My Dear John letter to overripe wines and a few winners

cc licensed flickr photo from irishdragongreen

With the Jewish Holidays at their end, I must say that I really did enjoy them, but spiritually and wine wise! I have been slowly but surely changing over my collection from wines that I thought I liked to wines I actually do like. Sure, I have a few duds here and there, but for the most part, I think I have thinned the ranks of the unwanted.

Years ago – I blindly bought whatever red reserve Yarden wines the late Daniel Rogov scored a 92 or higher, and to his credit it was a grand time for a bit. But sadly before he passed, his  golden touch, in terms of picking the perfect Yarden Reserve red was losing its aura. To be fair it is not a detriment to the man I truly respected. It is simply that my palate and interest have moved so starkly from the overripe notes of old, that I have finally broken down and written my Dear John letter to many Israeli wines.

As I stated 9 months ago in my year in review and ahead, I stated that I would start to track wines that I find overly ripe in style, whether it comes from Israel or anywhere else. I have been doing that in my wine notes, but I and finding less and less of them, simply because I am turning over my library in the direction of wines like Tzora, Yatir, and so on.

To be fair, wineries are making wines like this because that is what the public wishes, or so they say. I understand that a palate is a hard thing to come by, and that it may well be an evolutionary road for many. Still, there is a thing called nuance and then there is a thing called a 2×4. To create wines that are so obtusely in your face – one has to stop and wonder if the winemaker is actually unwilling to trust his wines to you. Maybe it his/her way of saying – here I dare you not to taste something in this wine! Mocking you as the winery takes your money and you are left with that aching feeling that is more akin to a used car lot than a culinary experience.

So, I thought it was time to publicly publish my Dear John letter to wines from Israel or elsewhere that continue to cater to the LCD (least common denominator) – and make wines that only a dead person could miss notes in.

Dear overly ripe wines,

I have to be honest, for the longest time you were a wonderful accompaniment to my weekend dinners. However, in these past 5 years, I cannot help but think that we have drifted apart. Oh come on, do not flutter those sweet and cloying tannins at me, you know how I hate that so. I wish I could say it is me and not you, but I would be lying. This is all on you!

This is not about you or about me “winning or losing”, you know I have lost so much over the years when I happily gave away bottles of the 2004 Ortal Merlot and so much more. There is no denying that we have changed so much, you continue to be so sweet, of course, but what I finally realized is that you are also so empty. Sure you have those wonderful structural qualities, that we all look for in a companion, but the rest is hollow, no stuffing, no meaning, just a flat and empty being.

I tried so hard to make it work, to ignore my wine friends, telling them that it was just a bad night or a really bad weekend, like that bender in December. Sadly, it always turns out the same way when I wake from another night of debauchery, I am thankfully a bit lighter of you and you are always the same – big, bold, loud, and empty!

So, I am happy to say I think I am rid of you from my cellar. I have worked hard to empty it of your kind and thankfully, I can now say that you are in my past. I waited too long to write this letter, for that I am sorry to you and my guests. However, going forward I know that I have made the correct decision and wish you and those wineries all the best. I even have a lovely new moniker for you DJL – if you see that on a note I write, you will know that you have found a wine you will truly come to love. For me, it will be a badge of shame.

Thanks for all the great times, and I am also happy to say good riddance and bon voyage!

That was something that was a long time coming, and I am happy to have said it out loud. I want to be sure that we clear the air of any misconceptions though of wines like Shirah versus the 2009 Yarden Cabernet. The 2009 Yarden is a wine that is cloyingly sweet with nice structure and sweet notes that would turn sweet tooth into cavities. However, a wine like the 2009 Power to the people, is an entirely different beast. Sure, it is clearly new world, with sweet notes, but it is balanced, controlled, and shockingly still has enough acid to keep going. Of course a wine like the 2011 Chateau Moulin Riche is an entirely different beast! That is a wine that is so French, it is insane. The wine is ripped, showing a core structure, with rich mineral, graphite, and dirt  – that you have to work hard now to find the fruit. Fear not, in a few years the fruit will come out, but for now let it rest in your cellar and enjoy it here and there at tastings.

