Netofa Winery – the Rhone Ranger of Israel

I have previously posted about our tasting and dinner last year with Pierre Miodownick and the Netofa Winery. They are two entities that are deeply intertwined with each other essentially Netofa is Pierre. The humorous aspect is that when I think of Pierre, I think of France, Bordeaux, Champagne, maybe Burgundy, but I do not think about Rhone! According to GG, Pierre did make a Rhone wine in the past, a Crozes-Hermitage, but I never tasted it. In a special way, Netofa is Pierre’s entry, on a large scale, into the Rhone and Iberian wine regions of the world, and like most things he makes, they are fantastic!

Once again, it was GG and I making our way to Pierre’s house for a tasting of all the new Netofa wines and to see his beautiful new tasting room that was recently constructed. The wines are still being made at Or Haganuz, all done by Pierre himself. The tasting room however, is located in the same area as he lives, and it was an easy drive from the tasting room to his house for dinner and a chance to drink the wines at our leisure.

We made our way to the new tasting room in Netofa and after parking, we walked up the long set of semi-circles stairs to the tasting room. The door to the room is a massive sliding door of vertical planks, very akin to a barn, but in a lovely and tasteful manner. The room is beautifully appointed and upholstered with wine bottles all over the two walls. The other walls are the sliding door entrance and the glass wall with a door to the storage room.

The middle of the room is dominated by this massive squared- off horseshoe shaped table, with a lovely leather appointed chair in the middle. Pierre was very kind to have setup the tasting of all the new and some older wines with glasses all setup for us for the 4 types of wine we were going to be tasting; rose, white, red, and port. Really he had 6 glasses setup for us, but I use 1 glass for all my tastings unless it was the side-by-side tastings we had of the new and previous vintages.

When you look at Netofa’s wines, you have to wonder – why is a French Bordeaux expert making Rhone wines? So, being myself, I asked him. Mr. Miodownick explained quite simply that what he felt grew best near Mount Tabor, where his vineyards are, was Rhone varietals. Now, to be honest the winery has more than just Rhone varietals, it has Chenin Blanc and Iberian grapes as well. Still, the red wines are all Rhone varietals, ignoring the Tempranillo and Touriga Nacional that go into the Tinto and the ports. So, I guess my naming Pierre a Rhone Ranger is a bit off-kilter, given the diversity of his varietals. Maybe, Mediterranean Terroir would have been better, but that did not sound as good as Rhone Ranger!

Now, I did not come up with Rhone Ranger of course, that was done by the founding members of the association in 1980. The most famous of them may be Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon Vineyard. Still, the kosher wine world is finding that Rhone varietals work well in warm climates. Look at Elvi Wines and Capcanes – they both grow a fair amount of Rhine varietals, with different names. Grenache becomes Grenacha and so on. In California, you do not need to look further than Hajdu and Shirah wineries, where their wine portfolios are predominately made up of Rhone varietals. Still, Mr. Miodownick does grow grapes that originated from the Loire Valley and from Portugal, so the Rhone Ranger moniker may be a bit stretched, but I do love those SM wines! The white wines are all Chenin Blanc – a very unique wine for Israel, as the wine’s character is less about tart and refreshing fruit; but rather a younger brother of the Chardonnay grape, meaning it has elegance, power, and yet it also has that Rhone style straw and earth and dirt that we all crave.

The red grapes are Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Tempranillo (an Iberian varietal), Touriga Nacional (native to Portugal), and there are hints of Grenache lurking!!! The whites are the afore mentioned Chenin Blanc and Roussanne. I would love to taste Grenache Blanc or Viognier from Pierre – but so far that is not in the books. But you cannot blame a Viognier lover for trying! The Roussanne and Grenache are two newly planted vines, so they will not become available till 2017.

