Tag Archives: Kosher Wines

Victor Schoenfeld and Yarden Wines

29 Jun

World-Class Wines, from the Middle East. That may not be the first region that comes to mind, but a few great winemakers are changing that. Victor Schoenfeld, a California native who has been the Yarden head winemaker since 1992,  is credited with being THE single greatest influencer in developing world class wines in Israel, most specifically in the Golan Heights. He’s also a very nice guy, and loves to talk wine. I could have chatted with him for hours and talked terroir and winemaking…but we had wine to taste!

 

Victor Schoenfeld, head winemaker of Yarden Golan Heights Winery

 

And these are some really good wines. World-class, kosher, made-in-Israel, non-mevushal, kick-butt wines.

Don’t believe me? Please, be your own judge and let your mouth tell you. Taste the wines, it’s that easy. I did, and I will tell you, they are worthy wines. I tasted seven wines, and each was impressive in its own way.  Here are my top three that will blow your mind; each of these was so good, I didn’t want to do anything but drink what was in my glass:

 

Yarden Blanc de Blanc 2009, Sparkling Brut Chardonnay, MSRP $30

Light gold in color, with a delicate nose. Beautiful, mature white fruit with gentle effervescence. A delicate sparkling with nice complexity, this wine shows delightful minerality with a hint of toast and no sweetness on the palate. A low-dosage sparkling brut, your mouth will think it is champagne. It was a perfect foil for a raw crudo appetizer.

 

 

Yarden Gewurtztraminer 2016, MSRP $21

Medium straw with a green tinge. Citrus & banana peel on the very floral nose. On the palate, an exotic blend of kiwi, passion fruit, and lychee is matched by a perfect acidity; secondary notes are floral and spice box.  I found this paired so gorgeously with asparagus risotto. I just kept going back and back to it and didn’t want the pairing to end.

 

Yarden Bar’on Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, MSRP $96

Deep, dark, maroon with garnet edging. The nose offers black plum, cassis, aged leather and cigar box. On the palate, mature red fruit along the tongue, with cassis along the sides. A lengthy finish features gravel, granite, and sandy clay. The price on this is worth every penny, comparing well to New and Old world wines in the same price range. This wine was as complex as the lamb I enjoyed with it: flavorful, sensual, evocative, exotic.

 

 

With a few tastes, it’s obvious that Victor Schoenfeld is doing something right, not just great wine (yes!), not just organic (oh, yes, that too!), and not just a few grapes with tremendous terroir. Yarden’s library of wines is varied and includes syrah, malbec, merlot, rosé,  muscat, sauvignon blanc, in addition to these listen just off the top of my head- surely something for every wine drinker.

If you haven’t tried Yarden wines, it’s time for you to taste how the Middle East compares to what you’ve been drinking. You will find yourself impressed, and might be tasting more and more of them. With a full stable of tasty delights, you are bound to find a wine that compares well, and maybe even blows away one of your current favorites.

 

à votre santé!

Recanati: Worlds Collide, Part 2

22 Feb

This is the promised follow-up to a tasting I did with Recanati Winery. If you missed  that post, you can read it here

After meeting Lenny and Gil from Recanati Winery, I was determined to find their wines locally in NY. It did not take me long. While running errands, I made a stop at Mayfair Wine & Liquor on Union Turnpike in Queens, NY, and hit on my first try.

Wandering the aisles, I picked up a bottle of Recanati Rosé and took it over to chat with John, the store owner. John is used to me trying his new wines, inquiring everything about his products as well as his sales trends.