I point this out, as I have before, because I want it to be clear that I still very much like “sweet” controlled ripe wines. The DJL was for uncontrolled, date, prune, raisin wines that are thankfully a thing of the past from my cellar.

Below are Israeli wines that are older and clearly wines that did not yet have the BIG BOLD AND BAD pedigree (facetious of course) that its younger siblings are now showing is all the rage.

My wine notes follow below:

2006 Yarden Merlot, Odem Organic Vineyard – Score: A- (and more)
This is the first single vineyard Merlot from the Odem Vineyard. This vineyard is tended to organically, but the word Organic is nowhere on the label as there are sulfites added. The last time we had this bottle the first thing that hit you was the massive amount of menthol and spice that there was. This time the menthol and herb was under control, and it was accompanied by candied plum, nice chocolate, blackberry, eucalyptus/menthol aromas, and black cherry. The mouth is massive and inky with mouth coating tannin, layer upon layer of spice and herb, black fruit that is focused and concentrated, and sweet cedar that is integrating and rich in the mouth. The finish is super long and spicy with lovely tobacco, chocolate, blackcurrant, orange rind and loamy dirt. Over time the wine opens further and shows layers of butterscotch and creamy vanilla.

2011 Cuvee Chabad, Zinfandel, Napa Valley – Score: A-
This wine has sweetness to it, but the wine is more ripe than sweet and the rich smokey notes really help round the wine out. The added earthy, dirty, and roasted animal that lie in the background add to the overall wines appeal.

The nose starts off with sweet notes, and the heat of old is gone, along with great spice, black and blue fruit, root beer, roasted animal, loamy earth, and lovely dirt. The mouth on this medium bodied wine shows no more sweet notes, with ripe boysenberry, blackberry, dark almost liqueur kirsch cherry, ripe red plum, crushed herb, along with lovely mouth coating tannin and sweet oak. The finish is long and spicy with nutmeg, root beer, black pepper, smoky notes, and vanilla, along with a long drag of cigar and leather – BRAVO!

2010 Agua Dulce Winery Zinfandel – Score: B+
I must say that though I did not like this wine as much in the past, the wine is now coming together, showing less heat and sweetness and more brawn. The wine has lost its blue and sweet fruit nose, and is now more dense and black. The nose on this dark purple colored wine explodes with nicely smoked meat, dark and brooding fruit, and great spice. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine starts off so nicely with layers of dark and rich jammy fruit, blackberry, strawberry, sweet oak, and lovely mouth coating tannin, thankfully the heat and dates are gone, and in their place are clear notes of herb and eucalyptus. The finish is long with more spice, with the green notes of the past coming to the fore, olives, rich and freshly ground pepper, chocolate, and more spice. Clearly better than the past – NICE!

2007 Yarden Syrah, Avital Slopes – Score: A- (and a bit more)
The nose on this purple colored wine is one that is true to its core, no dates or overripe notes to be found. This is a wine redolent with rise but controlled fruit, concentrated dark fruit, all giving way to roasted meat aromas, tar, and mounds of fresh tilled earth. The mouth on this full bodied wine holds true with deeply concentrated and extracted fruit, dark cherry, raspberry, blackberry, and dark plum, with hints of herb and sweet figs, all brought together with sweet cedar wood, and tannins that are just starting to give way. The finish is logic with good acidity, black pepper, graphite, chocolate, and spice -bravo!

2008 Galil Mountain Winery Yiron – Score: A- (and more) (QPR)
The 2008 vintage was the last vintage I have bought the Yiron, as the 2009 and 2010 are not wines I like. To be fair, much of the “Yarden” empire has been cursed with this issue. The nose on this garnet colored wine is hopping with an expressive and intoxicating smokey perfume of licorice, spice, tar aromas, and animal fats. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is truly explosive with now integrated mouth coating tannin, rich mouth feel and concentration of black cherry, ripe blackberry, ripe plum, and raspberry, followed by tart fruit, sweet oak, softening tannin, sweet herb, and nice acid. The finish is long, spicy and expressive with green notes, eucalyptus, graphite, dirt, tobacco, espresso coffee notes, and oriental spices – BRAVO! Start drinking up, it threw a bit of sediment, this wine has is at peak or very close, and after that who cares – the fun starts to abate, get it while the going is fun!

