The Jewish month of Elul is traditionally a time of reflection in which we are encouraged to contemplate our decisions and, more importantly, our mistakes. I am, of course, talking about wine — choosing the most appropriate wine for the moment. Rosh HaShanah is not only a time for introspection, but also for some increased formal dining, and a chance to try new wines with friends and family.
Indeed, in the weeks leading up to that first yom tov meal, kosher consumers have come to expect new wines, new vintages and often discounts and sales as retailers try to make room for new inventory. Invariably, this makes for a prime opportunity to explore. So, to help get you started, here are some new wines of particular interest.
Cantina Giuliano, Vermentino, Costa Toscano i.g.t., Tuscany, 2016 ($19; non-mevushal): The first-ever kosher Vermentino to hit the U.S. market, this is a crisp, refreshing and really lovely white with a nose of honeysuckle, white pepper, apricot, citrus, almonds and gooseberry, and flavors of white peach, under-ripe apricot, citrus, guava and perhaps a little under-ripe pineapple. With palate-tingling acidity and enticing minerality, it hankers for good food.
Hagafen, Chardonnay, Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley, California, 2016 ($30; mevushal): Opulent, oaky, and creamy with aromas and flavors of butterscotch, vanilla, citrus, apple, pear, pineapple and kiwi, with a lengthy, enjoyable, rich, clean and beautifully refreshing finish that includes notes of melon, vanilla, toasty oak and mild baking spice. Classic Napa chard. Just wonderful!
Matar by Pelter, Sauvignon Blanc – Sémillon, Israel, 2014 ($32; non-mevushal): This is a lovely, summery, fresh, crisp and aromatic blend of 80 percent sauvignon blanc (SB) and 20 percent sémillon. The SB is a touch muted, but the sémillon helps contribute to a different overall personality, making for an especially rewarding finish — before which come delightful aromas and flavors of various citrus and some tropical fruits, straw, with some grassy undertones and nicely bracing, balancing acidity. It’ll hold for a while, but demands drinking now. Yummy, bright and refreshing.
Jezreel Valley, Rose, Israel, 2016 ($22; non-mevushal): This vivid and delicious rosé — a unique blend of 38 percent carignan, 37 percent syrah, 15 percent argaman and 10 percent sauvignon blanc—is aromatic, flavorful, refreshing and delightful, with notes of raspberries, citrus and watermelon, balanced by racy acidity; the finish is long and enchanting. A standout Israeli rosé amidst the dozens that have hit the American market this year—no small feat!
Château Les Riganes, Bordeaux, France, 2016 ($10; mevushal): This is a simple yet serious and very pleasing entry-level Bordeaux (from the Entre-Deux-Mers region); fruity, soft, with some light but typical Bordeaux characteristics of black cherry, plum, cassis, blueberry, blackberry, spice, vanilla, wisps of smoke, a little earthiness and just enough balancing tannins and acidity to keep it all enjoyably together. Not tremendous depth or finesse here, but a very nice little wine all the same — especially for the money.
Château Trijet, Bordeaux, France, 2015 ($12; non-mevushal): Another tasty, enjoyable, budget-friendly little quaffer from Bordeaux — a 70/30 blend of organically grown merlot and cabernet sauvignon — offering dark fruits (raspberries, black cherries), lavender and tobacco leaf, a touch of licorice and just enough old-world charm to keep it grounded and food-friendly; with a little time the nose opens up more than expected, with additional earthy black cherry and even a little cracked pepper.
Carmel Selected, Mediterranean Blend, Shomron, Israel, 2016 ($12; mevushal): This inviting blend of 45 percent shiraz, 30 percent carignan, 20 percent petite sirah and 5 percent viognier, is light, fruity and altogether very Israeli; it is mostly dry, though with a touch of fruit-punch on the short but pleasant and lively finish. Surprisingly, it all holds together and just sort of works. With time in the glass, it smooths out a bit more and surprisingly beckons another glass, and another, perhaps even another bottle.
Terra di Seta, Chianti Classico, DOCG, Tuscany, 2013 ($20; non-mevushal): This delicious medium-bodied blend of 95 percent sangiovese and 5 percent cabernet sauvignon (all ICEA certified organically grown), offers up delicious aromas of violets, sour red cherry, coffee and cranberry, leading into a lovely palate of freshly crushed raspberries and blackberries, red currants, red cherries, with a touch of vanilla, ginger and pepper spice; with soft, fine tannins, nice rich acidity and a long, smooth finish with an additional touch of cocoa and spice. Yummy.
Cantina Giuliano, “La Gioia,” Costa Toscano i.g.t., Tuscany, 2015 ($25; non-mevushal): This wine is a medium-to-full-bodied yet nicely refreshing and hugely enjoyable blend of 65 percent sangiovese, 20 percent cabernet sauvignon and 15 percent merlot; it’s herbal, earthy and fun, with a complex nose of ripe cherry, white stone fruits, oak, leather and inviting wine-cellar funk, followed by flavors of jammy fruits, fresh cherry, ripe dark berry fruits, mushrooms and all with an enjoyable earthy, funky quality to it. At times the earthiness does an interesting tango with the fruitiness, not entirely gracefully, but appealingly and entertainingly from start to finish — which is long and satisfying. Overall, this is interesting and very enjoyable.