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My American Kosher Trip: Part II: HaGafen (K)

by Daniel Rogov » Sat Feb 28, 2009 1:08 pm

Located on the Silverado Trail in the heart of the Napa Valley, Hagafen Cellars opened in 1979 and released its first wines from the 1980 vintage. Producing entirely kosher wines, Ernie Weir is both vintner and winemaker and current production is between 8,000-9,000 cases (96,000-108,000 bottles) annually, thus putting it comfortably in the position of being a boutique or artisinal winery the high quality and unique personalities whose wines have earned a cult following. The winery currently produces wines in several series – the top-of-the-line Prix Reserve wines and the Hagafen Wines, many of which are capable of medium- to long-term cellaring and the more popular priced and ready-to-drink on release Don Ernesto wines.

During my recent visit to California, I undertook tastings and re-tastings and then a most pleasant lunch at Ernie's home. My thanks to Ernie Weir and to brands manager Josh Stein for their warm welcome, good company and a fine tasting.

Prix Reserve


Hagafen, Cabernet Sauvignon, Prix Reserve, Weir Family Vineyard, MJT Block, Napa, 2005: As the song has it, black is the color of my true love's hair, and so it is with this wine. Almost impenetrably black in color, full-bodied, with firm tannins and generous wood waiting to integrate, opens slowly in the glass to reveal blackcurrant, blackberry, and black cherry fruits, those on a background of earthy minerals. Look as well for hints of eucalyptus and green olives on the long finish. Best from 2010-2016, perhaps longer. Score 93. K

Hagafen, Cabernet Sauvignon, Prix Reserve, Weir Family Vineyard, MJT Block, Napa, 2004: Like the 2002 and 2003 editions of this wine that I tasted earlier, a true blockbuster Cabernet. Deep garnet in color, full-bodied, with still gripping tannins just starting to settle in, but showing fine balance and structure. On the nose and palate forward blackberry, blackcurrant and purple plum fruits, those supported nicely by generous hints of spices, roasted herbs and a note of cigar tobacco that comes in on the long, long finish. Approachable and enjoyable now but best from 2010-2015, perhaps longer. Score 92. K

Hagafen, Merlot, Prix Reserve, Vichy Vineyard, Block 4, Napa, 2005: Full-bodied, with soft tannins and a moderate hand with the oak. Opens to show black and red cherries, goes on to reveal blueberries and hints of pepper and cigar tobacco. Drink now-2011. Score 91. K

Hagafen, Merlot, Prix Reserve, Vichy Bineyard, Block 4, Napa, 2006: Deep, dark and mysterious, well focused and complex. Full-bodied, with gently mouth-coating tannins and just the right notes of spicy and vanilla-rich wood, those in fine balance with black cherry, currant, herbal and spicy flavors. A long finish here on which the tannins and fruits rise together. Drink now-2014. Score 93. K

Hagafen, Pinot Noir, Prix Reserve. Soleil Vineyard, North Block, Napa, 2006: Medium- to full-bodied, with gripping, mouth-coating tannins. Dark cherry red, opens with a burst of red cherries, raspberries and cassis, those on a background of Oriental spices and white pepper. Intriguing. Drink now-2014. Score 92. K

Hagafen, Pinot Noir, Prix Reserve, Fagen Creek Vineyard, Block 38, Napa, 2006: Dark cherry red towards garnet, medium- to full-bodied, with gently mouth-coating tannins. A well balanced and structured red opening to reveal an unusual but tempting set of aromas and flavors for Pinot, those including smoked meat, espresso coffee and black licorice, the major fruity component being of cherries. On the long finish notes of cloves and nutmeg. You may love it or you may not but it will surely tantalize. Drink now-2015. Score 91. K

Hagafen, Syrah, Prix Reserve, Napa-Sonoma, 2005: Dark garnet in color, medium- to full-bodied, with fine balance between lightly smoky wood, gentle tannins and fruits. On the opening nose a generous hint of cherries, that gliding gently into aromas and flavors of raspberries, strawberries and red currants, all matched comfortably by notes of cigar tobacco and baker's chocolate. On the long finish hints of black pepper and saddle leather. Well crafted. Drink now-2012, perhaps longer. Score 92. K

