Sadly, Sommelier 2015 has come and gone and I can fairly state that I found nothing to be heartened about, in terms of the Israeli kosher wine scene. To be fair, the issue is still the same, wineries are deepening their love for all things over ripe and the excuse of poor vintages is really just that – an excuse. Having tasted almost every viable kosher wine at the event, I can safely say that only a few wineries care to make wines that are not over ripe, and the rest are the usual suspects. Before, anyone says there were many great wines, I can say I totally agree! The clear winners, winery wise were:
1. Tzora Winery (the 2012 vintage is insane)
2. Gvaot Winery (the 2012 Masada may well be their best ever)
3. Recanati Winery (clearly the biggest winery with a desire to build very good wines from the bottom up)
4. Tabor Winery (they continue to excel at the Adama series, though the Adama II wines have lost a step since 2010). Still, the whites, rose, and reds of Adama were impressive.
5. Carmel Winery (the whites continue to excel and even the reds are solid, sadly the US labels are date juice)
6. Yatir (nothing new here they are one of the best of the bunch)
7. Yarden – SOLELY for the whites and bubbles. The reds were all date juice, the classic example of a winery that has purposely and consciously taken the road of over ripe fruit.
8. Netofa Winery (the 2013 and 2014 wines will blow your socks off) – not listed here because I will post separately
9. Mia Luce (Another winery made by a Recanati Associate Winemaker, this one being kosher) – maybe the best wines of the entire event
10. Tura Winery (continues to push the boundaries and improving mightily. Love the Merlot, blends, and the new Gewurztraminer. Will post their wines on a separate post).
A few to keep track of – if they keep things up:
1. Kishor Winery (some of their reds were truly impressive, their new whites were a step behind 2013)
2. Jezreel Winery (Their white blend and the Carignan were nice, they need to tighten up the rest)
3. Gush Eztion (Their whites were solid though they too need to tighten up on the reds)
Sadly, of the 200+ kosher wines at the event, fewer than 40 reds were anything to write about. It was the whites, even at wineries that I found physically painful to taste at, were quite acceptable. In the end it was the white wines that saved the event for me. White wines are the clear new trend in Israeli wineries and a trend that continues to impress. Sadly, the 2014 whites are step behind the 2013 vintages, as many did not add acid to the wines, but they are very solid none the less. Read the rest of this entry
It has been a few weeks since I posted my wine notes. I have been posting other ideas, but this was a long time coming. The biggest take away for me was that the 2013 Terrenal Malbec was out, a new Terrenal kosher wine that can be bought at Trader Joe’s and it is mevushal. Sadly, I was not a fan. It is OK, but for me, I will look elsewhere. It is a shame as the non mevushal Terrenal wines from Spain continue to impress!
The other take away from these wines was that the new NV Freixenet Cava Excelencia Kosher Brut was no fun either. The final notes revolve around the return of Lewis Pasco and his wines! Mr. Pasco was the head wine maker at Recanati until 2006. After that he did wine in the US and other places and in 2012 he returned to Israel to work with Hillel Manne of Beit El Winery, and to make his own wines as well! The wines we tasted in early 2012 were nice, but the Pasco wine has really come around with oak and time. The insane Carignan wine of 2012, is not as good as we remembered it from the barrel in the winery, but it is still very nice a clear QPR.
Finally, as I stated when I was at the Tzora Winery, the 2012 Judean Hills is lovely and is a crazy QPR wine. That said, the notes have not changed but the wine needs serious time to open and when it does it shows its blue and black madness. The wine has really just arrived to the US and it seems to be in bottle shock, so either wait a month or two to enjoy, or open it now and decant for at least 2 to 3 hours ahead of time. If it is not black and blue, wait!!!!
So, I hope you enjoy the notes and have a great Shabbos! The notes follow below:
2012 Shirah Rosé – Score: A- (and then some)
WOW What a rose! This wine is 100% rose of Grenache. The nose is bright and tart with crunchy roasted herb, forest floor, garrigue, red fruit, and spice. The mouth is insane on this medium bodied wine, it starts with an attack of red currant, followed by blue fruit, herb, and crazy acid. The finish is long and attacking with mad acidic tart summer fruit, kiwi, candied strawberry, intense slate, mineral, and crazy tart zinberry that lingers forever, long after the wine is gone. The acid is so intense it is awesome and the fruit is ripe and expressive – BRAVO!!!
