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First Fruit

6/9/2019 2:26:03 AM     Kosher Wine     By scott     Comments

Shavuot is the holiday on which Am Yisrael (the Jewish people) celebrates the giving of the Torah from G-d, at the foot of Mount Sinai. There is a well-known custom of eating dairy meals during this holiday. One of the reasons is that Am Yisrael became obligated then to keep all the laws of Kashrut (or Kosher). Since the Torah was given on Shabbat, they could not slaughter animals according to their newly given laws, and therefore could not eat meat. While the celebratory meals on the Yomim Tovim (holidays) usually include and combine meat and wine, eating dairy on Shavuot does not mean wine should be left out. On the contrary, many wines can be pair perfectly with fish and dairy dishes.


Shavuot also is the holiday of the first fruits. It was the day on which the Jews could bring bikurim—the first fruit harvested in their fields—to the Bait Hamikdash (the holy temple) in Jerusalem as offerings.


The first wines to be released from last year’s vintage are white and rosé wines. These wines are fruity and refreshing, and can accompany a wide array of dairy and fish delicacies.


Take for instance the Elvi Vina Encina Rosado 2017. This Spanish rosé wine is made from Tempranillo grapes, which provide a beautiful, cherry pink color to the wine as well as a mouthful of fruits such as strawberries, raspberries, and cantaloupe. Does it sound like a fruit salad? You bet! It would accompany fresh fruits or a fruit salad nicely but also goes well with soft cheeses such as goat cheese and mozzarella.


Mozzarella served with sun-dried tomatoes and basil as a Caprese Insalata or as a pizza topping would be wonderfully complimented by an earthy and slightly spicy red wine such as the Chianti Classico Riserva 2012 from Terra di Seta. This amazing wine has recently gathered some impressive 93 and 92 scores from the prestigious Wine Spectator and Decanter magazines! It boasts aromas and flavors of ripe cherries, baking spices, and Mediterranean herbs as well as a juicy texture.

Carmel winery in Israel makes an impressive dry Riesling from its world-class Kayoumi vineyard (the Shiraz from that vineyard is also well worth trying!). One of the things I love about Riesling is its versatility with food. With its core acidity, funky mineral/earthy notes, and green apple and lime aromas, it can be sublime with a full-flavored cheese such as an aged, sharp cheddar as much as it can cut through the savory flavors of a veal chop Milanese.

The new Chardonnay 2016 from Herzog's Lineage series is also well-worthy of consideration. While its compatibility with Chicken Paillard is undeniable, it will take a simple toast topped with Brie cheese to the next level. Medium-bodied with light, creamy notes of butter and sour cream, it showcases fresh tropical fruit aromas, as well.

Domaine Les Marronniers Chablis 2016 is also a Chardonnay, but one would not guess that so easily. The style of the wines from Burgundy’s Chablis appellation in France are much leaner and more mineral than many of their rich, buttery California counterparts. Here is a light yet complex wine with notes of lemon pith, fresh almonds, and pears.

Last but not least, dessert. The Herzog Late Harvest Chenin Blanc 2016, which is already delicious on its own, would be even more delicious with a piece of classic New York Cheesecake. The pleasant sweetness together with the classic aromas of peach, apricot, table grapes, and orange zest will upgrade your Shavuot dessert more than you could ever imagine!

Chag Sameach! L’chaim!



4/20/2019 11:53:30 AM     Wine Brand Profiles     By scott     Comments

Interesting things are happening at Segal Wines. They have launched four new wines in their portfolio. There is a Wild Ferment Chardonnay 2018 & Wild Ferment Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, and a Whole Cluster Syrah 2017 & Whole Cluster Pinot Noir 2017. In each instance, the name used explains the winemaking process. This continues the change of direction for one of the more historic names in Israeli wine.

The Segal family were distillers in White Russia from 1787. Two brothers came to Israel in 1925 and as distilling experts, were coopted to open the distillery in the Templar community of Sarona. This was done in agreement with the Teperberg family. The Segals were the distillers and the Teperbergs the distributors! In 1950 they founded a winery which was called Askalon Wines (the misspelling was theirs) in Ramle and had their offices in the Yemenite Quarter in Tel Aviv. They also became importers under the brand name Carmei Zvi. Eventually they changed the winery name to ‘Yayin Shel Segal’, ie Segal’s Wine.