2006 Yatir Cabernet Sauvignon – Score: A-
This wine is clearly at peak or over and should be drunk VERY soon. This wine is a blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Petite Verdot. The nose starts off with lovely barnyard, followed by black fruit, loamy dirt, herb, and green notes. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is layered and rich with blackberry, dark cherry, spice, good extraction, along with plum, intense mouth coating tannins, and sweet cedar. The finish is long and spectacular, with tannin that does not give up, along with cloves, green herb, coffee, citrus peel, tart fruit, dried ginger. BRAVO!

2007 Galil Mountain Winery Yiron – Score: A- (and a bit more)
This wine is a blend of 62% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% Merlot, and 7% Syrah. The wine is a sweet wine, the sweetest of the group, but it is still hanging on, so if you like your wines more controlled, drink soon.

The nose on this wine is black and blue and red all over, with black berries, blueberry, boysenberry, hints of white summer fruit, black pepper, apricot, and spice. The mouth on this full bodied wine shows dried fruit, graphite, candied cherry, insane tannins that do not stop, along with roasted oriental herbs, blue fruit that captivates you, and spice. The finish is long and intensely spicy, with chocolate, leather, cloves,a nd more spice. BRAVO!!

2009 Psagot Edom – Score: A- (and a bit more)
This wine is a blend of 61% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Merlot, 17% Cabernet Franc, and 15% Petite Verdot. The nose in rich and black with sweet notes, dark berry, loamy dirt, and lemon zest. The mouth on this full bodied wine is lovely, layers of concentrated sweet fruit, that is balanced and controlled with ripe blackberry, cassis, along with still searing tannin, sweet cedar, and spice. The finish is long with nice tannin, good acid, leather, blackcurrant, cloves, black pepper, chocolate, and citrus rind on the long rise. BRAVO!

2010 Herzog Meritage – Score: A- (and a bit more)
This wine tastes like it did a few months ago, and is a wine that has serious aging potential. Decant for one hour before enjoying.

This wine is a commemorative bottle that Herzog has created called Herzog tasting Room Reserve – a wine that is sold only at the tasting room in Oxnard. The wine was made to commemorate the 25th year of wine making under the Herzog wine label. The wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc, the classic melange of French Bordeaux wines.

The nose on this red to purple colored wine screams from graphite and mineral, followed by red and black fruit, green notes, herb, and sweet cedar. The mouth on this medium bodied wine starts closed and needs a good hour of decanting to fully enjoy. Once open the mouth is layered with sweet cherry, blackberry, plum, sweet bell pepper, and lovely mouth coating tannin that lingers long. The finish is long and sweet with tart fruit, chocolate, vanilla, leather, spice, and more graphite along with an almost saline finish and bitter almonds that rise on the long and elegant finish – BRAVO!!!!

2009 Bravdo (Karmei Yosef Winery) Merlot – Score: A- (and a bit more)
This wine has evolved a bit since we last tasted it and it is really coming together nicely. Sadly, this was my last bottle and this wine has another two years in its legs. It is at peak or maybe a month or two ahead of that – so enjoy it in the next six months – to enjoy at peak for sure.

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 integrating but still attacking tannin, rich and layered concentrated and extracted fruit, tannins that do not let up, along with lovely sweet cedar, dates that have receded, 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. Of the 2009 Bravdo wines – this is the one that has showed the best in the last year or so.

2010 Weinstock Cellars Cabernet Franc Select – Score: A- (and a bit more) (QPR) (Mevushal)
Weinstock Cellar Select wines are truly becoming a no brainer wine in the mevushal camp and even if you are not looking for mevushal wine! This was the first vintage of Cabernet Franc for Weinstock and they really created a great wine! The wine is classic, with green notes and plum, but steeped in dirt and mineral notes. Fantastic QPR wine to say the least!

