Vitkin, Tzora, and Flam Winery tastings along with 2015 rosé and whites from Israel

KotelWell, I am back, landing the day before the Shabbat preceding Shavuot. I was there for my Nephew’s wedding and we stopped off in Paris for two days – that post can be read/seen here. From there we jumped on an EasyJet plane and we were in Israel, but those kind of things do not just happen. In hindsight I would use EasyJet again – simply because there really were few other options. The direct flights were these (listed in cost order); Transavia (I wonder if the count sleeps in luggage), EasyJet, Arkia (Israel’s second largest airline), El Al, and Air France. I tried to use miles on AF – but they were crazy high. So, in the end, EasyJet it was.

EasyJet is one of those airlines that will nickel and dime you all the way to and in the plane. But the best plan (since I had no checked luggage), is to pay for seat assignment and then you get a roll on and backpack. I was stressing about my rollon, it was a bit heavy, and I was worried they would nickle me to death. In the end, the dude at the counter was very nice and they took the rollon – asking to check it, which was fine with me. The trip was fine, as there is a lounge in the CDG terminal, and what we really wanted was just a place to be normal in a land of madness.

Once we got to the gate they were boarding us only to leave us in the gateway for a good 25 minutes – no idea why. Once we boarded, I was asleep, which was a blessing. I had lots to watch – but sleep was what I craved. Once I awoke we pretty much landed, with maybe 20 minutes or so before landing anyway. Once we landed we disembarked quickly, and then well – no one was there at security check. There were loads of people backing into the anteroom. It would be another 20+ minutes before folks actually arrived and started to cut through the backlog.

Once we got through our bags were there already and we were off to get our car – or try! Look I like Budget in Israel, they normally treat me well, but this trip was horrible! They made us wait 1 hour or more and then they treated us in classic Israeli style and gave us a car that was smaller than what we ordered/paid for and then told us to leave them alone! Love people like that!

Anyway, we were off and really that is what I cared about – I wanted to be home! After that, I can say that the trip was really about tasting late 2014 released wines and 2015 wines. Before, I get into that – let’s recap the state of 2015. As stated here, this is what happened in 2015 and after tasting some 40+ wines from 2015 – nothing has changed my opinion.

Well after two world-class vintages in 2001 and 2008, 2015 was a huge letdown. The white and rose are for the most OK, and nice. The white and rose wines are not at the level of 2014 (more on that below), but they are very respectable. The 2015 reds on the other hand is an entirely different subject.

Shmita 2015

A few things going on here – first of all the weather was perfect through August – looking like yet another blockbuster Shmita vintage. Wet winter, tons of rain and no deep freezing, followed by very moderate spring (making for good bud formations). This was followed by temperate highs and nice cool evenings throughout the summer, except for a few spikes here and there, that was all until August! In August nature took a very dark view on Israel – starting with some of the worst highs in the history of Modern Israel, and power consumption that peaked for an entire week that broke record after record. August continued with crazy heat – but it was early September when all hell broke loose. September saw a return of the epic sandstorm – but this time it reached almost biblical proportions in September. Just look at these satellite images – they are crazy!

Overall, the season was not what it was meant to be. The sand storms brought even higher temps, it all unravelled at the end. The funny thing is that – the wineries that pull early, AKA do not produce date juice, were affected far less – like Recanati and Tabor. The ones who pull later or pull from the Galilee – even if they are great wineries – were affected. In some ways it will mean that lower level wines at wineries will have normally better fruit. It will also mean that many wineries will have less of their flagship wines. Of course this is all from what winemakers and wineries have told me so far. Only time will tell to see what really comes out, but agriculturally, it was not a great year.

Clearly the number of vineyards growing grapes this past shmita have gone down, according to many that I spoke with. As the number of haredi jews in Israel continue to grow, along with their desire for better wines, the buying pool for wineries who made wines in 2015 starts to shrink. The hope is that Israeli exports – aside from America which will not import any Shmita wines – will grow to make up the difference. On all my visits I hear that the export, aside from the US, is growing which is great news. Also, the whites and rose sell mostly in Israel just fine – so those will not be a problem for most Israeli wineries. The reds will be interesting, and this will not really appear on their bottom line until a year or more. Time will tell in how wineries will handle this 2015 shmita vintage, but from the lower agricultural success and from the ever shrinking shmita observant wine buyers in Israel.

On a total aside, this shmita had some of the least fertilized and planted farms in the history of the modern state. The number of farmers who did not plant was rather high this past year – and maybe they were lucky. I do not know.

Finally another interesting fact was that most wineries in Israel that did make wine in 2015 used heter mechira, which allowed me to taste through all of them this year – thank you!!! The only one that I know of that used Otzar Beit Din was Yarden which I drink anyway on Shmita years. So be careful not to spit Yarden 2015 wines! The rest of the shmita 2015 wines I have seen are all Heter mechira, but again ALWAYS double check!!!

So with what I read and learned about 2015, I was not expecting too much in terms of good wine. Sure, those that picked in August may have come away ok, but still those wineries wines did not shine in two large blind tastings that we had in Jeru. I do not know why, clearly the vintage to me tasted flat, lacking the balance and acid of 2014. Yeah Yeah, I know, Israel adds acid, of course, but what I am saying is that even with the added acid, it was lacking. All I can say was that I was not impressed overall – which was a 180 degree difference from 2014, where you had to work HARD to screw up a white or rose wine.

The 2015 vintage was more than just flat it also felt jumbled and disjointed. The fruit was not always there and when it was, it was not harmonious with the wine’s other characteristics. To me they felt rushed, almost like a last minute science experiment – that was not fully fleshed out.

