The 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.
So, 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
Well this past weekend was quite a busy one, as I was enjoying the Shabbos meal, but also thinking about my quick trip to New York for the Jewish Week tasting. This year the GKWE (Gotham Kosher Wine Extravaganza) was canceled so the only cross-importer wine tasting was going to be the Jewish Week City Winery tasting, which was on a Sunday afternoon! That meant I either stay in NY for Shabbos (not happening), or I fly out late Saturday night for NY and pray I get there in time – barely did – but that is a different story for another posting.
We enjoyed the usual lemon rosemary roasted chicken, quinoa, and a fresh salad, along with my very last bottle of any Dalton Viognier Again, I have stated before, Dalton is releasing a new 2012 vintage of this lovely wine – when it is ready. The best kosher Viognier out there, are from Midbar Winery, Yatir Winery, and Teperberg Winery, but the most anticipated Viognier release will undoubtedly be the 2012 Dalton Viognier – which will be out and about in a bottle by mid year – so LOOK for it, it will be worth the effort.
Until then I will have to live with my memories of this wine. As a side note the wine was made with wild yeast, which while it sounds sexy is really not something most folks will pickup in the wine. However, who cares, the wine is lovely and anyone who has some of these bottles – it is in drink now mode. Finally, this was a shmitta wine – and though I do not drink them normally – this was bought before my change of heart, and was made legal to drink via a process, but not one that you can use going forward – email me if you care. The wine note follows below:
2008 Dalton Viognier Reserve Kosher – Score: A-
The nose on this gold-colored wine screams of toast, butterscotch, honey, orange blossom, and peach. Overtime the wine’s nose also shows off rich white chocolate and spice. The mouth is bright and balanced with good oak influence but also ripe white and tropical fruit, asparagus, grapefruit, and lemon, all wrapped up in an oily texture and rich mouthfeel. The finish is long and spicy with caramel, straw, melon, and pineapple. This was the last of my bottles and one that could have lasted a bit more – but is at its peak for sure – so it is in drink-now mode.
We left Midbar Winery, and we drove the 3 kilometers that separate the Midbar Winery (in the outskirts of Arad) from Yatir Winery (in Tel Arad). By now most of the readers of this blog know my deep affinity for all things Yatir, and I was looking forward to tasting all the wines. We arrived a bit late and as such Eti Edri, the assistant manager, was holding down the fort and keeping the guests from Finland happy as we showed up a few minutes behind the time. Thankfully, we caught up with the crowd and we were able to watch Eran Goldwasser in action.
Say the name Eran Goldwasser and I cannot help but remember how the late Daniel Rogov called him one of the very the top winemakers in Israel. The winery is state of the art, it was state of the art in 2002 and it continues to add to its technology. The picture to the left shows the immaculate state of the tank room where the wine must/juice goes into after being crushed outside and pumped into the tanks. When the red wines have gone through the desired fermentation the wine is pressed with the press you see behind Eran. For whites they are either pressed immediately and then left to lie on their lees in barrel or in the tanks themselves.
Eran than took us around the barrel rooms where he explained the time the wines stay in the barrel before being bottled. Depending on the wine – it may stay longer of shorter and than finds its way to the glass entombment that keeps the wine fresh until it graces your table.
If you look at the success of this winery it is clear why Carmel winery built this edifice to the wine gods and why they continue to fund it. The vineyards that are sourced to make the wine are high above Tel Arad, in a forest called Yatir Forest. The forest was the brain child of the late Ben Gurion, the first Prime Minister and one of the founders of Israel. Many scientists, according to lore, told him that it could not be done, that a forest could not be grown in the arid air and ground of Arad, in and around desert land. In classic Ben Gurion style, his response was, great than lets change the scientists! The result is the amazing Yatir Forest for which the winery is named and for which the flagship wine is named.
The vineyard was planted in 1997 and the inaugural vintage was the 2001 vintage. Initially, the winery pumped out two wines, an Australian blend (Bordeaux grapes and Shiraz) along with a more high-end Bordeaux blend the Yatir Forest. The Yatir blend in some ways has now taken a more secondary importance to the newer wines. In 2004 Yatir released their first white wine – the Yatir Sauvignon Blanc. In 2005 the Yatir Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz were released. In 2007 they released a lovely Viognier. Then in 2008 they released a new label again – the Petite Verdot which was killer! All the while, they continue to pump out the Forest and the blend and each of the varietal wines as well.
