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The Grapevine » 2010 » August

Archive for August, 2010

Cigar Aficionado: Where Cigar Smoking is Strictly Kosher

Herzog Wine Cellars, Where Cigar Smoking is Strictly Kosher

Posted: Monday, August 30, 2010

By Alejandro Benes

Joseph Herzog is walking toward my table while he gently pulls the cork out of a bottle of a 1996 cabernet sauvignon.

“Just look at that cork,” Herzog says, handing it to me. “It’s perfect.”

So is the wine. Like silk. Rich, ruby-red silk.

“The wine is just great,” Herzog softly remarks.

The wine is his. Well, it belongs to the Herzog Wine Cellars in, of all places, Oxnard, California. Herzog Wine Cellars (not to be confused and no relation to the Herzog Winery in New Zealand) is a kosher winery, one of two in California. The state of the art facilities in Oxnard, about 60 miles northwest of Los Angeles, are listed on the Ventura County Wine Trail map. The restaurant at the winery, Tierra Sur, also kosher, is on many of the area’s lists of best restaurants. What is not so often noted is that Herzog Wine Cellars is cigar friendly.

After Joseph finishes his second pouring of the ’96 cab into my glass, my dining companions and I study the menu. I ask the server whether he recommends the seared duck breast with confit of duck leg and red wine, fig and shallot sauce or the wood-grilled rib eye steak with onion gratin, almond bread crumbs and cabernet green peppercorn sauce.

Joseph interjects. “What do I always say?” he asks the waiter. “I recommend the rib eye,” the waiter advises.

My guests choose the Cornish game hen and the wood-grilled organic salmon.

Before we can decide on an appetizer, a plate of house-made kosher chorizo and salami, accompanied by roasted red pepper and a green chickpea mash, is set on the table with thinly sliced French bread and English mustard. The restaurant makes all its own charcuterie, some out of lamb, like the “bacon.” On other visits I’ve ordered the lamb sausage, which is really a version of a beautifully spiced merguez, a classic North African sausage.

After I take the final sip of the cabernet, I order a glass of the zinfandel. Great with the nicely cooked rib eye.

Dessert is all about chocolate. A molten, flourless chocolate cake is always on the menu and that is paired with a special Mexican chocolate cake this evening. We finish, and finally I am able to plan my cigar finish. I have my own with me, a Padron 80th Anniversary. I order another glass of zinfandel, a great mouth-watering wine that goes well with cigars.

I walk just outside the dining room and turn right and take a seat in the “gazebo.” This was in the midst of remodeling.

Two weeks later, Joseph Herzog is telling a group of cigar and wine lovers, “The same way we approach wine, we approach cigars.”

The group is gathered in a private dining room at the winery to enjoy a dinner of maple-cured, hot-smoked salmon, paired with a 2007 Herzog Russian River Special Reserve Chardonnay; Wagyu rib eye with a Herzog Alexander Valley Special Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon; and a decadent dessert of figs poached in zinfandel and chocolate pecan frozen custard with a warm chocolate brandy sauce and cacao beans. All this before the group of 20 step onto the newly-furnished patio to taste Macallan 18 and Highland Park 18 Scotch with cigars from Perdomo.

The dinner was held to introduce the Herzog Cigar & Wine Club. For $400 a year, subscribers will get four cigars and two bottles of wine every three months. This is part of Joseph Herzog’s continuing education in the enjoyment of cigars.

“I really began smoking three years ago,” Joseph said. “My father and grandfather used to smoke. You know, the language of wine and cigars is very similar.”

Herzog, who lives in Los Angeles and commutes to Oxnard every day, got to know Albert Chrikjian, owner of the Old Oaks Cigar & Wine Co. in nearby Thousand Oaks.

“I started talking to Albert about a private line of Herzog cigars,” Joseph explained. “But I thought it would be better to start slowly.”

That was about three years ago, just after Joseph moved to California from New York to run the newly opened winery.

Among the cigars currently sold at the winery are the Padrón 3000, La Gloria Cubana Wavell, Perdomo Habano Robusto, Casa Magna Robusto, Partagas Spanish Rosado and C.A.O. Italia and Brazilia cigars. There are plans to expand the list.