In the end, I will let the notes and scores talk for themselves, many I did not even score. Some I forced myself to taste the wine, even though I knew I was going to gag when I tasted them. Such is life! A few clear winners made me happy. The first and clearly the best overall winery of the many that we tasted was Yarden – they continue to impress even in 2015. Next was Vitkin, its first kosher vintage – was Shmita and they did it well. There were a couple of duds, but overall very nice. Next was Gvaot – yeah the Chenin Blanc that was lovely at Sommelier fell apart, the dry-ish Gvaot Gewurztraminer was really impressive – really! Then there was the 2015 Yatir Rose and the 2014 Yatir Viognier – the two best wines of the tastings – white and rose – which is saying a lot! There were a few shockers, including – YES REALLY – a drinkable Ramat Negev Kadesh Barnea wine! In this case it was the 2015 Rose made from 100% Cabernet Franc (different from the Flam this year). Of course – the Flam 2015 white and rose were both lovely – professional to the hilt! Clean, almost methodically so, with impressive precision, and truly enjoyable wines. Same with Tzora – the newly released 2015 Judean Hills white were nice, but not blow me away Tzora kind. The 2015 Shoresh white was really impressive. Also, Bat Shlomo showed well. Castel new white blend was nice, but for the price I would go with other ideas – but worth at least trying once!

Sadly, many others were either just OK, and some were downright undrinkable. None were worth the money – except for the previously mentioned wines above.

I did not get to taste the new 2015 Midbar or Matar wines (other than the 2015 Matar Rose). Along with a few others here and there, like the new 2015 Catsel C Chardonnay, and the new 2015 Tabor Adama II Riesling, and the new Psagot 2015 wines. Hopefully, I will get to taste them on my next trip to israel, whenever that is.

Finally, as described before, 2015 Shmita

Trip Notes

Yom Yerushalayim Parade we drove through

While on the trip – we were in Jeru for the crazy Yom Yerushalayim. WOW! They were making noise in Gan Soccer till 3AM! I was wasted the next day and I had nothing to drink that day! What madness. I hope no one had to go to work the next day on Monday!

Aluma Restaurant

Also, a new restaurant opened right before we arrived – the noise was impressive about this restaurant. The place is called Aluma and it is in the Crowne Hotel in Jerusalem. It is under the supervision of one of the most strict kosher Rabbis – Rabbi Rubin and what can I say the streak continues – Glatt kosher restaurants in Jerusalem SUCK! This was one of the worse one I have been to – really bad!! If you need Glatt kosher in Jerusalem – then stick with Lechem and Baasar (in the old train station in Jerusalem), and/or Gabriels (which JUST reopened after extensive renovations – I have yet to revisit it after them).

Au Deli’s

I was staying in Rechavia and I really enjoyed going to Au Deli’s (HaKeren HaKayemet Le-Israel St 22, Jerusalem, Israel). The food was great and the prices can not be beat! It is simple, great, and service is quick – most of the time 🙂

Flam Winery

2015 Flam Rose and Flam Blanc, 2014 Flam Syrah, 2014 Flam Merlot, 2013 Flam Cabernet Sauvignon, and 2012 Flam Noble

When I was on this trip I did not know that Flam Winery had released their newer wines. I have written about Flam Winery a few times, and they deserve more press than they get from me or anyone else. They are truly one of a handful of wineries in Israel that make great kosher red wines. This was no exception, though I must say the 2012 Flam Noble is a bit too pushed for me. The entire current Flam lineup was rocking, as usual, including the 2015 blanc and rose – two great wines for Israelis to enjoy today, though the prices are a bit high.

Let’s talk about prices for a second, I posted on my twitter account this awesome link to a CorkScrew Report on Flam Winery. The conversation they have is very candid and very honest. The high cost of kosher wine overall (in the kosher wine industry) is a fact I rail on constantly, yet as said on my Facebook post, there are a few kosher wineries that can get away with it. Flam is clearly one of them, as is Tzora Winery (see below), Castel Winery (new post coming soon), Matar Winery (to some extent – though Pelter Winery is a more clear choice – even if it is not kosher) and Netofa Winery (though Netofa wines are priced lower than all the others).

The higher prices are acceptable by the vaunted wineries because their wines can be sold side by side their non-kosher counterparts and sell well! I loved a line in the article (though not original to Gilad); I don’t know any Kosher country —is this a new country. I first heard that line from Richard Shaffer in this Forward article. Mr. Shaffer runs Israeli Wine Direct, a company that ships Israeli wines directly to consumers. It was started in 2007 by Mr. Shaffer, and in 2008 he shipped his first wines. The wines he shipped were and are still some of the better wines of Israel, kosher or not. In the non-kosher variety; they were importing Flam until Flam went kosher in 2010. They import Pelter wines, the bigger brother of Pelter’s kosher arm; Matar Winery. They also import other non-kosher blockbuster winery; Margalit Winery, and another winery I have heard good things; Shvo Winery. Sadly, I never tasted these wines, but from what I read of Daniel Rogov reviews – they are wines that can stand side by side other non-kosher wines.

To me, the fact that Israeli wineries are good enough to stand on their own (kosher or not) is GREAT news and I hope we see more quality out of Israel, kosher or not!

By the way no matter if Eran Pick is a Master of Wine or Golan Flam has been making wine for 18 years or more, both Tzora and Flam use a consulting winemaker that have served classic French properties for many years. Flam used Christian Le Sommer, former winemaker for Bordeaux first-growth Château Latour and now consulting enologist for many years. Sadly he recently retired and they now are starting up a new relationship with Vincent Dupuch. He has his own chateau in Fronsac, and is working today with the great chateaux in Pomerol; Petrus, Lafleur, L’eglise Clinet, etc. Tzora has been using Jean-Claude Berrouet, of Chateau Petrus, as a consultant. According to the web site, Berrouet says, “My idea is that together with Tzora Vineyards we wish to develop a wine that tells a sincere, authentic story of the local soil and climate through people who share their passion, ability and experience.”