2012 Tzora Judean Hills – Score: A- (and more) (crazy good QPR)
When I was at the Tzora Winery, the 2012 Judean Hills was showing lovely and was a crazy QPR wine. That said, the notes have not changed but the wine needs serious time to open and when it does it shows its blue and black madness. The wine has really just arrived to the US and it seems to be in bottle shock, so either wait a month or two to enjoy, or open it now and decant for at least 2 to 3 hours ahead of time. If it is not black and blue, wait!!!!
This is a wine that is made of a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Petite Verdot, Syrah that was fermented and aged in oak, and named for the terroir and vineyard that the wine was sourced from. This was a barrel/tank sample but such a wonderful wine and one very close to bottling that I had to write about it. The nose on this deeply black colored wine is rich with crazy black fruit, along with ripe blueberry, blackberry, along with deep mineral notes, roasted animal, and nice floral notes with slate. The mouth on this lovely full bodied and elegant wine shows far more control than the 2011 vintage, with great control and style, with layers of concentrated black and blue fruit, rich graphite, bracing acid, coming together with mouth coating tannin, and spicy oak. The finish is long and mineral with lovely chocolate, bright fruit, and lovely sweet spices. BRAVO!
2013 Terrenal Malbec Kosher – Score: B
The 2012 vintage of this wine was a favorite of mine last year, till it turned into a flower bomb. This vintage is starting that way out of the chute. The noise on this purple colored wine starts off with nice blue and black notes, followed by floral notes that feels disjointed, along with plum, and spice. The mouth on this medium bodied wine shows blackberry fruit, blackcurrant that spikes, along with nice tannin and blueberry/green notes. The finish is long and all over the place with green blue notes that cover over the nice root beer notes. Read the rest of this entry
The Recanati Winery is tucked away in the Industrial zone of Emek Hefer – a lovely town some 5 kilometers south of Hadera. The winery was built in 2000 by a group of oenophiles that were looking to build a world class winery to produce kosher wine that would truly compete on the world market. To this purpose they invested in a winery whose equipment is state of the art and a have access to a set of vineyards that are situated in the most envious of locations around Israel. The vineyards are spread throughout Israel’s wine regions – Upper Galilee, Judean Hills, Samson, and Shomron, and are closely monitored to extract the features that each region has to offer.
We appeared on a brisk Monday afternoon and were met by the current winemaker – Lewis Pasco. Lewis is a well known wine maker in Israel. He studied in UC David and from there went on to work in many prominent wineries – including Tishbi Winery and others. He joined the winery at its inception and has been there – ever since. However, he recently gave notice to the winery that he will be moving on – to pursue other opportunities with Israel or maybe abroad.
Meeting Lewis helped us to see the real success behind the Recanati brand and wines. For sure there is selling in a winery, along with marketing and such. However, Lewis says that Recanati is more about the wine and less about the bluster that wineries tend to display. The visitor room is a great example of that; it is a very nice spot within the winery, with awards and wines lining the walls. But it is not screaming look at me and the winery itself is inside the industrial zone – with a quiet external face – all very reminiscent of the winery’s approach to wine making – which is let the wine talk for itself.
Lewis was a highly accomplished chef before he turned his sights unto wine making – and his wines are a image of his tastes. They are not the California power houses, with exception to maybe the Special Reserve and Shiraz. That is not to say the wines are lacking – wine is not all about noise and attention grabbing oak. It is about balance – and all of Lewis’s wines are complex with balance and just enough show to tell you they are there – without stealing the show of what is going on in your palate. Even in the vineyards Lewis is of the opinion that the vines need not be managed to give out more fruit or that jammy flavor that seems to be popping up more and more in wine. Lewis’s vineyards are an envy of many a wine maker, and Lewis makes sure that just like his wine – the vineyards are not managed, but instead – kept to bring out the vines true and real potential.