We should make clear that Herzog’s wine is not your father’s Manischewitz or Mogen David, and nothing like what comes from the Concord grapes usually associated with kosher wines. Herzog is making cabernet sauvignon, syrah, merlot, zinfandel and pinot noir in red; and sauvignon blanc and chardonnay, among other varietals, in white. Still, the Herzog story is very different from many other California wine families.

Phillip Herzog began making wine in Slovakia more than a century ago. Back in the day, Herzog made both kosher and non-kosher wines. His product was so appreciated by Austro-Hungarian Emperor Franz Josef that he gave Phillip the title of “Baron.”

During World War II, Phillip’s grandson Eugene hid his family from the Nazis in the Slovakian countryside. After the war, Eugene reclaimed the winery.

Just three years later, in 1948, the new communist Czech government drove the Herzog family away to Brooklyn. Eugene worked for a small kosher winery that produced the common Concord grape sweet wine. He was paid in shares.

Ten years later, Eugene and his sons, who had come to control the failing venture, renamed the winery Royal Wines. In 1985, the Herzogs expanded to California and in 2005, opened the new winery in Oxnard.

Today, after finishing a rich, delicious meal in the winery’s restaurant, you can step out on the patio, sit in an overstuffed lounge chair, light up a great cigar and toast Baron Phillip and his extended family—I’d recommend the zinfandel—for keeping their eyes on the prize.

Herzog Wine Cellars & Tierra Sur Restaurant
3201 Camino Del Sol
Oxnard, CA 93030

Winery Hours:
About 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., closed Fridays at 5 p.m. and all day Saturday.
Restaurant Hours:
Lunch: Sunday—Thursday 11:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m., Friday (Summer) 11:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. (Winter) 11:30 a.m.- 2 p.m.
Dinner: Sunday—Thursday 5 – 9 p.m.
Tasting Room: Open when winery is open; self-guided tours available.

Free Shipping

In honor of California Wine Month and the upcoming High Holidays, we are offering FREE SHIPPING on purchases of a case of wine or more! You buy a case, and the shipping is on us! Please call the Tasting Room at 805-983-1560 to place your order.

From the Los Angeles Times: Culinary SOS


Culinary SOS: Tierra Sur’s heirloom melon gazpacho

A terrific chilled soup for the hot summer months.

By Noelle Carter, Los Angeles Times

August 12, 2010

Dear SOS: My husband and I celebrated our 15th anniversary with a beautiful lunch and wine tasting at Tierra Sur, the restaurant at the Herzog Winery in Oxnard. To begin the lunch, I started with an heirloom melon gazpacho. I can’t get the flavor combination out of my head. Although I have searched, I can’t seem to find the ingredients that would have gone into that recipe. Do you think the chef at Tierra Sur would share this terrific summer cold soup?

Beth Schoen

Los Angeles

Dear Beth: Chef Todd Aarons was happy to share his recipe for this light, refreshing soup, perfect for this time of the year. He suggests using heirloom melons from the farmers market, such as those from Weiser Family Farms. He particularly likes their Sugar Queen, butterscotch or Ogen melons. Aarons also suggests using slightly underripe melons, since you don’t want the soup to be too sweet.

Tierra Sur’s heirloom melon gazpacho

Total time: 30 minutes, plus chilling time

Servings: 4 to 6

Note: Adapted from chef Todd Aarons at Tierra Sur in Oxnard.

2 cups cubed French baguette or batard, all crusts removed, and cut into small cubes (about 1 baguette), divided

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons white wine, Champagne or sherry vinegar

4 cups cubed, peeled and seeded melons (preferably heirloom, such as Sugar Queen, butterscotch, Ogen, Ananas)

1/4 cup diced red onion

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra oil for frying the croutons

3 dried bay leaves, ground to a powder

0 Sea salt

1/2 cup ice cubes, or as needed

0 Smoked paprika, garnish

1. In a bowl, soak 11/2 cups cubed bread in the vinegar.

2. Meanwhile, using a blender or food processor, puree the melons and red onion. Add the soaked bread and vinegar to the food processor and puree until completely smooth.

3. With the motor running, slowly add the one-fourth cup olive oil, then the ground bay leaves. Taste, and adjust the seasoning with salt.

4. If the soup is overly thick, add a few ice cubes and puree until the desired consistency is achieved. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and vinegar.