Flam is currently making 120K to 130K bottles, growing slowly with care as they bring more of their Judean Hills vineyards online.
Returning to the wines we tasted; the 2015 Flam Blanc and rose were the first two wines we tasted – ripping acid and great fruit, with incredible precision, clean wines, that are professional and truly refreshing. Those were followed by the 2014 Merlot, then the 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, followed by the 2014 Syrah and the 2012 Noble.

The notes will say more than I can say here, but to me the 2013 Cabernet is epic – really great. I keep saying 2013 is the year of red, 2014 reds are pushed all over Israel, nothing new. Even Flam, Tzora, and Castel. With that said, the 2014 Merlot is really impressive, one of the best 2014 reds in Israel that I have tasted so far, though I really love the 2014 Kishors as well! The 2014 Syrah is nice but not the same as the insane 2014 Merlot. Finally, the 2012 Noble is a bit out there for me. It is the first year that Golan threw Syrah into the Noble blend, and I wonder if that varietal is not making it feel a bit wobbly.

My many thanks to Gilad for taking time out of his busy day to meet with me, OM, and AO. Thanks to AO for driving as well!!

Tzora Winery

The other winery we visited – on a different day than Flam was Tzora Winery. I have also posted many times on Tzora Winery, and this time the winery was also releasing new wines, so we thought it would be a good time to go. AO drove again – thanks man, OM and JK came along as well!

If there is a con to Tzora Winery, and this is a stretch, it is the refet (cow farm) next door! OMG, the stench can be nauseating. Thankfully inside it was cool, fresh, and stench free! They did have a whole thing set up outdoors, but with the 100 degree heat and the insane stench – I have no idea what they were thinking about.

The event revolved the release of three new wines, the 2015 Tzora Judean Hills white, a blend of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. The next wine was the 2015 Tzora Shoresh White, a 100% Sauvignon Blanc wine. Finally it was the release of the new 2014 Tzora Or, a dessert wine made from iced Gewurztraminer grapes. In between I tasted the 2014 Tzora Judean Hills red, the 2014 Tzora Shoresh red, and the 2013 Tzora Misty Hills.

As stated above, I think Tzora Winery is one of those very rare kosher Israeli wines that can sell side by side their non-kosher counterparts. Their wines are priced a bit high, but the quality is epic and is why I love going to Tzora Winery to taste the wines and see the progress they continue to make.

My many thanks to Eran Pick – MW (Master Of Wine) and Winemaker and General Manager of Tzora, for letting us all come by and taste through the wines. Truly lovely event and many thanks.

Vitkin Winery

Sadly, I did not have the time to visit Vitkin Winery on this trip. However, knowing that I wanted to taste the new whites and rose from Vitkin that were now kosher, I asked Asaf to help me! He was so kind to have the wines hand shipped to AO’s house.

Vitkin has three main lines of wines; Israeli Journey, Vitkin, and Shorashim (the elite wines), and some dessert wines as well. The kosher line started in 2015 and so only the whites and rose are available so far. The rose is in the Israeli Journey line, along with the white Israeli Journey. The other three whites; Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and Grenache Blanc are all in the Vitkin line.

What can I say, the wine notes below will say more than I can write here, but all the wines were solid to great! Saying that for a horrible year, at least wine wise anyway – I can call that a huge win for their first kosher vintage!

The clear winners were the Grenache Blanc and the Rose. The other three were a solid B+, but lacked the finesse we saw in the other two.

I hope to write more about the winery when the reds come out. For now, I hope you enjoy the notes below and really – get some Rose and Grenache Blanc they are priced better than most, and really great wines! The Riesling may well need time, but I am not going to trust 2015 wines to hold for a long time. The Israeli Journey and Gewurztraminer (which is pretty dry) are wines that are solid efforts, but not at the level of the first two.

The only other kosher Grenache Blanc I have had was the lovely Hajdu/Makom Grenache Blanc that Hajdu makes every year. The new 2015 is also quite impressive! That said, the Grenache Blanc that Hajdu makes is very different than the Vitkin GB! The Vitkin GB is drier and more lees based. Still, they are both great and it would be great to taste them both side by side blind. Bravo to Vitkin!!! The lees influence comes from having 50% of the fruit sit in 500L French oak barrels.

We tasted the Gewurztraminer along with many other Gewurztraminer wines on the first blind tasting, and while the Gvaot was the best, this was the first time I ever had the opportunity to taste two pretty dry Gewurztraminer in one tasting. I highly recommend getting both and taste them both blind! You will truly enjoy the experience.

My many thanks to Assaf and all the folks at Vitkin for my many phone calls and help with coordinating the delivery!

Final Thoughts

In the end – the 2015 Roses are not really that great, except for the few exceptions. Sauvignon Blanc from 2015 is hit and miss. White blends have shown better but they too are all over the place. If forced to buy a bottle blind and the only choice I had was the color – I would clearly take 2015 white ahead of rose. Other than that – there really is no clear answer. For this reason I will post notes that are not so – shall we say complimentary – but I guess that is what we get when the vintage is really harsh.

My other take away is that these wines are not built to last – NOT EVEN CLOSE! Many that I loved at Sommelier have faded hard and wines we had open – faded at the tasting itself or later that evening. Of course, Rose and light whites are not meant for holding anyway – but please be cognisant of this and buy for drinking that week. If you like buy more for drinking that week as well, and so on. Keeping the wines for long is not on the todo for 2015 whites or rose!

