Last week I had the pleasure of attending one of the best wine tasting events of the year, Royal Wine Corporation’s KFWE2012 (Kosher Food & Wine Experience – they could have at least put wine before food). While there are a few equally incredible wine events in Israel (Sommelier, IsraWine Expo and the Israel Museum tasting come to mind), KFWE stands tall as a premier wine tasting event in the United States, providing the ability to taste hundreds of top-notch (some exceedingly expensive and rare) kosher wines in addition to a splendid array of gourmet kosher foods from many of New York and New Jersey’s leading restauran
ts and caterers. Obviously, the event only showcases wines in Royal’s portfolio that, while gloriously extensive, is not close to being the full spectrum of wines available to the ever-appreciating kosher oenophile. To round out the kosher wine tasting experience, Gotham Wine & Liquors puts on an annual tasting every year showcasing a wide plethora of wines spread across a multitude of regions, wineries, producers and importers. This year Gotham’s event will be held on March 4th. As always, please check out my “Coming Events” page for links, details and special discounts to this and other wine related events worth of your attention.
I have attended this event every year since they started it in New York (other than last year when an unfortunately-timed, work-related trip to Australia coincided with the event) and can safely say that it has gotten better every year, with the food component being a brilliant addition to the event, providing spouses and friends less interested in wine (yes, folks like that actually exist) with something to do while the rest of us taste our way around the incredibly growing world of high quality kosher wines.
The increasingly large crowds (at least in recent years, the event has sold out at least a week in advance) of people willing to shell out the relatively high $100 ticket price is just another indicator of the increasing popularity of kosher wine and the willingness people have to spend money on it. While doing a proper tasting among the hundreds of attendees can be difficult, there is usually pre-event press-time tasting for members of the trade & press which affords one the ability to do a more comprehensive tasting in relative calm before the discerning hordes descend on the event which, while creating a delightfully raucous environment, makes it a little difficult to make out the nuances of any but the biggest and most flavorful wines which tend to be crowd favorites due to their standing out with big, bold and fruity flavors that grab your palate’s attention by cutting through everything else.
For the first time, this year the “trade” portion of the event was from earlier in the afternoon from 12:00-4:00 PM which afforded people in the trade ample opportunity to taste the wines and chat with the winemakers in relative calm. 6:00-7:00 PM was designated at press time (although many of the press attended the earlier event including Alice Feiring and Howard Goldberg, both delightful individuals I was super-excited to meet, chat and taste wines with) and at 7 PM the doors were opened to the general public. Despite the throngs of attendees, for the bulk of the evening it wasn’t crazy crowded and most of the wines/winery representatives were accessible to all. As I mentioned, the event was extremely well organized so kudos to the entire responsible team from Royal for that.
As a testament to the significance of the event and the importance of the North American market to the Israeli wine industry, a significant number of winemakers were in attendance (many of whom also traveled to Los Angeles for the West Coast event (the International Food & Wine Festival), including Assaf and Sasson from Binyamina, Yaakov Berg from Psagot, Yoram and his wife Ilana from Alexander, the entire Covenant team of Jeff, Jodie and Jonathon, Eitan Ben-Zaken from Castel, Phillip Jones of Goose Bay and now Pacifica as well, Jürgen from Capcanes, Tamir from Tulip, Pierre from Netofa (and Royal’s French Collection), Joe from Herzog, Irit, Shmuel and Ed from Barkan and other winery representatives including Adam from Carmel/Yatir, Dr. Moises from Elvi, Yossi Shor from 1848, Gilad Flam and Mayer Chomer from Shiloh. As every year and despite how exhausted many of them were, they all had time for any and all questions and seemed to enjoy discussing the wines (more early on than later ).
The food was great and in my opinion has been a really successful addition, really enhancing the event and making it more inclusive. As this is a wine newsletter and there was way to much to taste (or list) everything anyway, I just wanted to single out some of my personal favorites from the evening which included Po’ Boy sandwiches from Bistro 1310, barbequed ox tail from ETC Steakhouse, crazy decadent chocolate mousse from Finchi, corned beef and pastrami from Pomegranate, melt-in-your-mouth smokehouse brisket from Gemstone Catering, spicy Mexican chorizo from Jack’s Sausages, La Marais’ smoked duck breast, rib eye tartare (no raw egg unfortunately) from Downtown Brooklyn, a duck confit meatball and veal sheppard pie from Silverleaf Caterers and of course multiple incredible espressos from Noi Due.
Given the significant year-over-year improvements, I actually had very few complaints other than the fact that a few of the wines listed in the “program” to which I had been looking forward were no-shows (Valendraud, Segal Unfiltered, Psagot 2011 Chardonnay, Goose Bay 2011 Pinot Grigio, Binyamina 2011 Gewurztraminer), Binyamina was being a little stingy with the 2007 Cave (not to mentioned the under-the-table bottle of the Old vine version) and for some reason Castel continues to serve, pour and sell the obviously reductive 2009 Chardonnay..
Between attending Sommelier in Israel a few months ago and sitting on the judging panel for the Jewish Week’s annual “Kosher Wine Guide” I previously had the opportunity to taste many of the wines being offered, affording me more time for chatting with winemakers, friends and many subscribers to this newsletter. It also allowed for more in-depth/detailed tastings of many of the wines I hadn’t yet tasted. While this week’s newsletter doesn’t include any detailed notes (which will follow in the coming weeks), I have listed below a number of my favorite wines from the event that I highly recommend, many of which are completely new releases:
Binyamina, Reserve, Late Harvest Gewurztraminer, 2009: Finally available in the United States.
Binyamina, Old Vine Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007: I previously reviewed this delicious & limited edition wine.
Bokobsa Selection, Domaine de Maltaverne, Pouilly Fume, 2007: Easily one of the highlights of the event.
Bokobsa Selection, Special Reserve, Sancerre, 2007: Together w/ the Pouilly Fume, a great showing by Bokobsa.
Chateau Léoville Poyferré, St.-Julien, 2005: Per the [over-]hyped 2005 Bordeaux vintage, Léoville’s best to date.
Chateau Pontet-Canet, 2004: An amazing replacement for its missing 2003 older sibling.
Capcanes, Peraj Ha’abib, 2009: Tasted alongside the 2008 and 2010; all great, this was my pick.
Castel, Rose, 2011: Not yet released but stay tuned for a delightful follow up to the successful 2009 Rose.
Castel, Grand Vin, 2009: Castel’s flagship wine for a reason – deep, complex, layered and rich.
Covenant, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2003: I have raved about this delightfully maturing wine before. A nice treat!
Covenant, Sauvignon Blanc, 2011: Crisper than 2010 version & very refreshing (partial malolatic fermentation).
Drappier, Carte-D’Or, Brut: Delightful new kosher true Champagne. Enjoyed it more than the Brut version.
Elvi, Clos Mesorah, 2009: Elvi’s new and deserving flagship wine (blend of Carignan, Grenache & Syrah)
Herzog, Generation VIII, To Kalon, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2006: An annual highlight of the event for me.
Flam, Reserve, Syrah, 2010: A sneak preview of Flam’s newly kosher reserve series to be released in a year or so.
Laurent Perrier, Brut, n.v: The romantic Rose gets all the attention, I actually prefer this crisply true Champagne.
Psagot, Prat, n.v: A welcome addition to the growing Israeli collection of port-styled wines.
Shiloh, Legend, 2007: Shiloh’s attempt at a more “Israeli” wine. Still needs time to develop but very well made.
Yatir, Forest, 2007: Together with 1-2 others, remains at the very top of the “Super-Israelis” list.