The winery’s vineyards are cut up into five sections, which has grown as the winery and its success has grown. The roughly 100 acres of vines have a maximum altitude of 900 meters and in the hot arid heat here in the southern tip of the Judean Hills, every meter counts. The Negev may well be in eye sight, but the region is without doubt the Judean Hills and it is for that reason that the winery chose to use the lion (the symbol of Judea) as its company logo. I am not sure if you caught this video of the Robert Mondovi Of Israeli Wine – Adam Montefiore and his interview with Erin Burnett, one of the anchors on the CNBC network – who happens to have a thing for all things camel!
To say Midbar Winery is unique – would be an understatement of the world. However, to say it might be the most unique kosher winery in Israel, may well NOT be an understatement at all. Midbar Winery is a newly minted winery from the recently closed Asif winery and a new influx of cash from investors. Yeah – yeah, I am getting to it – hold your horses. Asif Winery is a winery that was established in 2006 to do what no one in Israel could do well – create great kosher white wines. According to Yaacov and the winery’s website: Midbar Winery in Arad, was established to develop, promote and celebrate winemaking in the Negev desert. Midbar is the Hebrew word for desert – and our vineyards, typically over 800 meters above sea level, benefit from the Negev’s unique terroir. Another great quote from Yaacov – White is the New Red.
Now, before I get ahead of myself too far, I must state that this winery is not kosher – as in the customary manner. The wine carries no supervision stamp, or hecsher, for a variety of reasons. However, having heard the story of Ya’acov Oryah, I had to visit the winery to find out more. Yaacov Oryah started the winery in 2006 and though he lacked a kosher wine symbol many people like me happily drink his wine. Why? Simple enough – I trust the man, and being that Yaacov Oryah is a religious man – that is all that I need. However, my nonchalant attitude in this area may well concern others, and it is for this reason that I may keep the wines I schlepped back from Israel for myself – or with the folks that are trusting as I am.
For a deeper understanding of why and how this came to be – I advise a wonderful trip to the south of Israel where a lovely, honest, hard working, humble, and successful winemaker will explain the situation to you and if you like what you hear – like I did, I highly recommend his wines. I can openly say that he is not against having supervision, but as your parents used to say to you when you were young – “it is complicated”! The good news is that falling in love with his wines is the farthest thing from complicated!
In retrospect I think that Yaacov should hang two signs above his winery’s door. The first one stating; He who enters should be brave of heart, open of mind, desiring of all things ripe, honeyed, fruity, and floral in so many ways. The second one should read: He who wishes to enter these hallowed halls should be in love with wine of a white persuasion and not the Moscato kind or other overly sweet enchantments. If you lack the interest in grand and lovely white wines than please do not waste the time of the master who works beyond these gates. He is a man who makes white wine a priority rather than a nice-to-have item. Please leave him alone and bother him not so that he can make us all more great white elixirs! Read the rest of this entry
This past weekend we enjoyed a quiet shabbos dinner with one of my favorite dishes, my wife’s Lemon Rosemary Pepper Flake Roasted Chicken Recipe. Along with the roasted chicken we made some lovely quinoa and fresh green salad.
To pair with the chicken and quinoa I opened a bottle of the 2009 Dalton Viognier, Reserve, Wild Yeast. Six months ago we opened one of our two bottles of this lovely Viognier elixir and it was tasting fantastic then and it is tasting great right now! It is a bottle that I have really loved for sometime and one that Dalton stopped making after the 2009 vintage. As stated here, the great news is that I tasted the new 2012 Viognier and it was awesome and it should be on the market in the next year or so. Until then we must wait and live with whatever Dalton Viognier you may have laying around or get a bottle of the 2009 Yatir Viognier.
Personally, I found the bottle to be great, even though others have said the bottle is dead or dying. It was because of these statements that I must come out and state whole wholeheartedly that “the reports of its death are greatly exaggerated”! The wine tasted lovely, it was bright, and rich with lovely summer fruit and I miss it already as it was my last bottle. Yes, I am having serious withdrawal issues, and I only finished drinking it a few hours ago. Till the new Dalton Viogniers come out, I will have to drown my sorrows in a bottle of Yatir Viognier, Teperberg Viognier, or Midbar Viognier. The other options; Yarden Viognier is too Yarden (oak), the Galil Viognier was OK (as told here), and the 2009 Goose Bay Viognier is nice but I hope they will be pouring a new vintage at the Kosher Food and Wine Experience and/or at the International Food and Wine Festival.