As we looked at the glasses in front of us, on the squared-off table, I could not help but stare at the bottles standing on the mirrored walls, and the glass that surrounded us. Yes, each bottle is standing up and resting on a curved platform that is mounted to the wall. It is quite a sight; behind the mounts and the bottles is a wall of moire mirrors that were custom built for the winery. The mirrors affect is to not really reflect as much as give make the room feel bigger and cozier, which they clearly got correct! The mirrored walls add an immense amount of class to the already classically elegant room. The wall of standing wines are also in a squared off horseshoe shape, and in the center is a wine dispensing machine that filled the bottles with innate gas as the wine is dispensed.  This allows the wines in the machine to essentially never oxidize while they continue to dispense wine, until of course the bottle is empty or the innate gas empties out – the latter is not recommended! Behind the table is a wall of bottles in cubbyholes, very akin to a wine cellar, stretching the entire length of the tasting room. The wine wall makes the room feel like you are in a cellar and again, like the mirrored walls, really looks cool!!

I recently had an email exchange with Mr. Miodownick when I told him about how much I loved my last bottle of his 2010 Netofa Latour Red. I told him how much I was surprised by the old world style of his wines, his reply was classic Pierre; David, Israel is not a new wine world area. It is the most old and holy wine world. The problem is the producers there are making wine in new world style!!! Classic Pierre! I can safely say this, I am not sold that Israel is an old world style wine region, but the wines that Pierre will release this year are almost all old-world in style, except for the new XX1, which is as new world a wine as Pierre can make, without losing his mind, IMHO!!

As we sat to taste the wines, many were final wines – but before the final release. The wines were poured from new bottles, though some of these bottles were filled from the tanks – for the new 2014 wines and barrel (for the new wine code named XX1).

The wines were all tasted in the order they appear below. The biggest takeaway for me was the fact that Netofa’s white and rose have catapulted to a new level in 2014! Now please, I have liked Netofa’s wines for sometime now. However, with yet another year underneath their belt, both the vineyard and the winemaker are looking more comfortable and impressive with each and ever tasting. The whites are more earthy, mineral, and dirt. The rose is more flinty and rock based. The fruit is popping and the acid is far more intense. Overall, the entire 2014 line was the best they have ever released and shows what years with a single and controlled vineyard can do.

After tasting the new 2014 Netofa white, we tasted the new 2014 Rose, and then the new 2013 Latour white. After that we were given side by side tastings of the previous and the new vintages of the Netofa red wines both 12 and 13; Netofa red, Tinto, and Netofa Latour red. After them, we were honored to be one of the first to taste the still unnamed and undocumented wine, code named Syrah XX1! It was very opulent and rich and extracted, a classic Cali Syrah – if I closed my eyes I could be convinced it was Hajdu’s Syrah or Shirah’s Thompson. Finally, we tasted the new 2012 Ruby Port and the still not released LBV. The 2012 Ruby is less dirty and fruitier than the epic 2010, while the LBV is even crazier and more extracted though tasting the same besides that.

After the delightful tasting, we made our way, with all the bottles of course to dinner at Mr. Miodownick’s home and were graced once again with the presence of the lady of the house, Mrs. Miodownick and her lovely family. Dinner was a perfectly grilled steak with lovely herbed potatoes, and a lovely fresh green salad. Desert was chocolate dipped strawberry and fresh pineapple. As always, the Miodownicks are classic and epic hosts.

Throughout the dinner I was enjoying the wines more and more and finally at the end of the dinner, Pierre brought out a bottle of the 1976 Carmel Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Reserve. This wine was clearly past its time, but it was enjoyable to see the fruit in this wine was still there even though it was clearly oxidized and gone to puppy heaven. It was interesting to taste and since I never had the chance to taste it in the past, it was a unique experience but if you have a bottle lying around, I would not open it. I would leave it as a sentimental bottle and keep it for your man cave!

Our many thanks to the Miodownick’s for their very kind hospitality, to Netofa Winery for the lovely tasting, and to Yair Teboulle Netofa’s CEO who had to run out for a different tasting but who rejoined us afterwards.