He looked at the bottle of rosé in my hand. “Ah, that’s very good,” he told me, “An excellent value and compares well to Loire Valley rosé. I also have others from this winemaker.” He waved me over to another area of the store, showing me Recanati reserves, blends, and single grape wines.  “They sell very well, from the basic blends I sell at $11/bottle to the special reserves. They make some excellent wines across the board, and people come back for more.” I picked up the Yasmin Red. “That is tremendous value, I sell it for $11/bottle; it drinks like wine that sells for $25-30. And their reserve wines, which goes in the low $20’s, are just excellent wines. Forget that they are kosher,” he says with his hands gesturing me to pick one up, “they are excellent wines, whatever you compare them to.” I smiled & nodded, but didn’t want to let him know I had tasted Lenny and Gil’s line just a few days prior. I picked up the rosé, the Yasmin red, a syrah, and the reserve cabernet, the latter two I had tasted previously and just wanted to enjoy again. (Now, come on, every bottle I drink can’t be a wine review. Sue me, I’m paying for them.)

 

2014 Recanati Rosé, Galilee, Israel. 13% ABV, $14/bottle at Mayfair Wine & Liquor. 

Color is a medium-clear and very ruddy pink: an amaranth/magenta center blending out to a clear edge. The aroma shows fresh strawberries with a hint of gardenias. In the mouth, tart raspberry and dried cranberry notes dominate with a spice balance. Good acidity and strong tannins emanate from the side palate for a satisfying, clean finish. This wine is a blend of 70% barbera and 30% merlot grapes, which gives more body and pairing opportunities while still being a nice wine to enjoy on its own. Mental note: I should try this with turkey & cranberry sauce for a possible Thanksgiving wine. Very nice!

rose

 

2014 Yasmin Red Blend by Recanati Winery, Galilee, Israel. 14% ABV, $11/bottle. 

Color is deep garnet at center shifting to ruby with medium opacity. Red currants, jasmine, and hint of almond on the nose. On the palate, red plum, cassis, black pepper and baking spices are followed by a hint of cherry pie and a note of chalky limestone. This blend would be a perfect house red, as it has the flexibility to pair with most styles of food from white meats to game to a roast, and just the hint of sugar that would allow it to pair with a vegan roast vegetable platter.

Yasmin

 

I am constantly reminded while enjoying these bottles (as well as the middle and high end wines from Recanati) that these wines compare better to European and New World wines more than they do to other Mediterranean wines I’ve previously enjoyed. I had several bottles open at a time and they maintained quality and freshness over several days when stored in the refrigerator after opening. The fact that they are kosher wines from Israel are a secondary bonus to those who want kosher wines, when ultimately they simply stand on their own, and compare beautifully to well-made wines from across the world.

 

reserve

shiraz

à vôtre santé!

 

Recanati: Worlds Collide & Make Brilliant, World-Class Wines

7 Feb

Want to try something new?

Just for a  few minutes, I want you to ignore everything you know about wine regions, and just taste the wines made by Recanati.

It’s not as easy as it sounds. At least, not for someone who has tasted a lot of Israeli wines. I was interested to taste the wines from Lenny Recanati (owner) and Gil Shatsberg (head Recanati winemaker) but I had no expectations. I went in with a positive attitude, trying to provide as much of an open mind as I could possibly muster, and hoping to ignore all preconceived notions.

High hopes, indeed.

What I found was a brilliant blend in business: a historic approach to understanding viticulture and terroir, an essence of a classic French Château approach in making world-class, elegant wines, all while referencing the approach of a scientific, modern, new world winemaker. The results speak for themselves: a library of delicious wines, and serious accolades, like an inclusion in the 2014 Wine Spectator Top 100.

But let us not get ahead of ourselves.

I focused on experiencing  this tasting with a clear palate and an open mind. In doing so, I managed to wash myself clean of my assumptions of what an Israeli wine is, and just treated these like wines. Not kosher wines (which indeed, they are) but just as wines. And below are my tasting notes, some pictures, and some bottle shots.

Recan SBlanc

Recanati Sauvignon Blanc 2014. 13%ABV, $15 MSRP. 

Pale straw in color, citrus nose with kiwi accents. A direct, spot-on demonstration of sauvignon blanc from a blisteringly hot climate whose brutality on the grape provides a textbook, citrus-forward wine. Pineapple, lychee, and citrus in the mouth evoke a crisp, clean and clear wine, made entirely in stainless steel and exuberating freshness. Lovely on the palate.