Also, 2013 continues to itself as the year of the red, and of course the 2014 whites are crazy. Nothing I have tasted derails that fact, though there are the few exceptions, like Flam’s 2014 Merlot and Kishor’s 2014 reds.

So, in the end, nothing about my opinion of the 2015 vintage has changed. Also – VERY IMPORTANT is that the 2014 roses from Israel and even France are starting to taper out – so PLEASE drink UP and do not buy more! It does not matter if you have no other choice. Water is better than many of what people are selling as rose wines here in the USA, because of the shmita problem.

The white 2014 are still alive, so stick to the 2014 options I listed here. For Rose in the USA PLEASE stick with 2015 ONLY!! Here is a good list of options of 2015 roses from outside of Israel – there are many and try to enjoy!!

Finally, if I were asked the best Israeli whites from 2014 – the answer would be these beauties:

  1. 2014 Carmel Riesling (just released)
  2. 2014 Matar Special Edition (released last year)
  3. 2014 Castel C (may be their best and released last year)
  4. 2014 Yatir Viognier (released early this year and clearly their best as well)
  5. 2014 Tzora Shoresh White (was probably the best Israeli white till Carmel released the Riesling)
  6. and the 2014 Netofa Latour White.

The wine notes follow below – my many thanks to lots of wineries that helped to get me wines for the tastings. Including Dalton Winery, Vitkin Winery, Covenant Winery, and Bat Shlomo.

Notes from the first blind tasting – in the order they were tasted:

We had a fair number of Gewurztraminer wines in this tasting – with the dry Gewurtz from Gvaot being the winner of the night. Overall the tasting was far more impressive than the next tasting overall.

Wines from the first tasting. 2015 Yatir Rose (best rose in Israel), 2015 Gvaot dry Gewurtztraminer (GREAT), 2015 Gvaot Chenin Blanc (not as good), NV Les Favieres Rose, and 2015 Yarden Gewurtztraminer

2015 Vitkin Gewurztraminer – Score: B+ (shmita wine)
Nice sweet and tropical nose with guava, and mango, and almost banana with rose hips, rose notes, very tropical. Nice round but balanced with nice floral notes, peach, kiwi, more banana, and ripe summer fruit, with good acid (wish it had more). Long and spicy finish with cloves, and tart summer fruit.

2013 Carmel Riesling, Single Vineyard, Kayoumi – Score: A- (and more)
This may well could have been the best riesling out of Israel, until I tasted its younger brother the 2014 (see below). The nose on this lovely wine is crazy, with petrol, rich notes of honeysuckle, dried green tea, and fresh cut straw, but now also showing banana. The mouth on this medium plus bodied wine is ripping with intense acid, lovely pink grapefruit, lemon, tart green apple, sweet melon, candied pear, that flows into crazy mineral, spice, green notes, and garrigue. The finish is long and spicy with tart fruit, slate, and hints of bitter almonds.

2015 Yatir Rose – Score: A- (and more) (shmita wine)
WOW best rose so far, insane! The nose is incredible, intoxicating and redolent with crazy slate, rock, intense cherry, strawberry, and dried citrus. Wow, what a mouth, really great dried quince, dry cherry, it tastes more of Provence than I could have dreamed, wow! The mouth is rich and layered with concentration and dried fruit. Long and layered finish, both refreshing and elegant, with gooseberry, dried fruit, grapefruit, and citrus zest – BRAVO!!!

NV Les Favieres – Score: A-
This wine started off horribly, really bad, smelled off, tasted off, was a disaster. But with a fair amount of time, the wine is actually quite nice. Not sure why a rose needs that much time to come around, but very nice. The nose on this salmon colored wine is redolent with nice flint, peach, intense funk, followed by lees and mushroom notes. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is richly acidic and balanced with lovely grapefruit, dried quince, dried apricot, all wrapped in more funk and intense flint. You will either like a wine like this or HATE it deeply. This wine remind me of the 2013 Montaud Gris – which was a polarizing wine as well.

2015 Gvaot Chenin Blanc – Score: B to B+ (shmita wine)
This wine was one of the white wine winners at the 2016 Sommelier, sadly since then it has taken a nosedive like many of the 2015 whites and roses. Nice nose of petrol, and dried fruit with hay and straw. Nice spicy and acidic mouth, it spikes in the middle with mineral, saline, and great spice, but the front and end are flat which is a shame. I hoped for more.

2015 Gvaot Gewurztraminer – Score: A- (and a bit more) (shmita wine)
This is as close as I have tasted to a really dry Gewurztraminer! Really lovely floral nose – WOW!! Lots of honeysuckle, honey, peach, crazy floral nose, even a bit of rose, with rich honeyed notes of fruit and kiwi. Wow what a mouth, rich and layered, with great spice, saline, earth, mineral, with dried apple, dried quince, with layers of floral notes, more nice saline, pith and lemon zest lingering long. BRAVO!!!

2015 Domaine du Castel La Vie – Score: A- (shmita wine)
This wine is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, with a bit of Gewurztraminer, Viognier, Riesling, and Chardonnay. The nose on this wine is by far the best far – truly intoxicating and redolent, with crazy notes of pink grapefruit, litchi, lemon curd and sweet spices. Wow what a mouth with bracing acid and crazy spice, showing ripe tart lemon, gooseberry, and cut grass with cats piss, along with a fruity attack of pith, nectarines, and lovely tart fruit followed by honeysuckle and rose hip. Really nice wine!

2015 Yarden Gewurztraminer – Score: B+ to A- (shmita wine – Otzar Beit Din)
This was the last wine and thank goodness because it was the sweetest of the bunch, though not semi-dry. The nose is classic, showing nice petrol notes with crazy tropical notes, mango, guava, banana, and more nice tropical notes. Not as dry as I had hoped, with nice depth and weight from the slight residual sugar, with great mineral, yellow grapefruit, pineapple, floral notes of rose hips, and dry notes lingering long, showing saline, mineral, on this semi sweet wine.