In the Israeli wine trade, the Segals were chiefly known for their innovative labels, quality red wines and pioneering imports. Segal were bought by Barkan Winery in the year 2000 and ceased to be a family winery. In this incarnation the winery was very associated with the winemaker Avi Feldstein, who made their famous Unfiltered Cabernet Sauvignon and award winning Argaman. Later Barkan was purchased by Tempo Beverages, Israel’s leading brewer and a total beverage company with brands such as Goldstar, Heineken, Chivas Regal and Pepsi Cola. Since then the Segal brand really became known just as another label of Barkan Winery, though it continued to be marketed separately. There was a confusing number of labels and names, but their inexpensive Segal Red became one of the largest selling wines in the country. The winery really lost its individual character, at the same time as the Barkan-Segal combined was becoming the largest winery in the country.

With the appointment of a new CEO, Gilles Assouline, and a new winemaker, Ido Lewinsohn, they have decided to relaunch the Segal label as the more natural, ‘wild’ and ‘more Israeli’ label. They launched a Petit UF Cabernet Sauvignon (Unfiltered), and a Free Run label last year (with a Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay). Now they have supported this innovativeness by launching wines produced by wild fermentation and whole cluster pressing. The label and logo has been redesigned and the brand re positioned.


Out of the new wines the best buys are the Free Run Merlot, Wild Ferment Chardonnay,and the Whole Cluster Pinot Noir.  The Free Run Merlot is juicy, mouth filling and refreshing, The Wild Ferment Chardonnay is a perfectly balanced modern style Chardonnay with the right balance of fruit, a touch of oak and great acidity. A good food wine. The Whole Cluster Pinot Noir has nice weight, good red berry fruit, herbal notes and again a refreshing finish. The innovation continues to the labels. The Whole Cluster wines have a wax capsule and a clean white label with the name only faintly embossed.

It is a welcome change to write about a leading winery being innovative and creative. All credit to Gilles and Ido.



Gush Etzion Winery

4/20/2019 10:52:38 AM     Wine Brand Profiles     By scott     Comments

When Shraga and Tamar z”l Rozenberg moved to Efrat some 25 years earlier, Shraga planted a couple of fruit trees in the garden. Among them was a small blackberry vine.  In the 1990’s this small blackberry bush produced fruit each and every year, and over time grew so large that there was no longer room to store the fruit or use it in a timely fashion.  Shraga began to learn and implement the fermentation process and tried his hand at producing blackberry liqueur.  It was a success, and after some time the Rozenbergs became tired of making and eating blackberry cakes and ice-creams with the excess crop and began to look for alternatives uses for the fruit.  When a friend suggested to Shraga that maybe he begin to produce wine from the blackberries he reacted enthusiastically and with excitement. Always up for a challenge, Shraga thought “why not”? and so it all began. A year later Shraga decided to produce wine from the grapes and a family trip to Tel Arad ensued late one night to collect the remainder of grapes following a harvest. In those years, the amounts were small, but slowly slowly the winery began to grow and takeover many more parts of the house. At first, the family protested - after all who wants large wooden barrels in the center of the living room? Eventually, Shraga’s dream was unstoppable.   Shraga took more and more interest in the winemaking process and began to plant some grape vines in the family’s backyard. As time passed Shraga’s passion for wine making grew and his basement became a small winery in which he produced 700 bottles a year. Among the varieties were Merlot, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Within a few years the wine making business became the Rozenbergs primary profession. Plans were drawn up to create a winery at The Gush Etzion junction and the Rozenbergs partnered with local Kibbutzim to plant vineyards and revive the wine industry in the Gush Etzion area. Today, there are more than 600 dunams of grape vines planted in and around the area.

By 1995, a decision was made to expand the varieties of wine being made and we chose to focus on growing the business. That very year the winery produced an estimated 5,000 bottles of wine. The following year the grapes began to be picked from the Gush Etzion area and what had been Shraga’s dream was now very much a reality. It was when the Rozenbergs reached this point that both Shraga and Tamar z”l left their previous positions in other fields and focused fully on this new endeavor.

