Ella Valley Winery Visit and Wine Tasting
On a lovely Friday in August 2009, a friend and I were weaving through route 395 as it winds through the lush Judean Hills, and then descends into the valley of Route 38, which junctions into Route 375. After driving Route 375 for a few miles, we find the turn off for Netiv HaLamed-Heh, where the Ella Valley Winery is situated. This was our third trip to the winery. Our previous visit was very generously hosted by Udi Kaplan. The winery was founded in 1996 when the Adert Vineyard was first planted. Soon after, in 2001, the winery was constructed using state of the art wine making technology, that would allow Ella Valley to compete with the world’s best wineries. The winery was built from the bottom up with a desire to craft the world’s best wines, while keeping to a strict adherence of the kosher certification requirements. The winery started production with the 2002 vintage, when they produced some 100,000+ bottles of wine, to high praise and acclaim. Since then, they have succeeded with their vision and are continuing to produce more than 200,000 bottles of top quality wines, even for their non reserve lines (named Vineyard Choice).
The winery is managed by Uri Kaplan, who runs the day-to-day operations of the winery, while the wine making duties are left to the capable hands of French trained Doron Rav Hon. Doron has been part of the winery since its inception, and his handiwork is all over the wine itself. The wine’s signature flavors are clear with every sip. There is no overripe fruit, clobbering oak, or under ripe green characteristics, that dominate many of the wines in Israel and the world alike now a days. Instead, Doron’s wines are all well balanced wines that do take advantage of the sun and valley’s cool nights. He uses French oak predominately, which allows for a more subtle wine expression, and thereby giving the grapes a chance to show their true quality, without screaming it from the rooftop. When talking with critics and wine experts alike about Ella Valley, the word that comes up is consistency and elegance. The reds and whites alike are consistently elegant, while keeping to winery’s credo – of traditional elegance with a twist modernization.
So when we drove up to the winery, we were not surprised to find that very credo staring us in the face. The winery’s lovely traditional structure and facade, was quietly wrapping its modern inner workings. We were super honored to meet with Doron himself, and he was kind to show us around the winery before, sitting down to a superb wine tasting. The conversation was varied and fascinating; from discussions around kashrut to Doron’s wine making philosophy. The wine tasting was equally varied from an Unoaked Chardonnay all the way to a blockbuster Merlot and everything else in between. If you had to point to a single varietal that defines Ella Valley – it would have to be Merlot. From 2002 and on, Ella Valley’s Merlot(s) have been the top scoring and most sinewy yet refined wines in their portfolio. Nothing about our wine tasting changed that perspective, except for the fact that they continue to show exactness and gentle prodding on all of the wines in their fine portfolio.
Most of the conversation, when not on kashrut (one of my current hot buttons) revolved around wineries and viticulture. Ella Valley has a long history of scientific precision when it comes to their vineyards. They planted them with exacting precision (using Napa Valley technology), and continue to tend to them with the same exacting tenacity. I am always fascinated by how Israel with such a varied climate, can be considered a Mediterranean climate, and one that should be mimicking the viticultural likeness of Spain or Italy. Some wineries in Israel are producing overripe wines and some are producing green styled wines. Though some of these wineries may have their own vineyards, I do not think that they have the precision, exactness, and knowledge that Ella Valley and the king – Yarden Winery have. Ella Valley has the great fortune to not only closely control their vineyard, but they are also close enough the vineyard, such that they can control how and when the harvest is carried out. Looking at the track record of Ella Valley, one is almost sure that they will soon be knocking on Spain’s and Italy’s door, to claim their stake as one of the top wine producers in the Mediterranean countries.
I want to thank Doron, Uri, and the rest of the Ella Valley vineyard for taking the time to meet with us and entertain us with their wines and time. The wine notes follow below in the order they were drunk:
2007 Ella Valley Unoaked Chardonnay – Score: B+
The nose on this straw colored wine is filled with lychee, grapefruit, lemon, and vegetal notes. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is filled with bright and ripe grapefruit and lychee. The mid palate is packed with bright acidity. The finish is long and tart with ripe citrus fruit and mineral notes.
2007 Ella Valley Chardonnay – Score: A-
This was really fun to taste in parallel with the unoaked Chardonnay. The effect of the oak comes through clearly and with great effect! The nose on this light golden colored wine is alive with toasty and rich oak, peach, honeydew, and crème brûlée. The mouth on this full bodied wine is rich and mouth coating while not being an oak bomb. The mouth is rich with ripe peach and honeydew flavors. The mid palate is balanced with enough acidity, oak, and crème. The finish is long with spice, rich fruit, and oak. Quite a nice wine and what a difference some oak can do! To be clear though, the grapes used in the unoaked chardonnay are not exactly the same used in this wine, as this wine has grapes from a newer vineyard.
2007 Ella Valley Cabernet Franc – Score: A-
The nose on this purple colored wine starts with classical vegetal notes, raspberry, blackberry, sweet oak, and tobacco. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine has caressing tannins and rich oak that almost coat the mouth, along with blackberry and raspberry. The mid palate is balanced and gives way to a long and generous finish of blackberry, raspberry, licorice, and tobacco. Quite a nice Cabernet Franc and yet more proof that Cabernet Franc may yet be Israel’s signature wine.
2005 Ella Valley Merlot (35% – 40% new oak, 16 months in barrel) – Score: A
This wine is not part of the VC (Vineyard Choice or Reserve) line, but once again showing that Merlot from Ella Valley is never a bad choice. The nose on this black colored wine is popping with rich loam, spice, a hint of green pepper, blackberry, raspberry, and oak. The mouth on this muscular full bodied wine is open with caressing tannins, blackberry, cranberry, and rich oak. The mid palate carries the oak and adds a bit of chocolate. The finish is long and generous, with blackberry, spice, and a hint chocolate. This is a powerful and thick shouldered wine that makes use of its oak, while showing its fruit qualities, and one that can be enjoyed with almost any dish.
2005 Ella Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Vineyard Choice (10% Merlot) – Score: A-
The nose on this purple to black colored wine is super rich and odoriferous with ripe blackberry, cassis, green pepper, sweet oak, and toasty wood. The mouth on this full bodied wine is ripe, but not overripe, with blackberry, cassis, and a bit of green flavors. The mid palate is balanced with acid, oak, integrating tannins, and chocolate. The finish is long, with chocolate, cassis, and nice ripe fruit. This wine is reminiscent of a California Cabernet Sauvignon, but more refined.
2004 Ella Valley Merlot Vineyard Choice (15% Cabernet Sauvignon) – Score: A
The nose on this purple to black colored wine is ripe with blackberry, raspberry, vegetal aromas, and sweet oak. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine has lovely mouth caressing from integrated tannins, along with blackberry, and cassis. The mid palate is balanced with nice tannins and oak. The finish is long with red and black fruit, slight vegetal flavors, and a pull of rich tobacco.
Posted on December 22, 2009, in Kosher Red Wine, Kosher Rose Wine, Wine, Winery Visit and tagged Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, Ella Valley Winery, Merlot, UnOaked Chardonnay, Vineyard Choice. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.