed from my bottle of anise seed, cleared my nose, and then compared it to the smell of the wine, I was amazed at the similarity. 

In terms of taste, the Jordan Cab had a nice, smoky flavor with medium acidity and high tannins.  The raisin smell seemed to turn into an overall dark fruit flavor and the anise turned into a sweet spice taste, which were transitions I found very pleasing.  The hint of vanilla that I smelled came through in the taste, but it was definitely just a hint. 

After thoroughly enjoying the glass, I decided to compare my tasting notes with those done by other people (I figured this is the best way to learn, right?).  I was surprised that I didn’t find too much information out there, since I really like the wine. That’s when I discovered that it ranges from about $50-$70!  I was in shock—shocked that my friend gave me a bottle that was that expensive for no apparent reason, shocked that I cavalierly opened a $50-$70 bottle of wine on a random Monday night (and drank it with hot dogs and tater tots!), and shocked that I’d just opened the most expensive bottle of wine that I’ve ever owned.  Needless to say, I’ve spent the rest of the week savoring it. 

Overall, I would say the 2003 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon was definitely a wine worth drinking, even at the higher price-point, although it’s not a wine that I would purposefully open on a regular weekday night.