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2010 Dalton Alma White Blend and Lemon Rosemary Roasted Chicken

This past week I was waffling on which white wine to open to pair with my wife’s awesome lemon and rosemary roasted chicken, which has become comfort and easy to make food for the both of us. I do go through my own mood swings in relationship to chicken and poultry, but this week I was on and truly enjoyed it as always. Along with the chicken we also enjoyed some fresh green salad and a blend of brown/red/black rice. Given the menu I wanted a solid white wine that could keep up with the chicken and rice. I was looking at opening the Dalton Viognier or the Dalton Alma, and since I had more of the Alma I opened one for the weekend.

The Haruni Family started the Dalton Winery in 1995, in the Napa Valley of Israel in the Upper Galilee. Within the massive Upper Galilee, a few areas are starting to gather fame, such as the vineyard from which Dalton sources its grapes — Kerem Ben Zimra, Yarden’s El-Rom, Ortal, and Katzrin vineyards, and Gailil Winery’s Yiron vineyard. The vineyard and winery are located minutes from each other, which is usually a great benefit to the winemaker and winery, as the winery can truly source and crush the grapes when they have reached optimal maturity. However, when there is a war going on, and that war is in your backyard, you wish you were miles away. In July and August of the year 2006, Lebanon and Israel were engaged in a bloody battle. It raged on for 34 days, before a cease fire was declared. With the winery and vineyard overlooking Mount Hermon, almost spitting distance from the Lebanese border, the winery was in the direct line of fire.

Dalton was the hardest hit amongst the Galilee wineries, but was still able to source and crush all of its grapes within a week of the cease fire. The actual damage was not nearly as bad as the winery’s inability to prune and manage its vineyard, which caused some of the vineyards (the Chardonnay especially) to fall victim to disease and hungry wildlife. However, the winery was blessed with a bountiful harvest that easily made up for the war’s collateral damage.
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Teperberg Wines at the 2012 Gotham Tasting and Sommelier

This is the tenth article I am writing on wineries from the Judean Hills wine region of Israel. No matter where you look around the landscape of Israeli wines and wineries you will find story after story of rebirth, renewal, and a fair amount of plain old new! Carmel, Binyamina, Barkan, were all producing mass consumption/bulk wine up until 1o to 15 years ago. Since then, they have seen serious rebirth, still selling almost undrinkable swill for the masses, and also selling high-end, and very respectable wines for us wine aficionados.

Personally, I think it is the correct business structure to have for a growing winery. You need simple bulk wines that have high margins and can be sold anywhere and everywhere. Wines that people buy in the millions, literally. Then you need wines that bolster the lineup, entry-level wine-drinker wines, that can be the bridge to take you from swill to paradise. Think white zinfandel from Herzog Wine Cellars, they sell those bottles by the millions and they are the perfect gateway drug to get you to Chenin Blanc and then maybe to Chardonnay or Black Muscat, and finally to some real dry red wines.

Today the winery we are looking at is the Teperberg winery which was founded in 1870 by the Teperberg family (from where the name of the winery is derived) in the Old City of Jerusalem. Actually, to be accurate it was located in an alleyway of the old city of Jerusalem, and may well have been the first winery in the modern era of Israel. Later in 1964, the winery moved outside of Jerusalem, to the then quiet suburb of Motza (now a thriving community), and took on the name Efrat. The winery, ignoring its many name changes, continues to mostly produce sacramental sweet wines, as that is what its main clientele are looking for. However, in the 1990s Efrat started to create dry red wines, and to be honest they were a disaster. I remember always passing up on them, even when in school, and buying Carmel dry or semi-sweet wines instead. Read the rest of this entry

Tanya Winery – an idyllic winery in the rolling hills of Binyamina’s Judean Hills

This is not the first time I had the opportunity to taste wines from the wonderful Tanya Winery. Actually, the first time we had the chance to taste Yoram Cohen’s wines (the winemaker) was in 2008, some five years ago. Since then, we did not have the chance to taste ant other wines from Tanya, as they were not available here in the US, until recently! Now, they are being imported by Red Garden Imports, an importer’s name that I heard many times from a few small boutique wineries as I walked around Sommelier! Actually we were supposed to go to the winery early in 2011, but Yoram’s kid got sick so we had to postpone the visit. Instead, we had to wait almost a year to get the chance to taste some Tanya wines, and it was a worthwhile wait, given the current crop of wines.

