Three Merlot wines from Israel, two from France, Pacifica Cabernet, and one killer Herzog Napa Cab

2009 Shiloh Merlot, Secret Reserve, Judean HillsI am really behind on my blog, as I have been busy with a new hobby which is taking up all of my time. Anyway, I wanted to highlight the meal we had two weeks ago which was in honor of my nephew and his beux leaving the area to go east. So in honor of them, I wanted to try a bunch of Israeli Merlot wines. Now, when people think of Israel, Merlot is not first on their mind, mostly because many do not appreciate Merlot, which is done incorrectly tastes bland and benign. That blandness and lack of character, was initially its draw, but over time, it was nuked both by the Sideways effect and by its sheer lack of anything fun. The folks in the know, would blank at Merlot from Israel, given the areas hot climate, which is counterproductive to making good Merlot.

The truth is that I have been talking about Merlot from Israel, but Merlot only from the Shomron region, a region that has found a way to harness what Israel has to offer and channel it into lovely and rich Merlot. The Shomron is becoming quite the up and coming wine region, much like the Judean Hills was some ten years ago. Now, Castel, Flam, Tzora, and many other wineries have made the Judean Hills a household name. I think the Shomron will soon follow in its next door neighbors footsteps, and come out from under the shadow of the Jerusalem hills to capture its own claim to fame; namely Merlot!

Merlot, as stated above has many needs, one is climate, two is proper drainage, and three is it needs careful vineyard management to control its vigor, nitrogen levels, and many other intricate issues that make Merlot a finicky grape, though not as maddening as its Sideways replacement Pinot Noir. As a total aside, the Sideways movie to me was far too vulgar and not to my taste, but there is a hidden joke in the movie that many miss. In the movie, the shlubby protagonist, Miles, screams afoul of Merlot and even disses Cabernet Franc, but especially extolls his love for all things Pinot Noir. Why did Miles love Pinot Noir so much, why go to great lengths to get his beloved nectar, well he defined right at the start:

“Um, it’s a hard grape to grow … it’s thin-skinned, temperamental, ripens early … it’s not a survivor like Cabernet, which can just grow anywhere and thrive even when it’s neglected. No, Pinot needs constant care and attention … it can only grow in these really specific, little, tucked- away corners of the world. And only the most patient and nurturing of growers can do it, really. Only somebody who really takes the time to understand Pinot’s potential can then coax it into its fullest expression.”

The humorous part is that this fluid and heartfelt soliloquy – turned America’s love for Merlot on its ear and in its place came a passionate desire for all things Pinot. But the funny thing is that Miles other deep love, was his single bottle of 1961 Chateau Cheval Blanc. From what I read, as it is not kosher and very expensive, it is a mind blowing wine and one that is chronicled as perfection in all of the wine trade rags. Either way, the great inside joke is that his dream wine, the wine that was a metaphor for his life is made from 50% Merlot and 50% Cabernet Franc! Give credit to the writers Jim Taylor and Alexander Payne, to take the time to laugh at their own contradictions and highlight the narcissistic undertones of the movie’s protagonist!

Anyway, with that aside, these 3 2009 Merlot wines were actually quite lovely! I liked the 2009 Bravdo Merlot from the Judean Hills. I really liked the Tura Merlot from the Shomron. The winner of the evening though was the 2009 Shiloh Merlot, Secret reserve, this particular wine was sourced from the Judean Hills. They all had far better control of the mad 2009 Israeli fruit, some showed date, but they mostly showed ripe fruit, with balancing acid and or mineral/earth. Bravo to all three wineries!

Of course, we could not have a celebratory dinner, both for his newly minted PhD title, and the start of his new job, without a bottle of Champagne. For that I opened a bottle of the N.V. Drappier Carte d’Or – a lovely and classic French Champagne, that happens to rock and also be mevushal! Finally, there were two bottles brought by our friends EL and LS, a 2000 Château Cantelaudette and a 2000 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Reserve, Napa Valley! Two wines from the 200 vintage – worlds apart – in style and distance, but two wines that held up each in their own unique manner. The clear winner of those two was the 2000 Herzog Cab, but to be fair the Cantelaudette was alive days later and while it hinted at classic barnyard fare, it lost that early and was left with mineral, spice, and earth, earth, and more earth. A very cool experience to say the least – thanks so much guys for sharing! The two wines reminded me of the crazy dinner we had at JT’s house in LA, I hope to get the written up before 2014!