At this point in time the surrounding Kibbutzim joined in what the Rozenberg family began and the renewal of vineyard growing in the area began as it was once before in ancient history. In 2005 a new boutique winery was inaugurated - The Gush Etzion Winery.  Today, over 600 dunams of vineyards are planted throughout Gush Etzion, and at its center proudly stands the Gush Etzion Winery still run by the Rozenberg family. The Gush Etzion Winery portrays the renewal of wine tradition and Jewish agriculture which took place on this very land over hundreds of years ago. Its purpose is to establish the Gush Etzion region as one of the most important and abundant wine regions in the country of Israel and the world.   

After the successful establishment of the winery, Shraga and Tamar z”l decided to expand the winery and build a tourist center beside it. Today, the winery has expanded even more with a dairy and fish restaurant, the Events Garden, a tourist garden and more. The Visitor’s Center has daily wine tours and tastings as well as an archeological garden that teaches about ancient wine making and it shows the great similarity between the traditional wine making process and its parallel of the modern process.  Shraga, along with his son, Assaf, are present at the winery daily making sure that the experience is as exciting as ever.

The winery produces Three lines of wine:

The Spring River label features the Winery's blends. It is named after the area of Nachal Hapirim ("Stream of shafts") The grape vines used to produce the red wine in this label grow on the slopes that descend to this stream. 

The Lone Oak label of the Winery is named after the famous tree that stood at the center of the four kibbutzim which were established in Gush Etzion before the War of Independence. Until the return of Jewish communities to the area, those who looked from afar with longing at Gush Etzion, would see the oak tree. Upon returning to the place, this "Lone Oak Tree" became the symbol of the renewal of the communities of Gush Etzion. The wines in this series are single vineyard wines and complement the intensity, aromas, and flavors typical of both red and white varieties. 

The Winery's flagship label, Blessed Valley, is named after the valley that lies in the center of Gush Etzion. According to Jewish heritage and biblical sources, this is the place where all the people of Israel gathered in the days of Jehoshaphat, King of Judah and blessed G-d as the Rock of Israel. These wines best capture the complex and unique terroir of Gush Etzion. This label contains both white and red wine. 


20 "Go To" wines under $20.00

11/1/2018 5:20:50 PM     Kosher Wine     By Scott     Comments

1. Tabor Adama Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 - This fruit-forward Israeli Cabernet is a perfect addition for those who love either Israeli wine or Cabernets. Enjoy the red fruity flavors with just a hint of spice.

2. Domaine Netofa Tinto 2013 - This unique varietal is from Israel and packs quite the terroir punch. This one’s delicious with grilled steak!

3. Ella Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2016 - The tropical fruit shine in this crisp and clean 2016 vintage Israeli Sauvignon Blanc. This is a perfect wines for the summer months.

4. Barkan Winemaker's Choice Chardonnay 2012 - It’s 2012, it’s an aged chardonnay, but I was pleasantly surprised at how well this wine is holding up. Try it and you’ll see!

5. Castel La Vie Blanc du Castel 2016 - Wait, there is a bottle from the amazing Castel winery that’s under $20? Yes, this unoaked wonderful white wine is sure to be a favorite!

6. Dalton Estate Merlot 2016 - Dalton has the ability to highlight the smooth tannins of this merlot from the 2016 vintage in Israel. Very nice showing from Dalton.

7. Hagafen Sauvignon Blanc 2017 - This California Sauvignon Blanc comes from a great producer and is bursting with fruity pineapple flavors.

8. Contessa Annalisa Collection Gavi di Gavi 2015 - I’ve included this wine not just because Gavi is my son’s name, but also because this silky wine that Cortese showcases will that bring you straight to flavortown!

9. Elvi Herenza Rioja - This Rioja, filled with red fruit spice and tannins, is a smooth drinking red wine that can be paired with a multitude of Shabbat dishes.

10. Psagot Viognier 2016 - This Israeli Viognier showcases tropical and stone fruit with a full body and tons of flavor.

11. Terra Di Seta Chianti Classico 2014 - The Terra Di Seta wine is made from Sangiovese and comes from the classico region within Chianti. The acidic red fruit flavor shines through beautifully in this wine.