Many in Israel know Yoram not because of his unique personality or artistic passion, but rather because he was on Israel’s Big Brother 3! Yes, you heard me correct Yoram Cohen was on the Big Brother of Israel, but I guess he should stick to what he does exceptionally well, as he was the second housemate to be tossed out. I hope it helped to put focus on his personality and winery, because they are both quite unique and wonderful treasures that we get to enjoy!

In the middle of the first day for me at the 2011 edition of Sommelier, I got to the Tanya Winery booth! Just a few reminders about Tanya Winery, in case you are too lazy to click the link to my other posts :-). In 2002 Yoram started to make wine out of his house. In 2007 one of Chaim Feder’s friends tasted Yoram’s wines and was sure that Yoram was the next big thing in wine. Chaim and his partners met Yoram and the rest is history. They upgraded the winery’s future productivity by purchasing new equipment, plantings new vineyards, and leasing more space for the winery. The winery’s current production is about 30,000 bottles annually. Most wineries were displaying their wines from 2008 at the event, which by now you all know is a problem for many, being that it was a Shmitta year. In case this is your first roll through my blog, check out my Kosher 101 posting about Shmitta and more. Tanya however did not produce any wines in 2008, which all I can say is WOW! Takes a certain spirit and belief system to not make wine for a year! The winery has three labels; Enosh, Halel, and Eliya Reserve, all named after his kids, which are shown on the booth and on the website (though at a younger age). Enosh is the winery’s top Bordeaux blend, Halel is the main wine line, while Eliya is the lower label that has recently been upgraded, as is visible in the Shiraz below.

As I tasted these wines, I did not know that one of them was also part of my original wine tasting in 2008! The 2007 Pinot Noir, which we tasted from the barrel, has clearly changed with more red fruit showing and lovely oak extraction as well. However, the body and structure look the same from those many years earlier!

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Elvi Wines Classico, Yatir Blend, and Eagles Landing Sauvignon Blanc

Last week I was invited by my friend to his house to taste a wine I do not have access to, as it is only available to Herzog Wine Club members. The wine is the 2008 Eagles Landing Sauvignon Blanc. Please DO NOT confuse Herzog’s Eagles Landing wines with the Iowan Eagle’s Landing Winery – that is NOT kosher!

Disclaimer – I do NOT work for Herzog, but this question keeps coming up on Daniel Rogov’s forum.

So start of tangent.

What are the Eagles Landing and Waterford Lismore Reserve wines that are popping up here and there? They are wines crafted by Herzog and Joe Hurliman to showcase the winery and give the wine club an air of exclusiveness, as these wines are not available in any other way, other than through the wine club.  The wines are made in limited supply, and according to Jay Buchsbaum of Royal Wines/Herzog:

“Eagles landing is similar to Herzog reserve and Weinstocks cellar select (reserve) wines. Meaning same winemaking (and attention to grape selection) care with perhaps a slight difference and oak treatments etc than the Herzog reserve, without the ‘kosher’ recognizable brand labels. It was created as a direct request of one of our largest distributors, who recognized the, ‘Herzog reserve quality but wanted something that was not recognized as kosher, for non kosher restaurants’ (paraphrasing their words not ours). Voila, Eagles landing was born”.

In full disclosure, the Sauvignon Blanc bottle I tasted had a clear and present OU certification on the back label. I admit this is a bit different from all other Herzog bottles, which have the OU on the front and back. However, the Chardonnay bottle that my friend also received from the wine club, had ZERO kosher certification on the labels, but one was added to the bottle after the labeling was complete. A friend that I respect told me that the most recent Eagles Landing Cabernet Sauvignon was less than exciting, while the Chardonnay was nice. I tasted the Sauvignon Blanc and that was OK, but a bit funky. It is an interesting marketing idea and one that I hope gains some sea legs, as it is about time for Kosher to lose its stigma. The Waterford Lismore Reserve wines were received with a far more warm reception from my friends. I hope to taste these wines one day. Till then I will rely on my friends to keep you all up to date.

End of tangent

We were invited for Friday night to a different friend’s house, so no recipes or other designs. That said, we brought a fun bottle of ELVI Wines Classico from Spain to our friends and they shared an interesting bottle with us as well. Finally (one more), some friends of mine swung by the house and I cracked open a wonderful bottle of the 2004 Yatir Blend. We had this bottle for a fleeting moment at the Carlebach Shabbaton. This time I had more time with the wine. There is no change to report about the initial blush of this wine, but some more data about how it acts after a few more hours. So, it was a nice wine filled weekend and one that I am happy to share with you all.

