The Best Kosher Wine Comes From…

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California and Israel have been producing the highest scoring kosher wines over the past 10 years. Now comes the big question: Which is better?
California has commercial wineries with respected reputations as well as smaller “boutique” wineries vying for consumers’ attention. Israel has commercial wineries that have been producing wine for twenty, thirty and, in one case, as many as 120 years, as well as upstart “garagiste” wineries drawing rave reviews. One thing is sure – competition has been great for the marketplace. The quality of the wines seems to increase every year. But which location is producing the best kosher wines?

The debate as to which is better probably lies in the eye of the beholder – or taster! In my own home it is a running feud. My wife prefers the clean, fruit-driven wines of California while I tend to prefer the spicy complexity of Israeli wines. In an effort to better resolve this debate, I formed a panel, together with my colleague and Director of Wine Education for Royal Wines Jay Buchsbaum, to taste through many of the top Israeli and California wines. Jay and I were joined by a NY-based wine industry veteran of 20 years and an Israel-based wine expert who was in NY at the time of the tasting and graciously participated.

The tasting was done blind, meaning all the wines were poured from paper bags to avoid any possible bias among the tasting panel. We sampled two to three wines per round, with each “round” pairing comparable wines (ie. same grape, style, year, etc).

The first round was a Rose´ round. The Israeli wine was the new Yogev Carignan/Malbec Rose´ by Binyamina and the California rose´ was the Baron Herzog White Zinfandel. This round featured one of our surprises of the night. Our shared expectations for the White Zin were low, given its association as a cheap, mass-produced wine. Sure enough, when the bags were removed and the wines were unveiled, “WOW” was a word used by the NY wine expert, who described “light candy notes” found in the Baron Herzog White Zin. The Yogev Rose´ was also well received with its dark pink hue and cherry flavors. The surprise favorite here was clearly the Baron Herzog White Zinfandel.

Round two was a Chardonnay round, and included three wines. From California was the Herzog Reserve “Russian River”, while Israel had two entrants, the Castel “C” Chardonnay and the Tzuba Chardonnay, both from the Judean Hills. Jay felt the Russian River was rich, with toasty oak and nice creaminess. Several of us found an interesting “popcorn” character in the Castel. This round also had a surprise favorite; the Tzuba Chardonnay which presented quite well and was described as “elegant and balanced” by the NY expert, while the Israeli expert was impressed with Tzuba’s “fruit shining through”.

The evening continued – and so does the suspense. Tune in next week for news of the continued debate and to find out the real winner!

Gary Landsman, AKA the “Wine Tasting Guy”, makes, sells, writes about and of course tastes wine. Presently doing PR/Marketing work for Royal Wines, you can contact Gary with any wine related questions at gary@winetastingguy.com.

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