Two weeks ago I was in Jerusalem and all I can say is that the words, “in God We Trust” cannot have been more fulfilled than on this journey. To start, I had flown into Israel for one of my nephew’s weddings, and a lovely wedding it was, but that is getting ahead of ourselves. I arrived on Tuesday the 10th and while deplaning, I was asked to join in on a group prayer – which initially I was not so interested in, as I had a ton of things to get done in the day. Thank goodness I agreed and while talking with the group at the conclusion of the services, I hear my name being bellowed out! Now, sure I love Israel, and I know people there, but I am not Netanyahu or Gal Gadot, nor do I know anyone who knows Gal Gadot (trying to stay current and yes I know she is a female model – just making sure you are following), so I had no idea why someone was calling out my name!
So, I turn around and lo and behold who is there, Mendel! Now you may not remember Mendel, but he has been canonized on this very virtual pages, here and here (de-boning a duck) – though incorrectly familiarly associated with Elchonon. I state this because it will be with Mendel’s hands that my wine salvation will be realized. He wondered if I remember who he was, and after sharing a few pleasantries, we agreed to keep in touch as he was interested in joining me on my wine escapades, which sounded great to me!
From there we both got our cars and I went off to see my sister in HarNof. That evening I was so exhausted, I tried to order a burger from a place that will go nameless. Two hours later, no burger and my card was charged! To be fair, after much cajoling they did refund my money, which I understand in Israel is requires an act from God to implement, but equilibrium was returned.
The next day, I WhatApp Mendy and sure enough he is up and ready – like I was, so I asked if he minded to drive and off we went to pursue the wineries around Jerusalem. I must start by saying that I have no issue driving, but as I explained many times in the past, Israeli drivers have no drive control or manners, they are 100% certifiable! Well, I guess either work; “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” or “Fight fire with fire”, and that is exactly what Mendy does so well. The roads were slick with rain, at some points the roads were almost washed out with a literal deluge of rain, making the roads slick and a perfect pairing for hydro-planing. No worries, Mendel is at the wheel! So, our first stop was Castel!
Domaine du Castel
This past week I had the chance to taste through some more kosher wines – without any theme involved, sorry. The only real theme here would be the fact that I tasted through the three wines from Agua Dolce, and a few other wines as well. Of the wines I tasted almost all of them are available right now, except for a special wine I had from a person who makes wine for himself and his friends – called Mirvis Creek.
I am very sorry that I did not get pictures, but many of the wines I enjoyed were at friend home’s and over the Simchat Torah holiday, where I could not take pictures, of course.
The wine notes follow below:
2007 Mirvis Creek Cabernet Sauvignon, Cuvée Yitz, Rowe – Score: B+ to A-
The wine is a classic mineral bomb wine with the mineral sticking out a bit too much and never integrating well together. Maybe with time this wine will find its groove. The nose starts off a bit closed, but with time it opens to brooding black fruit, mounds of mineral, graphite, slate, and loamy dirt. The mouth on the medium to full bodied wine shows clear rich mouth coating tannin, along with raspberry, blackberry, cassis, and the barest of blueberry ribbons, along with nice oak, herb, and green notes. The finish is long and lasting with more mineral, quinine, coffee, chocolate, black pepper, and eucalyptus. This is a nice wine that is a younger brother to the 2005 Four Gates Napa Cabernet that was created from the same grapes.
2010 Agua Dulce Winery Syrah – Score: B+ to A-
The nose on this purple black colored wine also starts off with overripe fruit, but that calms with time. The nose is rich with roasted meat, ripe blueberry, smoky notes, along with mounds of black pepper, licorice, and nice mineral. The mouth is round and filling with rich mouth coating tannins that cost and linger long, along with lovely concentrated blackberry, ripe strawberry, plum, and blue fruit, all coming together with the nice tannin and sweet oak. The finish is long and spicy with graphite, bell pepper, chocolate, more black pepper, spice, cloves, cinnamon, and dirt.