We conversed about many a thing – mostly the wine but other topics as well, and one of the thoughts that keep popping up when I talk with owners or wine makers in Israel is marketing. Recanati does little marketing – letting the wine and their loyal fans take up the word for the winery. But with the current expansion of wineries within Israel and the global kosher wine market growing at a nice clip – how does one make sure that the consumer knows what varietals each winery has to sell them? Marketing outside of Israel was a constant topic of discussion and one that I think Israel must solve on a whole – not on a one off manner that most wineries are attempting to do.
Our time spent with Lewis was a real education – and we want to thank Lewis, Noam the CEO of Recanati – who stopped by during our visit, and the the entire winery for hosting us and showing us such a wonderful time. Following are the tasting notes which we sampled at the winery.
Recanati 2005 Shiraz - Score: B+
This wine that was aged in a mixture of American and French Oak for 8 months has a red to black color. The nose has oak and dark fruits that peek out from under the assault of the jammy aroma. The medium bodied wine starts floral and then at the mid palate changes to plum and and black berries. The structure is balanced with soft and integrated tannins.
Recanati 2004 Cabernet Franc Reserve – Score: A-
The grapes for this wine come from the Manara Vineyard in the Upper Galilee (750m). This wine that was aged in a mixture of French and Hungarian oak for 15 months has a medium to garnet color. The nose of this wine hits you with grass and floral aromas, with hints of oak. This medium to full bodied wine starts with green flavors that carry over from the nose and follow with floral notes wrapped in a blanket of berries and oak. Soft tannins and just the right amount of acid balance this wine out quite nicely.
Recanati 2004 Merlot Reserve – Score: B+
The grapes come from the Upper Galilee and were aged in French oak for 15 – 18 months. The color of this wine is dark red. The nose starts off with green and floral aromas but continues with cherry and berries. The medium to full bodied wine palate continues where the nose left off. The berries and cherry notes caress your mouth and finish with a long flourish of green notes and sweet wood flavors.
Recanati 2005 Petite Sirah and Zinfandel (PSZ) Reserve – Score: A-
The grapes of this dark to black colored wine come from grapes grown in the Jezreel Valley and the Upper Galilee. The color comes from the Petite Sirah’s black colored grapes. The nose is filled with green earthy aromas and hints of berry, cherry and oak. This full bodied wine has strong structure that needs time to mellow out. The body shows jammy flavors, tar and a fair amount of oak. The finish is long and satisfying wrapped in tannins and black fruit.
Recanati 2006 Chardonnay Reserve - Score: A-
The grapes for this electric straw colored wine come from the Manara and Ben Zimra vineyards. The nose is strong with lychees and honey suckle. The mouth is round with citrus flavors and lychees. The finish is medium to long with just enough acid and oak to balance out the wine quite nicely.
Recanati 2007 Rose – Score: B++
This pink colored wine has all you want in a rose. Lychees, and cotton candy steal the nose. The mouth of this light to medium bodied wine is very active and crisp. Green and herbal notes come through the curtain fresh berries and finish with a satisfying flourish of berries and lychees.
Recanati 2004 Special Reserve – Score: A-
This wine needs time to open up my friends! Lewis opened this bottle and all we could smell was green. But as it opened up the merlot (8%) and cabernet (92%) came through. The nose started to open with notes of black fruit, blackberries, and oak. The mouth of this full bodied wine is heavy with tannin still and will lie well in the cellar for some time to come. The tannin gives way to cassis, blackberries and more oak. The finish is long with hints of chocolate and dark fruit.
Recanati 2005 Shiraz Reserve – Score: A-
This purple colored wine has a nose filled with green vegetation and dark fruits. This medium to full bodied wine opens with dark fruit, cassis, and cherries. It follows with biting tannins and has a long finish of tar and oak.
Recanati 2006 Cabernet Franc Reserve (Barrel Tasting) – Score: A-
This red to dark wine has strong green to floral notes followed by cherry and oak. The mouth of this medium bodied wine is fruit forward, with grassy green flavors, and a long finish of oak and red berries. A real winner and one that truly shows the styling of Recanati wines – more fruit less bluster.