In closing, the warmth, hospitality, and immense effort that our hosts showed us, went well beyond what I could have imagined or deserved. Our many, many, thanks to our hosts, for their kindness and open arms, that made GG and I feel like family and welcomed to the home of such importance. I hope you enjoy reading the notes of the wines that are truly wonderful!

My notes follow below:

2014 Domaine Netofa White – Score: A- (Crazy QPR)
I must say this is clearly the best Netofa white so far, and I hope they continue to impress! The wine is 100% Chenin Blanc sourced from the slopes of Mount Tabor. The nose is redolent with rich and bright quince, straw, mineral, lemongrass, and wet grass. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is lovely and rich mineral bomb, with more hay, spiced quince, now dry fresh cut grass, green apple, Asian pear, along with a crazy dry and insanely tart crab apple. The finish is long – spicy, dirty, and mineral based, with dry fruit, rich ripping acid, cloves, and nutmeg – BRAVO!!!

2013 Domaine Netofa Latour White (QPR) – Score: A- (and then some)
WOW what a nose! This wine is also 100% Chenin Blanc, but was aged in French oak for 7 months. The nose on this wine is equally redolent with crazy ripe quince, dry yellow plums, straw, with lovely dry grass, and white cherry. The mouth on this full bodied beast is rich, round, layered, and well spiced, with insane acid, creating an almost mouth coating feel, with all of that is lifted by the acid/spice/mineral mix, showing white pepper, baked fig pie, wrapped in a creamy texture with cloves. The finish is long with mineral, slate, saline, finishing in a crazy acid and mineral driven mouth coating mouth feel – BRAVO!!

2014 Domaine Netofa Rose (QPR) – Score: A- (and more)
This wine is blend of 50% Syrah and 50% Mourvedre. The nose on this beautiful cherry colored wine, is also Pierre’s best by far, and right up there with the other 2014 rose blockbusters; the 2014 Tabor Barbera Rose, the 2014 Recanati Gris de Marselan, and the 2014 Gvaot Rose. The nose on this wine is INSANE and starts with smoke, flint, mad floral notes, rose hips, crazy mineral, showing like a feminine floral rose, but backed by intense mineral and smoke. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is packed and crazy and very busy (in a great way), with mad quince, juicy raspberry, dry cherry, ripe plum, all balanced by ripping mineral, graphite, slate, mad acid, along with mounds of orange pith, topped by hints of nectarine, and dry rose hips. This mouth is one of the more complex rose I have had since the famous 2013 Hajdu Rose and the 2012 Shirah Rose. The finish is long and dry with lovely saline, mineral, candied grapefruit, finishing with more pith, and slate – BRAVO!!!!

2013 Domaine Netofa Red (QPR!) – Score: A- (and more)
This wine is a clear step up from the 2012 Netofa Red, that is not putting the 2012 down in any way, it is just that this wine is even better! This wine is a blend of 65% Syrah and 35% Mourvedre. The nose on this wine is redolent and packed with mineral, lovely smoke, flint, ripe plum, lovely blueberry, with currants in the background. The mouth on this full bodied wine is attacks you first with lovely currants, followed by layers of blueberry, floral notes, richer and more extracted than the 2012, with great mineral, dried strawberry, all wrapped in ripping acid, and lovely tannin. The finish is long, extracted, and richly mineral in style, with blackcurrant, draping tannin, while being spiced with cloves, black pepper, sweet her, and hints of pith and lovely acid. BRAVO!!!

2012 Domaine Netofa Red (QPR) – Score: A-
Well, the last time I tasted this wine was last year at the previous tasting. This time it was a year older, with more bottle age and slight changes in the wine that comes with bottle aging. This wine is a blend of 65% Syrah and 35% Mourvedre, also known in the Rhone Valley and Australia as an SM blend. The nose on this wine is richly spiced with lovely blackcurrant, blueberry, hints of feminine floral notes, charcoal. The mouth on this medium plus bodied wine is rich with mouth drying tannin, coffee, along with lovely blackberry, dry black plum, spice, with black tea, currants, and nice layers of concentrated fruit. The finish is long and spicy, tart and mineral driven, with black and blue fruit, herb, cranberry, and lovely root beer.