In the end, other than the Yatir Viognier, Teperberg Viognier, Terra, or the Midbar Viognier there really is no other kosher Viognier out there that is in the same league. It makes me so happy that the Dalton Viognier is coming back – so look for it very soon.
The note follows below:
2009 Dalton Viognier, Reserve, Wild Yeast – Score: A-
The nose on this light gold orange haloed colored wine is expressive with honeysuckle, butterscotch, toasty oak, floral notes of jasmine, peach, and apricot, with the honey, toast, lemon, and butterscotch showing itself more expressively over time. The mouth on this full bodied wine is rich and oily, layered, and textured with cut grass, grapefruit, melon, summer fruit, pineapple, all balanced well by bright citrus and acid, and mouth rounding oak. The finish is super long and spicy with smoky notes, caramel, cinnamon, rich honey, and candied fig.
I cannot help but continue to wonder out loud why Dalton would give up on such a wonderful wine and go with the Dalton Alma white blend, which was OK at best? How could you stop producing a wine that is beautiful and luscious yet still balanced and rich, a wine that reminds me of a basket of fruit on an oil slick surrounded by a garden of violets and honey bees! Yeah the oil slick may be a bit off-putting, but I really wanted to get across the idea of its viscosity and mouth coating ability.
The wine is clearly one of the best kosher Viognier wines out there. For the longest time, I have lamented on the fact that there are no fantastic Viognier wines in the kosher world. Yarden’s is too – well Yarden, oaky and big, the Goose Bay is good every so often, but not to this level, and the Yatir and Galil are OK as well, but they both lack the viscosity, honeyed notes, and true fruit heft of the Dalton Viognier.
Viognier is a white grape that it is closer in style to a Chardonnay than to a Sauvignon Blanc. All wines can be operated on – but classically these are the styles that the white wines have:
1) The Sauvignon Blanc – can be as clean lined and crisp as a Sancerre and become fat and a bit ugly like in California, and everything in between. Still the classic lines of a Sauvignon Blanc are crisp clean lines, with intense fruit and floral flavors. If picked early there is more green, if picked too late there is more of a fruit bomb which winemakers turn into a fat wine because of all the sugars – or manipulate it by decreasing the alcohol. It is commonly high in acid and is not meant for a long shelf life – though many a Sancerre have lived long lives – mostly because of the crazy acid and mineral characteristics that come from the terroir.
2) The Chardonnay is the wine that we all know and can have many different lines. It is a grape which by its nature is screaming to be modified. The grape loses its crispness early on as it ripeness but in its place comes the weight, fruit, and body. The more oak that is applied the more toast, espresso, smoke, and spice flavors get introduced. The grape has less acid as it ripeness but gains more fruit. This is the real quandary with Chardonnay – when do you pick it? When it sits on the vine for too long you get a ton of fruit, little or no acid and high alcohol. To counter act that wineries will de-alcoholize the wine and add pH as well. Again – Chardonnay is a grape that is screaming to be managed. However, when done correct you can either get nice green and floral wine with less acidity than Sauvignon Blanc, but still enough to hold the wine up and enough fruit to carry the day. Or you can make it California style and lose the acid but gain nice weight and body (from the fruit, alcohol, and oak) – but pH added still tastes fake to me.
3) The Viognier grape/wine is a different beast. It is a wine that has distinct characteristics: perfume, floral notes and acidity, but it is a very picky grape. It is very easy to lose to mold and because of this wineries will plant roses next to the grape vines to act as a canary for detecting mildew early on. The grape needs to be picked late otherwise, it does not give the classic perfume that we get from the Muscat and Riesling grapes. Depending on if the wine maker puts the wine through malolactic fermentation (to give it a bit more weight) or let the wine lie in the must (to give it more perfume) or to let it have a bit of wood to give it roundness. In the end, the wine is not meant for long storage – hence the VERY early release dates on these wines and the wine should have the acidity, fruit, and perfume to make it a real winner.
