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Top Kosher Malbec wines from around the world

2009 Teperberg Malbec, TerraBefore I left for China and India I had the chance to hang with friends and go through many of the best kosher Malbec wines on the market. Since then a few new ones have popped up, which I have yet to taste, so I will add those to my next tasting run of Malbec wines hopefully.

As you know if you read my blog, I like wines that are blue in nature and I have no problem saying that out loud! The blueberry and boysenberry fruit are so rare and unique in wine that I am always overjoyed to taste them. That said, in a Merlot or a Cabernet Sauvignon they taste downright weird. So what about Malbec? Is Malbec a blue fruit wine or a black fruit wine? Well that depends, in the very same vein that can be asked about Syrah, is it a blue or black fruit wine? While were at it what about Zinfandel or Petite Sirah?

To the Petite Sirah question, until Israel, I had not tasted a PS without blue fruit, but I think the extreme heat in Israel kills the blue fruit, much like it does to the Syrah fruit (this is not a scientific statement – just my experience). Case in point, the Ellla Valley PS is black and earthy, but no blue fruit to be found. Same goes for the 2010 Yarden Malbec, black and earthy, just like in France. What can I say, it is interesting that these four varietals have the possibility of displaying blue fruit, but when grown in Israel there is less of an option. Now to be fair, the Dalton PS is full of blue fruit, as is the Teperberg Malbec.

There is a reason why Petite Sirah and Zinfandel go so well together, like in the Recanati Petite Sirah/Zinfandel blend, or the Hajdu NV Besomim wine. Either way, the fruit compliment each other, as does the spicy notes, the earthy components and the bramble. Same can be said for some of the insane blends that Tzora, Ella Valley, and others are perfecting in Israel. The Ella Valley 35/25 wine, a blend of Petite Sirah, Syrah, and Merlot (in 2008) is such a wine that is full of blue and black fruit (from what I hear I have not personally tasted it). Same goes for the wonderful Misty Hills or Shoresh wies from Tzora which take the Australian blends to the max, mixing Cabernet or Merlot with Syrah. Read the rest of this entry

2009 Tishbi Syrah and 2011 Hagafen Sauvignon Blanc with Whiskey braised ribs

2009 Tishbi Syrah, Estate BottledThis weekend we enjoyed another simple meal of alcohol and brown sugar braised ribs cooked in a crockpot overnight. The ribs were lovely and only needed for the fat to be removed from the braising liquid – and magically we have a dinner. The dish was paired with some brown and black rice and a fresh green salad.

I recently wrote about the Tishbi Winery and when I was there in December last year, I enjoyed the 2009 Tishbi Syrah. So, when the opportunity to try it again came my way – I was more than happy to buy some. I bought the Tishbi and Gush Etzion wines from a local distributor, Harken Spirits here is the South Bay run by James Jimenez, an ex-software guy turned wine runner! Harken is selling some very good wines, like Tishbi and Gush Etzion wines. Both of which I have written about many times. I cannot say I like any of the Kadesh Barnea wines, but to be fair there are many who like the wines – and are good examples of starter wines; wines that are sweet and ripe and not overly complex; AKA gateway wines.

The other bottle I had was the 2011 Hagafen Sauvignon Blanc. I really like Hagafen wines, the whites especially and some of the reds. I last wrote about Hagafen in 2010, and I really need to update the notes – look for that soon.

The wine notes follow below:

2009 Tishbi Shiraz Estate – Score: B+ to A-
The wine is round and ready and one that pairs extremely well with dishes needing spice and ripe fruit, such as stews, ribs, and cheeses. The nose starts off with ripe blueberry, plum, currant, and cherry, with hints of rich dirt and licorice. The mouth is nice round and spicy, with good concentrated fruit, but lacking in deep complexity. The mouth is sweet with lots of date, sweet blue and red fruit, with hints of blackcurrant in the background, but with ripe sweet and deep strawberry flavors coming out over time, with candied raspberry, sweet cedar, and good integrated tannin adding to the mouth. The finish is long and spicy with Garrigue, bramble, light leather, animal notes, and chocolate. Drink in the next two years.

2011 Hagafen Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley – Score: B+
The nose is rich with fresh cut grass, ripe peach, apricot, guava, and melon. The mouth is ripe and fresh, with great acid, only a hint of residual sugar, crazy ripe and fresh mouth with nice grass, awesome lemon fresche, more bright fruit, pineapple and ripe pink grapefruit. The finish is long and ripe with green notes a bit of pith and a hint of blood orange. This is a lovely wine but lacking complexity to take it to the next level.

Tishbi Winery – one of Israel’s oldest and original wineries

Tishbi Winery Tasting RoomThe Tishbi winery has a history that spans more than 120 years in Israel; one that intersects with many of the famous names of modern Israel’s short history. The story begins in 1882, when Malka and Michael Chemelitsky immigrated to the city of Shefeya at the foothills of Zichron Yaakov. There they worked for the Carmel Wine Co-op that was founded by Baron Edmund de Rothschild in the late 1800s. They worked the land, planting vineyards, clearing rubble and stones, with nothing more than the barest of tools and technology. The work was backbreaking and endless, and unfortunately more work, was the only reward for many of the early immigrants, that came to settle the barren land. However, for the few farmers that were lucky to work with Edmund, they saw salvation from his deep pockets, huge heart, and massive resources that he brought to bear, to teach, bolster, and, ultimately, build the, then fledgling, wine industry into the forebear of where it is today.