2006 Four Gates Merlot M.S.C. – Score: A- to A
The nose explodes with ripe raspberry, bright fruit, toasty notes, lavender, and dried fruit. The mouth on this full-bodied wine, rich layers of fruit, along with dark black cherry, plum, blackberry, along with dried fruit, crazy cedar, all rounded out nicely with rich mouth coating tannin. The finish is long and rich with great balance, the 24 months of oak show lovely cedar, but all of it is highly accentuated by the bright acidity that adds spice to the wine by making all the flavors pop, followed by chocolate, leather, dark fruit, and tobacco. What a great wine – bravo! Drink in the next two or so years.
2007 Carmel Vineyards Mediterranean – Score: A- (and a bit more)
This is a blend of 37% Carignan, 26% Shiraz , 20% Petit Verdot and 15% Petite Sirah and 2% Viogner. This is another one of those wines (like the 2005 Yatir Forest) that is more elegant than it is massive or powerful. The wines truly lives up to its name, as the varietals are not Bordeaux or Napa in nature. Rather they are Med grapes with a ripe, smoky, dark, and exotic silhouette.
The nose is lovely and accentuated by smoky fumes, roasted meat, wild blueberry compote, rich oak, raspberry, cranberry, blackberry, plum, cherry, and roasted herbs. The mouth on this full bodied wine is rich with ripe red, black, and blue fruit, though not new world and balanced with great concentration and nice extraction, the tannins are losing grip and integrating nicely with the sweet cedar. The finish is long, with good acidity, and overall roundness, that comes from the soft mouth coating tannins that linger long, chocolate, lovely tobacco, more roasted meat, and black and blue lovely fruit.
2010 Agua Dulce Winery Cabernet Sauvignon – Score: B++
The wine starts off a bit new world for me and sweet, but that calms over time and becomes more balanced with ripe fruit, but not cloyingly so. The nose on this dark purple colored wine is filled with candied fruit, nice oak, toast, chocolate, blackberry, rich black pepper, cassis, black plum, graphite, and tons of bell pepper. The mouth on this full bodied wine starts with large mouth coating tannin, lots of black fruit, lovely oak, along with a fair amount of green notes, that truly add complexity to this wine, along with nice extraction that comes together into a rich and lasting mouth. The finish is long and spicy with more lingering black fruit, chocolate, graphite, and more green notes.
2010 Agua Dulce Winery Zinfandel – Score: B to B+
The nose on this dark purple colored wine explodes with heat, rich root beer, boysenberry, nicely smoked meat, and great spice. In many ways the nose is the clear star of the wine. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine starts off so nicely with layers of dark and rich jammy fruit, blackberry, strawberry, sweet oak, and lovely mouth coating tannin, but the heat, and sweet date flavors fill in the mid palate and make it a wine that demands rich food, and even still the wine just tastes overripe. The finish is long with more spice, but it is overshadowed by the heat and date, along with hints of surprising green notes, olives, rich and freshly ground pepper, chocolate, and more spice.
In 2010 a few wineries went kosher, including Flam Winery and Tulip Winery. I already wrote about the Flam Winery before here and again recently here, but now I am getting the chance to write the story of the Tulip Winery that is rightfully deserves. The tulip winery is a very different beast, a winery that was built in and around a city of disabled individuals and one that takes its advocacy for disabled citizens of Israel quite seriously. I wrote initially about the winery here, but I will take a bit more time to talk about them now, in this space.