5. Transfer the soup to a non-reactive metal bowl and chill before serving. This makes about 4 cups soup.

6. While the soup is chilling, fry the garnish. Pan-fry the remaining cubes of bread in a hot skillet with a little olive oil until evenly toasted and golden-brown. Season to taste with a light sprinkling of salt.

7. Serve the soup, garnished with a few croutons and a sprinkling of paprika.

Each of 6 servings: 145 calories; 2 grams protein; 14 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 10 grams fat; 1 gram saturated fat; 0 cholesterol; 7 grams sugar; 93 mg. sodium.

Vineyard Pictures

Pictures from Prince Vineyard in Clarksburg. The cool weather has really slowed down the ripening process – grapes are just now starting to turn color. Harvest may be a little late this year.

Pan Am passenger manifest tells key part of Herzog story

By Emily Vizzo, Ventura County Star

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Although Herzog Wine Cellars in Oxnard opened in 2005, the company’s roots extend back 100 years, with the family’s Jewish founders fleeing post-Holocaust Eastern Europe as the Iron Curtain descended.

Family patriarch Eugene Herzog relied on Christian family friends to conceal his pregnant wife and five children in Slovakia during the Holocaust years, family members say.

Again fearing for his family’s safety as the Communist government issued its first demands, Herzog liquidated his fortune to purchase airfare for his family to relocate to New York via Prague on a 1948 refugee flight organized by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.

On Wednesday afternoon, Herzog family members gathered at the Oxnard winery’s 77,000-square-foot facility to unveil a historical document: a copy of the Pan American Airways passenger manifest of the plane that brought the family to the United States from Czechoslovakia. On the manifest are the names of Herzog, his wife, Sidonia, and their six children.

Pregnant wife was hidden

One of those children, David Herzog, CEO of Royal Wine Corp., the parent company of Herzog Wine Cellars, was present Wednesday to acknowledge the occasion. A Brooklyn, N.Y., resident, David Herzog explained that a neighbor woman who helped Sidonia Herzog give birth after months spent hiding in a basement chose his Christian first name, William.

Observing kosher rules, the pregnant Sidonia avoided eating meals prepared in the Christian household. Instead, she lived on potatoes cooked in an earthen pot which now holds a special place at David Herzog’s table.

“So (that) my kids and grandkids know what freedom is,” he said. “It’s very emotional. Appreciate the country we live in. It’s the greatest.”

Wells Fargo bank chief historian Andy Anderson stumbled upon the manifest in 2007 while searching National Archives digital documents, he said. The bank sometimes assists large clients, such as Royal wines, in researching business and family histories as a courtesy.

From a business perspective, clients can use the information to better articulate their corporate story, providing information to customers who may feel increased trust for a company after reviewing its history, Anderson said.

“I started to help them with their history largely for the purposes of sharing with children and grandchildren,” Anderson said. “The heart of doing business with anyone is knowing who they are and what they stand for.”

Shares were part of pay

Upon arrival in New York, the penniless Eugene Herzog, whose family had a winery and brewery in Czechoslovakia but lost it in the Holocaust, landed a job with a kosher Manhattan winery, said Joseph Herzog, grandson of Eugene and nephew of David. The company’s general manager and vice president of operations in California, he commutes to Oxnard daily from his Los Angeles home.

The struggling owners paid Eugene Herzog partially with company shares. In 1958 he acquired the winery and brought his sons aboard. They named the company Royal Wines in honor of the family’s original winemaker, Philip Herzog, who had been appointed a baron by Emperor Franz-Josef of the Austro-Hungarian court for his winemaking prowess over a century ago, Joseph Herzog said.

Manifest on display

Eugene and son Ernest Herzog expanded the company into California in 1985, eventually opening Herzog Wine Cellars in Oxnard with Joe Hurliman as winemaker.

The manifest will join historical photographs upstairs at the winery, where visitors can peer into windows overlooking the winery’s steel fermenting tanks, oak barrels and bottling station.

“The story is the American dream,” Joseph Herzog said. “This is basically showing escaping Europe and the Old World, coming to the U.S. penniless, and having that dream come true.”

Words from the Winemaker…

I spent two days up in the North Coast area last week…at this point harvest of Cab and Merlot appears 2 to 4 weeks behind…November anyone?

The Grape Whisperer

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