Soon after the Chemelitskys came to Israel and started working the land, they were advised to change their name to Tishbi, which is actually an acronym in Hebrew that stands for “resident of Shefeya in Israel”. The world-renowned poet Chaim Nachman Bialik, Israel’s national poet extraordinaire, gave the name to them. In the early days of Israel’s wine industry, the cooperative farmers would work the vines, planting them, pruning them, caring for them, and then sell their grapes to the Carmel Winery. However, after many decades of work and toil, it became clear to many of the cooperative farmers that life was changing, and that they would either need to break out of the cooperative or be left behind.

Tishbi Winery Tasting Room 2So, in 1984, the great-grandson of our story’s Protagonist, Jonathan Tishbi, stepped out of the shadows of the Carmel Winery and into the shadows of the Carmel Mountain range. Initially, he called his new winery Baron Winery, in honor of Baron Edmond, but later changed it to his namesake – Tishbi Winery. At that time there were few wineries in Israel, and even fewer successful ones that were not just making sacramental (sweet) wine. Jonathan went to Italy to see how generations of family-owned wineries had succeeded, and from where we stand, he seems to have emulated them quite impressively. The family tradition continues to the 5th generation, with Jonathan’s son – Golan Tishbi, acting head winemaker. The winery’s tradition is impressive, but it feels like it will always be overshadowed by the massive mountains under which it lays, and the equally massive foundation upon which it is built. Read the rest of this entry

2009 Tishbi Malbec and Rib Eye steak

2009 Tishbi Malbec, Tishbi Estate, Single VineyardWhen I was in Israel I had the Tishbi Malbec some three times, twice at the Ashdod Wine Tasting and once at the Tishbi winery itself (not yet blogged). The wine at the Ashdod tasting must have been a few days old or more than day, as it was highly oxidized, but richer and more layered with deep roasted animal notes and ripe black fruit. However, the other bottles have been a real joy to drink.

For dinner this Shabbos we had our steak dinner and crunchy roasted potatoes, which were perfect again. If you use the recipe, the meat will not be blue and red. Instead, the meat comes out medium rare, but that is more than fine for me. The potatoes were also quite enjoyable.

The wine turned out to be really nice again and a wine that I am happy is available here in the US and one that I really enjoyed. The wine note is below:

2009 Tishbi Malbec, Tishbi Estate, Single Vineyard – Score: B++ to A-
The wine does not show as well as by the winery, the blue notes linger for a bit and then fade away to a cacophony of dead animal notes, deep earth, and black fruit. The wine mellows over time to rich tobacco and violet, with smoke, eucalyptus, and date. The mouth is medium to full bodied, rich and layered with concentrated and tangy fruit, ripe sweet strawberry, rich black plum, blackberry, more crazy sweet tobacco, sweet cedar, candied black cherry, all controlled with little to no date, but still sweet – very Californian in style. The finish is long and sweet with butterscotch, zesty raspberry, hints of tar and loamy earth.

Beef Bourguignon made from eye chuck roast and a plethora of Syrah wines

Well after a long hiatus I have finally been able to grab some time for myself and this blog. I have of course been writing wine notes (at cellartracker), just have had no time to get them placed here. So, I rewind us to July 29th, when we had the true joy of many of our friends sharing a meal around our table. The meal started with a lovely bottle of Four Gates Pinot, which was filled with classic CCC (Chicka Cherry Cola) and lovely bramble. The wine was lovely for the first course, which consisted of smoked salmon, spicy hummus and dips.

For the main course we made Beef Bourguignon made from eye chuck roast. I must say that this was the first time we used chuck eye roast, a more expensive cut of the chuck, but it was well worth it. The meat was well marbled, which allowed the meat to stay moist after being cooked for so many hours. I used this recipe, from Daniel Rogov’s culinary site.

Unfortunately, the recipe calls for some fatty goose to be the fat flavor booster (as pork is not kosher), but we had none of that. So, we went with some cubed sausages instead. The main trick is really to allow this dish to happen very slowly. The more time you give the ingredients to marinate, cook, and or cool the better the flavors will come together. The meat was awesome as was the dish, as we had almost no leftovers. The only thing we messed up, was not to remove more of the fat, which we will do next time.

The amount of time it takes to brown 4 pounds of cubed beef is crazy long, and that is why this is one of the easier yet long preparation dishes that we make. We paired the Beef Bourguignon with brown basmati rice, a lovely fresh green salad and some roasted green beans.

The wines we poured that matched this dish were three syrahs that I have been dying to try. The first was the 2008 Syraph One | Two Punch, which we tasted twice back in 2010. This wine did not disappoint us in any way. The wine is still kicking just fine and still has the insanely unique flavor of chocolate mocha covered espresso beans is quite fun and went very well with this hearty dish. That was followed by the 2007 Tishbi Organic Shiraz which was not tasting nearly as well as it did some 5 months ago when we tasted it in the winery. I brought this bottle back myself, and it was a slight disappointment. The nose was crazy good but the mouth was weak and not there. Finally, we had a bottle of the 2004 Yiron Syrah, which is going nowhere anytime soon. This wine is still a massive powerhouse and has at least a few more tannic years under its belt.

