Every year, the Royal Wine Corp./Kedem, owned and managed by the Herzog family, the largest producer, importer and distributer of kosher wines and spirits, organizes a huge wine and food tasting in New York, Los Angeles and London.
This year, the annual Kosher Food and Wine Experience, or KFWE, was held Feb. 29 at Chelsea Pears in Manhattan. This event was, as always, a fabulous opportunity to sample the latest wine and spirit releases in Royal’s sizable portfolio, to meet with winemakers or winery/brand representatives and, of course, eat some of the outstanding kosher food.
My strategy is to start with the white and rose wines, and then the reds. So I headed straight for the Hagafen Cellars table to sample the wines of Ernie Weir.
Founded in 1979 by Weir and his wife, Irit, Hagafen wines have a reputation for consistent high quality. They have been served at the White House, and a lot of their wine is actually sold to, and consumed by, non-Jews, further demonstrating their high quality. The family-owned-and-operated winery, in California’s Napa Valley, boasts a popular tasting room. The winery is Napa Green Certified, meaning it voluntarily meets the highest standards of local environmentalist compliance.
Each of Hagafen’s three wine labels, Hagafen (the primary label), Prix (their high-end line) and Don Ernesto (their quaffable line) are available through the winery, while the primary Hagafen label wines are widely available. Hagafen also offers direct-to-consumer sales via their website, as well as several fantastic wine clubs which also ship to Maryland.
All the wines on offer, poured by the always jovial and informative Michael Gelvin, were showing very well. Given the hard work of tasting so many of the KFWE’s hundreds of wines, slurping and spitting all the while so as not to succumb to all that alcohol, I found that the awesome Hagafen Cellars, Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2015 ($27), was not only a real pleasure, but a fabulous palate reviver as well. It is delicious, fresh and refreshing, with bracing acidity balanced perfectly against white peach, green apple, mango and kiwi fruit notes, with mineral rich citrus and citrus peel characteristics on both the nose and sumptuous palate.
They were also pouring the still-just-about-findable Hagafen Brut Cuvée 2012 ($40): Full-bodied with a lovely, bright peach hue and a robust head of large, lively bubbles, this dry sparkler offers aromas and flavors of peach, apple, strawberry, a touch of melon, citrus, dollops of cream, a touch of yeast and an inviting smidge of brioche; there is also a generous hint of sweet syrup, finishing in a long citrus and green almond finish.
The Hagafen Cellars, 2014 Chardonnay, Oak Knoll District, Napa Valley ($30) is opulent, oaky and creamy with aromas and flavors of butterscotch, vanilla, citrus, apple, pear, pineapple and kiwi, with a lengthy and enjoyable melon, vanilla, toasty oak and mild baking spice finish. Classic Napa Chard.
I don’t seem to have too much in the way of legible notes on the 2013 Merlot, but I can make out: “licorice” (I think), “cherry, blackberry, raspberry, cloves, minerals”; “long finish” and “smooth tannins” — which pretty much conveys the goods. I definitely liked it.
Finally, the Hagafen Cellars 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon ($48) is a rich, complex, balanced, absorbing full bodied wine with ripe, dark fruits, bitter chocolate, spicy black licorice, sweet herbs, tobacco and leather; with a silky, though robust, mid-palate thrust; tannic, with slightly brooding elements that are just beginning to soften; this too is one to cellar for a long while, or consume in another four to six months with a hearty, meaty meal. L’chaim!