Notes from second blind tasting – in the order they were tasted:

This tasting was overall a complete disaster, with one SHOCKING revelation – see below and one of the best wines of both tastings – the 2014 Carmel Riesling. There were two sets of tasting in the second tasting, as there were a total of 26 wines to taste. The first set was the best overall, though the second set had the surprise and the best of the night. THough overall the best wines of the night were mostly from the first set. There are so many duds in this tasting that most felt it a complete failure, but to me finding the surprise and finally getting to taste the 2014 Carmel Riesling made the tasting very good. There were also strong showings from Yarden, Bat Shlomo, Carmel, Vitkin (most of the Vitkin wines we tasted were in the second round), Lueria, and for the best priced wine of the night (that was a good enough quaff) – Teperberg.

Picture of all 26 wines in blind tasting

2015 Vitkin Israeli Journey Pink, Rose – Score: A- (and more) (shmita wine)
As explained in my previous post – some rose can be Saignee and some can be fruit just for rose. This wine was not Saignee, the fruit was pulled early from dry farmed bush vines of 85% Grenache Blanc and 15% old vines Carignan. The color on this wine is salmon colored. The nose on this wine shows lovely pink grapefruit, floral, with cherry, strawberry, and litchi. Lovely medium bodied wine with a hint of sweet notes, shocking that I loved a sweeter rose, but the acid is insane, with lovely flint, slate, and lovely weight from the sweetness, but the power is balanced well with the pink and yellow citrus, acid, and lovely raspberry. The finish is long and spicy, with rock, and lovely candied lemon and grapefruit. Long and refreshing finish, lovely BRAVO!

2015 Vitkin Israeli Journey White – Score: B+ (shmita wine)
This wine is a blend of 30% Old Vine Colombard, 20% Grenache Blanc, 20% Roussanne, 20% Viognier, and 10% Gewurztraminer. This wine is too sweet for me, with residual sugar, pineapple, mango, tropical notes, with a bit of heavy nose of fruit. Lovely acid mouth, with good attack, but the residual sugar is a bit annoying because it lacks other things that would make it complex, it has rich acidity, yellow grapefruit, with peach, very floral, with nice backbone, medium weight, honeysuckle, honeyed notes, with rich acidity that lingers long with nice rich spice, white pepper, cloves. Nice.

2015 Vitkin Grenache Blanc – Score: A- (and more) (shmita wine)
This wine is 90% Grenache Blanc and 10% Roussanne, the fruit was fermented 50% in stainless steel and 50% in large French oak barrels. This is far drier in nature than the only other kosher Grenache Blanc from Hajdu. WOW this is more riesling than Grenache Blanc to me but wow! The nose starts off with great and redolent petrol notes, followed by good funk, dry nose, with tart summer fruit, and spice. Wow! What a great mouth, balanced with great structure, green apple, dried quince, great acid, dried lemon fraiche, intense litchi, dried grapefruit, with great mineral as well. Long and spicy finish with orangella, nectarines, and great body and spice. Cloves, mineral, slate, and crazy acidity that lingers long – BRAVO! Rich elegance and less fruit than which you can imagine from israeli whites.

2015 Dalton Alma Rose – Score: B+ to A- (shmita wine)
The wine is a blend of Grenache and Barbera. Lovely crazy nose, with mad pink grapefruit, rich minerality, saline, and mad citrus abounds. The mouth starts off great, but right after it falls off a bit, still showing good acid and citrus, but brings less with it than I hoped for. Nicely acidic with citrus galore and slate and not much more. Nice!

2015 Recanati Special Edition – Score: A- (shmita wine)
This wine is a blend of  80% Viognier and 20% Chardonnay. Very elegant nose, with peach, followed by funk madness, honeyed notes, and rich mineral. Wow, this is nice, not simple, with complexity, but the fruit is not in your face at the start, closed with nice weight and viscosity, interesting. With time the peach, apricot, honey notes, and summer fruit come out and take center stage. The finish fills out with more air, with good acid and nice mineral. Nice!!

2014 Carmel Riesling, Kayoumi – Score: A- to A BRAVO!
This wine screams Alsace – CRAZY!! The nose is crazy, pure funk, petrol, flint, mineral, WOW! Cannot find much fruit on the nose to start but with time peach shows, but who cares! The mouth on this full bodied wine is insane! Layered and complex with rich acidity, dried fruit, dried apple, litchi, floral notes abound, with rich elegance, followed by nectarines, orange, orange zest, bravo! The finish goes on forever, and I mean not stopping with crazy petrol and floral notes lasting all along – WOW!!! One of the best 6 whites in Israel for 2014!

2015 Covenant Israel Rose – Score: B (shmita wine)
This wine held so much promise for me when I had it at Sommelier in Israel. Sadly, by the time I had it, after filtering and time, it showed fruit but not as focused and sure the saline was there but sadly not much else. The nose starts with crazy Bubblegum and alcohol, and cotton candy. The mouth seems all over the place, lots of fruit, saline, but not enough balance to pull it all together.

2015 Vitkin Riesling – Score: B+ (shmita wine)
To be fair, Asaf warned me this wine is not ready, but I am not sure if time will fix this wine, it may, but given the track record of most of the 2015 wines, I would not buy one to hold. Nice enough nose, too much sugar, floral notes, rose, jasmine, honey. Nice enough wine, hints of petrol, with grapefruit, nice rich acid at the start, with saline, and mineral, and good spice. The finish is long with orange and sweet with notes of rose hip and sweet notes and acid lingers long.