Until 2010, Roy Itzhaki, the CEO of Tulip winery would often say that he was the biggest non-kosher winery in Israel. But, not entirely by his own choice. The issue other than having supervision, in this case was the fact that many of the inhabitants of Kfar Tikvah (City of Hope), which is a city for teaching its inhabitants skills to interact with the world around them, work at the winery. Kosher supervision has some issues around disabled people working around wine, for many technical and complicated reasons. That said, in 2010, after YEARS of working hard to make his dual desires a reality, Itzhaki finally succeeded in convincing a kosher supervision that he can make things work. The kosher supervision world is one that is not too fast to take on hard challenges and changes. Still, Itzhaki did not give up and after 20 organizations came and left, they all said the same thing, fire the disabled employees or we cannot help you. Finally, according Deborah Raub, from JNS.org, in an article on Tulip Winery, Itzhaki ran into a Rabbi Chazkal and things changed very quickly. Itzhaki was not going to undermine the very reason for his winery’s existence in Kfar Tikvah, nor was he going to undermine the work and conviction he showed by hiring 30 of its inhabitants to work in his winery. Still, the real reality of business was staring him in the face. He could not continue to produce wine at the scale he was at and not sell them in a kosher wine store, supermarket, or abroad. He had to find a way out of the conundrum, and the rest of the story is the kind of thing that makes me proud of being a Jew!
Rabbi Chazkal looked at the situation and realized that this was too unique a story and Itzhaki was truly building his winery, its reputation, and advocacy, for altruistic reasons, not for a gimmick or a nice sales pitch. So, Rabbi Chaski advised he come and meet Rabbi Shmuel Vozner with him. As Raub describes, Rabbi Shmuel Vozner is a Rabbi with hardline leanings, but as the story shows, he is also filled with the kind of intelligence and Chachma that makes me so proud to be Jewish. Vozner listened carefully to Itzhaki and said something that none of his 20 predecessors had: “There is a conflict between the mitzvah of halakha and the mitzvah of employing these people. It is such an important mitzvah that you are doing with these people, let’s find a way.”
Reading the story, it was clear that Rabbi Chazkal and Rabbi Vozner were the Chachamim here. Rabbi Chazkal knew that every supervisory organization was not going to take a chance and go out on the limb. Rather they would use the classic hacksaw approach to pruning a rose, way over the top. What was required here was a very precision and tactical approach, something that had not been done before, and something that no organization would do on its own, Rabbi Chazkal knew that the only real answer is to go to a man that had the strength of conviction and Torah and knowledge, that NO ONE would doubt, and let Itzhaki prove his conviction to the man and than if it is meant to be, it will happen. Read the rest of this entry
This past weekend we went out to a friends house for Shabbos and I brought over a bottle of the 2010 Capacnes Peraj Petita, which turned out to be a bit of a dud. EP warned me it was going downhill, I should have listened :-(
Anyway, the meal was wonderful, and the host opened a bottle of the 2007 Four Gates Merlot which is hopping now! Rich and layered and with so much wonderful acid.
The wine notes follow below:
2010 Capcanes Peraj Petita
In many ways this wine is consistent and not just an entry-level wine that Capcanes would like you to believe. This is a wine that many wineries would dream to be a front line wine in their portfolios. A blend of Grenache, Samso and Temparanillo, all Spanish varietals that have had great success in the Montsant wine region. The nose starts off with plum, blackcurrant, and coffee. The mouth is filled with rich coffee, ripe black forest fruit, toasty almost burnt cedar, nice black fruit, but the mouth is falling apart and it is hollow in the middle that fills in with air, but loses almost all complexity and concentration. The finish is medium long with nice spice, toast and bramble.
2007 Four Gates Merlot – Score: A-
Having tasted this again recently, the wine continues to show like it did before but with even more concentration and bracing acidity! The nose on this massive wine is screaming with blackberry, black plum, ripe raspberry, herbaceous, bramble/minerality, toasty oak, and coffee. The mouth on this medium to full-bodied wine, is gripping with tannins, dark fruit and minerality that come together into a nice round mouth. The finish is super long with nice red and black fruit that is topped with rich coffee balancing acid and oak. This is a structured and massive wine that will also open up over time. For now, open it and taste the wine, then watch it grow before your eyes. If that is too complicated, stick with tasting it out of the bottle, and then again after a few hours of air. Drink by 2016.
