Winemakers Who March To A Different Drummer

October 3, 2013

Reviews of the Gvaot Gofna Pinot Noir 2011 and the Laphroaig 10-year-old Single Malt Scotch Whisky.

It is often said the best way to make a small fortune in the wine business is to begin with a large one. Indeed, winemaking is an inherently risky business. The weather, obviously, is unpredictable. Furthermore, wine is subject to complex market forces, stiff global competition and the vagaries of consumer tastes. The prudent approach, it would seem, would be to stick to well-established winemaking formulas and techniques.

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Labors Of Love

September 30, 2013

Reviews of the B.R. Cohn Trestle Glen Estate Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, the Agua Dulce Winery Syrah 2010, and the Angel’s Envy Rye Whiskey.

Beyond all the many good-to-excellent kosher wineries out there slaking the growing thirst of the kosher consumer, we always enjoy it when some well-established and prestigious nonkosher winery gets in on the act and produces a limited batch of kosher wines. These days, as often as not, these limited run wines are pet projects of the winery — more a labor of love by the producer, than a contract-fulfillment for someone wanting to market the next “hot” kosher Bordeaux or whatever.

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Magic In The Bottle

September 23, 2013

A review of the Agur Kessem 2011 and a look at the latest single malt whiskey releases from Single Cask Nation.

Blending various grape varietals to create a beverage that is greater than the sum of its parts can often seem like magic. Especially after half a bottle.

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Preparing For Fall (Wine)

September 18, 2013

A review of the Ramot Naftaly Shiraz 2010 and several Boulard Calvados.

Sukkot is approaching now, and the prospect of additional lavish entertaining looms large. Time to gather our thoughts, and materials, to build and decorate our sukkot, plan and prepare our meals, and maybe plan and prepare some sage Torah thoughts to share with our family and friends as we celebrate together. So, obviously, we should all also begin to evaluate the state of our wine stash for the upcoming months. If you have any left, it is time to drink up all those young roses and other lighter summery wines. For this is the season, now, of deeper, more complex whites and reds — the kind that have been resting in our dusty cellars (for those who have such) — that taste so much better as the days get shorter. After all, the fall brings cooler weather and the concomitant seasonal produce like squash, pumpkin, various root vegetables and the like. As our seasonal dishes are generally more robust than in summer, our wines should follow suit. But the transition can, and probably should, be gradual — no need to jump right in with big, bold and heavy wines.

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Break Your Fast Libation Suggestions

September 12, 2013

Libations to accompany the break-fast including two kosher wines from Hagafen and the Bunnahabhain Toiteach Single Malt Scotch Whisky.

Every family seems to have its own traditions when it comes time to breaking the fast. Usually a milchik (diary) or pareve (neutral) meal, the dishes might range from one relative’s treasured lokshen kugel (egg noodle pudding) to another’s prized blintzes, to a table laden with various vorspeis (appetizers) of fish (various picked herrings, white fish salad, lox, etc.) along with cream cheese and bagels. Typically there will be plenty of desserts or at least sweet foods, such as honey or jams — serving as both reminder and ardent wish of life’s sweetness and the promise of the New Year. Usually there will also be eggs, recalling the cycle of life. Delicious and nostalgic, yes, but this is essentially breakfast fare — that is, these menus are not exactly screaming for wine.

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Alinea: Connoisseur’s Dream Is Just A Short Flight Away

September 9, 2013

The artistry at Alinea extends to their wine pairings.

Inventive, exciting, imaginative, fascinating, thrilling, exceptional, delicious, amazing … the list of superlatives used to describe dinner at Alinea is nearly as long as the drive from O’Hare to the restaurant’s location in Chicago’s Lincoln Park district. At Alinea a refined, exquisitely prepared meal is transformed into performance art where the chef, staff and diner are each intimately involved in the entire experience. It is no easy feat to match wines with ingredients as varied as rabbit, cherry blossom, wasabi and smoke. The courses dance from light and airy (green apple taffy balloon) to multifaceted and profound, each designed to require the diners to interact with the preparations. This makes the wine pairings even more difficult since there are often multiple options within each course that provide different intensities and sequences of flavors. Not surprisingly, the talented team at Alinea made outstanding wine selections that both complemented and enhanced the evening’s multiple dishes.

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It’s Fall And Time To Reflect – On Booze?

September 2, 2013

A review of the Celler de Capcanes Peraj Petita 2011 kosher wine and the Mackmyra Svensk Swedish Whisky.

It’s that time of year again. The end of summer, the start of fall, and the approaching holidays mark a time of transition. This is traditionally a time of reflection in which we are encouraged to contemplate our decisions and, more importantly, our mistakes — to learn from our actions and misdeeds, and the impact these have had on our lives and on the lives of those we interact with. Hopefully, a little self-knowledge and wisdom has come from these experiences. With additional effort and focus we can hopefully transform and improve ourselves as we recommit to doing it all, at least a little bit, better. We are, of course, talking about booze — choosing the most appropriate drink for the moment.
What? You were expecting something different? Sure, the Yamim Noraim (“Days of Awe”) or “High Holy Days” — as you prefer — augur changes of a more substantive, and sober, personal, reflective, introspective, even metaphysical, level. But our column is called “L’Chaim” not “Torah Thoughts,” got it? No disgruntled letters — please.

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Of Booze And Bores

August 26, 2013

A review of the Bartenura Moscato and Cutty Sark Blended Scotch Whisky.

Wine is much too important to be taken too seriously. Wine is simply a beverage of refreshment. Little more than a wonderfully natural, and alcoholic, way to quench one’s thirst and enliven things a bit, and it has been since ancient times. Yet wine also lends itself to enthusiasm, and so to fixation. In his introduction to Kingsley Amis’ Everyday Drinking, the late Christopher Hitchens noted the “fact” that alcohol “makes other people, and indeed life itself, a good deal less boring.” This in no way means “that there are not wine bores, single-malt bores, and people who become even more boring when they themselves have a tipple.” Too true. Alas.

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On Balance And Blends

August 20, 2013

The importance of balance in wine with reviews of the Yarden Sauvignon Blanc 2011 and two blended Scotch whiskies; Johnnie Walker Black and Whilte Horse.

One of the most widely sought after descriptions from the mouth, or pen, of a wine critic is the term “balanced.” The term is meant to convey a harmonious interplay between the different components in a wine, including tannins, alcohol, sweetness and acidity. Should any one of these components stand out from the others, that wine would be deemed out of balance, and so in some measure lacking or less than the ideal. Of particular importance in a balanced wine, especially one whose flavors are especially pronounced, are those elements that provide a counterpoint. So for example, fruity or tannic wines are thought to need an acidic balancing counterpoint, to bring the wine together. In the case of a dessert wine, such as a sauterne, acidity is desired to check the wine’s sweetness so that it does not become boringly unctuous like a jam or jelly. Likewise too much acidity would render a wine tart and unappealing. A wine with ideal acidity keeps these other elements in check, and is perceived as cleansing, refreshing and encouraging of another sip. Any wine that does not encourage the imbiber to take another sip, is probably not enjoyable enough to drink anyway.

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