Hagafen, Zinfandel, Prix Reserve, Moscowite Ranch, Block 61, Napa, 2006: Dark and brooding, showing full-bodied and firmly tannic at this stage but with fine balance and structure that bode well for the future. Plenty of garrigue here but over that generous black fruits, dark chocolate, espresso coffee and, on the long finish a hint of vanilla pudding. Approachable now but best 2010-2014. Score 92. K

Hagafen, Prix Melange, Napa Valley, 2005: My earlier tasting note holds firmly. Perhaps not the magnificent 2004 wine but superb in its own right, calling far more to mind the wines of Bordeaux' right bank than those of California. Full-bodied, with gently mouth-coating tannins, opens with red and black berries, those yielding to currants, violets, chocolate and peppery notes. On the long finish tempting hints of cinnamon and white chocolate. Drink now-2014. Score 93. K

Hagafen, White Riesling, Prix Reserve, Rancho Wieruzowski Vineyard, Napa, 2007: Gold towards orange in color, with an appealing oily-petrol texture and generous minerals in the background. Opens to reveal generous honeyed apricots, sugar-glazed citrus peel and distinct notes of key lime pie. Long and generous, an idiosyncratic but lovely wine, its generous sweetness set off nicely by finely-tuned acidity. This one will cellar nicely. Approachable and enjoyable now but best 2011-2018. Score 93. K

Hagafen, Chardonnay, Prix Reserve, Hall Vineyard, "D" Block, Oak Knoll District, Napa, 2006: Gold with orange tints, full-bodied and generously enough oaked to be thought of as creamy and buttery. On first attack cedar wood and caramelized fruits, those parting to make way for summer fruits, green apples and a note of white raisins. Long, powerful and well crafted but primarily for those who enjoy their whites with a heavy dose of oak. Should cellar nicely. Drink now-2015. Score 91. K

Hagafen, Chardonnay, Late Harvest, Prix Reserve, Napa , 2006: Light gold in color, destined to darken nicely with age, full-bodied and generously sweet, a California dessert wine par excellence with fine notes of botrytis funkiness to complement honeyed apricots as well as poached pears and apples, all coming together very nicely indeed. At its best with fruit-based desserts. Drink now-2016, perhaps longer. Score 92. K



Hagafen

Hagafen, Cabernet Sauvigjnon, Napa, 2006: Almost impenetrably dark garnet in color, full-bodied with still gripping tannins waiting to settle down. Opens in the glass to reveal currant, blackberry and black cherry fruits, those complemented nicely by notes of tobacco, espresso coffee and bitter-sweet chocolate. Approachable and enjoyable now but best from 2011-2015. Score 90. K

Hagafen, Merlot, Napa, 2006: A medium- to full-bodied, softly tannic, fruit-driven Merlot that surprises by its unusual array of aromas and flavors, those including black cherries, blackberries and red licorice, all accompanied by notes of nutmeg, cinnamon and citrus peel. Unusual but delicious. Drink now-2011. Score 90. K

Hagafen, Zinfandel, Napa, 2006: Thank heavens. A "normal" California Zinfandel that avoids being a wood, tannin and alcohol bomb. Indeed, spicy wood here and firm tannins but those in fine balance with fruits and spices. On the nose and palate a generous array of black cherry, blackberry and raspberry notes, those complemented nicely by notes of white pepper and dark chocolate. Drink now-2012. Score 90.

Hagafen, Sauvignon Blanc, 30th Anniversary, Napa, 2008: Light gold in color, medium-bodied and unoaked, with crisp acidity highlighting aromas and flavors of mineral-rich citrus and citrus peel, mango and kiwi fruits. Generous, mouth-filling and long. Drink now-2012. Score 90. K

Hagafen, Roussanne, Ripkin Vineyard, Napa, 2007: Blended with 15% of Marsanne grapes, a white somewhere in personality between California and the Rhone. Deeply aromatic, medium-bodied and showing an appealing array of citrus and tropical fruits, those supported nicely by a hints of green tea, bitter orange peel and spring flowers. Drink now-2013. Score 90. K

Hagafen, White Riesling, 30th Anniversary, Devoto Vineyards, Lake County, 2008: Golden straw in color, with moderate sweetness set off nicely by balancing acidity, opens to reveal ripe apricot, white peach and pineapple fruits, those supported by a tantalizing hint of mint. Long and generous, best as an aperitif. Drink now-2013. Score 90. K

