Tag Archives: wine review

Psagot, a kosher cabernet

A noble grape is one capable of making high quality wine, is able to grow in a variety of climates outside its indigenous environment, ages well and shows a sense of place while retaining its unique characteristics. Recently, I tasted a perfect example of a successful noble grape: the M-series 2013 Psagot single vineyard cabernet sauvignon, with its grapes grown in the capital of Israel, in the Jerusalem Mountains, 900 meters above sea level.

A waxed coin was stuck on the bottle somewhere, but I couldn’t figure out where because during the bottle’s shipment it had fallen off. I wasn’t sure how this was related until I read the bottle.

“The coin depicted on the front comes from the period of the “Great Revolt” (66-73 CE). The coin was discovered while digging out a cave which would become the Winery’s barrel aging room.”

I quickly realized that I would be tasting tradition. And through the expression of tradition in the history, dusty and dry soil, and methods of viticulture to make this Psagot vineyard, I was ready to taste the kosher, single vineyard cabernet sauvignon aged for 13 months in French oak barrels.

Its dark claret offered an elegant nose of a wine steeped in culture. The deepest berries and a touch of green pepper led way to flavors of an assortment of local and global dark, blackberries. Elements of the French oak barrel were found in the butterscotch elements, and led to the smooth and subtly spicy tannins. According to the winemaker notes, there are flavors of orange peel and mint, with nice notes of citrus and branberry. Although my palate didn’t detect these – and I have never consumed a branberry – I will take his word for it.

To taste this Psagot cabernet sauvignon is about transporting your palate and imagining standing within the mountains of Jerusalem. Warning: You may be unable to resist booking a trip. But, if you’re planning to visit Jerusalem, you can head to the visitor center for a tour takes about an hour and includes wine tasting of Psagot Winery. Visit Psagotwines.com for more information.

A bottle sells for around $63, depending on where you look online.

A ‘lot’ (57) of Tuscan gold

The expression of a destination once visited comes alive with a sniff and sip. For me, a trip to Tuscany was revisited when I opened a bottle of 90+ Rosso Toscana Sangiovese Merlot, Lot 57, 2012.

A bottle of 90+ brings about mixed emotions to those in the wine industry. While we like to attain bottles of premium wines otherwise affordable only to the upper class, 90+ offers the opportunity to keep up with the Joneses, so to speak.

If you aren’t sure what 90+ labels are about, here’s what I found out through the grapevine: When 90-plus rated wines don’t sell out with a private label, there is opportunity to sell unlabeled bottles to consumers who can’t pay a lot for those premium wines, but want to sip them nonetheless. Slap on a 90+ label, document the grapes (in this case, Sangiovese and Merlot), the wine region (Rosso Toscana), country (Italy) and the year (2012). The most important factor beyond the grapes and region is the lot number (Lot 57) so that if you enjoy the wine, you can get another bottle from that same lot. If you get a different lot, it will be a different wine from another winemaker, but in the same region.

Overage is put to good use via 90+, and consumers will never be able to know the winery or winemaker behind the bottle, but you will know a good wine when you taste it, and this Rosso Toscana Lot 57 is quintessential Tuscan wine grown from perhaps the greatest wine region in Italy…Chianti and its super Tuscan blends.

Central Italy’s history of wine dates back to the 8th century, B.C., with the Etruscan settlements. This is one situation where it’s a good thing that history repeats itself. I love Rosso Toscana because it is not as robust as a cabernet sauvignon, so drinkable alone. But you will crave Italian food once you have a taste.

Lot 57 Ross Toscana Reserve 2012 sells for approximately $15 a bottle…not much compared to what the true label might sell for, given the grapes hail from the home of Sangiovese.


