Wine and Spirits / Kosher for the Connoisseur

The Herzog family has been making wine for more than six centuries, but for most of those years the wine was pretty poor - the Slovakian vintages being mostly ceremonial and offering little to sophisticated wine drinkers. Today, with two wineries in the U. S., Herzog is the largest and certainly one of the very best kosher producers in the country, many of their wines attaining rave reviews from respected wine magazines and journals around the world.

The true kosher wine revolution in America started in 1985 when the family expanded their winemaking operations to a winery in the small city of Oxnard, California, where they produce wines under the labels of Herzog Wine Cellars and Baron Herzog.

The winery at Oxnard also boasts Tierra Sur, in this critic's opinion, the very best kosher restaurant in the world.

Following are reviews of kosher wines from the U. S. to recently appear locally from two wineries, Herzog and Covenant. Please note that wines earning scores of 90-95 are exceptional in every way and highly recommended for even the most sophisticated of wine lovers; those scoring 85-89 are good to very good and recommended; and those earning 80-84 points are average and recommended primarily for those just starting to get into wine. The wines are imported to Israel by the Zur agency. To order the wines directly or to find the store nearest you carrying these wines phone the importer at 03-6183937.

Herzog, Cabernet Sauvignon, Generation VIII, To Kalon, Napa Valley, 2006: A single-vineyard release, just starting to come into its own. Full-bodied and deeply concentrated, almost impenetrably dark garnet in color, opening with firm tannins and generous spices and oak, those yielding in the glass to reveal a fine array of black currants, blackberries, chocolate and tobacco, supported by tantalizing hints of cherries and red licorice. Long and elegant. Drink now-2018, perhaps longer. NIS 880. Score 94.

Herzog, Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Reserve, Warnecke Vineyard, Chalk Hill, 2007: Dark garnet toward royal purple in color, full-bodied with soft tannins and spicy wood in fine balance with fruits. An almost floral nose yields comfortably to clean notes of black currants, blackberries and espresso coffee and, from mid-palate on, hints of licorice and baking chocolate. Drink now-2014. NIS 385. Score 91.

Herzog, White Riesling, Late Harvest, Monterey County, 2008: Light gold in color, with generous but unimposing sweetness, fine balancing acidity and generous honeyed summer fruits on the nose and palate. In the background hints of white pepper, cinnamon and a light gasoline note traditional to Riesling. Drink now-2015. NIS 160. Score 90.

Baron Herzog, Black Muscat, California, 2008: A ruby red colored sweet red wine with tutti-frutti aromas and flavors that remind me more of Dr. Brown's cherry soda without the fizz than of wine. Sweet but not offensively so and with good acidity so if sweet reds are your thing quaff away but be sure to serve well chilled. Drink now. NIS 55. Score 82.

Bartenura, Barbera d'Alba, Ovadia Estates, 2008: Garnet toward royal purple, medium-bodied, with soft tannins and an abundance of strawberry, raspberry and red currant fruits. Alas, marred because of too much volatile acidity that gives the wine an aroma that calls to mind epoxy glue. Drink up. NIS 100. Score 78. K

Jeff Morgan, the owner-winemaker of Covenant, started his wine career as a critic. He's been forgiven since he started producing some of the most exciting wines in California in 2003.

Covenant, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, 2007: Made entirely from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, dark ruby toward royal purple in color, full-bodied and well extracted, showing gently gripping tannins and opening beautifully in the glass. On the nose and palate currants, plums and cassis, complemented by notes of mixed spices, sweet cedarwood and light smoky oak. Drink now-2023. NIS 475. Score 93.

Covenant, Red C, Napa Valley, 2007:Garnet to royal purple, medium- to full-bodied, with soft tannins integrating nicely to highlight blackberry and black cherry fruits, those on a tantalizing spicy background. Soft and round but with plenty to grab attention. Drink now-2013. NIS 245. Score 90.