This past weekend my good friend, Benyomin Cantz from the Four Gates Winery brought over a nice gift – a bottle of the 2011 La Fenetre Merlot, Mesa Verde Vineyard from the Santa Ynez, CA AVA. If that wine region sounds familiar, well that is because it is the same region where the now defunct California Classic Cellars used to be based out of. But before, we get ahead of ourselves, we need to jump into the semi-way back machine and set it for circa 2007 in Napa Valley, CA!
There you will find a successful and passionate Chabad Rabbi and his wife, Rabbi Elchonon and Chana Tenenbaum, two people who chose to bring Torah into the vast spiritual desert of Napa Valley. Though Napa is known world wide for its agricultural and vinicultural excellence, true Torah observance was not an ingredient readily found there. For that reason, Tenenbaum decided that Napa was just the place for the two of them and so they hopped on a plane from their east-coast religious dwellings to the west coast easy-going California.
Wine seems to be finding its way into the culture of Rabbis around the area, but much of that can be properly accredited to the insanely hard work and dedication of Rabbi Tenenbaum. You see, it was soon after he arrived that he caught the “good wine vibrations”, of course good kosher wine vibrations! Soon Tenenbaum was enjoying the joys of good dry wines, and he quickly realized that the hobby/interest comes at a price – his pocketbook! Good kosher wine is not cheap and so, in 2007 Tenenbaum set out to make some wine of his own. He had no training, but with the help of friends, and following protocols that he found in winemaking books, Rabbi Tenenbaum made a case of wine from grapes left over from a Rudd Winery vineyard, located in Oakville. He got the grapes (some 30 pounds or so), crushed them by hand/foot, and went on to ferment the wine, age it, and bottle it all by himself! With proper respect, he called the wine “King Salomon” and ode to the Hebrew name of the vineyard’s owner, Leslie Rudd, whose Hebrew name is Solomon.
Just to digress for a moment, I have not delved into the kosher wine idea here, because I have already hit that subject in my post called – kosher wine 101, and my rebuttal to many incorrect concepts in the world of kosher wine – Kosher Wine 101 2.0 and my rebuttal to many poorly written articles on kosher wine. So, with that understood, you realize that the Rabbi had to do all the work himself, even when he had help from knowledgeable non-Jewish winemakers.
Well fast-forward a year, and Rabbi Tenenbaum goes from playing with the idea of wine making to become a true vigneron (a person who does everything regarding the wine making process)! A friend of Jeff Morgan, head wine maker at Covenant Winery asked Mr. Morgan if he knew of anyone who could manage his vineyard. The vineyard was a field blend of Zinfandel, Syrah and Petite Sirah. One of the wonderful parts of this story is about a barn that resides on the same property as the vineyard. Engraved on the Barn is the following quote from Leviticus: “When you reap the harvest of your land, do not strip your vineyard bare nor gather the overlooked grapes; you must leave them for the poor and the stranger.” When Rabbi Tenenbaum saw that, it was hook line and sinker! So, for 7 months the Rabbi, with initial help and direction from a vineyard manager of David Abreu Vineyard Management, pruned and sulfured the vines, and managed them to the point of leaf thinning and fruit dropping. All of this was done on a vineyard of 400 vines, far less than an acre, but the vines were still fruitful enough to produce a barrel of wine. The wine was made in combination with Jonathan Hajdu. Jonathan took a portion of the bottles and sold it under the Besomim Cuvee Chabad label. We had the chance to taste a bottle of the 2008 Besomim, Cuvee Chabad (which is the same wine as the Pardes), and the wine note can be found here. The Rabbi bottled his wines under the Pardes Cuvée Chabad label. Read the rest of this entry
I am really behind on my blog, as I have been busy with a new hobby which is taking up all of my time. Anyway, I wanted to highlight the meal we had two weeks ago which was in honor of my nephew and his beux leaving the area to go east. So in honor of them, I wanted to try a bunch of Israeli Merlot wines. Now, when people think of Israel, Merlot is not first on their mind, mostly because many do not appreciate Merlot, which is done incorrectly tastes bland and benign. That blandness and lack of character, was initially its draw, but over time, it was nuked both by the Sideways effect and by its sheer lack of anything fun. The folks in the know, would blank at Merlot from Israel, given the areas hot climate, which is counterproductive to making good Merlot.