The meal was a hit as were most of the wines served. There were a few experimental and barrel wines served, but those notes are not listed here. The wine notes follow below:

2007 Tishbi Organic Sirah: (Israel, Galilee, Golan Heights) – Score: B++
The nose on this purple colored wine is clearly its strongest suite, it is clean, rich cedar, exploding with plum, strawberry, raspberry, black berries, roasted meat, tobacco, chocolate, a hint of tar, and vanilla. The nose is rich and full, and sadly its best feature. The mouth on this medium bodied wine does follow the nose, but has a blatant flaw,; that being is clear lack of balance. The mouth is mouth coating with nicely integrated tannin, raspberry, black plum, black berries, chocolate, and fig. The mid palate is unbalanced with what can only be called strawberry zest, black pepper, dirt, tar, and tobacco. The finish is nice and long with integrated tannin, dirt, black pepper, black plum, chocolate, rich cedar, tobacco, roasted meat, and vanilla. Cedar, tobacco, chocolate, vanilla, and plum linger long. This wine is DRINK NOW mode, please do not wait any longer.

2008 Syraph One | Two Punch 50% Grenache & 50% Syrah – (USA, San Luis Obispo Counties) – Score: A-
The nose on this purple-black colored wine is truly unique and very hard to pin down. Sometimes it smells like coffee and sometimes it smells like chocolate. I think it is actually a blend or maybe a mocha espresso, along with ripe blackberry, blueberry, plum, vanilla, smoky, oak, along with crushed herbs. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is layered and concentrated with blackberry, blueberry, vanilla, mocha espresso, nice tannin, and plum. The mid palate spikes with acid, oak, and vanilla. The finish is super long and spicy with chocolate, vanilla, black fruit, tannin, oak, and herbs. Quite a unique and fun wine. This wine has calmed a bit since last year, but the tannins are still not fully integrated.

2004 Galil Mountain Winery Syrah Yiron Kosher – (Israel, Galilee) – Score: A- to A
To start I opened this bottle because I was told it was drink now time, personally, this beast is going nowhere fast in my opinion. The nose on this purple to black colored wine is exploding with rich and concentrated aromas, rich cedar, baking chocolate, leafy tobacco, hints of tar, heaps of black pepper, smoky notes, coffee, raspberry, blackberry, cassis, plum, crushed herbs, and eucalyptus. The mouth on this super rich and concentrated wine hits you in layers upon layers of still not integrated tannin, licorice, black pepper, blackberry, plum, chocolate, and cedar. The mid palate is balanced with sweet cedar, nice acidity, more nice tannin, tobacco, and chocolate. The finish is super long and spicy with crazy rich cedar, blackberry, crushed herbs, plum, tobacco, chocolate, figs, a hint of tar, with a dollop of vanilla. Black pepper, crushed herbs, chocolate, tobacco, plum, and vanilla linger super long. This wine is in no hurray to be drunk, but is lovely now.

Weekend off with friends, great food and wine, Elvi Wines Ribera del Júcar Adar, Tishbi Emerald Riesling, and Sol De Chile Cabernet Sauvignon

This past week saw us hanging with friends and so no recipes this week.  Benyo from Four Gates Winery was there so we got to taste two wines that are very close to release, which I think will be nice wines.  Our friends made some unbelievable food, including a lovely vegetable soup (no cans here), fantastic challah, tons of salads, along with a main course of  Beef bourguignon, rice, and a few more side dishes that I lost track of!  Absolutely awesome food and great company to boot!  The following day for lunch we had fish, many more salads, roasted chicken, cholent, and gobs of side dishes.

The only thing we did was show up and bring a few bottles of wine, the wine notes are found below.  I begged Benyo to bring another of those wonderful old 1996 non-sulfite Chardonnay.  Once again it was a crowd pleaser with even more concentrated butterscotch!

Thanks so much to our friends for hosting us, feeding us, and allowing us to stay in their wonderful home, and making us feel at home as always!

2009 Tishbi Emerald Riesling Zichron Yaakov and Kfar Tavor – Score: B to B+
The nose on this light straw colored wine is exploding with apple, ripe peach, ripe melon, lychee, perfume, and apricot. The mouth on this light bodied wine follows the nose with apple, strong lemon showing, ripe melon, peach, and apricot. The mid palate is balanced with bracing acidity that calms down over time, perfume, and tart lemon. The finish is long and refreshing with a slight sweetness, tart lemon, melon, perfume, and bit oily texture. A wonderful quaffer that is goes great with spicy fare, light fish dishes, and soft cheese.