12. Capcanes Peraj Petita 2016 - This one is my personal go-to wine when I’m asked for one with a great quality to price ratio. The wine is full flavored with a great structure and balance - just a great all around drink.

13. Alfasi Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc 2011 - Looking for a Sauternes for a tenth of the price? Then this is the luxurious wine for you - and best of all, it’s under $20!!

14. Elvi Cava Brut -  A sparkling wine is a must on this list! The Elvi Spanish Cava is a tropical and delicious sparkling option.

15. Dalton Estate Rose 2017 - One of the first roses to hit the market in 2017, this wine showcases strong red fruit flavors while still being held up with nice acid.

16. Hayotzer Genesis Shiraz 2014 - Our first Shiraz on the list, this one is jammy, plummy, and packed with fruit! Hayotzer hit a home run with this Israeli Shiraz.

17. Pacifica Pinot Noir 2016 - The Northwest of America produces some fantastic and expressive Pinot. This one is no exception, as the red fruit and earthiness are illustrated wonderfully in this Pacifica Pinot.

18. Galil Mountain Alon 2013 - The Galil Mountain Alon wine is like a super Bordeaux blend. The Syrah added to the regular Bordeaux grapes gives it that extra jamminess and spice. Enjoy this wine with a great steak for a flavor packed meal!

19. Abarbanel Old Vine Riesling 2015 - Travel abroad to Alsace with this wine, where Riesling showcases the cool temperatures, creating crisp acidic wines that are perfect for a hot summer's day.

20. Ramon Cardova Rioja 2015 - This excellent Spanish wine is a true quality to price ratio, providing a full-bodied flavor experience for a steal of a price!


The Story Of Tulip

11/1/2018 5:17:53 PM     Kosher Wine     By Scott     Comments

Perched on a mountainside in Kfar Tikvah “Village of Hope” is Tulip Winery, overlooking the lush Jezreel Valley. Tulip’s winemaker Ro’i Itzchaki grew up in a town adjacent to this village, and purchased the winery in 2003. He employs many of the 200 adult locals who struggle with developmental and emotional disabilities. Itzhaki hires them to learn the wine trade, giving them jobs while helping them integrate into mainstream society (and also boosting the Israeli economy). Itzhaki says labels only belong on wine bottles, not people. A huge piece of Tulip winery’s mission is to employ these individuals, giving them a meaningful way to support themselves by helping bring kosher wine to kosher consumers. In this way Kfar Tikvah truly embodies its name, a Village of Hope.

The name for the winery itself came from Roy’s mother who adored tulips. The winery literally blossomed when production numbers started to hit higher levels of production - 100,000 bottles a year - a number that brings most winemakers to consider going kosher (which Tulip did in 2010). The winery is now reaching the 200,000 bottle mark and continues to make beautiful fruity wines with wonderful QPR value. The winery sources its grapes from all over Israel, yielding powerful wines with finishes that are long and spicy.

Here are 3 of our favorite Tulip wines:

1. Black Tulip 2014

The flagship wine of Tulip, Black Tulip is a complex, powerful, oaky, well-balanced Bordeaux style blend. On the nose are potent fruit aromas and a mouthfeel bursting with black fruit flavors: black currants, cassis, black cherries, and tart blackberries, hints of vanilla, dark chocolate, Mediterranean herbs, and spices. Store for 3-5 years before drinking, but if opening now, let it decant for at least two hours.

This wine pairs best with a hearty lamb stew, veal chops, or roasted duck.

2. Tulip Reserve Syrah 2014

The deep and densely-colored Tulip Reserve Syrah prominently displays black fruit, flowers, and eucalyptus aromas. This is a full and heavy wine, designed to be savored with every sip, down to its long, enjoyable finish.

Pairs well with veal, lamb, and heavy steak; alternatively serve this bottle alongside your next barbecue with hot dogs and hamburgers.

3. Tulip White 2016

This wine is a rule breaker, combining two grapes that are normally produced on their own without a blending partner. Gewurztraminer and Sauvignon Blanc are both aromatic white grape varietals that produce strong flavors. The gewurz is floral and green while the sauvignon blanc is tart and crisp. The blending of these two grapes produce a light straw-colored wine that is fresh and presents acidity, combining the best of the two grapes.