The truth is that I have been talking about Merlot from Israel, but Merlot only from the Shomron region, a region that has found a way to harness what Israel has to offer and channel it into lovely and rich Merlot. The Shomron is becoming quite the up and coming wine region, much like the Judean Hills was some ten years ago. Now, Castel, Flam, Tzora, and many other wineries have made the Judean Hills a household name. I think the Shomron will soon follow in its next door neighbors footsteps, and come out from under the shadow of the Jerusalem hills to capture its own claim to fame; namely Merlot!
Merlot, as stated above has many needs, one is climate, two is proper drainage, and three is it needs careful vineyard management to control its vigor, nitrogen levels, and many other intricate issues that make Merlot a finicky grape, though not as maddening as its Sideways replacement Pinot Noir. As a total aside, the Sideways movie to me was far too vulgar and not to my taste, but there is a hidden joke in the movie that many miss. In the movie, the shlubby protagonist, Miles, screams afoul of Merlot and even disses Cabernet Franc, but especially extolls his love for all things Pinot Noir. Why did Miles love Pinot Noir so much, why go to great lengths to get his beloved nectar, well he defined right at the start:
“Um, it’s a hard grape to grow … it’s thin-skinned, temperamental, ripens early … it’s not a survivor like Cabernet, which can just grow anywhere and thrive even when it’s neglected. No, Pinot needs constant care and attention … it can only grow in these really specific, little, tucked- away corners of the world. And only the most patient and nurturing of growers can do it, really. Only somebody who really takes the time to understand Pinot’s potential can then coax it into its fullest expression.”
This past Shavuot we had family over and enjoyed some great wines, a bunch of lovely sushi, and cheeses, and a brisket dinner to boot. The sushi was enjoyed for both the first night and lunch meal. The sushi rice was messed up by me, but my nephew and I rescued it and we had some great fish to make it all work.
To pair with Sushi for two meals we started with the highly conventional, and then veered way off course as well. To start we enjoyed three white wines; 2010 Carmel White Riesling, the 2010 Midbar white 44, and the 2007 Hagafen Brut. The Carmel Riesling started off really nice but quickly faded – so be careful with what bottles you have left and drink up fast. The Hagafen Brut was rocking and lovely, and the Midbar 44, was the best white and the second best wine of Shavuot.
The next day we went the highly unconventional route and enjoyed two res with the sushi meal – but hey who cares, I wanted to enjoy them. First we opened the last bottle of my 2001 Yarden Ortal Merlot and then we opened a bottle of the 2009 Shiloh Legend.
For dinner we had brisket and then for the following lunch some cheeses. Overall a lovely yom tov and the added family made it something special. The wine notes follow below:
2010 Carmel Riesling, Single Vineyard, Kayoumi Vineyard – Score: B+ to A-
I had this wine again over Shavuot though the wine really impressed when I opened it and enjoyed it – it died a few hours later. Initially – when opened it gives you a sense of sweetness though it is bright and ripe but with little residual sugar. The nose starts off with lovely floral notes, clear peach and apricot, along with an intense citrus brightness, melon and spice. The mouth is rich with citrus, lemon, ripe pink grapefruit, all backed by a great bracing acid. The finish is long with nice mineral, slate, citrus zest, vanilla, and baking spices. This wine is in drink NOW or drink UP mode. Get it cold and enjoy within the next few months.
2007 Hagafen Brut Cuvée – Score: A-
The 2007 Brut Cuvee Sparkling Wine is a blend of 78% Pinot Noir and 22% Chardonnay. The beautiful light salmon color really comes out in the glass, which is expressive with nice white chocolate, bright citrus, fig, cherry, and melon. The mouth hits you with an attack of lovely small mouse bubbles, along with brioche, apple, citrus, quince, and yeast. The finish is long and tantalizing, with good complexity, nice structure, and bracing acidity to keep the whole experience rich and bubbly!