Hagafen, White Riesling, 30th Anniversary, Mayeri Vineyard, Napa, 2008: Light golden straw in color, medium-bodied, with generous sweetness and deeply aromatic, opening to reveal a generous array of aromas and flavors those including ripe white peaches, apricots, grapefruit and papaya. Rich and generous. Give this one some time and it will develop an appealing petrol note. Approachable and enjoyable now but best 2011-2016. Score 91. K

Hagafen, Pinot Noir, Napa, 2007: Medium dark cherry in color, medium-bodied, with soft well integrating tannins and a silky mouth-feel. On the nose and palate near jammy strawberries and black cherries, those enhanced by notes of espresso coffee and bitter-sweet chocolate. Lingers nicely. Drink now-2014. Score 89. K

Hagafen, Brut Cuvee, Napa Valley, California, 2001: My earlier tasting note holds firmly. A blend of 78% Pinot Noir and 22% Chardonnay, with a short mousse but pinpoint, concentrated bubbles that go on and on. On the nose and palate tropical fruits, summer fruits and citrus, those matched by notes of chocolate and yeasty white bread. Drink now. Score 89. K



Don Ernesto

Hagafen, Crescendo, Red Table Wine, Don Ernesto, Napa, 2003: A garnet-red blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, medium- to full-bodied, with soft tannins now integrated nicely and showing a spicy cherry-berry and currant personality. Drink now. Score 87. K

Hagafen, Vin Gris, Rose, Don Ernesto, Napa, 2007: Made entirely from Pinot Noir grapes, showing raspberry, strawberry, red cherry and citrus peel notes, those complemented by notes of nutmeg and cinnamon. Aromatic and not so much crisp as it is soft and round. Drink now. Score 88. K

Hagafen, Collage, White Table Wine, Don Ernesto, Collage, North Coast, 2006: Light golden straw in color, a blend of 85% Marsanne and 15% Roussanne grapes, opens with a light musky aroma that calls to mind the Rhone, that blowing off quickly to reveal a potpourri of lemon, lime, papaya and mango aromas and flavors. Nothing complex here but lingers nicely on the finish and an excellent summertime quaffer. Drink up. Score 87. K
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Re: My American Kosher Trip: Part II: HaGafen (K)

by Jonathan K » Sun Mar 01, 2009 10:08 am

I was not aware the Don Ernesto wines were kosher. I hope that is not a typo.
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Re: My American Kosher Trip: Part II: HaGafen (K)

by Daniel Rogov » Sun Mar 01, 2009 10:49 am

Jonathan K wrote:I was not aware the Don Ernesto wines were kosher.



Jonathan, Hi....

I have sent off an email to Ernie Weir to double-check on this. Will be back to you shortly.

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Rogov
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Re: My American Kosher Trip: Part II: HaGafen (K)

by Daniel Rogov » Sun Mar 01, 2009 3:49 pm

Jonathan, Hi....

I just received an email from Ernie Weir. Indeed, as I thought, the Don Ernesto wines are kosher.

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Re: My American Kosher Trip: Part II: HaGafen (K)

by Jonathan K » Mon Mar 02, 2009 3:59 pm

Great!! Thanks.
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Re: My American Kosher Trip: Part II: HaGafen (K)

by David Raccah » Wed Mar 11, 2009 1:16 pm

Hello Daniel,

Do you have notes on the 03 Cab and the 05 Pinot Noir? I tasted both of them at a wine tasting event during Purim, and the Cab was nice. Full bodied and black with oak (nothing new there) and lightly complex. The Pinot though was a HUGE bummer. Almost watery. There was a distinct earthy and mineral mouth, but not much excitement or complexity at all. I would have scored it an 85 at best. Wondering what you had on these two.

Cannot wait for the book!

David
Checkout http://www.kosherwinemusings.com for my blogs on the world of kosher wines and follow me on Twitter http://twitter.com/kosherwinemuse.
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Re: My American Kosher Trip: Part II: HaGafen (K)

by Daniel Rogov » Wed Mar 11, 2009 1:53 pm

David, Hi….

Good examples of the puzzles sometimes often offered to critics. When I first tasted the 2003 Cabernet I scored it 85 points but suggested that it might well improve with time. On two further tastings, the wine most assuredly improved. All three of my tasting notes follow.