2005 Elvi Wines Ribera del Júcar Adar – Score: A-
The nose on this dark garnet colored wine, with slight browning on the edges, is hopping with coffee, licorice, black cherry, black plum, blackberry, rich oak, loamy dirt, and dates. The mouth on this full bodied wine is concentrated out of the bottle, that dissipates a bit over time, coffee, black cherry, black plum, and clear oak influence. The mid palate carries the concentrated flavors, and adds in lovely not yet integrated tannins, balanced acidity, and more oak. The finish is super long and a bit firm, which too softens in the glass, with tight and concentrated black cherry, oak, coffee, and dates. The wine is clearly at its peak or a bit over it. The wine is throwing sediment, browning on the edges, and showing date flavors that are not from the fruit but from age. That said, the wine is holding up quite fine with serious flavors, concentration, and oak influence. The wine does soften up a bit with time in the glass but never comes to a soft mouth palate that feels full in the mouth. rather this is a wine that is best enjoyed out of the bottle with little airing and watch how the wine evolves in the glass. It is a wine that is concentrated and will show that way. Enjoy with hearty Ragù, grilled meat, and/or hard cheese.

2008 Sol de Chile Estate Cabernet Sauvignon - Score: B to B+
We have had this wine before, but this time we drank from the bottle, leaving little time for the wine to air and show its best stuff. The nose on this dark ruby colored wine starts off hot, with some mineral and loamy notes, along with cherry, cranberry, and coffee. The mouth on this medium bodied wine has cranberry, cherry, and a soft mouth. The mid palate has integrating tannins, acid, and coffee. The finish is long and spicy, with a dollop of vanilla and a long and pleasing finish.  This is NOT an admonishment of the wine as much as it is an admonishment to me for not properly managing this bottle.  This wine needs time to open and allow itself to be shown in its best light, which we never let happen, so give this bottle a chance, but please open it a few hours in advance, taste at opening and then a few hours later to see the difference.

A Few Nice Israeli Wines that compliment wonderful Shemini Atzeret Meals

A week ago saw us enjoying meals with friends and on our own.  The Jewish Holiday called Shemini Atzeret is the last part of Sukkot and the one that sometimes gets out of hand, when some mistaken souls confuse Shemini Atzeret with Purim (and think getting drunk is part of the deal).  However, since we did not put up a sukkah and most folks believe that one should eat in the sukkah (without a blessing) on Shemini Atzeret, we ate out for the first two meals.  On Saturday day we went to a friend’s home and were served a wonderful bounty of flavors and textures and some really fun wines.  We brought a bottle of 2003 Galil Winery Yiron, while another guest brought a bottle of 2007 Lambouri Ya’in Kafrisin.  later in the meal the host opened a bottle of 2006 Shiloh Cabernet Sauvignon.

Later that evening we laid low after a long Simchat Torah celebration, with a wonderful meal of meatballs, rice, and fresh green salad.  The recipe for the meatballs were the same we have had before, but this time we substituted a pound of ground turkey for one of the two pounds of ground meat.  The mixture was way off, as the ground turkey meat is soft and sticky, instead of firm like ground meat.  To make the mixture work we added in ground almonds bit by bit until it was he correct consistency.  The tomato sauce was the same and the meatballs came out soft yet firm to the fork.

The wine notes follow below:

2003 Galil Yiron – Score: B+
The nose on this garnet colored wine was hopping and screaming out of the bottle with chocolate, figs, ripe and plump blackberry, plum, and mounds of oak. The mouth on this full bodied, extra ripe, and mouth coating wine is filled with ripe plum and blackberry, rich chocolate, and sweet oak. The mid palate is balanced with acidity and soft tannins. The finish is super long with more rich fruit, chocolate, figs, and a hint of tobacco. Quite a nice wine, but would have been better a few months earlier. Clearly over the hill and on its way down – DRINK UP!!!  This is a change from the previous wine note we had on this wine.  This wine has become fatter and plumper and not as tight and concentrated.

2006 Tishbi Estate Pinot Noir – Score: B+
The nose on this ruby colored wine is hopping with strawberry, cherry, raspberry, and a bit of oak. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is almost mouth coating, but needs a few hours of air to show its best. The mouth is soft and lush with nice cherry and raspberry notes. The mid palate is balanced with nice acidity, soft tannins, and a hint of coffee. The finish is long with more bright fruit, light oak, and vanilla. Quite a nice balanced Pinot.  On an aside, Daniel Rogov did not give this a great score, but I wonder if it was a bad bottle, or if the wine has moved past that deficiency.  As usual Daniel tastes the wine a few times, so I can only guess that either the wines here in the US have gone through to another stage in their life, or we had a “good” bottle.  He noted that there was too much volatile acidity, but I did not see anything like that in the bottle I tasted.

2009 Jerusalem Wine Festival – Pictures and Wine Notes

Our story begins in 2003 and bombs are exploding up and down the state.  Residents are worried to leave the house, and the wine industry is taking a severe hit, as overall morale is down.  As the state steps up, and brings its considerable weight to bear on the problem, private individuals start to wonder how to remove the malaise from among the populace.  Up steps Avi Ben, an owner of a successful chain of wine stores, who comes up with an idea to kill two birds with one stone.  So Avi sat down with a few local wine marketers, and organized the first Jerusalem Wine festival.  In his own words, as described by Jerusalemite.net – We decided to organize a fair that would bring wine distributors to Jerusalem. We picked a great location, the Israel Museum, and once they agreed to house the festival, all the planning became easier. People loved the location, they loved the idea, and it was a huge success.  Under this backdrop, my friend and I were more than happy to attend the 6th annual Jerusalem Wine festival, which was once again located in the Israel Museum, Jerusalem.