2010 Midbar White 44 – Score: A- to A
Having brought back tow of these beautiful bottles home – it was time to enjoy one with sushi! The wine is a blend of Gewurztraminer 25%, Sauvignon Blanc 20%, Chardonnay 20%, Viognier 20%, Semillon 15%. Yeah, five grapes yet called the 44, who cares – the wine concentrate on the wine!!! This one blew me away, the aromas literally are in a cage match to the death, fighting each other tooth and nail until one becomes victorious. I did not stand around long enough to find out whom the winner would be, but in the end with a wine like this – we who enjoy it are the lucky winners indeed! Yaacov explained that Gewurztraminer is one of his hardest grapes to control, it has soapy or unwanted flavors and he does things with it to minimize the bad and accentuate the good. He does cold whole bunch press, and he blends it with all of these grapes to get the most out of all of them. The nose is redolent with super ripe summer fruit, crazy ripe orange, grapefruit, violet, rose, honeysuckle, and litchi. The mouth is rich, round, honeyed, and insane, with layers of complexity and flavors, starting with ripe nectarine, guava, green and yellow apple, all coming at you in waves. The oily texture and the summer fruit combine for a mouth captivating wine. The finish is long and spicy with nuts, almonds, marzipan, tart fruit, candied grapefruit, and earthy mineral notes! The wine did not disappoint at the winery or at home! Bravo!!
2001 Yarden Merlot, Ortal Vineyard – Score: A- to A
Love it again – wow what age can do to a sweet wine!!! I could not wait the two years I said I would – wanted to share it with family, so it was time to enjoy! What a glorious wine, the wine showed date and raisin in the past, but now this wine is round, ripe, and rich, with layers of concentrated fruit, mouth coating tannin, and rich body. The wine now shows beautifully and is a wine that we did not have time to watch open as the wine disappeared in almost no time, clearly the winner of Shavuot. The nose starts off with bright and ripe blackberry, rich dark cherry, clear herbs and green leanings that flow into good dirt, earth, and smokiness. The mouth is rich, layered, concentrated, and round, showing what the perfect balance of oak, ripe fruit, and time can create. The mouth is full bodied, and the best merlot that I have tasted from Yarden, with cassis, black plum, red currant, lovely mouth coating tannin, awesome bracing acid, and more earthiness that brings the whole mouth together, with hints of sweet cedar. The finish is long and spicy with black pepper, mineral, chocolate, rich leafy tobacco, and more dirt. What a great wine and one that is as good as it is going to get – so drink up now!!!
2009 Shiloh Legend – Score: A-
The nose on this mevushal purple colored wine explodes with ripe blueberry, dark cherry, ripe raspberry, licorice, and lovely spice, with a hint of roasted meat and smokiness which leaves soon enough for more crazy spices and ripe fruit. The mouth on this full bodied, ripe, round wine is expressive with sweet fruit, blackberry, ripe strawberry, plum, more blue fruit, along with sweet cedar, and mouth coating tannin that lingers and makes the mouth feel ripe, sweet, and round. The finish is long and spicy with nice vanilla, cinnamon, chocolate mocha, black pepper, cloves, nutmeg, and mint. Over time the wine opens further to show grapefruit, pineapple, watermelon, and more lovely baking spices – BRAVO! With all the overripe and over sweet 2009 wines from Israel – this is a wine that shows you what control in Israel can taste like.
Truly Passover Shabbos was a two fold event, the chance to taste through my Shirah wines that I had been yearning to get to and the chance to taste a barrel sample of wine sent to me by Andrew of Liquid Kosher (a high-end kosher wine merchant). Andrew warned me that I needed to air the puppy out so indeed, I opened it Friday morning and it was still kicking Saturday night.