2012 Domaine Netofa Latour, Red – Score: A- (and more)
The last time we tasted this wine was at last year’s tasting. This wine is a blend of 70% Syrah and 30% Mourvedre, also known in the Rhone Valley and Australia as an SM blend. This wine is a riper version than the 2013. The nose on this lovely wine is rich with ripe fruit, blackberry, boysenberry, and perfumed spice and sweet licorice. The mouth on this full bodied wine comes at you in layers of blue and black fruit, rich spice, intense graphite, mouth coating and draping tannin, all packed in an intense and inky structure, with bright and tart blackcurrant, that comes at you with concentrated and rich fruit, and tea. The finish is long, spicy, fruity and jammy, with black plum, coffee, tobacco, nice spice, root beer, along with mounds of earth and mineral. This is a lovely wine that is rich and layered but one that would be insane if it had a bit more acid.

2013 Domaine Netofa Latour, Red – Score: A- (and more)
This wine is a blend of 70% Syrah and 30% Mourvedre, also known in the Rhone Valley and Australia as an SM blend. The 2013 vintage is a very different beast than the 2012, it is far more restrained, old-world, with elegance, ripping mineral, and saline. The nose on this lovely wine is perfumed with crazy creamy blue and red fruit, with spicy notes, and rich soy sauce, that can come across also as mad and intense umami (AKA roasted meat). The mouth on this full bodied wine is so old world in style it would shock you to think it is from Israel, with intense extraction and more umami that hit you in layers with earth, tar, blackcurrant, concentrated plum, blueberry, all wrapped in mad mineral, spice, and spicy oak. The finish is long and very rich, with more candied blue fruit, dry plum, graphite, mineral, saline, all culminating in a mineral, dry fruit, roasted animal finish – BRAVO!!!!

2012 Domaine Netofa Tinto – Score: B+ to A-
The wine is a Portugal dry blend, made of Tempranillo and Touriga Nacional. The nose on this lovely wine is rich with ripe blueberry, boysenberry, nice spice, peach, and watermelon. The mouth on this medium plus bodied wine shows well with crazy mouth coating tannin, lovely currant, tart summer fruit, blackberry, plum, with nice spices, black pepper, cloves, sage, all mingling well together and going back and forth between white summer fruit and ripe black fruit. The finish has become more stretched out than last year, with lovely sweet fruit, nice mineral, along with mounds of sweet spice, draping tannin, licorice, nutmeg, cinnamon, and sweet rich herb.

2013 Domaine Netofa Tinto – Score: A- (and a bit more) (QPR)
The wine is a Portugal dry blend, made of Tempranillo and Touriga Nacional. The nose on this wine is redolent with intense blueberry, mixed with peach, along with crazy floral aromas, and rose hips – intoxicating! The mouth on this full bodied wine is richly extracted and captivating with lovely restraint and control than the sweeter 2012 fruit, showing beautiful fruit structure, with white summer fruits playing in tandem with mineral, forest floor, garrigue, ripping acid, and more blue and red fruit. The finish is long and crazy rich, with lovely mineral, charcoal, candied quince, leather, all wrapped in mad draping tannins, with sweeter peach and blueberry fighting for dominance, with ripe blackberry in the background, all topped with a shake of cinnamon and sage. BRAVO my friends BRAVO!!

2013 Domaine Netofa Syrah, Secret project XX1 – Score: N/A
I will start by saying that this is not a final product and I did not want to score it, but if I did score it as it was it would be inline with a Hajdu Syrah score of A- and more. I say that because the wine screams Hajdu or Shirah when you taste it. It is a controlled new world Cali Syrah that shocked me, not because of the wine, but because it was made by Mr. Miodownick! This is not an old world style wine that he has made till now. This is as new world a wine that Pierre can possibly make without having a heart attack! So, yes this is one of those Israeli/Cali controlled sweet wines that may or may not appeal to all.