Well there you have it – there was food as well, rib roast, roasted vegetables, and rice pilaf. However, I lost myself after rib roast – the rest were just a solid supporting cast 🙂

Finally, when Gary Landsman joined us for the 19 course Bernstein dinner at our house, he was very considerate to bring a few wines, one of which we never got to; the 2010 Pacifica Cabernet Sauvignon from Walla Walla Valley in Washington State. The wine is made by Philip Jones, of Goose Bay Winery fame. The wine is the inaugural wine from the new all kosher winery, that is sourced from 95 acres on Underwood Mountain, across from Hood River, Oregon. The few times that I have tasted this wine I have never liked it, to say mildly, the wine does not show well at all at wine tastings! This wine needs air – TONS of air. It was showing best a day or two later! Meaning, a good few hours of decanting would make this wine show less of its clawing dried fruit. With time and air, the wine’s complexity, mineral, and earthiness comes out from under the sweet dried fruit haze to show its true colors. Thanks so much to Gary for letting me have the chance to see Jone’s true handiwork.

The wine notes follow below and my best wishes to Doran and Nina, safe travels, grow, learn, and live life – it is always a ride, but it is up to you to make it a great experience!

2010 Pacifica Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valey – Score: B+ to A-
The nose and body are solid – but the wine is far too sweet with candied fruit and date to keep me entertained. The nose starts with lovely forest berry, graphite, mineral, loamy rich dirt, and dill. The mouth is concentrated and extracted a bit, with still searing tannin, black cherry, blackberry, currant, nice oak, and fig. The finish is long with good butterscotch, chocolate, cinnamon, dark fruit lingering, with eucalyptus, bramble, rich dirt, sweet herb, oregano, and spice.

Fair is fair – this wine improved GREATLY with a day of air! The nose is ripe with cherry and dark candied fruit, raspberry, and eucalyptus and dirt. The mouth is spicy and round and rich with good acid and great body – quite surprised. The tannin is lovely mouth coating, rich, and the crazy dried fruit has calmed and the mouth is earthy, herby, and rich with good fruit and spice – BRAVO!!

2000 Château Cantelaudette – Score: B to B+
This kosher wine was a shocker here was a 13 year old wine that really tasted mature, but nice and there – quite impressive. This wine is bricking, which is fair, and is mature, with a fair amount of sediment. The nose starts off closed and dead, but with time, it opens to limited fruit, but insane freshy ground coffee, rich loamy dirt, heavy mineral, mounds of graphite, and smoky notes to start that almost smell like roasted meat. The mouth is where you get hints of fruit, dark cherry, currant, cranberry, and red berry, along with still living tannin, and more classic French barnyard flavors that are well – French! The finish is long and spicy, with mounds of herb, bell pepper, licorice, cloves, and eucalyptus. Thanks so much to EL for sharing this bottle with us!!!

NV Drappier Carte d’Or – Score: A-
This is the second of two Drappier wines that Royal is releasing. We tasted the other one – Carte Blance and liked that one very much. The wine is a blend of the traditional Champagne grapes: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier. The nose on the light gold and salmon colored wine is starts off with yeast, nice mineral, bright lemon, apple, and toast. The mouth on the medium bodied wine starts off with white peach, cherry, brioche, and a lovely mousse of small bubbles. The finish is long and tart with toast lingering.

