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Hagafen Cabernet Franc, Napa, 2007

August 18, 2011 Leave a comment

And now we turn our attention this week back to California, after making an extended stay in other parts of the world. We are looking today at the Hagafen Cabernet Franc, from their vineyards in Napa, California.

What is Cab Franc, you ask? It is one of the more underrated grapes out there (and one of my favorites). Franc’s claim to fame is that it is one of the two parent grapes of Cabernet Sauvignon (whose other parent is Sauvignon Blanc. Get it? Cabernet Sauvignon).

In terms of its general characteristics, Cabernet Franc is not as full-bodied as its Sauvignon offspring. While there is fruitiness to its wines, Cabernet Francs tend to have more cassis and blueberry qualities to it, as opposed to the cherry and strawberry notes that Cabernet Sauvignon exhibits. Also Cabernet Franc has strong herbaceous qualities, and frequently shows aromas of rosemary and even cigar ash (believe it or not, this is a very pleasant quality, and I’m not a particularly big fan of cigars in general, but that’s another story).

2007 was a landmark year in Napa, and many wineries were able to put out excellent-quality wines at each price point, and several wines had age-worthy qualities about them: lots of tannin and acidic structure. The Hagafen Cabernet Franc was no exception.

The tannins were up-front and unabashedly present. While this made for a great pairing with meat (I tried it with my Shabbos chulent this week), I wonder how this would fare in a couple more years (again, this wine probably has some short-term aging potential!). The fruits were richer and more dominant that I tend to like in a Cabernet Franc: the blueberries were bursting with juiciness and a little overly ripe, and yet there was still a nice acidity in the background. The herbal and cigar notes were muted.

All of this leads me to think that this wine was not yet ready for general consumption, and required more age. With age the wine would lose some of its fresh and juicy fruitiness, giving way to more dried fruit qualities and letting the earthier and herbal notes come to the forefront.

While I lack the abilities to age a wine properly (no functioning cellar. Boo, hiss), I am going to keep this on my radar and hopefully be able to nab myself another bottle in six months or so and see how this wine has progressed. Hagafen Cellars is known for its quality California wines, and this is no exception to the rule. At its $45 price tag, it’s not for the faint of heart, budget-wise, but is very much worth the investment for those who can.

Teperberg "White" Chardonnay/Sauvignon Blanc, Israel

March 29, 2011 Leave a comment

This offering comes from one of my favorite Israeli wineries producing good quality, moderately-priced wines, both mevushal and non-mevushal. Now, while we are on this topic, let’s digress a bit to talk about mevushal issues.

First, let’s address the purpose of having mevushal wine. Historically, going back to the days when all of Israel’s neighbors were making sacrifices and libations to the goat god and whatnot, the pagans would refuse to use boiled wine for their libations because the wine was “inferior” by their definition. So, to ensure that any Israelite wine that could potentially be used for libations at the Temple, they would boil the wine to ensure that no pagan “defilement” would occur.

Fast forward to today, what mevushal means for us is the following: regarding when someone who is not Jewish (some would go as far as to say a Jew who is not shomer Shabbos) handling an open bottle of wine. If the wine is mevushal, then the wine is still kosher even after the person in question has handled the bottle. If the wine is not mevushal then the wine is no longer kosher when the non-Jew/non-Shomer Shabbos Jew handles it.

Now, I hate to say it, but the pagans did get something right. For most of its history, mevushal wine has been an inferior product because it would always have a distinct “cooked” quality, both in the nose and on the palate. However, modern technology has allowed us to make wines that are halachically mevushal, but not “cooked.”

In fact many of the world’s top wineries use the same process to flash pasteurize their wines, including Chateau Latour in Bordeaux and Beaucastel in the Rhone valley of France (on a “bad” year, both of these estates’ wines will sell in the HUNDREDS of dollars. For example a 1997 Latour, horrible year in Bordeaux, sold for around $300 wholesale. Just to give you some perspective). So basically, the quality of wine and mevushal are non-issues, assuming the process is done right.

So today’s example IS a mevushal wine, and a blend of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. It retails for around $18 and is delightful. Very aromatic on the nose with some vanilla aromas from the oak aging and floral qualities (surprising, given that neither grape is known for strong floral notes). On the palate, it is smooth and creamy, with some more of the oak coming through and well-balanced acidity to play off the tropical fruit flavors.

This is a wine that I intend to keep around the house on a regular basis. It’s great to have on its own or could do well with a creamy alfredo-style pasta. I was very surprised by this wine, in a pleasant way, and everyone I’ve recommended this wine to has come back to say it was so good. Give it a shot, you won’t be disappointed.

Categories: Israel, mevushal