Recanati Special Reserve White

Recanati Special Reserve White 2012. 13.5%ABV, $50 MSRP.

Medium gold in color, with a nose featuring white peach. On the palate, a blend of savory, sweet and acidity. White pear and green apple with just a hint of fat that rounds out the body nicely and makes the wine compare favorably to a white Bordeaux or Oregonian  blend. Beautiful winemaking, these grapes are hand harvested and pressed only as whole clusters. Using only free run juice, it is fermented sur lie and aged in French oak barrels.

 

Recan LineUp

Recanati Reserve Petite Syrah 2013. 14.5% ABV, $32 MSRP.

Deep purple color with ruby edges. Nose of concentrated black plum. Delightful fruit, I immediately compared this to Santa Barbara styles of  Syrah, although with less pepper on the back palate. Nice example of single vineyard petite syrah: strong and bold all around, big fruit with matching acidity and tannins. Tasty.

Recanati Reserve Petite Sirah

Recan Syrah

Recanati Reserve Syrah Viognier 2012. 14.5% ABV, $40 MSRP.

A blend of  97% syrah with 3% viognier, color is opaque purple with a nose of blackberry and cassis, granite notes on the medium finish. More elegance than the single vineyard syrah, fruit is demure and the wine seems refined and genteel, making it easier to pair with more dishes, offering elegance and austerity.

Recanati Reserve Syrah -Viognier

 

Recanati Reserve Marselan 2013. 14.5% ABV, $50 MSRP.

Inky black color with purple edging, the Marselan is a classic French blending grape rarely shown as a single vineyard. On the palate, blueberry, black plum, powerful acid, white pepper, vanilla, notes of schist and clay on the long finish with abrupt tannins.

Recanati Reserve Marselan

 

Recan Wild Carignan Label

Recanati Reserve Wild Carignan 2013. 14.5% ABV, $50 MSRP.

Dark ruby in color; nose of raspberry, red plum, and bell pepper. On the palate: black plum,  blackberry, stewed strawberries, dried raspberry. Notes of vegetation, vanilla, black pepper, limestone, and toasted oak.  A wine that is dry farmed, non-irrigated, brutal on the grape and as a result, shows stunning flavor. Delicious and unusual: a grape that used to be commonly planted but now is becoming rare.

Recan wine label

Recanati Special Reserve, 2012. 14% ABV, $60 MSRP.

This wine starts with the best barrels of each grape being pulled aside for the special reserve blend . This year, it is a blend of 30% cabernet sauvignon, 30% syrah, 25% marselan and 15%carignan.
Tasting notes: color is a bright ruby, nose of red fruit with eucalyptus and dusty rose. On the palate, red cassis, blackberry compote, blueberry and rose petals. Layered, full bodied, balanced, and beautiful. Aptly named.

Recanati Special Reserve

Recan 3 labels

Lenny, Gil, and their wines made an impression on me. These wines do not remind me of anything I had tasted before from Israel, so perhaps I have managed to shed my preconceived notions. Yes, these are great kosher wines, but the more important point is that in comparison to both old world and new world wines, regardless of kashrut: these are great wines, period.

Recan 3 Reds

My experience in tasting this wines reminded me how important blind tasting is. It’s imperative to recognize that all the knowledge and time we gain in becoming a wine connoisseur can be wasted if we let ourselves judge a wine based on any preconceived notions. Did I think I would love wines from the Mediterranean as much as those from France, Italy, California, New Zealand, and Oregon? No. But why not? Much like Gaston Hochar,  Jacques Puffeney, or Heidi Peterson Barrett, Lenny and Gil are doing something very right. And I also love that their line of offerings includes entry level wines under $15, serious reserve wines in the $30 range, and premium selections over $40.

Intrigued? Of course I am. And now I intend to find out more.

Look for Part 2, forthcoming.

 

à votre santé!

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