Notes from kosher wines tasted in and around Israel

Before I left for Israel, I had a bottle of the 2008 Yarden Odem Vineyard Chardonnay. Normally this wine is killer. The 2009 vintage is lovely, the 2007 vintage was closed the last time I enjoyed it, but opened quickly enough and was lovely. Unfortunately, this bottle of the 2008 Yarden Odem Vineyard Chardonnay was clearly in a deep sleep, and one that would not open no matter what I tried. Humorously, when I came back from Israel, some three weeks later, the leftovers of the wine that I stored in the refrigerator, tasted quite nice!

In Israel, we enjoyed many wines for Passover and for other meals. Some of the wines were quite nice while some were just OK. The best two wines we enjoyed were the 2010 Dalton Zinfandel and the 2010 Saslove April. The other wines were fine but none of those were really note worthy. The 2010 Dalton Zinfandel showed far better than when I had it at the Gotham Wine Event. The Tulip White Franc was really nice, though a bit less Cabernet Franc-ish than the 2010 vintage. This is the second time I had the chance to taste April, when I enjoyed it at Sommelier last year, and it continues to impress with its light oak influence (they used staves) and interesting blend.

The only real downer for me was 2011 Galil Rose; it was OK, but nothing to write home about. I was not a huge fan of the Dalton Roses either, but hey I keep trying! I do love the Flam and Catsel Roses. The Tulip Just Cab and Merlot were lovely and continue to improve and show good varietal characteristics. I had the 2010 Galil Wines and they were average at best, which is OK, but again not wines to write home about. My father-in-law and I both enjoyed the bubbly Cabernet. Yes, I said I liked a semi-sweet bubbly Cabernet, because it was actually enjoyable. Sorry, to all the wine snobs out there, but the 2011 Tabor Pnimim (Pearls) sparkler, was enjoyable, unpretentious, and though semi-sweet, not cloyingly so in any way. No, I would not normally, bestow any praise upon a semi sweet Cabernet nor even write about it in a positive manner, as normally Cabernet and sweet do not logically go hand in hand, but Tabor did a good job, so Kudos!

Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to visit any wineries, but I did get a chance to see Gabriel Geller, a man I can happily call an acquaintance, and hopefully one day a friend, that now own a wine store in the heart of Jerusalem, called the Wine Mill. The wine store is located in the Wind Mill right next to the Prima Kings Hotel Jerusalem, and essentially at the corner of King George and Ramban streets. The store is laid out in a quite enjoyable and clutter free manner, with more than enough room for informal gatherings of his clients and customers. When I was there, I picked up some wines that I took home and I also had a chance to talk with both Gabriel and David Rhodes, a wine critic/writer who I have not yet had the chance to write about here in the blog, but a person who has solid wine abilities and who I have had the pleasure to talk with a few times now. The conversation inevitably came around to kosher wine, Israeli Wine, and Daniel Rogov (man I cannot believe it has been 6 months already since his passing), but hey what happens in the Wine Mill stays in the Wine Mill. I did have the chance to taste a lovely bottle of Domaine Ventura Cabernet Franc, but I did not write notes on the wine – sorry. From what I remember, it was very characteristic of Cabernet Franc, with good green notes, lovely ripe red fruit, without the raisin or date flavors, that are so characteristic of Israeli wines. The oak did not overpower though was felt and clearly present, and there was some nice extraction along with tobacco and light leather. An unofficial score would be B+ to A-.

Many thanks to Gabriel and David and I hope to write more about them both in the coming months, when I get back to Israel again. Many if not all of these wines will be available in America, in the coming months, excepting for the Tabor Pnimim (which many will not bemoan – I am sure). The Tulip White Franc is not imported, but one that I personally like. The wine notes follow below:

2010 Tulip White Franc – Score: B++
The wine is a blend of 65% Cabernet Franc (pulled from its skins to keep it clear) and 35% Sauvignon Blanc, along with 15% residual sugar. The nose was a true joy with unique franc expression of green notes, flowers, violet, peach, strawberry, grapefruit, and kiwi. On the mouth the light sweetness adds a clear heft to the wine along with its medium body that makes the wine feel almost full in the mouth. The finish is long with lovely fig and good acidity that balances the wine well. A unique mouth that clearly turns some people off, but one that I enjoyed.

2011 Tulip White Franc – Score: B++
The wine is a blend of 65% Cabernet Franc (pulled from its skins to keep it clear) and 35% Sauvignon Blanc, along with 15% residual sugar. I really liked this wine though I must say it is highly nontraditional and not as franc-ish as the 2010 version. Still the nose continues to impress with lovely floral notes, strawberry, bright citrus, and guava. The mouth explodes with a bit more weight than the 2010 version, and with more ripe tropical fruit, along with ripe melon, Asian pear, and nice sweetness that adds weight to the mouth. The finish is long and balanced with good bright citrus acidity, lemon zest, and almond shell.