The nose on this wine starts off with classic green notes of bell pepper, followed by ripe red and black fruit, herb, dirt, and mineral. The mouth on this medium plus bodied wine is intense and layered with concentrated and ripe cherry, raspberry, plum, and more dirt, with smokey notes, sweet cedar, and mouth coating tannin that has yet to fully integrate. The finish is long and mineral, with graphite, rock, dirt, mint, tar, and tobacco, with hints of toffee and more tannin on the long rise. BRAVO!!!!

2011 Dalton Petite Sirah, Samson –  Score: B+ to A-
This wine is one of those wines that continue to prove to me, that PS may be epic in ways, but also not complex in others. It is not as shallow as malbec, at least in the kosher scene, but most PS in the kosher scene, have a nice line but not much holding/staying power. That said, the Dalton PS here is solid with great acidity and good enough body to keep most interested. If you are searching for complexity, look elsewhere, but if you are looking for earth, dirt, tar, and fruit – in that order – this is a nice example. PLEASE READ – before enjoying this wine – cool it off in the fridge for 30 to 40 minutes and the wine will show less alcohol/heat and more fruit.

The nose on this wine starts with heat that blows off very slowly, followed by white flowers, black fruit, spice, black pepper, and herb. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is all black with hints of red, with blackberry, dark cherry, nice soft and integrated tannin, butterscotch, brown sugar, along with a soft, creme mouth feel, all wrapped up in sweet oak and spice. The finish is long and sweet, with lovely dirt, earth, tar, nutmeg, cinnamon, and more sweet notes, followed by a lingering coffee flavored vanilla ice cream.

2010 Tabor Merlot, Adama, Bazelet – Score: A- (and a bit more) (MAD QPR)
This is a wine I had with a friend of mine in January at the winery and I was not that impressed, which just goes to prove that tasting wine at a winery with 10 minutes or less to let the wine open and show it potential, is not the best way to judge a wine. The wine showed well, but not this well. Further the wine recently received a 93 from Wine Enthusiast, which judges kosher Israeli wine far more on par than other wines than other publications that I also read.

So, I had to give this wine a second chance and man were they right! This wine is a screaming QPR wine, it is rich and layered and shows black and red fruit throughout. It has no clear flaws and the acidity is what brings it all together.

The nose on this wine shows rich smokey notes, barnyard notes, along with candied Kirsch cherry, freshly rooted dirt, and ripe black notes. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine shows lovely and rich complexity from beautiful mouth coating tannin that lingers long, along with ripe concentrated blackberry, plum, raspberry, along withe sweet cedar, and spice. The finish is long with rich mineral, intense graphite, loamy dirt, lovely acidity, all culminating to an impression of a dark and brooding male with a long leather trench coat, puffing on a freshly rolled cigar, while enjoying some bitter chocolate and a cup of espresso. BRAVO! and double BRAVO for the insane price and quality! I have said before that Tabor is the new QPR leader in white wines, and throw this one on top of the heap at well!!

2009 Shiloh legend – Score: A- (Mevushal)
The nose on this mevushal purple colored wine explodes with ripe blueberry, dark cherry, ripe raspberry, licorice, and lovely spice, with a hint of roasted meat and smokiness which leaves soon enough for more crazy spices and ripe fruit. The mouth on this full bodied, ripe, round wine is expressive with sweet fruit, blackberry, ripe strawberry, plum, more blue fruit, along with sweet cedar, and mouth coating tannin that lingers and makes the mouth feel ripe, sweet, and round. The finish is long and spicy with nice vanilla, cinnamon, chocolate mocha, black pepper, cloves, nutmeg, and mint. Over time the wine opens further to show grapefruit, pineapple, watermelon, and more lovely baking spices – BRAVO!

With all the overripe and over sweet 2009 wines from Israel – this is a wine that shows you what control in Israel can taste like.

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Posted on October 28, 2014, in Food and drink, Israel, Israeli Wine, Kosher Red Wine, Kosher Wine, Wine and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

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