2014 Avidan White Tag – Score: B+
This wine is a blend of 85% Chardonnay and 15% Viognier. Nice funky, smoked, toasty notes, with green apple, creme brulee, butterscotch, and brioche. A nice full bodied wine which is interesting, really dry, not creamy as much as it is spicy and rich, with lots of mineral, and tons of spicy oak, quince, green apple, and spiced pear. Nice and spicy finish with crazy spice and mad toast that is far too spicy, and not balanced well, really nice but too much oak IMHO.

2015 Bat Shlomo Rose – Score: A- (shmita wine)
Once again – Bat Shlomo created a solid rose wine, though the price is really high. The nose is closed to start with a bit of mineral, and a bit of red fruit, with time it opens to show rich strawberry, and saline and spice. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is fruity, with pink grapefruit, really nice attack of spice, acid, layers of saline, candied citrus, with crazy pith and spice, cherry, litchi and spiced melon. The finish is long and salty, with mineral, spice, slate, and orange zest – BRAVO!

2015 Bat Shlomo Sauvignon Blanc – Score: B++ (shmita wine)
Bat Shlomo goes 2 for 2 in the rose and white department, solid wines from them indeed for a very hard year. Nice nose that starts off a bit oaky – but really it is the intense spice and smoke that throws me, with great spice, intense, very unique, with cloves, and sharp fruit focus. Sadly, the mouth is not as complex as I had hoped, smoky, spicy, with saline, great attack at the start with cloves, and rich acidity, yellow grapefruit, acid, flint, smoke, and spice. Green apple, dried straw, dragon fruit. Nice balance.

2015 Dalton Rose – Score: B (shmita wine)
What can I say this is a wine that is a bit too sweet for me. It shows too much cotton candy, bubblegum, but also has a bit of peach and strawberry. But in the end the wine is too sweet for me.

2015 Gvaot Rose – Score: B to B+ (shmita wine)
It is another wine that I had at Sommelier that has let me down. It seemed a bit too simple for me. The nose seemed simple with dried strawberry. The mouth was good enough with acid and structure, showing quince, dried gooseberry and grapefruit. OK

—- slight break to reveal the first set of wines and then on to the second set —-

2015 Tabor Chardonnay, Adama – Score: B++ (QPR) (shmita wine)
This is not a blow away wine, but a nice quaff with good acid and structure and a great price. The nose shows nice green notes, with green apple, and summer fruit. Nice simple structure with good quality and nice acid and balance with nice peach, quince, and candied pear. Nice and balanced finish – nice for the price for sure!

2015 Matar Rose – Score: B to B+ (shmita wine)
What can I say, this was blind and that is why I love blind tastings. No way I would have thought a Matar wine could be so plain and empty, so it is. Green apple and not much more. No flaw just not great as well.

2015 Recanati Rose – Score: B++ to A– (shmita wine)
This wine is a blend of Barbera and Merlot. This is something I have said before, the Recanati plain rose is better than the Marselan rose in 2015. This is the driest I have ever had the plain Recanati rose and it is enjoyable. The nose is lovely and spicy with strawberry and peach, quite refreshing, showing herb and nice body with raspberry and lovely with attack of ripe tart gooseberry and grapefruit and mad citrus with great spice. The wine is very fruity and a bit of sugar – nice.

2015 Ramat Negev Kadesh Barnea Rose – Score: A- (shmita wine)
This wine was tasted blind, and I will admit it, if I had seen it I would have walked on – right by it. But tasting wine blind is so fun, and you have no idea what is poured and tasting it blind, I thought it was quite nice. The wine is made of 100% Cabernet Franc. The nose on this wine is smelly and stinky, funk, a bit sweet, with a bit of melon and lemon. This is a very unique mouth, not a normal one, with a bit of sugar that helps, but is really well balanced with herb, pith, great acid, focused with grapefruit, candied peach, dragon fruit, strawberry, and spice. Very original finish with funk, and dried quince, nice, with great pith and nectarine! BRAVO!!

2015 Kishor Rose – Score: NA (shmita wine)
Really surprised again, this wine at Sommelier was awesome, but at the tasting it was pure funk and not much else. The mouth was sweet and all over the place – so sad.

2015 Ella Valley Blanc – Score: B+ to A- (shmita wine)
This wine is a blend of 41 Sauvignon Blanc, 34% Chardonnay, and 25% Viognier. The wine was interesting when tasted blind, it was not clear what the wine was, and some guessed a blend, while some guessed viognier, simply because the honey and floral notes were too much to miss. The nose starts off very unique to Viognier, with honeyed notes, honeysuckle, peach, then switches to gooseberry, and a bit of residual sugar. The mouth is balanced with crazy rich acid, grapefruit, nice structure, but good attack with good lemon curd and nice spice. Nice finish with tart fruit and refreshing.

2015 Castel Rose – Score: B+ (shmita wine)
This rose is nothing like the the 14, sad, nice enough, with good fruit, gooseberry, strawberry, and spice. Nice enough structure but nothing great with good mineral, spice, searing acid, with a hit of sweetness that gets in the way, nice structure, pink grapefruit, and searing acid. Long and spicy finish – sadly there is not much else.

2015 Lueria Pinot Gris – Score: A- (shmita wine)
tasting this blind as we did, we thought it was a Sauvignon Blanc. The nose starts off with a lovely Sauvignon Blanc nose, with gooseberry, flint, nice grapefruit, cat’s pee, very classic with dry straw. The mouth lacks a bit of the attack and acid, more elegant than aggressive, but still well balanced, with great spice, cloves, pepper, and crazy acid, yellow grapefruit, with nice pith and smoke. Nice!

