A Liquid New Year


As with the run-up to Passover, the weeks before Rosh HaShanah are some of the busiest for those in the kosher wine trade. Wine producers and importers rush to get their new wines on the market, and many wine merchants will sell more kosher wine during this period than in the preceding four months combined. For the wine writer, this influx of new wines makes this a particularly good time to step back and take a broad look at the market.

In past years, I have used this space to recommend particular types of wines for your holiday table (such as last year’s column on Chardonnay). However for this year’s Rosh HaShanah edition of Fruit of the Vine, I decided to merely sample some of this year’s new releases, picking a dozen of the more than two dozen I tasted over three nights to share with you. In making my selections, I tried to pick wines, in varying price ranges, that would appeal to a broad array of wine drinkers. The following list is in no particular order.

Yarden, Golan Heights, El Rom Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2008: This dark garnet-colored, velvety smooth, full-bodied wine has flavors and aromas of cherries, plums, raspberries, cassis and toasty oak. Look for notes of stewed figs, crème de cassis and spice. Approachable now, this wine is still developing, and will only start to be at its best in 2014, and should then drink well until at least the end of the decade.

Score A/A- ($59.95. Available the Kosher Wine Company, 2052 Lakeville Road, New Hyde Park, NY. [516] 352-1100.)

Brobdignagian, Besomin, Mendocino County, 2010: Made by Jonathan Hajdu, who is primarily employed as the associate winemaker for Covenant Wines, a kosher wine producer located in the Napa Valley, and who makes his own wines under the Brobdignagian label. The wines are named for the giants in Jonathan Swifts “Gulliver’s Travels. This dark ruby to garnet-colored wine has a heady nose of cherries, cassis and smoky oak, with a note of lavender. Look for a flavor dominated by cherries, cassis and oak, with hints of cranberries chocolate and espresso. Although rustic in style, with chunky tannins that still need a few years to mellow, this is a wine that nevertheless has a real note of elegance. Best 2014-2018, and perhaps longer.

Score A- ($40. Available in limited quantities directly from the winemaker, jona@covenantwines.com)

Elvi, In Vita, Alella, Spain, 2011: Light straw in color, with a light-to-medium body, this dry, refreshing white is a good choice for late summer dining. Made from a blend of 60 percent Pansa Blanca — a native Spanish grape — and 40 percent Sauvignon Blanc, this Spanish blend has a fruity nose of apricot and kiwi, with a whiff of spice. Look for flavors of apples, apricots and quince, with a lovely note of butter on the finish. Drink within the next year.

Score B/B+ ($13.95. Available at Skyview Wine & Spirits, 5681 Riverdale Ave., Riverdale. [718] 548-3230.)

Hagafen, Napa Valley, Pinot Noir, 2011: This dark ruby-colored, medium-to-full-bodied wine has a rich bouquet of cherries and cranberries with notes redolent of wild flowers and herbs. Look for flavors of cherries and strawberries, with maybe a hint of strawberry liqueur, all balanced against a well-restrained use of oak. Drink now until 2019. A particularly good vintage of an always-good wine.

Score A/A- ($27.95. Available at Skyview Wine & Spirits, 5681 Riverdale Ave., Riverdale. [718] 548-3230.)

Yarden, Odem Vineyard, Golan Heights, Chardonnay, 2010: Dark straw in color, with a medium-to-full body, this supple Chardonnay has flavors and aromas of apples, fresh-cut hay, Devonshire cream, spicy oak and a hint of white pepper. Drink now until 2017.

Score A- ($21.99. Available at Beacon Wine & Spirits, 2120 Broadway, Manhattan. [212] 877-0028.)

Chateau La Clare, Medoc, Bordeaux, 2010: With a dark-garnet color, this medium-to-full-bodied Bordeaux has a still tight nose of cherries, oak and cranberries. Look for flavors of cherries, cranberries, red currents and smoky oak, built on a spicy background of pepper and allspice. Although drinking well now, this wine need another year or so in the bottle to show its best, and should then drink well until at least 2017.