Table of glassesAs we gave our tickets to the attendant (previously bought at the Nahalat Shiva Avi Ben store for 60 NIS) and slowly walked our way to the sculpture garden in the back, we could already take in the night’s air.  It was filled with the smell of olive trees, pine trees, open wine bottles, and the initial sense of excitement.  As we got closer to the open air arena, that hosts the 33 wineries that were presenting their wares for the evening, we were greeted by a table of glasses.  The glass was ours to use during the evening, one that would be our ever present partner to the evening’s soiree, and one that we could take home after the long evening.  I paused at the opening to the garden, and took in the spectacle that was in front of me.  Beyond the dim lights, the 33 wineries that rimmed the garden and the center as well, essentially creating a pair of concentric circles, what was evident was the lightness of the evening.  This was not going to be a wine snob event, or an event that would require heavy wine talk.  Instead it was a casual affair, accentuated by the dress code of many of the attendees – shorts, tee shirt, and flip flops.  But even more evident was the electricity, the life, the joy (even if alcohol fueled), that powered the evening and lit up the night’s sky.  It was almost ethereal yet real, and one of the most exciting aspects of the evening.

<slight tangent about kosher issues>

Unfortunately, I must take a moment to talk about what I can only now explain as a kashrut problem surrounding the whole evening.  As much as I loved the festival, those of us who are Orthodox practicing Jews, had a few problems that we faced that evening.  They were:

  1. Shmitta wines for those of us who live in the Diaspora.  The 2008 vintage is a shmitta year, and many of the wineries use a loophole called heter mechira, where they sell the grapes to non-jews.  This is a not so accepted practice in the modern era, and so most Orthodox Jews do not drink those wines.  The only way to know is to pick up the bottle and read the back label, where things of this nature are spelled out.  The wines from Yarden, Galil, and some others, use a more accepted practice called Oztar Beit Din, and so I happily enjoy Yarden and Galil wines from the 2008 vintage.
  2. As lovely as the Spieglau glasses were, they were not “toveled” – ritually immersed, which Orthodox practicing Jews do, before making use of the utensil.
  3. 99% of the wines served that night, were non-mevushal wines.  Meaning they were not pasteurized, which sounds great, because why would you want to pasteurize wine for goodness sakes, this is not milk with volatile bacteria.  Well, because “mevushal” wine can be handled by non Jews, while non-mevushal wines cannot be.  Furthermore, if a non Jew were to touch my wine glass or bottle, I cannot drink that wine anymore.  The law is not very PC to say the least and truly requires a long post to analyze it better (which I will be doing soon God willing), but my belief system is based on faith and not one that I can turn on and off when it suits me or my friends.  Now, I do not bring this up to disparage the Jewish lineage of those that were pouring the wines.  Rather, I bring it up because the rules around the open bottle were lax to say the least.  The open bottles, from which the wine was being poured was touched by many a passerby, and of their lineage, I have no idea.

My feeling is that the next time I go to this event; I would probably attend, but not drink any wines.

</end tangent :-) >

HPIM2113Once we were finished taking in the scene/madness that was swirling before us, we moved our way to the booth of one of Israel’s most exciting wineries – Yatir Winery.  It has captured the imagination and attention of many wine lovers including myself.  I have been lucky to visit the winery twice before, and each time I am in awe of their progress and continual assault at the wine world’s malaise and opinion of Israel’s wine industry.  Just this past year they were awarded one of the highest scores for their flagship wine by Robert Parker and Mark Squires of the Wine Advocate.  There I had what can only be described as a brain freeze, when I tasted one of the best white wines of Israel - the 2008 Yatir Sauvignon Blanc, before I realized that the wine was produced using heter mechira.  I was mistaken at that time, and once more unfortunately, and is the main reason that I did not enjoy more of the whites that evening, as they were either produced by non kosher wineries, or because they were the 2008 vintage and used heter mechira.  That said the 2008 Sauvignon Blanc was wonderful, but was clearly not opened long enough to get its legs under it.  Still, it showed a nice tropical fruit flavor along with a bit of cut grass and some lychee.  From there we moved on to the Galil Mountain Winery‘s booth, where we were hoping to be able to taste the highly acclaimed Galil Meron.  Unfortunately, it was not available for tasting till 9PM, so we were “forced” to partake of their other showings until the hour passed.  I was happily distracted by the Galil Pinot Noir, which is a more classical take on a French Burgundy, than those recently produced by Israeli wineries.  Still, the wine has enough facets – like its soft oak and coffee flavors to throw you off the French scent.  The other two wines I tasted while waiting for the grand moment, were less than enthralling.  The 2008 Galil Rose, was bland and flat, and the 2007 Galil Barbera was but a glimpse of its older brother’s power and depth.  Where the others disappointing, the Galil Meron did not.  It was a wine well worth the wait and one that I highly recommend for those in Israel (the US allotment will not be available till 2010, probably for Passover).