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Rogov


Hagafen, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa, 2003: Dark garnet, full-bodied with firm tannins and generous near-sweet cedar-wood that seem to hide the blackberry and black cherry fruits that try to make themselves felt. Opens slowly to show some chocolate and tobacco notes. Needs time for the elements to come together. Perhaps better with time. I'll try this one again in 2009. Score 85. K (Tasted 12 Oct 2007)

Hagafen, Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley, 2003: When I first tasted this wine, just seven months ago, I suggested that it would need a bit of time for its elements to come together. That time is coming.. Dark garnet, full-bodied with firm tannins and generous near-sweet cedar-wood, the wine opens in the glass to reveal blackberries, currants and citrus peel. Give this one a bit more time and it will also show chocolate and tobacco notes. Best 2009-2012, perhaps longer. Score 89. K (Re-tasted 24 May 2008)

Hagafen, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa, 2003: Finally, finally showing its charms. Full-bodied, with firm tannins finally starting to yield and still showing generous (might one say California-style) near-sweet cedar wood but opening in the glass to show a generous blackberry, blackcurrant and citrus peel personality. On the background notes of dark chocolate, freshly cured tobacco and citrus peel. Drink now-2012. Score 90. K (Re-tasted 7 Mar 2009)



With regard to the 2005 Pinot Noir, on first tasting I was rather surprised at the problems offered in the wine and thus did not post my note until obtaining a second bottle to taste. As will be seen, my first estimate held true.

Hagafen, Pinot Noir, Napa, 2005: Not one of Ernie Weir's victories. Some will call this wine "lithe" but I have to call it "watery", being just a bit too light for Pinot and then over only modest cherry and plum flavors far to earthy, herbal and mineral notes that tend to dominate. Better with time? Not at all certain. Drink now-2009. Score 85. K (Tasted twice with consistent notes 18 Aug and 22 Sep 2008)
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Re: My American Kosher Trip: Part II: HaGafen (K)

by David Raccah » Wed Mar 11, 2009 3:25 pm

Yep - dead on then, it was not just me.

Thanks so much, and I would PAY happily to have this information you know. I know the Kosher book, is for the top wines, but knowing which wines to avoid is worth more sometimes, than the ones to buy. Maybe, you can create a web site that has all your scores, and is pay and not copyable. Simple to do technically.

Just wondering,
David
Checkout http://www.kosherwinemusings.com for my blogs on the world of kosher wines and follow me on Twitter http://twitter.com/kosherwinemuse.
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Re: My American Kosher Trip: Part II: HaGafen (K)

by Daniel Rogov » Wed Mar 11, 2009 3:50 pm

David, Hi....

The idea of a pay for view site has been proposed over the years and I've rejected it every time. That for one major reason - that being that I'm a complete klutz* when it comes to anything to do with business affairs and the second that my searchable on-line data base will soon be finding a new home and that will indeed contain tasting notes for more than 50,000 wines (kosher and not kosher of course). That site will be, as it has always been, free.

So, I'll never be a zillionaire. Fair enough. Never wanted to be a zillionaire.

Best
Rogov

*For the uninitiated a klutz is a Yiddish term (derived from Middle-German kloz) for a person who is rather clumsy. A version, I suppose of a shlemeil. And believe me, when it comes to business, that describes me rather well.
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Re: My American Kosher Trip: Part II: HaGafen (K)

by Michael P » Mon Nov 30, 2009 3:28 pm

Rogov,

Have you ever tasted the Prix 2007 SB Moskowite Ranch?

thanks
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Re: My American Kosher Trip: Part II: HaGafen (K)

by Daniel Rogov » Mon Nov 30, 2009 4:34 pm

Michael, Hi...

Following is my tasting note for the Hagafen wine in question.

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Rogov

Hagafen, Sauvignon Blanc, Prix Reserve, Moscowite Ranch, Block 53, Napa Valley: Light gold, with orange and green tints, deeply fragrant, with passion fruits, papaya, mango and pineapple fruits, those complemented nicely by notes of freshly cut grass and, coming in on the long finish nectarines. Simultaneously graceful and intense. Dribk now-2011. Score 90. K(Tasted 29 Oct 2009)

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