At NY Allied Event, Tasting New Wines & Whiskies
Recently, Allied Importers USA, Ltd. held its first “Portfolio Tasting of Fine Food, Wines & Crafts Spirits” at the swanky Midtown Loft & Terrace in Manhattan. For those new to the kosher wine scene, Allied is the second largest importer and distributor of kosher wines in the US.
The event began with an afternoon “trade” tasting for wine retailers and press, followed in the evening by a public tasting with food from assorted restaurant and food vendors selected by Great Kosher Restaurants International. Overall, the event was a great opportunity to explore Allied’s catalog of quality kosher wines, kibbitz with fellow wine enthusiasts, and generally have a good time sipping and noshing.
Some of the various kosher restaurants and food vendors at the event included Bison and Bourbon, Estihana, Five Fifty, JJ's Holy Cow, Mr. Broadway, Banner Smoked Fish, and Grow and Behold Kosher Pastured Meats.
Over the course of its nearly 40 years in operation, the Long Island City based and family-run Allied Importers has developed a fine reputation in the kosher wine trade for their quality, service, and selection. Serving as both an importer and distributor, Allied’s portfolio of kosher wines currently includes both premium and budget friendly brands from such countries as Israel, Italy, France, Portugal, Chile, Argentina, and Spain.
Allied’s portfolio includes some stellar and appropriately familiar brands like Israel’s excellent Dalton Winery and the invariably crowd-pleasing Italian wines of Cantine del Borgo Reale. Some of the other brands in Allied’s portfolio are relatively recent and so less widely familiar, but through their quality and Allied’s hard work, have developed a strong US following, like the brilliant Lewis Pasco wines from Israel and the terrific Cantina Giuliano wines from Tuscany, Italy. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Allied has, for over 20 years now, carried the fabulous Sho Chiku Bai brand of kosher-certified US-brewed Sake. Kosher wine consumers have yet to really catch the Sake bug, but this Berkley, California based brand is an excellent place to begin exploring.
Shai Ghermezian, who first joined his family’s business back in 2002, serves as Allied’s Executive Vice President, manages the day to day operations, and works closely with the wineries they import to help nurture their brands here in the US. Although Allied is more interested in growing their existing brands than in further expanding their portfolio at present—“[the kosher wine] market is heavily saturated,” observes Ghermezian—a few notable new products have been added in time for the holidays. Fairly recent additions include the Hayotzer and Bin Nun wines from Israel.
The Hayotzer Winery is the relatively new “boutique” brand of premium wines created by Arza, Israel’s fifth largest winery (otherwise most known for its Kiddush style and value-driven supermarket wines, and for grape juice). Rather than strive to create a premium tier within the Arza brand, “Hayotzer” was created by Arza’s French born winemaker Philippe Lichtenstein to build a premium brand without the sweet, sacramental associations of Arza.
The Bin Nun Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot, Reserve, Judean Hills, 2016 ($$29.99 a blend of 37% Cab and 63% Merlot) is actually another enjoyable Lewis Pasco wine. In 2012, doctor and jazz musician turned wine grower Dr. Danny Yaniv decided to open the Bin Nun Winery in Kefar Bin Nun (a moshav in the Ayalon Valley, in central Israel; the winery and vineyards are in the Judean coastal plain, at the Tel Gezer foothills; about 5 mins drive from the Latrun Monastery), and recruited Pasco to ensure quality and professional operations. Meanwhile, the Lewis Pasco Liquidity 2014 ($55) remains exceptional, and the approachable Pasco Project BDX 2016 ($25-$27) is drinking very well now, and should develop nicely with additional bottle age.
New to Allied’s spirits portfolio, I was excited to discover, are the always outstanding whiskies of Alexander Murray & Co., an award-winning, family-run independent bottler of fine Scotch whisky (both blends and single malts). Alexander Murray & Company not only selects rare and quality casks of fine hooch for limited, high-end releases, and for their own proprietary blends, but it has also focused on providing quality whisky for big volume players, like Costco and Trader Joe’s, among others. These guys really know their whisky! Among the gems available at this tasting was the Alexander Murray & Co. Glenturret 30 Year Old Single Malt ($240 ), a wonderfully rich, complex and rounded yet still fruity beauty with a lingering, dry and spicy finish; easy to see why Glenturret usually only ever makes it to the USA as the base of the popular Famous Grouse Blended Scotch whisky.
Also new in spirits is the kosher certified Boone County Distilling Company brand of Bourbon. Besides the enjoyable Boone County 1833 10 Year Old Bourbon ($65-$70), and Boone County 1833 Single Barrel 12 year old ($80), of particular note is the White Hall Bourbon Cream ($23; sort of a domestic version of Bailey’s).
Opened in 2015 with above average MGP sourced whiskey, Boone County Distilling is an actual distillery and whiskey producer, not just a bottler and brand developer. Once they have sufficiently aged product, their own whiskies will come to market. They officially joined the Kentucky Bourbon Trail a little after my last run-through, but hopefully they’ll still be at it when I next make time for such a trip. For now, Boone County Distilling’s current offerings are well worth seeking out.
As an aside, the first time I sampled the White Hall Bourbon Cream, it didn’t really do much for me – seemed too sweet. Here at this tasting, however, it struck me as remarkably smooth and tasty. I’ve tried this Bourbon Cream again a few times since, and can confidently recommend it to those seeking a Cream whiskey, whether as a mixer or sipped over ice. Indeed, at the suggestion of Gene Taft, co-owner and founder of Boon County Distilling who was manning his tasting station at the Allied event, I also later tried it mixed with root beer over ice—sort of an adult root beer float. Mix a healthy shot of White Hall Bourbon Cream to root beer and ice in a cocktail shaker, shake until frosty and frothy and serve—it is rich, creamy, decadent and oh so delightfully chilling, with a tasty, sweet bourbon finish.
As I review my notes on all of the many good and great wines on offer at Allied’s tasting, I’m trying not to quaff too quickly this delicious glass of Cantina Giuliano, Chianti D.O.C.G., Primizie, Italy, 2015 ($16-$19): a wonderfully balanced, aromatic, earthy yet elegant blend of 70% Sangiovese, 15% Cannaiolo (an Italian grape found in Central Italy but most noted in Tuscany), and 15% Ciliegiolo (a local Tuscan variety), offering aromas and flavors of ripe black and red cherry, wild raspberries, with a lovely though subtle sour plum tang, throughout a light touch of oregano and a little anise teases its way through. This is a ripe, zesty, flavorful, fun yet serious Chianti that will reward some further cellaring—if you can resist drinking it all up now.