Enjoy this wine with a wide variety of foods including ceviche, spicy foods, and grilled meats.


There Is No Simcha Without Good Wine

11/1/2018 10:52:06 AM     Kosher Wine     By Gabe Geller     Comments

Sukkot, along with Simchat Torah, is the holiday that most symbolizes and highlights the importance of serving God and following his Torah with joy. Our sages write that wine causes the heart of man to rejoice. Sukkot and Simchat Torah include multiple celebratory meals, inside and outside the sukkah. We will soon share more than 25 meals over the coming Yamim Tovim with friends and family; most of them will of course require good food, as well as good wine. There is a concept known as hiddur mitzvah, to embellish a mitzvah, rather than just sticking with the elementary rules dictated by halacha. We usually aim to build the most beautiful sukkah, with high-quality, good-looking materials and tasteful decorations. As well, we aim to purchase the nicest arba’a minim set we can afford with a flawless etrog. Hiddur mitzvah applies also to our holiday meals, with the most delicious dishes inspired by the recipes of our grandmothers, cookbooks or Therefore the same should apply with the wines we choose to share with our guests and hosts.

Making kiddush on rosé wine is always a cheerful and refreshing way to start a meal on Shabbat and Yom Tov. This past summer was an especially hot one. Most rosé wines are already gone from the stores’ shelves, yet some are still available, including the Château Roubine 2017, a classified growth from the world-renown Côtes de Provence region in France. That is quite fortunate as the Roubine happens to be arguably one of the best rosé wines out there, as well. This supremely elegant wine boasts fragrant aromas and flavors of summer fruits such as peaches and apricots, as well as notes of red cherries and currants. Its refreshing acidity makes it also a fine match to some appetizers such as gravlax or roasted eggplants with tahini.

I have been advocating for white wines for many years, notably in DiVine Magazine of Pesach 5777. Great kosher white wines have started to blossom since then, with a diverse array of delicious, complex and intriguing examples that have been recently released. Château Guiraud, a first growth Sauternes came out with a bang in the early 2000s with its kosher run. Back then it was the first and only kosher Sauternes of that level on the market. Sixteen years after the legendary 2001, Château Guiraud is making its come back with 
G de Guiraud 2017, a fabulous dry blend of Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc. Showcasing notes of orange blossom, lime, pear and eucalyptus with vibrant acidity, this wine would complement a baked halibut in a lemon and butter sauce wonderfully.

Herzog Wine Cellars released a very unique white wine, as well. The Herzog Special Reserve Albariño 2017 is the first kosher wine of its kind. It was a long-time dream of Joe Hurliman’s, the head winemaker at Herzog. Joe’s dream finally came true after he was able to source the grapes from a very much sought-after vineyard in California’s Edna Valley. Albariño is a grape variety that originates in Spain’s Rías Baixas region. It has a restrained profile with notes of citrus pith, earthy minerals and spring flowers. I had it last week with a delightful carrot, sumac and coconut milk soup and it was like a true bashert. I am very excited for more Albariño wines to come out soon.

Jezreel Valley winery has taken the lead on an indigenous Israeli grape variety, Argaman. Argaman was created in Israel in the 1970s as a hybrid of Sousão and Carignan, grape varieties originating in Portugal and Spain, respectively. The name Argaman refers to the color of the wines it produces. The term comes from the Torah and describes the deep red toward purple color that was part of the ritual garments wore by the kohanim in the beit hamikdash. The Jezreel Argaman 2016 is a big, bold, complex wine with concentrated flavors of black fruits and spices with a long and rich finish. It would accompany a tender French roast perfectly.

A traditional dish on Sukkot for many Jews is stuffed cabbage. This is a dish that has a distinct and unique flavor, typically stuffed with ground beef and served with a tomato-based sauce. While a Chianti would work very well, I believe a fleshier wine, also from Italy, would be the ultimate pairing. The Uva Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2013 features a full body with notes of ripe blackberries and black cherries, some earthy aromas, as well as tobacco and chocolate notes. Once you have had a bit of stuffed cabbage followed by a sip of Uva, all you will want to do is finish your plate and your glass, refill and replenish them and then sing “V’samachta b’chagecha v’hayita ach sameach!” L’chaim! Chag sameach!


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