2009 Bravdo Karmei Yosef Merlot – Score: A-
The nose is green, earthy, with OK control for a 2009 Israeli wine, dark cherry, cranberry, and raisin notes. The medium to full bodied mouth hits you with crazy searing tannin, rich and layered concentrated and extracted fruit, tannins that do not let up, along with lovely sweet cedar, date, chocolate, crazy black plum, and dark forest berry. The finish is long and herbed, with sweet herbs, oregano, mounds of sweet tobacco, sweet dried fruit, and spice. With time the wine opens further to show a far darker side, with leather, tar, graphite, raspberry, blackberry, dark currant, and rich smokey notes.

2009 Tura Merlot – Score: A-
This is a great example of what a Shomron Merlot tastes like! The nose on this black colored wine is screaming with ripe green fruit, green notes, lovely ripe raspberry, plum, herbal notes, with huge eucalyptus, and a lovely perfume of ripe sweet notes. The mouth on this medium plus bodied wine starts with aggressive mouth drying tannin from being in oak for 20 months, followed by concentrated but controlled black and red fruit that is integrated with spicy cedar, blackberry, and spice. The finish is long and spicy with great balance, sweet notes but no date or raisin, balanced perfectly with green notes of ripe Merlot, followed by leafy tobacco, sweet jam, mouth coating tannin that lingers forever, along with milk chocolate, vanilla, sweet and savory spices, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

2009 Shiloh Merlot, Secret Reserve – Score: A- (and a bit more)
The nose on this wine is rich, dark, and perfectly controlled, a wine that was aged 20 months in new French oak, and the influence is felt throughout, but in a controlled manner. This 2009 wine from Israel, should be used as a lesson plan for how to make non-overripe and non-date driven wines, a true joy of a wine indeed. The nose is dark and rich, with dark cherry, blackberry, cassis, dark plum, great earth, mineral, and graphite, what a lovely perfumed nose. The mouth is rich and layered with soft caressing tannin, lovely sweet cedar, light hints of date, fantastic structure, along with bracing acid, and tobacco. The finish is long and herbal, with vanilla, bakers chocolate, cherry, and tannin that lingers long with dark fruit, leather, and mounds of spice. With time, the wine shows tar notes, along with more green notes and an overall structure and body that is truly captivating – BRAVO!

2000 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Reserve, Napa Valley – Score: A- (and a bit more)
Whoever thought this wine was a 72 – never tasted it or tasted a flawed bottle. For full disclosure, the bottle I opened had a cork that broke, but it was wet and not crumbling at all, and the wine was dynamite!!! The nose exploded with super ripe, lovely raspberry, currant, and beautiful graphite, and smokey notes, the nose was truly perfumed and exceptional. The mouth was mouth coating with soft well integrated tannin, great acid, a bit of bell pepper, wonderful sweet cedar that balanced out well with the rich layers of concentrated fruit. The finish was long and dirty, with good dirt, earth, mineral, cloves, sweet cinnamon, black pepper, along with fantastic vanilla, chocolate, and tobacco. For a bit of time the wine went to dates, dried fruit, and the sort, but it rebounded to be a truly leathery, dark fruit of cassis, black plum, rich, and evoking wine! BRAVO!!

2010 Harkham Windarra Winery Chardonnay – Score: B+
This is the first release of a Chardonnay from this winery and it is quite a fine one. The wine is not over oaked, though it would be hard to miss it. A portion of the wine was fermented and aged in oak for 2 months and then blended with juice that was fermented and aged in steel. The nose shows no influence of oak at the start, though it becomes apparent soon enough, along with lovely peach and apricot, melon, and kiwi, and loamy dirt. The wine is medium in body yet fills the mouth nicely with fresh cut grass and straw flavors, along with a hint of oak, and nice tart citrus. The finish is nice with vanilla, grapefruit, baked apple pie, and Asian pear. This is a fine wine that is mevushal but does not show any ill affects from it. The fruit is ripe, tart, and bright, but balanced nicely with a hint of oak, and its influence. Drink UP now.

Posted on June 3, 2013, in Food and drink, Israel, Israeli Wine, Kosher French Wine, Kosher Red Wine, Kosher Rose Wine, Kosher Sparkling Wine, Kosher White Wine, Kosher Wine, Wine and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

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