Score A-/B+ ($26.99. Available at Chateau de Vin, 544 Central Ave., Cedarhurst, L.I. [516] 374-5463.)

Herzog, Late Harvest, California, Orange Muscat, 2011: This sweet, medium-bodied, dark straw to tawny orange wine has flavors and aromas of pineapple, lichee, grapes and candied apricots, with a hint of ginger. Well structured, with enough acid to balance the wine’s 10.7 percent residual sugar, this wine would be best enjoyed as either an aperitif or a dessert wine. Drink within the next three years.

Score B+ ($17.99. Available at Shoppers Vineyard, 875 Bloomfield Ave., Clifton, N.J. [973] 916-0707.)

Chateau Tour Seran, Medoc, Bordeaux, 2010: Medium-to-full-bodied and garnet colored, this enjoyable Bordeaux has a delightfully herbal bouquet, with elements of cherries, red currents, cedar, oak and herbs de Provence. Look for flavors of cherries, raspberries and cedar, with a lovely hint of cherry brandy on the finish. This wine still needs another year or two in the bottle to show its best, and then should drink well until the end of the decade.

Score A-/B+ ($39.99. Available at Chateau de Vin, 544 Central Ave. [Cedarhurst, L.I. [516] 374-5463.)

Yarden, Golan Heights, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2008: With an inky dark-garnet color and a full body, this rich Israeli cab has flavors and aromas of cherries, currents — both red and black — plums, boysenberries and toasty oak, with notes of cedar, pipe tobacco and allspice. Drinking well now, this wine should continue to cellar well until the end of the decade.

Score A- ($29.99. Available at Beacon Wine & Spirits, 2120 Broadway, Manhattan. [212] 877-0028.)

Hagafen, Napa Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2009: Ernie Weir, the founder/winemaker of Hagafen Cellars, has been making some of the best kosher cabernets on the market for more than three decades, and his 2009 wines strikes me as a particularly good example of his style. Full-bodied, with an inky dark-garnet color, this luxurious cabernet has flavors and aromas of cherries, cassis and blackberries, with elements of toasty oak, leather and pipe tobacco. This wine is imbued with abundant powdery tannins that still need to settle down a bit. While drinking well now, it will be at it best between 2014-2022, and perhaps longer.

Score A/A- (This wine is still making its way to retailers in the New York area, but in the interim it can be purchased directly from the winery for $45: www.hagafen.com, [888] 424-2336.)

Brobdignagian, Eagle Point Ranch Vineyard, Mendocino County, Grenache, 2010: This fun Californian Grenache has a ruby to garnet color and a medium to full body, with flavors and aromas of cherries strawberries, with a delightful woodsy element. Look for notes of crème de framboise, cinnamon and smoke. While approachable now, this wine is still a little tight, and will probably be at it best from 2013 until 2018 or 2019.

Score B+/A- ($40.00. Available directly from the winemaker, jona@covenantwines.com)

Yarden, Heights Wine, Golan Heights, Gewürztraminer, 2010. Made from Gewürztraminer grapes that were frozen at the winery, this richly sweet, full-bodied dessert wine has a dark tawny-orange color reminiscent of the color of a well-aged ale. Look for flavors and aromas of figs, apricots and heather, with hints of banana, pineapple and honeysuckle. Well balanced, with a good level of acid, this wine is ready to drink now and for the next six years.

Score A-/B+ ($29.99 Available at The Wine Shop, 704 Morris Turnpike, Short Hills, N.J. [973] 379-7135.)

I wish you all a happy, healthy — and liquid — new year!

Please note: Wines are scored on an ‘A’-‘F’ scale where ‘A’ is excellent, ‘B’ is good, ‘C’ is flawed, ‘D’ is very flawed, and ‘F’ is undrinkable. Prices listed reflect the prices at the retailer mentioned.