How to make your bubbly last

Ballatore Gran Spumante, priced at $9.99

At the onset of a family gathering, I popped open a bottle of Ballatore Moscato Rose Spumante. Within minutes, the volume of certain family members’ voices seemed lowered, and the comments more easily digested. All in all, it was a nice experience that may not have been possible without a bit of bubbly to relax one and all who accepted a pour. This spumante would have gone a long way if I’d made this cocktail, courtesy of Ballatore:

Sparkling Mocha Truffle

  • 4 tablespoons chocolate shavings
  • 3/4 oz. white creme de cacao
  • 3/4 oz. vanilla liqueur
  • Splash of walnut liqueur
  • 1 oz. Ballatore Rose ($9.99 a bottle)

Wet the rim of a a martini glass in white creme de cacao and dip into plate of chocolate shavings. Set aside. In a cocktail shaker, combine the 3/4-oz. white creme de cacao, vanilla liqueur and walnut liqueur with ice. Shake vigorously. Add Ballatore Rose and stir. Strain into glasses.


My bottle of Ballatore Gran Spumante was recently opened while visiting friends in the Berkshires. Four glasses were poured, toasts made and sips savored. My first taste sensation was of cream soda. The old fashioned kind. Everyone agreed, but also commented on how much they enjoyed the creaminess and slight bubbles.

For 30 years, Ballatore has been producing sparkling wines in the Italian Asti-style. I have to admit I’d never before heard of Ballatore, so it was a nice introduction to some tasty sparkling wines that don’t break the budget.

Argentine table wines

I love malbec wines of Argentina, and that’s a fact. Here are two worthy of grabbing next time you’re in a wine shop:

2012 Alamos Malbec

A classic Argentine wine, this malbec is made using malbec grapes blended with a small percentage of syrah and bonarda grapes. For this particular vintage, the growing season lowered the yields for malbec grapes — blame it on the zondas (strong winds) and frost. Deep dark berry flavors come through in this wine with hints of baking spice and vanilla. What you’ll get from the best of the Mendoza area is a wine with strong tannins and a long finish. $13 suggested retail price


2012 Alamos Red Blend

You can drink this wine without a culinary pairing, that’s how good it is. Priced at $13, this is a bottle that gives in taste, texture and aroma. Primarily using Argentine’s signature grape, malbec, this blend also has some bonarda, tempranillo and syrah. Perhaps it’s the tempranillo that makes this wine so special. While it has all that the malbec described above boasts, it’s that Spanish grape that sets it apart from the rest.

Visit www.AlamosWines.com for more information.

Rockin’ the reds


Debbie Juergenson, winemaker at Red Rock Winery in California, knows how to lure women to drink her red wines. Just take a look at the website: www.RedRockWinery.com and you’ll see a picture of a woman in a bathtub sipping red wine from a glass. I’m in.

So, with four bottles in tow, over the next few weeks, I sipped — and shared.

Beginning with 2011 vintages, I first opened the Red Rock California Merlot, with grapes mainly from Paso Robles. Some petite sirah is blended in, which adds to the wine’s structure, supporting the fruity balance. It paired well with a traditional meal of garlic roasted chicken with broccoli, celery root and mashed potatoes. Merlot is known to work with chocolate, so a dessert of dark chocolate cake worked quite well. The next evening, a chicken parmesan sandwich worked with a glass of this merlot quite well. It’s all good. And priced at $13.99, as our all the bottles I’ll be writing about.

Next, the Red Rock 2011 Winemaker’s Blend is a concoction of petite sirah, syrah and zinfandel grapes from vineyards in Lodi, Sonoma and the Central Coast of California. The syrah gives this wine a lot of spicy goodness, and the blend of these grapes is perfection. I love blends when they’re done well, and this wine fits the bill.

Ready for 2012 wines?

First, I put a chicken pot pie in the oven with a whole potato to bake. Comfort food, right? Well, Red Rock 2012 Pinot Noir gave me comfort in a taste that brings me home. The jammy red raspberry flavors get me every time, and the slightest vanilla and caramel from the oak barrels takes the cake. For the next night’s dinner, I enjoyed this wine with butternut squash and braised chestnut ravioli. Works for me.

Last, but definitely not least is Red Rock 2012 Mendoza Malbec, which I had served with roasted turkey and the stuff of Thanksgiving sides. I love the richness of the Argentine signature grape, and this wine did not disappoint. Made with 100 percent Malbec grape, even the zondas of Mendoza (that would be wind) didn’t stop this grape’s worthiness. It may have stopped the volume, however, so you may want to grab this bottle when you see one, or two.

Are you ready for that bath now? I know I am. Enjoy!