Every time we are presented something from a Kosher winery here in the states, or from Israel, the first thing out of the vender’s mouth is, ‘but don’t make a point of it being kosher’.  First off, what’s wrong with it being Kosher?  Does that pidgeonhole it for buyers, the practicing kosher ones thinking it is only for holidays and everyone else presuming it tastes like the mass produced, sweet reds whose names you all know.

We have a hard time believing it is that cut and dried for most people. But maybe it is.  Still it is our belief that if you have a wine that plays on the ‘celebratory’ table, that will afford it a built-in audience from which you move forward.  If it happens to be a well made, dry red, the potential followers pool should be even larger because it should make an interesting proposition for folks who are merely looking for something red and tasty without concern for any holiday/holy day applications.  If it happens to sell for a really good price as well, that would appear to be some sort of trifecta.  In other words, this is first a candidate for a versatile everyday drinking red.  Everything else is a bonus.  The Golan Heights Winery Mount Hermon Red Galilee 2016 is such a wine.

Golan Heights Winery/Yarden makes a lot of different bottlings under its various labels.  It is easy to get lost in the shuffle.  But in a recent tasting we zeroed in on this one simply because it was dark, tasty, and engaging and sold for a song.  The 2016 Mount Hermon Red exhibits notes of berries and cherries, along with nuances of Mediterranean herbs, chocolate, earth and a little minerality. Made from all five Bordeaux varietals (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec), with Cabernet as the lead player, the grapes come mainly from  the Golan Heights, a raised volcanic plateau going from 1300 to 3900 feet in elevation that is the coolest wine region in Israel.  A small portion comes from vineyards in Galilee.

We have tasted examples of this before but this one made an impression.  We didn’t have our Israel vintage chart handy but apparently 2016 was a superior vintage in the region (a warm spring and the earliest harvest in nearly a quarter century).   Wine Enthusiast noted, “A  nose of cassis and vanilla sets the scene for flavors of black cherry, blackberry, butterscotch, juniper and violet. It’s easy on entry, offering smooth tannins that slowly reveal themselves, culminating in a floral and cranberry finish. ..92 points.”  Tasty, well-priced and, yes, kosher, but you don’t reason need a ‘reason’ to open this.  In the end it’s simply a tasty red.



Think of this as what we used to call a wine-of-the-month, though with the new ongoing format time is a lot less linear.  An amazing deal from Spain shouldn’t surprise us. We have been on our soapbox regarding the value of Spanish wines at a wide range of price points for, what, a couple of decades now? But this one certainly did! When the purveyor pulled the bottle out of the bag, the only thing we saw was Sierra Cantabria, one of the most trusted, go-to names for us in Rioja since we began selling their wines in the mid-90s.

The Eguren family have been one of the superstars of the region not only for their range of Sierra Cantabria wines, but also their Senorio de San Vicente project that focuses on an arcane variety of Tempranillo (called Tempranillo Peludo because the leaves have a unique ‘fuzzy’ surface) that typically works on the level of a Classified Growth Bordeaux. These same folks, along with importer Jorge Ordonez, sidled over to Toro and created Numanthia (which they later sold to LVMH) which helped redefine the region. They turned right around and started Teso la Monja essentially with the same concept as Numanthia as premium Toro red.

The Egurens, even though the family has been in Rioja since the 1870s, they are ‘movers and shakers’ in the region in the most modern way. Where do they fall stylistically? They do it all, making traditional Crianzas, Reservas and Gran Resevas, as well as wines reaching for a more modern sheen with the like of Finca Eel Bosco, Reserva Unica, El Puntido and Seleccion Privada outside the traditional ‘rules’. They make more than twenty different wines, including a more ‘mass market’ enterprise under the Dominio de Eguren label.

Given our knowledge of this winery’s broad lineup, we had no idea what to expect of this label that we couldn’t remember seeing before. We tasted it with no particular expectations in mind since these folks worked on many levels. Plenty of dark fruit (strawberry, plum, currant), vanilla highlights from what appeared to be some time in oak, fine purity of fruit, and the classic chocolate/earthy notes that are a part of Rioja terroir. ‘Pretty good stuff’, we thought, ‘a fine tipple in the upper teens.’

As it turned out, this was only the second release of this wine, and the price was under $10! Our shock was legitimate. Sourced from proprietary vineyards located in San Vicente de la Sonsierra and Laguardia, this wine was 100% de-stemmed and saw 6 months in tank and 6 months in a combination of 1-3 year old American and French Bordelaise barrels.

For the price point, it was a revelation! We have been complaining for quite a while that ‘value-priced’ wines have been tasting more and more homogenized and ‘messed with’. Far too many have the prevalent flavor of wood stays or oak chip ‘teabags’ meant to give the wine the ‘impression’ of more expensive winemaking, or leave residual sweetness in the wine to fill in some of the ‘cracks’. The flavors often lean more towards industrial chocolate cake frosting and candied fruit.

This one tastes like wine! Good wine! We can’t think of a more exciting thing to say than that in a wine world that seems to be intent on using wine-making tricks to gussy up marginal, ordinary juice (the ‘lipstick on a pig’ analogy comes to mind). The Egurens are giving you delightful, honest Rioja for the same kind of price.

Not only is this a $10 wine we would happily drink ourselves, it caught the attention of the usually-not-particularly-generous Josh Raynolds of Vinous, who remarked, “…Dark ruby. Ripe dark berries, candied flowers and a suggestion of woodsmoke on the perfumed nose. Pliant and expansive in the mouth, offering bitter cherry, cassis and peppery spice flavors that become sweeter on the back half. Finishes on a juicy dark berry note, showing very good persistence, gentle tannins and lingering spice and floral notes…90 Points.”  A 90 from Josh on a wine in this price range is a rare occurence.

The Egurens know their business, but something tasty, honest, and inexpensive is the hardest thing to do in wine. Bravo. House red, party red, something that delivers in a way few $10 wines can (and, sadly, a whole lot of $15-20 wines as well), this is one to buy by the case…$9.98