As, I already documented here, about all things Shirah, I was talking with Gabriel before Passover and we agreed that we would both open Shirah wines over Passover. To me, it was time to see if the Coalition, which I thought was severely lacking in the finish and mouth, had come around. Humorously, there are some that think my article on Shirah wines was a cheerleader post – but such is life, I really did feel passionately about the Weiss Brothers and I really do like their wines. We tasted through four of the Shirah wines that I had around, the two coalitions, from 2010 and 2011 and the 2008 10-2 punch and the 2010 Counterpunch. All four of the wines were truly unique, but the winner of the four was the 1-2 punch and the 2010 Coalition – the very wines, I though was truly lacking – how funny life can be sometimes.
Benyo came over for the Shabbos and brought over two oldie but goodies – 1996 Four Gates Merlot and 1996 Four Gates Chardonnay. Now, as you all know Four Gates Winery was “officially” founded in 1997, but that dos not mean he did not make wine in 1996 – actually he made a fair amount of wine in 1996, and all of his friends and family were the beneficiary of his abundant kindness! To me, the wines rival the 1997, 2003, and 2006 vintages. Though his best wines so far are still the 2012 releases (year wise – not vintage). Anyway, the 1996 Chardonnay was so good and clean and ripe, the real shocker was the color – pure light gold color, like a 2006 or a 2012 Chardonnay! Quite impressive as always – his older 1996 Chardonnay wines are truly unique. I did not take notes – sorry, but this one was not the soft, honeyed, caramelized Chardonnay that I come to expect from his stash of 1996 Chardonnays. This was bright and expressive – really like its color! Blind, I would have thought it was a 2000 or 2010 wine!
After that we enjoyed a march of red wines, one after the other, each one unique in their own right, with really no duds or holes, it was a really fun night. Friends brought over some wines, but none of them made the table, as I really wanted to taste through the Shirah wines, the Frenchie, and one Israeli wine. They brought over a Peeraj Habib – nothing to slouch over AT ALL, but I was single minded on my plan, and I did ask forgiveness afterwards. Read the rest of this entry
The title may seem extreme but there is a clear and present passion and almost zeal to the wine makers and vineyard managers of the Shomron. In no way is that a slight to other wine regions, or to denote that others are not as passionate. The real point is that when I met with 30+ wineries on my past trip to Israel, every winery spoke about their wines and their processes and technology, but none spoke as passionately about their land as the winemakers in the Shomron. I need to stress, that many speak about their vineyards, the terroir, like Tzora and others, but the passion about the land versus the correct vines to grow – the sheer desire to own and plant trees or vines – it was truly an uplifting experience.
However, before we get into all of that, this post is about day two of week three during my trip to Israel last year December (2012). This posting is an account of my visit to both the Har Bracha and Tura wineries, in that order. Since we left off, I had completed week one all by myself, and week two partly with my nephew, who yes slowed me down, but truly added so much color and life to the proceedings, that it was a fair trade :-) The day started off like any day in Israel, we were set to see as many wineries as possible within a single day! The day started off with Doron and I picking up Gabriel Geller, yes the dastardly mastermind of the previous week’s Monday adventure to Ella Valley, Teperberg, Flam, and Herzberg Winery. It was a grand day trip and one that Geller was ready to try again! Talk about committed or is it that he needs to be committed, I am really not sure! Anyway, we pick him up and off we go to another wine adventure on Route 60! There were many stories that occurred to us on route 60 on this storied day, but being that they were part of the tapestry of the day, we will weave the tails into this wild and ruckus wine trail adventure.
The Shomron day started off with a visit to Shiloh, and then to Gvaot, described here. From there we were pointing our car towards Har Bracha and that is when we should have listened to the darn phone – both of our phones! The madness started with Doron’s phone which texted him with a very important message. You see he has an AT&T phone, a very nice phone actually, that did not easily support popping in a new SIM (the modus apprendre of international cell phone travelers when they visit Israel), so he went with an international plan from the US with certain countries on it. Simple enough plan, that is until you enter route 60, or more specifically, the Shomron area of route 60. AT&T was texting Doron to notify him that his data plan did not work in the new country he had just entered! Well, if that was not enough of a hint, at about that same time, my phone starts to chirp. Now, I must be specific here, we were interested in getting to Har Bracha which is north of Shiloh and we actually have to pass Tura to get there, but that was because Tura was not available at that time, so Har Bracha was where we were pointed towards.