2014 Ariel Rose – Score: NA
Sorry I could not find much good here to talk about.

2015 Avidan Rose – Score: NA (shmita wine)
Once again, there was really nothing here that I could write positively.

2015 Teperberg Vision dry white – Score: B+ (shmita wine)
This wine is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, and French Colombard. The nose is nice and stinky with funk, cats pee, simple notes overall but nice. Nice simple mouth with good acid and basic structure.

2015 Tabor Rose, Adama – Score: A- (QPR) (shmita wine)
Sadly, this wine is starting to lose its steam – start drinking up! This wine is made from 100% Barbera. The nose on this lovely salmon colored wine starts with lovely gooseberry, kiwi, sour cherry, raspberry , intense grapefruit, and great floral notes. The medium bodied wine shows a lovely mouth with good saline, a lovely intensity that comes out with time, balanced well with lovely acid, great flint, nice quince and peach with stone fruit and nice pith. The finish is long and spicy with green olives, earth, with nice dried apple, pith, and great cloves and spice.

2015 Yarden Pinot Grigio – Score: B++ to A- (shmita wine – Otzar Beit Din)

This is another wine that is showing less than what it did at Sommelier. It is not quite as good, but still nice. The nose does show that classic flint and smoke that I get from Leuria PG and others, along with the lovely gooseberry, and peach. The mouth on this wine is bracing and refreshing, but not much else, showing nice pink grapefruit, lime, and more mineral. Very nice – remember this is Otzar Beit Din wine!

Tzora Winery Visit

2015 Tzora Judean Hills White – Score: B+ to A- (shmita wine)
Lovely nose of peach and green apple with great yeasty notes and a bit of grapefruit. Nice medium weight with great acid and attack showing good citrus, pear, mango, and kiwi but balanced and controlled with good structure and spice. Pure citrus focus on the finish with nice pith and elegance. Spices and lemon linger long.

2015 Tzora Shoresh White – Score: A- (and more) (shmita wine)
Pure sauvignon blanc. Wow what a nose, classic sb nose with cat piss, grapefruit, gooseberry, citrus, grass, straw, wow!! Lovely medium bodied mouth that comes at you in layers, intense but refined and controlled with great saline, green apple, citrus, nectarines, lovely structure with great pith and mineral, slate and kiwi lingering long. Bravo!

2014 Tzora Shoresh Red – Score: A- (and much more)
Lovely nose of ripe fruit with great mineral and earth, rich spices, green notes, and red and black fruit. The mouth on this full bodied wine is beautiful, with great control and far less heat than other 2014 reds from Israel, showing great complexity and extraction, with great blackberry, plum, raspberry, lovely foliage,  with great graphite, sweet notes, really rich extraction and lovely hints of blueberry and roasted meat and toast. The finish is long and green and red with great spices, cloves, nutmeg, and herb with rich coffee, great acid, and lovely mineral, bravo!!

2014 Tzora Judean Hills Red – Score: A- (and a bit)
This wine is a blend of 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Syrah, 20% Petit Verdot, and 15% Merlot. The nose on this wine shows dark and red fruit, with earth and elegance. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is round and balanced with good blackcurrant, cherry, and red fruit with mineral, hints of blue fruit, dirt, along with searing acid, graphite and lovely spice, with a plush body, great fruit structure, and tannin that comes together nicely with great acid and spice. The finish is concentrated but controlled, with chocolate, crushed herb, basil, and tarragon. Nice!!

2013 Tzora Misty Hills – Score: A- to A
The wine is a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon and 50% Syrah. Lovely elegant nose with mushroom, dirt, mineral and herb. Wow what a body bravo, with crazy layers of concentrated spice and green notes, foliage with tobacco, mint, mineral and graphite followed by scraping acid and mineral, with blackberry, cassis, and tar, all balanced with mouth coating tannin and loamy dirt, impressive. The finish is focused and rich with black fruit jam, intense focus, with more dirt, tobacco and loam. BRAVO!

2014 Tzora Or – Score: A- (and more)
Pure gewurztraminer, picked late and then frozen in lab. Lovely floral and sweet nose with great tart fruit, sweet mango, pineapple, with very sweet candied melon, candied peach, litchi, and citrus notes. Full bodied and layers with concentrated fruit, ripe honeysuckle, honeydew melon with rich sweetness from ripe candied summer fruit and great structure that lingers long. Great balance of sweet and acid with not too much heat but still has a lovely sweet fruit and body attack. BRAVO!

Flam Winery Visit

2015 Flam Blanc – Score: A- (shmita wine)
This wine is a blend of 64% Sauvignon Blanc and 36% Chardonnay. This wine is showing its deep SB roots with a lovely nose of gooseberry, grapefruit, floral notes, with crazy spice, fresh cut grass, rich herb, and nice lemon and spice. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is lovely and focused, with a refreshing and tart approach, very polished and professional, showing litchi, mango, with great acid. A lovely crisp wine with great bite and tart pineapple, yellow/green plum with nice citrus and nectarines. Long and crisp finish with tart fruit and nice pith. NICE!!

2015 Flam Rose – Score: A- (shmita wine)
This is the first year where the rose is not made from Cabernet Franc alone, this year the wine is a blend of 52% Cabernet Franc and 48% Syrah. The nose starts of with lovely juicy strawberry, raspberry, with peach and guava. The mouth is tart and shows currant and blue fruit (from the newly added Syrah) with lovely tart gooseberry and pink citrus. Lovely slate and pith with crazy classic rock, saline, and slate and mineral. Very impressive with raspberry juice and tart cranberry lingering. A really nice effort, especially given the how horribly most of the 2015 rose wines have been.

