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Posts Tagged ‘Aging of wine’

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.

Dalton Reserve Sauvignon Blanc, Israel, 2009

July 10, 2011 Leave a comment

Welcome back, sports fans! Today we are looking at another Israeli wine. This time, from the Dalton winery, one of the larger wineries in the country. In particular, we are looking at their Reserve Sauvignon Blanc from 2009.

So what is all this “Reserve” business all about? The answer really varies, depending on which country whence your wine originates. For example, in most European countries, to have the word “reserve” (adjusted for whichever language your country speaks) on your label, you must age the wine for a longer period of time than your regular version of the same wine. Usually, this is 1-2 years beyond the base level. However, there is variation, again depending on your wine’s country of origin.

In Spain, for example, a “reserva” wine is aged for a minimum of 1 year in casks and a total of 3 years between cask and bottle aging; and the Spanish “Gran Reserva” is aged for a minimum of 5 years (2 in cask and 3 in bottle). Also, to make this even more confusing, the details of “reserva” and “Grand Reserva” labeling can vary from region to region.

In Italy, things can be just as confusing. For example, in the Taurasi region a regular wine must be aged a minimum of 3 years and “riserva” wines a minimum of 4 years; on the other hand, Chianti regular wines must be aged a minimum of 7 months and “riserva” Chianti a minimum of 27 months.

If that weren’t confusing enough, if you go into so-called “New World” wine regions (including Israel), there are no regulations regarding the use of the word “Reserve” on the label. The implication behind the word “reserve” is that it is indeed a better-quality wine than your regular bottle, but particularly in America, there is nothing prohibiting someone from putting a bunch of dreck in a bottle and labeling it “reserve.”

Now, on to Dalton’s Reserve Sauvignon Blanc. In this situation, because Dalton makes so many different levels of wine, Reserve actually does correctly imply a higher quality of wine from their lower levels of production. First, the wine comes from a handful of select vineyars (in this case, Safsufa, Merom Galil and Kerem Ben Zimra vineyards). They only use free-run juice (that is, only the juice that comes out of the crushing bin that is the result of grapes pressing down on others, without the assistance of manmade devices), which is regarded the world round as being rarer, and of higher quality. The wine was fermented in stainless steel tanks, which (remember our earlier posts?) means you’re going to get more purity of fruit out of the wine and not as much body and smoky/oaky/vanilla/etc. flavors in the wine.

The first time I had this wine was many years ago, when I was just learning about the kosher side of the wine world. I was blown away by the quality and complexity of the wine, when most of the kosher wines I had in the past were more basic and not all that interesting. It was a real treat to pick up this bottle and revisit it a few vintages later (also beware: it’s not always easy to find!).

The nose gave off aromas of citrus peel and fresh taragon; there was also a hint of gooseberry that came out after 24 hours of opening. The palate was very complex, and I know I didn’t get everything, but here goes. Preserved Lemons, steely mineral, lots of earthy herbs and a hint of toastiness (from the yeasts? Remember, there was no oak aging on this wine!). I had this straight out of my fridge (which is admittedly very cold!), and it was a disappointing showing, but after letting it warm up a bit (so word to the wise: don’t let it get ice cold; it gets too tart that way!), the herbal and more nuanced citrus notes come through.

I had this wine with my usual Shabbos roast chicken and chulent for lunch the next day; neither dish really worked but I could see huge potential for a delicate white-fleshed fish dish with this wine.

As a closing remark, another kosher wine blogger, Yossie Horwitz has been a huge inspiration of mine, and was part of the reason I wanted to get into this business myself. (And for the record, he did NOT ask me to do a plug for him.) It has been my hope to maintain his conversational style of wine writing while injecting some more technical information in my posts so that the consumer will ultimately have an understanding not only what a wine tastes like, but why it tastes like that. I highly recommend that readers of this blog also seek him out at http://www.yossiescorkboard.com/ or to follow him on Twitter @yossieuncorked