2010 Tulip Just Cabernet Sauvignon – Score: B+ to A-
We had this wine before, and the wine did not show as well as our previous tasting which may have been a bottle variation or just me. The wine was aged in French barrels for 8 months and shows clear oak influence. The nose is filled with chocolate, cedar, tobacco, blackcurrant, raspberry, plum, and vanilla. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is well extracted with almost mouth coating tannins, nicely integrating tannins, and enough oak to round the mouth. The finish is long and spicy with hints of tar and roasted herbs.

2010 Tulip Just Merlot – Score: B+ to A-
The grapes for this wine hail from the same hallowed grounds as the grapes from Karmai Yosef Bravdo winery, which is surrounded by vineyards that belong to other wineries. The nose explodes with heavy roasted herb, plum, cranberry, currant, and citrus zest. The mouth is medium in weight, along with good concentration and extraction, black cherry expression, nice ripe but not overly sweet fruit, along with enough oak to round the mouth and integrating tannin. The finish is long with good spice, vanilla, black olives, and blackcurrant flavors.

2011 Galil Mountain Rose – Score: B to B+
Once again, I have a love hate relationship with Israeli Roses. I loved the 2011 Castel Rose and I have very little love for Dalton or Galil’s Rose. Rose is one of those tough wines to make well. The Dalton 2010 edition caused me great consternation when I could not come to appreciate the wine. This wine did no better, actually, I had two bottles of it and both times that I drank it I could not come to truly enjoy it. I guess, the bitterness of the fruit really gets in my way. The wine is a blend of 75% Sangiovese, 13 % Barbera, 10% Pinot Noir, and 2% Syrah, so an eclectic mix to say the least, but one that did not live up to the winery as much as I had hoped. The nose is the clear highlight of this wine with beautiful strawberry expression, cherry, raspberry, and good citrus notes. The mouth is medium in weight with more acidity, floral notes, and balancing tartness. The finish is long with bitter herbs and olives on the rise.

2011 Tabor Pninim (Pearls) Sparkling Wine – Score: B to B+
This is a great example of a wine that is truly enjoyable but has no redeemable characteristics to give it a good score. Still, a fine wine that I would happily quaff when it is around. The wine is made from 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, but yet a wine I did not find offensive, tough it is semi-sweet in nature. The nose on this sparkling wine explodes with ripe strawberry aromas, rich cranberry, and raspberry notes. The mouth is medium in weight with nice medium-sized mousse bubbles, good acidity, and light sweetness that is reminiscent of candy drops, along with bitter Kirsch cherry, that all together fills out the mouth nicely.

2010 Kadesh Barnea Merlot – Score: B to B+
The nose is lovely and floral with violet notes, fig, raspberry, and a bit of raisin. The mouth is filled with plum and mouth-coating tannin, the sweetness is evident from the overripe fruit, but balanced with good oak extraction that helps to fill the mouth. The finish is long and spicy with dark cherry and cinnamon commanding your attention. A nice wine that will last a year or so more.

2010 Saslove April – Score: B++
This wine is another example of Israel’s desire and ability to create wild and crazy blends, very reminiscent of Australia blends, that are also quite diverse and non-Europe conformant. While the Cab/Shiraz blend may well be the Great Ausie Blend, this is an example of a blend that is not made anywhere else that I could find on Google. The actual blend is not far at all rom a classic Bordeaux blend, 40% Merlot, 20% Cabernet, but the other 40% is a blend of Nebbiolo, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot. I tasted this at Sommelier last year and I wanted to taste it again to see how it was progressing. The wine is now opened with a nose that is both unique and quite lovely. It starts off with rich almond paste, raspberry, plum, crushed herb, and floral notes. The mouth is round with nicely integrated and mouth coating tannin, nice rounding and balancing influence from 4 months in oak along with nice ripe blackberry fruit. The finish is long and spicy with cinnamon, mint, eucalyptus, licorice, vanilla, and chocolate. Not for long storage drink till 2013.

2010 Galil Mountain Shiraz – Score: B to B+
This is another of those wines from Galil, this year that just does not grab me. Sure it has bright and talkative fruit, but that is really all there is to write about. The nose has nice blackberry, plum, and raspberry fruit while the medium body is balanced and soft with nice integrated tannins. The finish is a bit stunted and starting to fade. I would drink up and buy no more.

2010 Dalton Zinfandel – Score: B++ to  A-
I tasted this wine before at the 2012 Gotham Wine Event, and I did not like it there. It was too floral without weight and body that I have come to associate with Dalton’s Zinfandels. Well, I guess it was just resting because this bottle was awesome and one of the clear highlights of the wines I tasted. This wine was aged for 12 months in American Oak, and BOY can you tell. The nose starts off with a blast of big black fruit, blackberry, black plum, and cassis, along with cinnamon, hickory, and spice. The mouth is rich, layered and full-bodied with tannin that is yielding, along with nice oak extraction, and black ripe fruit that is meddling together quite nicely. The finish is super long and spicy, with black pepper, chocolate, vanilla, cloves, leather, and black olive. Quite a lovely wine and one worth having a few more times. Drink till 2015.

Posted on April 30, 2012, in Food and drink, Israel, Israeli Wine, Kosher Red Wine, Kosher Rose Wine, Kosher Semi Sweet Wine, Kosher Sparkling Wine, Kosher White Wine, Kosher Wine, Wine and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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