2014 Flam Classico – Score: A- (and more) (QPR) (TASTED on a previous visit)
This wine is a lovely blend of 47% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Cabernet Franc, 16% Merlot, 13% Petit Verdot, and 7% Syrah.
Crazy ripe but controlled with great raspberry and blackberry, cranberry, with rich dirt and earth and spice. Lively ripe and mouth coating with great balance and structure with juicy black and red fruit with earth and mouth coating tannin that is mineral based and great acid. Lovely and juicy finish, with nice butterscotch, graphite showing great jammy fruit balanced well with nice acid, spice, and chocolate. Nice!!

2014 Flam Merlot, Reserve – Score: A- (and so much more)
Sadly, this will be the last year the Merlot Reserve will be from the Galilee (at least for now anyway) as the vineyards were ripped up and next year they will be using grapes rom the Judean Hills. The nose on this wine is old world in all the right ways, with a twist of Israel. The nose starts off green with hot notes, warm notes with sweet dill and tobacco, with green and black fruit. Nice full body, that with time calms down, to show ripe but controlled fruit, with raspberry, dark plum, great saline, olives, nice green notes, showing blackberry and great spice, rich and controlled and impressive, layered and concentrated, with cloves and rich elegance. Long and spicy with great coffee and foliage and mushroom, with spice galore. Old world with new world fruit. Bravo!!

2013 Flam Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve – Score: A- (and so much more)
What a beautiful and redolent nose this wine has, showing black fruit perfume, tobacco, tar, plum, reminds me of the Yarden wines of old. The mouth is another old world wine in new world clothing, full bodied and extracted with rich attack, impressive with layers of dark fruit and rich saline, olives, with great spice, great control with mouth coating tannins that give way to blackberry, hints of blueberry, and plum with great roasted herb. Lovely rich extracted finish with dark chocolate, lovely mineral, graphite, dirt, with great balancing acid, cloves and basil with almond pith on the long finish. BRAVO!!

2014 Flam Syrah, Reserve – Score: A- (and some)
Lovely nose of blueberry, and roasted animal with lots of white and black pepper, great spice, showing green notes as well. A rich and impressively layered wine, richly extracted, ripe and spices galore, followed by roasted herbs, followed by saline, blackberry and dark blackcurrant, with impressive mouth drying tannin, followed by sweet oak and rich spices. Long tar and rich earth finish, with dark chocolate and rich elegance, with rich fruit and spice coming together to prove Israel has the goods to be both new and old world in a bottle. Bravo!

2012 Flam Noble – Score: A-
I asked how the Noble comes to be and was explained that each plot in vinified separately, and then scored blindly and then ranked based on those scores and historical scores for those plots as well. Then the blending trials begin and out comes the reserves and then Noble. This Noble is new in a way because it now includes Syrah, which for me I think detracted from the purer Bordeaux fruit. This wine is a blend of 67% Ben Zimra Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Syrah, 11% Merlot, and 11% Petit Verdot. Vinified 20 months in mostly new French oak and some older french barrels as well. They were all vinified separately and then blended and then bottle aged for a year or more.

The nose is ripe and intoxicating, with crazy black notes, rich extracted tar, syrah helps a bit with the blackcurrant making a big presence, along with roasted herb, butterscotch, with tart and elegant fruit. The mouth on the wine is ripe and slightly pushed with elegance, richly extracted, but the ripe black fruit is center stage with sweet and spicy oak, along with some green notes as well, tea, with ripe blackberry, tobacco and basil. Long and green finish with great dill notes, followed by rich ripe fruit, dark chocolate, tar, and more ripe than either the 10 or the 11. It is very new world and a bit too much for me.

Posted on July 5, 2016, in Israel, Israeli Wine, Kosher Red Wine, Kosher Rose Wine, Kosher White Wine, Kosher Wine, Wine, Wine Tasting, Winery Visit and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 20 Comments.

  1. Re:Good Grenache Blanc. Although a blend,Jacques Capsouto’s white is a great Grenache Blanc-based wine, as I’m sure you’re aware.

    On Tue, Jul 5, 2016 at 4:29 PM, Wine Musings Blog wrote:

    > winemusings posted: “Well, I am back, landing the day before the Shabbat > preceding Shavuot. I was there for my Nephew’s wedding and we stopped off > in Paris for two days – that post can be read/seen here. From there we > jumped on an EasyJet plane and we were in Israel, but thos” >

    • Yes indeed I blogged about them last year, but a pure Grenache Blanc is what I crave, though the 14 Capsouto white was very nice.

  2. You write about ther Rcanati Special Edition 2015. Do you reffer to the wine madefor Derech Hayain or do you mean Special Reserve?

  3. In your opinion is the flam
    Cab hit it’s optimal drinking window? What about the 2012 fourcas?

    • The Fourcas 12 is far more accessible than the 10, but it is not at its optimal window yet. Which Flam Cab – the 12? To me Flam is good for the first three years, very akin to the Recas, IMHO

      • Thanks for the response.
        I’m sorry I forgot to write the vintage, I meant the 2013 flam cab. I wasn’t sure if they were drinking on release or if it was best to wait. When I tasted the 2012 flam on Purim it didn’t taste ready. I’m glad to hear the fourcas 12 is already drinking, last time I asked i was told to wait and give it time.
        How’s the holy land? I asked people to search out the netofa lbv port and the tzora or but both couldn’t be found. Any idea who might have it?

  4. The 2013 Cab is in its window. I find the Flams are nice to drink three years after release. The 12 Fourcas was more accessible than the 2010 from the start, and is drinkable now, but save a few please! They will change a bunch in 5 years. The LBV Port is in shops in Jerusalem, I saw one in the new PYUP. Tzora is now all 2015, AKA shmitta, but they should be soon releasing a 2016 in whites.

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