Twin Suns, the collaborative California project of cult kosher winemakers Shimon and Gabriel Weiss—whose high-end label Shirah Wines continues to shine with indy brilliance—and Ami and Larissa Nahari, the Weiss’ distributors from The River Wine, just released four 2016 vintages, with one of them as part of a special-edition small batch, just in time for the Yom Tov season.
My tasting group enjoyed each of these wildly different, fruit-forward red wines and were encouraged by all indications that Twin Suns is growing, both in the depth and complexity of their offerings. Twin Suns bottled its first wines in 2013, so as the project matures and reaches its fifth birthday it was exciting to check in with the Weiss brothers on their “entry-level” wine label, particularly through tasting their newly released reserve vintages.
Twin Suns Reserve Malbec 2016
Pleasant and fruity, this malbec goes down ultra-smooth, with the consistency of a slightly thinner merlot or chianti, thus making it a perfect table wine to go with a multiplicity of foods. “So drinkable; this was my favorite,” said Miriam, one of our tasters whose favorite wine is almost always a cabernet sauvignon. Made with organic malbec grapes from Paso Robles, in San Luis Obispo County, California, the wine was aged 20 months in 100 percent French oak, which adds that depth that likely brings Miriam’s cabernet to mind.
The inky malbec is one of the six grapes uses in classic Bordeaux wines, and because of their intensity are usually tasted only as part of blends. However, it was fun to try a 100 percent malbec, and since this one is Californian, not French, it doesn’t have the shocking intensity we expected; rather, we found it easy to acclimate to, not unlike a coastal California breeze. The color, like all four of the wines, was a beautiful deep ruby. This wine makes a great gift. FillerUp Wines has priced the Twin Suns Reserve Malbec 2016 at $26.39.
Twin Suns Reserve Syrah 2016
Any syrah from Twin Suns has a tough act to follow because of the high quality and great balance in the non-reserve “Syrah With a Touch of Cab” from 2015, which was comprised of 90 percent syrah and 10 percent cabernet sauvignon. That was one of my personal favorite table wines of the last couple of years, and my family just finished our last bottle on Shabbat (I just restocked at WineLand, which has discounted this great wine for $12.99!). But I digress.
This new reserve syrah, with grapes gathered from California’s central coast, did not disappoint and was a favorite with my tasters as well. “It starts fruity but ends dry, lots of tannins, in a way that’s pleasing. There’s not a long finish, so you always want to drink another sip,” said Allyson.
“I’m a fan of this,” said Ari.
“It’s rich, always better the second taste than the first; I enjoy it,” added Shoval.
The superb oaky balance was a defining quality of this wine as we tasted it. I was interested to learn that the 20 months aging was not just in French but also Hungarian oak. That certainly must account for the quality, if you ask my Hungarian mother-in-law. And it will go perfectly with my paprika-heavy brisket this Rosh Hashanah. This wine is an absolute steal at $19.99 at both Wineland and FillerUp Wines.
Twin Suns Reserve Zinfandel 2016
One of the most unique red zinfandels I have ever tasted, this was certainly the most unique and full-bodied wine of our tasting. The Twin Suns Reserve Zinfandel 2016 was of a thicker viscosity than all the other wines (imagine the viscosity of a natural apple cider or orange juice rather than apple juice), and it had a “dry start with a sweet finish,” said Anita.
“I would call this a semi-dry wine. My favorite kind,” said Deena, who noted that Bartenura fans would find this a great transitional red to try and enjoy. While the wine is technically dry and in fact not semi-dry, the intensity of the fruit with the sweet finish really does please those with a preference for sweeter wines.
With this wine, the same 20 months of aging in 100 percent French oak rendered the wine positively jammy and plummy, with notes of vanilla and nutmeg. I was so surprised by the sweet notes of the wine I queried the winemakers about it, as most of the California zinfandels I have tasted have had significantly more acidity. “This zin has plenty of acid but is balanced by the concentration and depth of the wine,” said Gabriel Weiss.
Surely to be a treat for those who love fruitier wines, pick this up for a sweet new year at FillerUp for $26.39, or at Wine Country for $23.97.
Twin Suns Special Edition Pinot Noir 2016
A special-edition wine is what it sounds like: special, and something you might not see again soon. Observant readers of my wine writing may recall that my tasting group reviewed the Twin Suns Special Edition Mourvèdre 2015 last Pesach, and found that a truly unique, spicy wine, the likes of which I have never tasted before or since. There are just not many kosher California mourvèdre wines ever made.
In this case, while there are many kosher California pinot noirs, this special edition of 1,850 bottles came from a high-end crop of pinot noir grapes grown in the legendary Northeast U.S. pinot noir growing region in Dundee Hills, Oregon. The grapes came to Twin Suns as a result of serendipity, or hashgacha pratit, apparently. “The pinot noir was originally made for a client who trucked the grapes in from Oregon but ended up not being able to complete the project. We are thrilled to work with grapes from any great growing region, so we bought it from him and created this,” Shimon Weiss told me. It is always fun to receive a numbered bottle, indicating that only a few bottles were made. Our bottle, number 321, gave us the sense that we were privileged to be trying it.
The pinot noir was the most balanced, with truly understated elegance, of the Twin Suns wines we had in this tasting. It was “smooth, packed with flavor and acidity, and goes straight down,” said Aryeh.
“There was a balance here between sweet and dry but it’s not sweet,” said Jake, who is our resident pinot noir expert. “I like pinots, and this is a good one,” he added. This wine is available for $29.59 at FillerUp and $27.97 at Wine Country.
Limited numbers of these wines are available. The prices listed for all four wines at FillerUp (274 W. Englewood Avenue, Teaneck; 201-862-1700) is the per-case volume discount price for the Yom Tov season, and prices of Twin Suns individual bottles will be honored in any quantity for those who mention this article. WineLand is located at 247 DeGraw Avenue (corner of Queen Anne Road), Teaneck; 201-530-9463). Wine Country is located at 89 New Bridge Road, Bergenfield; 201-385-0106.