Yarden Winery's Booth/PlatformWe next visited the booth of Dalton Winery, where we tasted a dud of a wine and a real nice winner.  The Dalton Rose, made of 100% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes was an average quaffer, with a rose petal flavored mouth and a raspberry nose.  Nothing to write home about or post about.  The winner was the 2007 Dalton Shiraz – WOW!  A solid blockbuster of a wine and one worthy or your attention.  We then weaved our way on over to the booth of the Binyamina Winery, where we took in a nice 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve.  While some booths had massive and expressive signs – note the Yarden/Golan Heights Winery’s sign, other small wineries had zero signage.  Yarden being one of the biggest wineries in Israel had a sign to match their importance and prestige.  Heck, forget the sign, they had a whole platform.  The sculpture garden is lovely and expansive, but the floor is rock and dirt, which while native to Israel and Jerusalem, is a bit too native for many of the folks standing and walking around for the 4 to 5 hours that the event was open for.  Yarden and another winery had a lovely platform, with soft padding, great lounge chairs, a few tables, and awesome wines (which is obvious).   I cannot seem to find a picture of the platform, but take my word for it :-).  Anyway, we once again weaved around and through the crowd, and moseyed on over to the booth of Tzuba Winery.  We have spoken before about Tzuba, and we had the extreme pleasure of visiting their lovely winery before.  They are a winery with a long lineage of managing vineyards of the Judean Hills.  The wines were a nice selection of the wines available from the winery, within Israel, and yet another reason for us of the Diaspora to do Aliyah!  Yes, they export some wines, but the vast majority sells fine within Israel.  We enjoyed a lovely 2007 Belmont (55% Sauvignon Blanc and 45% Semillon) which showed nice dirt, lychee, grapefruit, and peach.  The 2006 Tel Tzuba Merlot was also quite nice.  The 2006 Tel Tzuba Cabernet was a bit off, so I did not write it up, the bottle tasted over ripe or oxidized.

HPIM2111We were off again, and moving towards a booth with a large sign, the Tishbi Winery Booth.  It was mostly a waste of a trip, this time around, except to prime the pump for a return trip later in the evening, to taste their wonderful desert wine, when my evening of tasting was done, and my evening of drinking began, but we are jumping the gun!  I digress again!  After the awful and overripe 2006 Tishbi Shiraz tasting, we ran into a bunch of acquaintances from Rogov’ forum.  The inner circle of wine booths did not take up all the possible space, so they filled the empty space with some nice standing tables.  I rolled up to the table to augment my wine notes, and as I am of to do, I struck up a conversation with the people around me.  Standing there as well was Zvi and his lovely wife.  He overheard the conversation I was having (which is shocking given my quiet personality), and quickly surmised that it was I that had blown him off earlier in the evening.  We were supposed to meet up at the booth of Assaf Winery.  Well that never happened, because we could NOT find the bloody booth!  It was one of those booths that had almost no signage, and so made it a bit hard to find, given the swarms surrounding the booths.  Anyway, after talking a bit, Zvi pipes up asking “did you get to taste the 2003 Magnum Yarden Merlot”?  Well no I say, heck I had yet to stroll over to the booth/platform at all.  Given the opportunity, I bid my adu, and head on over to the Yarden “booth”.  I nicely asked for a bit of the Merlot, and was rewarded with what can only be described as a drunkard’s convention sized glass of the dark garnet gold!  Keeping in the new Hebrew and non-sequitur slang the Merlot was chaval al ha zman (translated literally — it’s a waste of time” in slang — fantastic, wonderful, out of this world, great).  I lingered long at the booth while I slowly enjoyed my glass of wine.  The Merlot was fat yet not over ripe, red fruit, with a ton of chocolate and tobacco.  It almost felt like you were drinking ripe fruit and wood, while smoking a fat cigar and inhaling boxes of dark chocolate – quite a trip to say the least – like I said – chaval al ha zman.

Alexander Winery's BoothOnce I had my chance to talk with the Yarden crowd and enjoy my wine, I found my way over to the booth of Tzora Winery.  We have spoken about this winery before, and have also had the pleasure of going to their lovely winery, just before the untimely passing of their founder Ronnie James.  Well, the wine has not missed a beat, with the new winemaker Eran Pick.  The 2006 Neve Ilan was dirty and lovely.  The 2006 Shoresh was a bit lighter, but still quite enjoyable.  As I continued my trip around the inner circle, I hit upon Alexander Winery’s booth.  The winemaker Yoram Shalom was pouring and his marketing agent was talking – quite a show!  The wine that was pouring was the 2007 Sandro (named after Shalom’s brother).  We were fortunate enough to meet Shalom the last time we visited his winery in Moshav Beit Yitzchak.  The booth was abuzz with the recent award they won in a Spanish Wine Contest (missed the name – sorry) for their top star – 2005 Alexander The Great – Cabernet Sauvignon.  The 2007 Sandro was overripe, as I have said before.  The wines in the Golan and Upper Galilee can tend towards overripe flavors if not picked at the correct time.  The Sandro is a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot.  We meandered around a bit, and we found ourselves at the Agur Winery’s booth.  There I made my second faux pas, and tasted the 2008 Agur Blanca – which was also a shmitta wine and they use Heter mechira.  The Blanca was really nice, though there are critics out there that do not like it as much as I did, oh well :-).  I was not as impressed by the 2007 Agur Kessem (40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 20% Petit Verdot, and 10% Cabernet Franc), still a nice wine with a mix of black and red flavors, along with nice toasty oak, earth, and mouth coating tannins.

