The Top 10 Kosher wines ($20 or less) and our 5 Favorite Whiskies for the past year .
By Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon
Washington Jewish Week September 10, 2014
Last week we listed the Top 10 kosher wines we tasted over the past year that cost $30 or more a bottle. After all, festive holiday meals with family and friends are nigh, so a bit of expensive indulgence is in order. As wine is a necessity in a civilized world, however, we have put together a list of value-priced wines to be enjoyed on a more regular basis, within a more limited budget.
Here are our value-priced ($20 and below) Top 10 kosher wines from the previous year:
The Recanati Rose 2013 ($15) is made from 70 percent Barbera and 30 percent Merlot. This bright, aromatic, pink wine offers aromas and flavors of strawberry, raspberry, under-ripe peach, and some citrus with hints of soft spice and some refreshing, crisp acidity.
A delightful sipper for the remaining warm weather is the Dalton Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2012 ($16) that exhibits citrus and melon aromas along with grassy, lemon, grapefruit and gooseberry flavors within a frame of crisp acidity and minerals along with a lengthy finish.
From the same estate is the Dalton Unoaked Chardonnay 2012 ($16) that shows lively fruit flavors and aromas including peach, grapefruit, mango and apricots, along with good balance and a nice lengthy finish.
From Chile is the bargain-priced Lanzur Sauvignon Blanc 2013 ($9) that exhibits mostly peach and floral aromas with hints of straw. It is a medium-bodied, well balanced wine that is ideal for warm weather enjoyment; it has grapefruit, peach, and gooseberry flavors and a lengthy, mineral accented and refreshing finish.
Another bargain is the Terra Vega Cabernet Sauvignon Bin 944 2012 ($9), a nicely drinking, dark fruit and spice kosher wine from Chile.
Available at Trader Joe’s is the Terrenal Tempranillo 2010 ($5) that begins with floral and blackberry aromas which expand nicely in the glass and combine with red berry, dark chocolate, spice and earth flavors, balanced with bright acidity for balance and a remarkably lengthy finish.
A good aperitif that also pairs well with Asian and Indian fare, roast chicken and many desserts is the floral Yarden Gewurztraminer 2012 ($15) that has an exotic lychee and spicy profile with apricot and green apple and good citrus acidity along with a pleasant bit of sweetness.
The Joseph River Estate Cabernet Sauvignon-Shiraz-Merlot 2009 ($14) is a medium-bodied, very approachable and value-priced red blend with red fruit and earthy aromas along with plum, red berry and spicy dark fruit flavors with accents of tobacco at the end.
Medium bodied and created for early enjoyment, the Abarbanel Cabernet-Merlot Blend, Batch 58, 2011 ($15) displays plum, red berry and cassis flavors accented with hints of leather and herbs.
The Dovev Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 ($13) is a coffee and berry-scented, medium-bodied, soft and smooth blend featuring red fruit, plum, mild spice and cassis.
Spirits-wise, we thought we’d do a top 10 list as well—but quickly realized that narrowing down and choosing from amongst the best of what we’ve tasted was too difficult; besides we also realized that we are sufficiently, ahem, long-winded in our reviews as to make a top 10 list unworkable [and no, we are not paid by the word…alas]. So instead we thought we’d aim for a list of five whiskies picked randomly from amongst of our favorites tasted here over the last 12 months. Here goes:
Mackmyra Svensk, First Edition Swedish Whisky (“Den forsta utgavan” in Swedish, 46.1 percent abv; $55): This lightly golden whisky, matured in a mix of Swedish oak and ex-bourbon barrels, is obviously youthful, but not marred by immature or feinty moonshine-like spirit quality. It has aromas of bright, sweet malt, light smoke, vanilla cream, marzipan, honey and some ripe fruit (apricots, citrus, and maybe pears), and flavors of light smoke, cinnamon, pears, orange peel, and dried apricots, more marzipan, more honey and vanilla, additional notes of caramel, some toasted coconut and a little hint of bread dough. The palate is gentle yet full-flavored and well-balanced (the smoke teases thru, here and there — without making its presence too obvious). Likewise the toasted oak comes through nicely on the spiced apple finish. More maturation would have helped, but this expression is already showing such great promise for Swedish whisky. Not sure if Mackmyra will prove to be to whisky what Ingmar Bergman was to film, but for now we’ll settle for its Ingrid Bergman-like intelligent, perhaps slightly beguiling, beauty.
Single Cask Nation, Glen Moray 12 year old, ex-bourbon cask matured, Single Cask, Single Malt Scotch whisky (56.1 percent abv; $100; Cask #797 yielding only 148 bottles): This is probably the best example we’ve tasted in many years from this typically underperforming distillery — and it is delicious! It exhibits all the very best elements of the classic Glen Moray house style but with greater depth and complexity than is typical, including vanilla, toffee, butterscotch and caramel notes, with zesty lemon citrus to counter the sweetness and keep it lively, and a little pensive spiciness from the oak. With time it develops even further, with some compelling fruit, cream, and nuttiness, and a pretty, slightly floral component that asserts itself a bit in the pleasingly long finish. It is light, fruity and slightly sweet, but oh so pleasing—really lovely!
SMWS 66.44 “New Balls Please” (10-year-old from the Ardmore Distillery; 56.9 percent abv; $95): We don’t get the title, but whatever. This is a real beast of whisky: meaty, full flavored, textured, and a little dirty and unpolished the way whiskies of yesteryear were (before technology helped eliminate most imperfections). With notes of slightly muted peat, floral notes of violet and hibiscus, soy sauce, and a touch of sulfur — though in a good way, this slightly savage whisky delivers on multiples levels, its “flaws” delightfully in full bloom, beckoning further interaction. Water reduces some of the heat and turns down the volume a bit, teases out a slightly nail-varnishy quality (though not exactly in a bad way); it also unleashes some of the more typical caramel and vanilla notes. Mostly though, don’t bother cutting this mouth-watering, magnificent beast with water — it only seems to upset it.
Glen Grant, Five Decades, Single Malt Scotch Whisky (46 percent abv; $150): Dennis Malcolm, the Glen Grant Distillery manager, designed this whisky to celebrate his five decades working at Glen Grant (he was actually born there in 1946, but didn’t begin working there until he turned 15 in 1961); he did so by vatting or blending casks from each of his five decades (1960s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and 2000s). Though distinctly pale and limpid looking, this whisky has substantial depth and complexity and is packed with yummy, whisky characteristics of rich, buttery oak, honeydew melon, vanilla and cream, cane sugar, hazelnut, green apple, fruit blossom, white pear, honey, citrus, caramelized orange peel, apricot, raisin, with a bit of cinnamon like heat and even some fresh malted barley. A drop of water diminishes the nose, but increases the sweetness and richness – and it not really needed. With time, the aromas and flavors evolve and develop even further – astounding. A delicious, absorbing, vibrant, and oh so lovely whisky.
The Laphroaig 10-year-old Single Malt Scotch Whisky (43 percent abv; $50). Although lower proof and chill-filtered, unlike everything else from this distillery, this flagship expression is nonetheless utterly fantastic and one of our perennial favorites. It is, in turn, soothing and stupendous, and familiar and reliable, yet complex, deep and dreamy. It enraptures with its heady yet nuanced mix of iodine, smoke, sea brine, and sweet malt; with its oaky backdrop and whispers of vanilla; and with its rounded, oily, subtle and ever so slightly drying finish. Yet it is a dram with enough of a medicinal, fish oil, seaweedy presence to keep one grounded and alert, like a good-natured thump from an older brother or an old school chum. Not for all tastes, obviously, but this is serious, brilliant whisky. L’Chaim!