The Dalton Viognier lacked the insane perfume notes but instead showed crazy honey and floral notes, maybe even more potent than perfumed and intense all at the same time. The note follows below:
2009 Dalton Viognier, Reserve, Wild Yeast – Score: A-
WOW! This wine is like pure heaven in your mouth and drives me crazy to think that Dalton would give up on this wonder for the Alma white blend that is not in the same ballpark. The nose on this wine screams from the second it hits your glass with roses and violets (classic Viognier notes), followed by lovely lychee, pineapple, and peach. The mouth is round and so seductive with a silky smoothness that is elevated by the wine’s rich viscosity, along with lovely honey, and grapefruit, while being balanced with bright acid and cut grass. The finish is long and spicy with hints of cloves, toast, and caramel. This is a wonderful wine that has a year or so left in the tank. Drink one now and enjoy it again in 8 or so months. What a shame that it is not being made again.
The Recanati Winery was the realized life-long dream of Lenny (Leon) Recanati, a banker and true oenophile, who got his start in wine from his parents who made their own wine from their backyard vines. The winery’s stated goal from day one was to produce quality wines at reasonable prices – a truly noble mission statement which, as Recanati celebrates its first decade, it has accomplished beyond his wildest expectations. In addition to providing good value, Recanati is another winery from which you can buy any of their offerings and, while not every wine may be to your linking, you never have to worry about a bad wine.
“In order to go into the wine business, you have to have a passion for it. You have to have a love for it. Let’s say there are better businesses to go into, more profitable, more lucrative. Easier ways to make money,” said Recanati.
When Gil Shatsberg started making wine for Amphore Winery he tried to “take all the sunshine we have in Israel and push into the bottle and concentrate everything and shove it into the glass.” The wines were dense, heavy and high in alcohol.
“They were too big,” he explained. “I realized that when I couldn’t finish my own wine, that it was too heavy.”
Now he aims for wines that are more elegant with less alcohol.
“Wines with finesse that are tasty and fruity and you drink the vineyard and the sunshine in their elegance,” he said. Read the rest of this entry
This past week I was waffling on which white wine to open to pair with my wife’s awesome lemon and rosemary roasted chicken, which has become comfort and easy to make food for the both of us. I do go through my own mood swings in relationship to chicken and poultry, but this week I was on and truly enjoyed it as always. Along with the chicken we also enjoyed some fresh green salad and a blend of brown/red/black rice. Given the menu I wanted a solid white wine that could keep up with the chicken and rice. I was looking at opening the Dalton Viognier or the Dalton Alma, and since I had more of the Alma I opened one for the weekend.
The Haruni Family started the Dalton Winery in 1995, in the Napa Valley of Israel in the Upper Galilee. Within the massive Upper Galilee, a few areas are starting to gather fame, such as the vineyard from which Dalton sources its grapes — Kerem Ben Zimra, Yarden’s El-Rom, Ortal, and Katzrin vineyards, and Gailil Winery’s Yiron vineyard. The vineyard and winery are located minutes from each other, which is usually a great benefit to the winemaker and winery, as the winery can truly source and crush the grapes when they have reached optimal maturity. However, when there is a war going on, and that war is in your backyard, you wish you were miles away. In July and August of the year 2006, Lebanon and Israel were engaged in a bloody battle. It raged on for 34 days, before a cease fire was declared. With the winery and vineyard overlooking Mount Hermon, almost spitting distance from the Lebanese border, the winery was in the direct line of fire.
Dalton was the hardest hit amongst the Galilee wineries, but was still able to source and crush all of its grapes within a week of the cease fire. The actual damage was not nearly as bad as the winery’s inability to prune and manage its vineyard, which caused some of the vineyards (the Chardonnay especially) to fall victim to disease and hungry wildlife. However, the winery was blessed with a bountiful harvest that easily made up for the war’s collateral damage.
Read the rest of this entry
As stated in the previous posting on this lovely event, there were many wines to taste and there was no way I could post all the wine notes in a single posting. Here is my follow-up posting on the wines tasted at the event, including the wines that I loved and did not love.
The wine notes are listed in the order that I tasted them:
2010 Domaine Netofa – White – Score: B++
The nose on this light gold colored wine shows clean and lovely nose of green apple, peach, grapefruit, kiwi, light quince, and rich/nice loamy dirt and mineral. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is rich and balanced with nice minerality, along with nice bright fruit that mingles well in the mouth. The finish is long and spicy with nice quince, tart green apple, grapefruit, and green tea.
2010 Binyamina Chardonnay, Reserve, Unoaked – Score: B
This wine did not show nearly as well as its 2009 sibling, the wine was flat without much to grab your attention. The nose on this straw colored wine has apple, lemon, nice mineral, bright acid, and melon. The mouth is somewhat plush and the finish has citrus to round out the wine.