My friend disappeared by now, and I was moving around alone by now.  I swung by the Yarden booth again, to get a taste of the 2004 Yarden Ortal Merlot, which was stunning (I had not tasted this one before).  At this point, my palate was shot and I swung by the Tishbi booth once more, to get a taste of the stunning 2006 Jonathan Tishbi Barbera-Zinfandel Fortified Dessert Wine.  I absolutely loved it and it reminded me of the Carmel Vintage – which is another desert wine that is quite impressive as well.  The evening ended and I picked up some wines to go, in an outside pavilion.

Jerusalem festival - as the evening comes to an endMy take away overall was that the festival was well run, while most of the wine purveyors were pushing some light weight wares that met the interest of the majority of the festival customers.  There is nothing wrong with that, the average wine consumer likes their wine smooth and easy to drink.  Given that trend, the wineries were pouring wines that met the consumer’s interests.  The wineries that I highlighted were pouring wines that were quite enjoyable and highly unexpected (Galil and Yarden).  Finally, ignoring the wines for a second, the festival’s attendees were all very amiable, courteous, and joyous.  Yes they were imbibing alcohol, but alcohol can bring out the worst in people, and that was NOWHERE to be seen, and I stayed to the closing on Tuesday night.  There is a lovely saying in Jewish Lore that goes something like this; When alcohol enters the person’s true self comes out.  That was more than evident Tuesday night, under the full moon’s sky, the beauty that is Israel, was open for all to see and enjoy.

So, thank you so much to the Israel Museum, Avi Ben and all the wineries that were pouring their wares, the wine notes follow below:

2008 Yatir Sauvignon Blanc – Score: B+
The nose on this straw colored wine is filled with lychee, grapefruit, and tropical fruit, along with a strong sense of brightness, and almost clean steel smell. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is super bright with lychee, grapefruit, and tropical fruit, along with some nice balancing green flavors. The mid palate is bright which leads into a long and crisp finish of more tropical fruit. A really nice crisp Sauvignon Blanc with just a hint of roundness that comes from a bit of time in French barrels.

2007 Galil Pinot Noir – Score: B+
The nose on this dark ruby colored wine is classical in nature with nice terroir notes, along with cherry, cranberry, and raspberry.  The nose was hot out of the bottle, and I did not stick around long enough to see when it dissipated.  The mouth on this medium bodied wine follows the nose with more cherry, raspberry, and not yet integrated tannins.  The mid palate is still tannic and hot, along with coffee and bright acidity.  The finish is long and spicy with bright red fruit and an almost toasty flavor

2007 Galil Barbera – Score: B
The nose on this light garnet colored wine is filled with cranberry, plum, oak, and coffee.  The mouth on this medium bodied wine has nice light and integrating tannins that work well with the mouth’s plum and cranberry.  The mid palate is almost smooth with light tannins, coffee, and oak.  The finish is long with bright acidity, coffee, and red fruit.  This is not the winner that the 2006 vintage was, and may be too early to really tell where this wine is going.

2006 Galil Meron – Score: A-
The nose on dark garnet to black colored wine is popping with blackberry, raspberry, ripe plum, chocolate, coffee, and rich oak.  The mouth on this full bodied and complex wine has layers of blackberry, tar, coffee, and rich plum.  The mid palate is layered with oak and integrating tannins that come at you in layers.  The finish is super long with tar, pepper, blackberry, and chocolate.  This is a real winner and one that is sure to please almost anyone at the table.

2007 Dalton Shiraz Reserve – Score: A-
The nose on this dark garnet to purple colored wine is filled with ripe fruit, plum, blackberry, tar, and pepper.  The mouth on this full bodied wine with complex layers hits you often with wave after wave of blackberry, ripe plum, and cassis.  The mid palate is filled with tar, oak, and coffee.  The finish is long and spicy, with oak, tar, blackberry, and chocolate.  Quite a nice Shiraz indeed.

2006 Binyamina Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve – Score: B – B+
The nose on this dark garnet colored wine was hot out of the bottle, with ripe fruit, cranberry, blackberry, and oak.  The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine has cassis and blackberry flavors.  The mid palate is balanced and spicy with oak and bright acidity.  The finish is bright and spicy with blackberry, coffee, and oak.

2007 Tzuba White Belmont (55% Sauvignon Blanc and 45% Semillon) – Score: B+
The nose on this bright light straw colored wine has mineral qualities, along with lychee, grapefruit, peach, and an almost toast aroma.  The mouth has very ripe flavored fruit that mingles nicely with earthy and mineral flavors, along with grapefruit and peach.  The mid palate is tart and earthy.  The finish is long with more tart fruit and clean mineral flavors.