The wine notes follow below in order they were tasted:

2008 Eagles Landing Sauvignon Blanc – Score: B++
The nose on this straw colored wine starts off with a nasty damp and almost petrol smelling “aroma” that dominates the nose and takes forever to blow off. Once the nose clears up, it has displays kiwi, tart lemon, slight oak, nice butterscotch (from the oak), and a balancing orange peel.  The mouth on this medium bodied wine starts off tart and acidic but rounds out over time. This is not a crisp Sauvignon Blanc, and is not a bottle that will ever travel there. The mouth starts with lemon and kiwi. The mid palate flows into a round-like acidic core with orange peel peeking out from under the acid haze. The finish is long, spicy, and tart with orange peel and slight custard notes. As this wine opens, it shows far more oak extraction. The wine fleshes out with a nice bright, round, spicy, and butterscotch persona. This is not your classic Sauvignon Blanc, but then, this is not a wine that everyone gets to taste, so why not shake it up a bit. Cool.

2007 Elvi Wines Classico, Ribera del Jucar – Score: B+
The nose on this garnet colored wine, which is a blended wine of 87% Tempranillo and 13% Merlot, is ripe with plum, cherry, raspberry, and spice.  The mouth of this medium bodied wine is soft with raspberry, cherry, and plum.  The mid palate is bright with core acidity and a hint of coffee.  The finish is medium long and spicy with more acid, soft tannins, coffee, and pepper/spice. This winery keeps delivering.

PLEASE NOTE – This is the ONLY Mevushal wine from the Elvi Wines group. All other wines from them are not Mevushal.

2003 Kiddush Hashem Syrah – Score: B to B+
This wine has a fair amount of lore, much of it not true. That said, it was a lovely wine some time ago. It is also a wine that the wine maker was still selling on his web site a few months ago. Recently he starting liquidating his stock, and it was a good idea. The bottles are hit and miss. I tasted this wine years ago and it was OK. Three weeks ago I tasted it again, while visiting a friend of mine, and it was felshy, black with ripe blackberry, nice tar, pepper, and licorice. This past week, it was not as good, though the fruit, tar and licorice were present. Still, the wine was unbalanced, off kilter, and trying too hard to make me like it.

2004 Yatir Blend (40% Cabernet, 40% Merlot, 20% Shiraz) – Score: A-
The nose on this dark purple to black colored wine is hopping with coffee to start, mint, dates, crushed herbs, rich oak, blackberry, ripe black plums, and tobacco. The mouth on this full bodied wine is concentrated with fruit that follows the nose, blackberry, ripe black plum, rich oak, along with nicely integrated tannins. The mid palate flows off the mouth with bracing acid, oak, tannin, rich tobacco, and licorice. The finish is long and spicy with ripe plum, oak, and a cloud of tobacco. This is a nice full bodied wine.

This Past Week’s Wines….

We hung out with our friends last week and so, we brought some stuff and so did other guests and the host.  The food varied, which was nice, but really had a bit of a hard time keeping up with the wine.  The hearty bean soup did quite nicely – up against a Four Gates Merlot, the rest felt like the wine was pushing forward on the palate, which is fine – just need to think about that when rating wine.  There was a few experimental wines at the table, and as such, will not be included in the notes.

Four Gates Merlot – La Rochelle 2001 – Score: A-
The Four Gates Merlot was a joy to taste.  It was even better, because we got a chance to taste it up against the M.S.C. 2001.  The color on this wine is a crazy blackish blue – with a shimmer of orange thrown in.  The nose was strong with black fruit (a distinct shift from our previous review), sweet wood, and a hint of tobacco.  The mouth feels fuller, definitely softer, and powered by a strong fruit presence.  Cassis starts early and is joined by black plums and raspberry.  The mid palate is ruled by an iron fist of acidity which really adds great zip and depth to the wine.  The finish is strong with wood and spice.  The softness is what throws me on this wine, as I was used to the harder lines.  Those lines have softened to reveal black fruits and a nice backbone of acidity, but still a bit more tannin would have been perfect.

Four Gates Merlot – M.S.C 2001 – Score: A
The M.S.C. has what I wished the La Rochelle had – a bit more body and tannin.  The color on this wine is a deep and brooding black – with a shimmer of orange.  The nose had aromas of black plums and cassis, oak, and a nice sized dollop of chocolate.  The mouthfeel on this full bodied wine was firm yet balanced.  The tannins played nicely with the cassis, plum, and cherry.  The mid palate is backed by an acidic core and nice layers of complexity around the fruit, tannins, and vegetal flavors.   The finish is strong with wood and spice.

