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Thursday, August 16, 2018

Our group of wine tasters took a huge step out of our comfort zone for a recent tasting of Shavuot wines. Five of us brought a favorite and we covered all the bottles and numbered them, and then we scored each of the wines on a 25-point scale, giving a possible five points each for appearance, aroma, body, taste and finish. This “blind tasting” led us to more objectively establish winners of the tasting, especially since we didn’t have any preconceived notions about what anything cost or was supposed to taste like. It also forced us to understand components of the wine experience and focus on what specific characteristics we enjoyed in the wines we tasted. It was an educational experience for all.

I would add that all wines during Shavuot (as with any other time) should be imbibed responsibly and with the understanding that children take cues from the adults in their lives on how they interact with substances such as alcohol.

The big winner of our tasting was a perennial favorite white, the O’Dwyers Creek 2016 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2016 ($17.99 at FillerUp Wines). This new-world wine is always refreshing and a real crowd-pleaser. Almost colorless, with a strong citrus aroma, the wine is ever-so-slightly fizzy and has a truly inspired combination of dryness and fruitiness without being sweet. O’Dwyers has what we are told is the very famous “New Zealand snapback,” a citrus zing that is typical of the country’s sauvignon blancs. That zing is a finishing burst of grapefruit, strawberry and passion fruit aromas that sort of assault the senses during tasting. It’s delicious and everyone loves it. It’s perfect served with lighter pasta dishes with white sauce, and with sponge cakes with fruit, like strawberry shortcake. Congrats to Brooke for bringing the wine that took top honors!

The Ella Valley Vineyards Ever Red Rosé 2016 ($19.99 at Kosherwine.com) is a dry, very light salmon-colored wine from the Judean Hills that was particularly lovely and full-bodied for a rosé. Comprised of 87 percent merlot grapes and 13 percent pinot noir, the wine scored particularly high in our tasting for aroma and taste, as it has a very light body and a short finish. “As a red wine drinker, I found this to be a rosé that I liked,” said Miriam, noting that she found it to be as easily drinkable as one of her standard red favorites. This wine is a great accompaniment for salads, pizzas or any food served in warm weather, or something to enjoy as an aperitif on its own. Cheers to Yeruchum for this amazing find.

We also included a red in our tasting, a lighter wine that goes great with pasta and other light Shavuot fare, though it would also go very well with chicken dishes or anything served with a lot of herbs. The Goose Bay Small Batch Pinot Noir 2016 ($28.99 at Wine Country) was light-bodied, with a thinner viscosity than standard pinots, but it had a strong, pleasing aroma of oak and tobacco. This New Zealand red is very different from the Israeli or California pinot noirs that burst with fruit and assault the senses. This has a smooth taste and finish and is a great food accompaniment. Thanks to Jake and Deena for this addition.

The Galil Mountain Viognier 2014 ($14.99 at Wine Country) is a wine produced in the amazing wine region of the Judean Hills, and viognier grapes grow well there. A big trend in Israeli wines in the last decade has been viognier produced as its own wine, rather than as a component in a white blend. This viognier is a straw-colored wine, is generally somewhat steely in quality, with aromas of apricots without sweetness, and completely different in many ways from the standard chardonnay, sauvignon blanc or emerald riesling. Thanks to Miriam and Ari for bringing it! As this wine is quite possibly out of stock online and in a number of other places, we would also recommend the Galil Mountain White 2016 ($18.40 at kosherwine.com), which is 90 percent viognier and 10 percent sauvignon blanc.

Finally, the wine I brought was an interesting semi-dry wine, the Teperberg Vision Semi-Dry White 2014 ($10.99 at kosherwine.com). It had a smooth, honeyed viscosity and an inviting, floral aroma with no essense of minerality or oak. The wine is 65 percent Muscat of Alexandria and 35 percent viognier. It was much sweeter than the other wines in the tasting, and surprising in its smoothness. For those who are Blue Bottle fans, this is a wine you would certainly enjoy, though this wine does not have effervescence.

By Elizabeth Kratz