2006 Tzuba Tel Tzuba Merlot – Score: B+
The nose on this dark ruby colored wine has nice earthy notes along with raspberry, cranberry, cherry, oak, and vegetal notes.  The mouth is medium bodied with integrating tannins, cranberry, and raspberry.  The mid palate is balanced with oak and acidity.  The finish is accompanied by earth, spices, and round red fruit.  This is a wine that can use more air in and out of the bottle and one that will serve you well.

2003 Yarden Magnum Merlot – Score: A-
The nose on this black colored wine (not showing any hint of slowing down or brown), is ripe with rich red fruit, slightly hot, plum, raspberry, cassis, rich oak, and mounds of dark chocolate.  The mouth on this complex and full bodied wine was throwing sediment, and comes at you with layers of with rich plum, blackberry, and chocolate.  The mid palate is bright and balanced with acidity, integrating tannins, and coffee.  The finish is long with tobacco, chocolate, and nice tannins.  It almost felt like you were drinking ripe fruit and wood, while smoking a fat cigar and inhaling boxes of dark chocolate, quite a treat indeed.

2006 Tzora Neve Ilan (70% Cabernet Sauvignon & 30% Merlot) – Score: B+
The nose on this dark garnet colored wine is filled with rich earth, blackberry, cranberry, oak, and coffee.  The mouth on this medium bodied wine follows the nose with cranberry, raspberry, roasted oak flavors, and something akin to toffee.  The mid palate has integrated tannins that flow into a long finish with spice, dirt, and red fruit.

2006 Tzora Shoresh (100% Cabernet Sauvignon) – Score: B+ – A-
The nose on this dark garnet colored wine filled with plum, raspberry, earth, and toasted coffee beans, and oak.  The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is spicy with somewhat gripping tannins that have yet to integrate, plum, cassis, and raspberry.  The mid palate is bright with acidity and oak, and leads into a long and earthy finish with rich oak, coffee, and nice spice.

2007 Alexander Sandro – Score: B – B+
The nose on this garnet colored wine is perfumed with almost overripe fruit, toasted oak, blackberry, and raspberry.  The mouth on this full bodied wine is gripping with powerful tannins, cassis and plum.  The mid palate is filled with toasted oak and balancing acidity.  The finish is long with cassis and plum fruit, and chocolate.

2008 Agur Blanco (65% Viognier & 35% Riesling) – Score: B+
The nose on this electric straw colored wine is perfumed with rich and lively grapefruit, honeydew melon, and peach.  The mouth on this medium bodied wine is rich and almost glycerol and oily with ripe peach and honeydew.  The mid palate is balanced with bright acidity that leads into a long and rich finish of tart fruit.

Barkan Pinot Noir, Teal Lake Shiraz Cabernet, Tishbi Cabernet – Petite Sirah, Tierra Salvaje Carmenere

This past week we attended the bar mitzvah of our friend’s kids.  I say kids as they are twins and they did a wonderful job both on their readings and their speeches.  After the ceremony, we were treated to a crazy feast that was quite enjoyable, to say the least.  The meal was scrumptious and the wines served with it were also quite nice.  They were mevushal wines and as stated in previous postings, the quality of mevushal wines can be all over the map.  The wines we were served were quite nice, and in many ways interesting.  None of them made us stand up and cheer, but two of them were downright enjoyable, and two of them were fascinating more from their characteristics then their overall flavor profiles.  Because I had them away from home, I had no place or ability to write notes, therefore, the notes are less through then they normally are.

So many thanks to the hosts, and the wine notes follow below:

2007 Barkan Pinot Noir – Score: B+
I have already blogged about this one here, and enjoyed it now as much as I did the last time.  The acid really picks the wine up, still funny that they bottled the Pinot in a Bordeaux bottle!

2006 Tishbi Cabernet – Petite Sirah – Score: B – B+
This is one of those wines that is really fun.  The nose is packed with classical Golan dirt, nice red fruit, a touch of blackberry, and herbs.  The mouth of this very soft and light to medium bodied wine is active, alive, and really nice.  Fresh red fruit, gobs of nice dirt, and a medium long finish with nice acidity and spice.  A great quaffing wine that is light enough, yet tasty as well.

2005 Teal Lake Shiraz Cabernet
– Score: B
This is a wine whose nose is 100% different than its mouth.  The nose on this wine is almost Cabernet like with a nice combination of red and black fruits.  However, the mouth of this medium bodied wine is a very fruity and extremely floral, to the point of throwing the wine off kilter.  It is a trait of these Teal Lake Shiraz wines, to be crazy floral, but this is a bit too far!

2008 Tierra Salvaje Carmenere – Score: B
This Chilean wine is cool because it is a rather uncommon varietal, but that is where it ends pretty much.  I will say that the wine starts off with an awful smell that does blow off over time.  Still what is left is a floral nosed wine with just enough red fruit to call it wine.  The mouth of the medium bodied wine has a fair amount of floral characteristics along with some fruit, pepper, and a touch of acidity.  There may have been some tannin in the wine, but it was not registrable above all the other noise.

Recanati Winery

Recanati Winery

Recanati Winery

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.

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