Psagot Edom 2005 - Score: B
This was not the favorite of the night (even lower then the aforementioned experimental bottle).  The wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (75%) and Merlot (25%).  The color on this wine was a nice deep ruby red.  The nose was crazy good – filled with cassis, plum, and strong green aromas.  The mouth is where things fell apart.  Really, there was none.  The mouth is filled with a bit of tannin and a medium to full bodied attack.  The fruit was non existent and the feeling in your mouth was of a good Cabernet, but nothing more.  Sorry, I would pass on this one.

Yatir Winery in the Negev

Yatir Winery

Yatir Winery

The Yatir Winery is literally an oasis in the middle of a desert.   The winery, started in 2001 is south of Jerusalem, but to get there you either go east or west and then south and then west or east.  We drove there by going west and driving south on the 90 south from Jerusalem.  The road is flat and long.  We pass Ein Geidi and Masada, and then comes the glorious dead sea.  As we pass the countless hotels that wind around the sea and edge close to the road, we come to the 31 that takes us east past Arad and to the Yatir winery.  The 31 climbs high and you can sea the dead sea as a large jewel in the middle of a barren land.  Then the road dramatically plunges down into the valley below and levels out.  The desert that surrounds the winery makes the beautiful Ramat Arad vineyard (at 500m) that is adjacent to the winery stand out that much more.

The winery was started in 2000 as a joint venture between the grape growers of the region and Carmel Winery.  The grapes that make up the wines we tasted are grown in the Yatir Forest, situated 10 minutes from the winery, in the Southern Judean Hills (at 900m).  The Ramat Arad vineyard, wraps the winery, which is situated at the base of the famous Tel Arad archeological site, is owned by Carmel and tended to by the Yatir Winery.  The Ramat Arad grapes are used by Carmel for their line single vineyard wines (Cabernet, Syrah, and Sauvignon Blanc).

When we came we were met by Eti Edri – and we were told the story of the winery and its wine maker Eran Goldwasser.  Having spoken with many winemakers and others in the wine business in Israel – they all think that Eran is one of the best young winemakers in Israel.

The first vintage was 2001 and the wine has been improving year after year.  The winery has been receiving a ton of accolades recently including the big news of Robert Parker giving a 93 to the flagship wine Yatir Forest.  The wine we tasted (notes below) – the 2003 Yatir Cabernet/Merlot/Shiraz blend, was given a 90.

We asked Eti some questions about the wine production.  Fermentation is done at a cool 60 degrees (Fahrenheit) for reds and a cold 53 degrees (Fahrenheit) for whites.  The cool temperature for red wines – help extract flavor, color, and tannins from the must that the red wines ferment in.  The cold temperature for the whites help extract fruit and less body that would get in the way of a clean and crisp white wine.  They rack the reds 3 to 4 times a year.

Having read all about the winery before visiting it we tried to better understand what was they key feature that has led to its success.  We asked Eti what was special about the winery.  To our surprise the first thing she said was humility.  That is not an answer we get often to that question – actually it may well be the first time anyone ever gave us that response.  Eti went on to explain that Eran is passionate about the whole wine process from the vineyards to the bottling and storage.  But throughout it all, he and all that work at Yatir are humble.  Eran is a person Eti describes, that concentrates on small details, which she believes results in fewer issues.  90% of his work is not in the winery – but with building and keeping a close relationship with the farmers and winery workers.

We wanted to thank Eti and the folks at the Yatir Winery for the wonderful time we had at the winery.

2003 Yatir Cabernet (56%)/Merlot(33%)/Shiraz(11%) blend (12 months in oak) – Score: A
The nose starts with a mix of tobacco and floral notes and follows, with time, with a merlot nose, fig in the middle and ends with dark fruit.  The color of the wine is a dark and brooding red with a touch of black.  This full bodied wine starts big and is followed by integrated tannins with notes of licorice and sour cherries at the end.  As it opens more – chocolate flavors come to the mouth and mix nicely with a very long and satisfying finish, laden with tobacco and cassis.

2004 Yatir Cabernet(40%)/Merlot(40%)/Shiraz(20%) blend (12 months in oak) – Score: A-
The color of the wine is a vibrant Bordeaux color.  The nose of the wine is filled with red fruit and spice.  This complex and full bodied wine is tight yet approachable.  The red fruit shows itself nicely on mouth – cherry and berries along with a hint of vegetation. It has lightly integrated tannins and a very long finish.  The wine seems to linger on the palate long after it has been consumed.

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