Chile offers many affordable kosher Cabernet wines
I received several nice emails about last week’s column – thank you! Sam L. asked me to review Covenant wines. First off, you can’t say Kosher Cab without paying homage to vintner Jeff Morgan. Parker referred to him in an article as, “The man who makes the greatest Kosher wine on planet Earth.” When one considers that claim against wines such as Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Richebourg Grand Cru 2013 at about $5K/bottle, Chateau Lafite around $2K and Chateau Petrus, with a price that rivals the budget deficit, Parker’s propensity for hyperbole comes to mind. Don't misunderstand; Parker is a fine critic and Morgan a terrific vintner, but “greatest on planet” is a bit too extensive. I sampled several Covenant selections to review which should satisfy discriminating palates anytime.
Covenant produces in Israel, California, and New York state. The following are choices from their multi-varietal range: Covenant The Tribe Chardonnay Lodi California 2016, ‘18, and ‘21 all rate 91-92 McD, findable at $28-$30. The ‘21 is buttery, roast apple, caramel with citrus back notes. The ‘18 smells like movie popcorn and toasted almonds, pear on the palate. The ‘16, best of the three, opens to butter, nutmeg and mineral aromas. On the dreamy, creamy, deep, ripe palate, apple, melon and mango arise. Avoid the 2019 and ‘20; they are OK, but you can find better QPR. The Covenant Napa Cab 2015, 94 McD, is available at several Total wine locales for $84. This is stealing, folks, and worth the search. The 2018 is 91 McD, on the market at $100, nowhere close to being ready. Their top-of-the-line Cab, Solomon Lot 70, was a wonder to me, highly touted and around $200, but it paled by comparison at 91 McD. I questioned my score, but on returning home, a bit of research showed others had similar opinions. While Solomon Lot 70 was a fine wine and is a Napa label, the value is to put in the work to find the $84 bottle. Shifting gears, Chateau Hosanna Pomerol is a fine choice for upscale consumers. The 2010, perfect now. can be found for $270, 94 McD. Deep ruby color with notes of black raspberry, cherry, plum and oak hints.
You need not break the bank to find some very lovely wine. Here are a few I recommend. Covenant Mensch Roussanne Lodi, $21; the 2016, ‘17 and ‘19 rate 90-91 McD. Look for apricot and peach with a balancing acidity lift. Mensch Zin 2021, 87 McD, under $20, was approachable, with blackberries, strawberries and dark plums, full body, fruit supported by proper acidity and light tannins. Those who enjoy dessert wines should try Covenant’s Late Harvest Botrytis Chardonnay Zahav 2018, 93 McD, 375 ml under $30 and 750s $56. Sounds expensive, but a standard pour is 2-3 oz. Honey, apricot and vanilla flavors are supported by bright acidity. Almost unctuous, with no cloying denouement. Chile has gotten on board and there are many choices for Cabs under $20. I sampled a bunch of these at a Kosher food and wine expo in Manhattan. Penalolen and Montes Alpha 2018 under $20 are both excellent QPR. When I saw the Manischewitz table, I nearly passed it by. Years ago, I decided their “cheap wines” were not worth the experience or sugar rush and ensuing headache. I did the sip and spit with several $6-$8 fruit wines, and both $14 bottlings labeled Elijah, a Cab and a Chard. These confirmed my opinion. Let me interject – satisfy your own palate. Your mom's cookin’ may not rival famous TV chefs or even Dinty Moore's, but nostalgia can provide comfort. I rarely describe wines in this price range because, even with price points, few reach 87 on my grading scale. I prefer blind tastings for this reason.
Let's wrap up this week with a referral to MelissaDarnay.com, another wino whose work I admire. Her column from July 2020, headlined 7 Best Kosher Red Wines, was well done, fair and balanced. The “best” label may be hyperbolic editors’ clickbait. Thank you, Ed., I held onto it. Recent searches informed me these are available and the prices little changed. Alexander the Great labels from Galilee, from a large, varied catalogue. Check out Melissa’s piece for some additional great choices. N.B., read the entire paper before leaving. The agencies are watching.