To quickly remind you, Yossie’s wine map is an awesome resource for finding kosher wineries in Israel, and for getting a sense of what and where the kosher wineries are in Israel. The map gave us a great layout of our day, and it also gave us a closer understanding of what was driving waze so crazy! Waze is the only real navigation tool in Israel and one that I explained saved my life at least two times in the north. Well, my girlfriend (waze’s voice is a female’s voice and it tells me where to go at all times – so all my friends think it fits) started to notify me that I needed to get ready for a left turn coming up. Now, driving in Israel is an already tense and terrifying enough of a job, looking at a navigation device is too much. So, Doron and Gabe (back seat driver) were thrust into the navigator role. Doron had the girlfriend and Gabe knows most of the roads by heart, and he also had his own phone-based girlfriend as well. All the phones were telling me to turn left, while Gabe was coaxing me forward – with soothing words of, do not worry we need to keep driving – no warning! Read the rest of this entry
Much of this post was already posted here, where I described my second week in Israel. Many if not all the pictures here (except for the bottle pictures) are all courtesy of Herzberg winery, as Gabriel Geller and I arrived so late that it was pitch dark by the time I meandered my way to the winery. Herzberg Winery is a winery that is owned, run, and operated by a single man – Max Herzberg. It was pouring rain as we made our way to his lovely home – which doubles as his winery and vineyard. Yes, he reminds me of my good friend Benaymin Cantz (from four gates winery), another of those home bound Vigneron who live, breath, and eat winemaking in and around their very abode! I must say that many of my writings are more sentimental to me that rote and that is why it may seem that I do not write often, but I need the emotion and passion to be there before I can pick up my virtual pen and write these postings. It is not an excuse but more a reality and my apologies for having not written more about my Israel trip yet – more will be on the way soon, after passover.
Max Herzberg is a world-famous biotechnologist who has single-handedly created and sold more companies than many of us even know or can keep track of. Max immigrated to Israel from France and quickly became a world-class biotechnologist and a leader in his field and in the corporate world!
However, after getting his fill of running biotechnology departments at universities and running and starting companies, Max decided he would plant a vineyard. One day Max approached his clearly intelligent wife (who happens to be a Tunisian – so that helps a lot of course) and asked if she minded if he planted a few vines? His wife replied, you mean you want to plant the entire field – right? Sure enough, in 2005, by the time Max was done, the entire 3 acre field, right next to his home in Moshav Sitrya was planted with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Malbec. It is not clear if this particular location within the Judean Hills is well situated for Malbec, but as Max puts it – time will tell. Max also makes use of Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from a neighboring vineyard. The first true year for the winery was in 2008, though there was some 300 bottles from the 2007 vintage. The 2012 vintage produced some 4500 bottles – nice realistic and manageable growth. Max does it all; he prunes his vineyard and sulfurs it with a machine, and of course makes the wine. The only thing he does not do is pick the grapes – by himself, he has folks to help with that!
As usual, Geller knows everyone and him and Max hit it off really well. It helps that Geller speaks a perfect French (so jealous), the native tongue of the French born Max Herzberg. It was with this knowledge that we arrived at his home and he showed us around the winery – though by this time it was pitch dark and we were walking around very carefully. We soon made our way to the well-lit tasting room, that is adjacent to the winery and that is where we tasted through the winery’s entire line. A few weeks after we visited, Max had a winery tasting at his winery to show off the new 2009/2010 red wines and from what I can see on his Facebook page – it was a smash! Max is one of those honest, down to earth, humble and talented wine makers that enjoy what he is doing and it shows in his wine and in his passion for his craft. Read the rest of this entry