2010 Binyamina Chardonnay, Reserve – Score: B+
This wine did not show nearly as well as its 2009 sibling, though not as bad as its unoaked twin. The nose on this dark straw colored wine has light oak, brioche, lemon, nice spice, light creme, and honey. The mouth is round with spice, summer fruit, and oak influence.
2011 Tulip White Tulip – Score: B++
This wine is a blend of 70% Gewurztraminer and 30% Sauvignon Blanc with the sweet and floral notes of the Gewurztraminer showing nicely with honey and guava, while the green apple and bright lemon notes from the Sauvignon Blanc blend together in a unique manner. The nose on this straw colored wine hits you with mineral, light honey, bright lemon, green apple, and guava. The mouth is nice and honeyed with light petrol, and citrus. The finish is long with both sweet lemon creme and bright lemon at the same time, along with fig, and tart notes. This is a great wine that would go well with fish or sushi.
This past week I was under a big top enjoying kosher wines from around the world and Chef Aaron Todd’s sumptuous splendors were available for all to enjoy. The event was the 2012 Herzog International Food and Wine Festival (IFWF) that was being held at the stately Hyatt Regency Century Plaza in Century City. Last year’s event was held at the state-of-the-art Herzog Winery, in Oxnard CA. The intimate lighting and setting was lovely last year, but the combination of the Royal’s larger wine portfolio, the wonderful food, and the growing crowds made it feel like the event was getting too big for its britches. So, with much dismay we waited to hear where the event was going to move to. When the word came out that the event was going to be held at the legendary Hyatt Regency Century Plaza in Century City – the event became the must attend hot ticket event for everyone who enjoys food and wine in the LA area – which is about all Los Angelenos.
Now before anyone thinks the event was held in the stately Los Angeles Ballroom – it was not. Actually, it was held in the lovely Plaza Pavilion, whose name does not even begin to give the unique 9,000+ square foot space its due. The event was moved from the somewhat cramped, yet intimate, setting of the winery to a beautiful tent that is a permanent fixture in the hotel and the social calendar of many a LA party hopper. Actually it is with good reason, if I may say so, as the room is a long rectangle with sufficient yet dim-able lighting and enough space to host the many food and wine stands that the 500 or so attendees partook of. Never during the evening did I feel cramped or claustrophobic like I did last year. Further, while the smell of charring wood and meat is a huge turn-on (for me), it totally messes with my olfactory abilities, which when attending a wine tasting (not drinking) event – really bites! There were copious examples of carnivore delights, which were all prepared on site, but the smells did not permeate the walls of the pavilion. The larger space allowed for more vertical sitting spaces with round tables, in case you were not heads down like I was tasting wines. Also, the ability to stroll out of the pavilion and sit in the reception area, a few feet away, made for a far more roomy feeling event. Finally, the pavilion’s lovely champagne, antique gold and chocolate-brown colors, along with the chandeliers and wall-to-wall carpeting made for an evening of sheer elegance and grandeur. Just an aside, while the surroundings were indeed attention grabbing, the guests who attended the event were equally well draped. Some came with tails and a top hat, others dressed to kill in evening ware gowns and suits. I of course, jeans and long sleeve shirt, however, the majority of the crowd were clearly channeling the elegance of the evening.
The confluence of events that just happened to fall on Wednesday, February 15th, made it feel like the odds were stacked against a successful foray out of Herzog’s home base. First it rained – I mean pouring rain! If any of you saw L.A. Story, I hope you can appreciate how rare that is – even in the so-called winter! Further, POTUS decided to do not one, but TWO drive-bys, bringing traffic to a standstill while people craned their necks to catch a glimpse of the most powerful man in the free world. Still, blessedly, nor rain nor sleet nor traffic (the latter a very common malady that Los Angelenos are used to) can keep good citizens of LA from enjoying some seriously good wine and food. The event to me was a major success for many reasons, but the main reason was the fact that sure the event was attended by Jews interested in seeing what wines to buy for the upcoming Purim and Passover. However, there was a large contingency of party goers who attended the evening festivities to enjoy good food and wine – irreverent to their religious and dietary beliefs (which trust me in LA is saying a LOT)! The opportunity to show the L.A. glitterati that the word kosher does not relegate one to an automatic 15 minute timeout, is serious step forward for the kosher industry. Read the rest of this entry