The nose on this wine is hopping with mad blueberry, mineral, but controlled with nice toasty wood and red tart fruit. The mouth on this full bodied wine is rich extracted, intense, and out there, with clear Israeli and Cali leanings, with good control, starting with lovely blackcurrant, blue fruit, followed by mineral, charcoal, all wrapped in a rich and bevy fruit structure, with layers of concentrated fruit and tannin trying to get out. The finish is long and chocolaty, with leather, spice, elegance, showing refinement and restraint, while also projecting a sense of power with watermelon, and floral notes coming at you on the rise – VERY IMPRESSIVE.

2012 Domaine Netofa Ruby Port (QPR) – Score: A-
This classical sweet wine Portuguese style wine uses the classic grapes, but instead of them being sourced in Portugal, they came from the foot of the Tabor Mountains; 80% Touriga Nacional and 20% Tempranillo. This is Netofa’s second release of a port, with the 2010 being their first.

I will say that this vintage is sweeter than the 2010, which to me was more restrained. The nose on this sweet wine is unique, rich, and ripe with prune, candied fruit, crazy perfumed fruit, blackberry, dark plum, date, with lovely nuts, and mad spice. The mouth on this rich and full bodied wine is insanely layered and richly extracted with intensely deep-rooted tannins, walnut, lovely spices, chocolate, spiced nuts, and candied raspberry. The finish is long and luscious with nice oxidation, all wrapped up with chocolate covered marzipan, almonds and mint. This is a wine that needs time to open, and actually evolves and improves with more air, as in weeks of more air! As the wine opens look for leather and spice and more nuts to meld into the rich extraction and make for even a more richly extracted and fruity whole – BRAVO!!

2010 Domaine Netofa LBV, Late Bottled Vintage, Port (QPR at almost any price) – Score: A
- to A
I need to state that it is not often that I score a wine an A- to A, not even wines that are many times more expensive, and no my point system is not a reason to buy a wine, but this wine is a no brainer, no matter the cost if you like sweet port like wines. This is the second time I have tasted this yet unreleased wine and it is still very much inline with what we had last time, repeated here for clarity. This classical sweet wine Portuguese style wine uses the classic grapes, but instead of them being sourced in Portugal, they came from the foot of the Tabor Mountains; 80% Touriga Nacional and 20% Tempranillo. The wine was aged for 48 months in oak and it shows in the wine.

The nose on this black and purple colored wine has one of the most intensely perfumed wines I have ever smelled, with insanely ripe fruit, ripe fig, date, caramelized fruit, and crazy chocolate. The mouth on this intensely full bodied wine is WOW, with crazy oxidized notes of chocolate, richly structured and extracted with intense nuttiness, rich and lovely mint chocolate, with lovely ripe and candied plum, candied blackberry, with more dark black fruit, all coming at you in one of the most intense and extracted experiences I remember. The finish is long and richly extracted with chocolate, fig compote, almonds, walnut, and marzipan – WOW and BRAVO!!!

1976 Carmel Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Reserve – Score: N/A
As I stated above I would not open this wine, sure it is an experience, but I would leave it closed at this point (and for the last 8 years or so) and leave it in your cellar as a memento or talking piece. Popping it open will clearly be fun but I think it is cooler at this point to just have an unopened bottle of the most recognized wine in Israel’s recent history.

Remember this was the first real wine with world acceptance that came out of Israel since the 1900 Paris fair. So, it was a fun experience to say the least. Sadly, the wine was far removed from alive, and was deeply marred by oxidation. Still, the fact that the wine showed tannin, fruit structure, along with red and black fruits was nice. But all of it paled to the oxidized notes that lingered in the foreground. My many thanks to Pierre for sharing this experience with us.

Posted on April 23, 2015, in Israel, Israeli Wine, Kosher Dessert Wine, Kosher Red Wine, Kosher Rose Wine, Kosher White Wine, Kosher Wine, Wine, Wine Tasting, Winery Visit and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.

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