The past year has offered some truly splendid wines, from golden bubblies made in the heart of Champagne, to bold boutique reds from California’s Sonoma Coast. Here’s a list of the best 10 new wines I tasted in 2014.
This is not a definitive list; it’s idiosyncratic. With more than 1500 kosher wines produced around the world, and over 500 on sale in the United States, it is nearly impossible for a part-time wine columnist to taste them all.
Tied for first place:
Prix Vineyards, Pinot Noir, Napa Valley (Coombsville), Montington Vineyard, 2012: Made by Ernie Weir of Hagafen Cellars, this blockbuster wine has a bright ruby color, and an almost full body. The bouquet is dense and herbaceous, with elements of fennel, cloves, cherries, plums, raspberries, mocha, and oak. Look for flavors of cherries, raspberries, and cocoa at the front of the palate, Chinese winter-melon mid-palate, an herbal finish, and a restrained note of oak throughout. Well-structured, with nice amounts of both tannins and mineral extraction, this wine is ready to drink now, but should be able to age at least another eight years. Score A. ($60.00. Available directly from the winery: www.hagafen.com, or 888-424-2336)
, La Flor del Flor, Montsant, 2012: An elegant wine. I first tasted it during a visit to the winery, picturesquely located in the hills above Barcelona. Dark-and-inky garnet in color, and made from 100% Grenache grapes grown on vines that are between 80–110 years old, this wine is full bodied, yet restrained. The nose, which is still tight, is redolent of cherries, raspberries, toasty oak, and pencil shavings. The flavor has notes of cherries, raspberries, blackberries, tobacco, spice, and toasty oak. While certainly enjoyable now, this wine still needs a few years to fully develop and integrate. Best 2017–2023. Score A. ($80.00. Available at FillerUp Kosher Wines, 174 West Englewood Ave, Teaneck, 201-862-1700)
3. Pommery, Kosher Brut Royal, Champagne, non-vintage: Recently reintroduced to the US market, this dark-straw-colored blend of ⅓ Chardonnay, ⅓ Pinot Noir, and ⅓ Pinot Meunier, has a full body, and a rich mousse of large active bubbles. The lush bouquet is redolent of peaches, cream, and toasted challah, with a whiff of wildflowers in the background. Look for flavors of toast, peaches, and cream in the front of the palate, straw and raspberries mid-palate, a long finish of Meyer lemons, and a lovely layer of chalky-earthiness running throughout. Score A. ($29.99. Available at Garnet Wines & Liquors, 929 Lexington Avenue [Manhattan], 212-772-3212)
4. Chateau Moulin Riche, Bordeaux, Saint Julien, 2011: Moulin Riche is the second wine to the fabled Chateau Leoville Poyferre, and the 2011 vintage is both elegant and affordable. Composed of 71% Cabernet Sauvignon and 29% Merlot, this full-bodied, dark-garnet-colored has a rich bouquet of cherries, cassis, toasty oak, pipe tobacco, and brier, with just a whiff of eucalyptus. Look for flavors of cherries, cassis, and mocha on the front of the palate, boysenberries, plums, and eau de vie on the back of the palate, and a nice layer of oak running throughout. This wine, which has an abundance of youthful tannins, will start to show at its best in about another six to eight months, and should then cellar well until 2018. Score A-. ($54.00. Available at FillerUp Kosher Wines, 174 West Englewood Ave, Teaneck, 201-862-1700)
5. Recanati, Wild Carignan, Reserve, Judean Hills, 2011: Made from Carignan grapes grown on unirrigated head-pruned vines, possessing a dark garnet color, it is full bodied; the bouquet is redolent of cassis, cherries, boysenberries, and pencil shavings, with an intriguing note of smoked meat. Look for flavors of cherries cassis, plums, cedar, oak, and anise, with a nice earthy note on the finish. Well structured, with an abundance of silky tannins, this wine is drinking well now, and should continue to do so until at least 2018. Score A/A-. ($50.00. Available at FillerUp Kosher Wines, 174 West Englewood Ave, Teaneck, 201-862-1700)
6. Drappier, Kosher Brut Carte d’Or, Champagne, non-vintage: A straw colored that has an abundance of large, nose-tickling bubbles, and that classic Champagne profile: Endowed with a crisp—almost bracing—acidity, this non-vintage Champagne has a fruity bouquet of apples and quince with notes of cream and honey. Look for flavors of apples and quince on the front of the palate, moving towards notes of cantaloupe, gooseberries, citrus, and cream, with a strong mineral note. Score A/A-. ($50.00. Available at FillerUp Kosher Wines, 174 West Englewood Ave, Teaneck, 201-862-1700)
7. Donaine Netofa, Latour Netofa, Galilee, 2010: The premier wine of the domaine, this inky, garnet-colored, medium-bodied blend of Syrah and Mourvedre has a rich nose dominated by cherries and oak. Look for flavors of stewed cherries, plum, and boysenberry, with a background of oak and spice. With lovely supple tannins, this wine is ready to drink now and for the next year. Score A-. ($33.74. Available at Linwood Wine and Liquor Company, 102 Linwood Plaza, Fort Lee, 201-944-5504)
8. Shiloh, Chardonnay, Judean Hills, 2012: Fermented and aged in French oak, this vibrant, medium-bodied, straw-colored Chardonnay has flavors and aromas of peaches, apples, and cream, with notes of heather, lemon verbena, and spice. Well made and refreshing, this wine should drink well for two more years. Score A-. ($18.00. Available at FillerUp Kosher Wines, 174 West Englewood Ave, Teaneck, 201-862-1700)
9. Makom, Sonoma Coast, Pinot Noir, 2013: Jonathan Hajdu, the Assistant Winemaker at Covenant Wines, and one of the most talented young winemakers on the kosher scene, makes a small amount of kosher wine on his own under the Makom label. This dark-ruby-colored, medium-bodied wine has a fruity nose of strawberries, blackberries, and cranberries, with an intriguing note of green cabbage, and a hint of spice. Look for flavors of red cherries, strawberries, blackberries, and oak, with a note of brown butter on the finish. Drink within the next five years. Score A-/B+. ($45.00. Available direct from the winemaker, [email protected])
10. Tulip, Syrah, Reserve, Galilee, 2010: This full-bodied, bright-garnet-colored Syrah has a lot to recommend it. Look for aromas of cherries, black pepper, cigar smoke, and pastrami, with notes of cedar, oak, and eucalyptus. The flavor is dominated by cherries, cranberries, and stewed prunes, with notes of smoke and spice on the finish. Ready to drink now, this wine should cellar well until 2019. Score A-/B+. ($40.00. Available at FillerUp Kosher Wines, 174 West Englewood Ave, Teaneck, 201-862-1700)
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 price at the retailer mentioned.
By Gamliel Kronemer