Capsouto Winery – Israel’s only all-in kosher Rhone Ranger
PLEASE NOTE: The 2015 vintage was actually not kosher in the end – so please do not consume. The issue was not with the winemaking but rather with Israel’s many issues surrounding grapes and when/how they can be picked.
I wrote last year about Capsouto Winery, and I really enjoyed them. This year, the 2015 vintage is nice, but overall, I think the 2015 vintage caught up to them. The 2015 vintage is a Shmita vintage, and as such some do not drink it, but being that the wine was made through Heter mechira, it makes it easier – especially if you are a Sephardic Jew, but as always ask you local area Rabbi.
I was sent the newest wines from the winery along with two of last years reds. Like last year, I have yet to interview Mr. Capsouto personally (though I did talk with him at Sommelier this year briefly), but there are many good articles out there and I recommend that you read them all – as each has a nugget of information that the other lacks. The first is the oldest of the articles that I enjoyed – maybe the first one written, when the vines were planted. The next one is an article written by the ever wonderful Dorothy Gaiter, written in the Grape Collective. Next you have the in-depth article by Haaretz – with really good insights. Finally, there is the best article, IMHO, from one of the better kosher wine writers today; Adam Montefiore.
Through all the articles – you get a common story of Jacques Capsouto, an immigrant from Egypt, who built Capsouto Frères with his family, a classic French restaurant in Tribeca – before anyone cared about Tribeca! Throughout the entire journey of Capsouto Freres, he showed his never-ending passion, and drive, but sadly it ended in sorrow after the effects of terrorism and natural disasters destroyed almost half a lifetime of sweat and tears. To me though, there is another story in there, one of love for Israel, wine, and a deep understanding that Rhone varietals has its place in the Galilee!
The Rhone Rangers are a group of California winemakers who in the 80s started an association to promote Rhone varietals in California. They have single-handedly pushed Rhone Valley varietals into the wine buyer’s subconscious. In 2011, Mr. Capsouto planted a subset of the 22 official varietals (9 in total) that make up the Rhone Rangers list of promoted grapes. In doing so, he became Israel’s first and ONLY truly 100% Rhone varietal winery, in other words Jacques is all-in on the Rhone Valley in the Galilee!
Look around Israel for those betting on the Rhone varietals, there is of course Netofa Winery (who planted Rhone and Loire Valley grapes), Recanati Winery (which has access to Bordeaux grapes for the reserve series and Rhone grapes for their Mediterranean Series), Kishor Winery, and Vitkin Winery. Still, no one has staked 1.7 million dollars to start a boutique winery in the Galilee, featuring some of the most obscure grapes to ever grace Israel! The 9 varieties planted are Carignan, Cinsault, Grenache, Mourvèdre and Syrah for the reds and Clairette, Grenache Blanc, Marsanne and Roussanne for the whites. Carignan is nothing new in Israel, I just posted an article about Carignan wines from Israel. Cinsault is not one I know of in Israel, or anywhere else in the kosher wine world. Grenache is slowly making its way around the country and has been in Israel for some time now. Same with Mourvedre and Syrah of course. Clairette and Grenache Blanc are new to Israel, though Vitkin also has Grenache Blanc. While Marsanne and Roussanne are in the Golan and other places as well.
Still, no one has bet the farm on Rhone varietals – NO ONE! Everyone has hedged with either Bordeaux or in the case of Netofa, Loire Valley’s Chenin Blanc. Netofa is the closest to Capsouto in their brazenness and chutzpah and BRAVO for them both!! Here are two gentlemen, Messrs Capsouto and Miodownick who have built lives in separate worlds but who have chosen their next project to plant Rhone grapes in the north – very interesting!
I spoke with Mr. Capsouto quickly at this year’s Sommelier, and I asked him why he chose to plant grapes like Cinsault and Clairette (along with the 7 other Rhone varieties)? His response was that he and his consultants: agronomist Pini Sarig, and Jean-Luc Colombo, feel that Israel is not Bordeaux or Spain, but rather more equal in climate to the Rhone Valley. Clearly, there are some successes with making Bordeaux wines in Israel, but there are also far more mistakes, with flat or flabby wines. If you were betting the farm, Rhone or Spain varietals would be the direction I would go. Kishor Winery agrees and is planting only Rhone varietals going forward, after first planting Bordeaux grapes.
The other fascinating fact about the winery is that even though we knew the wine was coming, as far back as 2012, it caught most of us (in the wine geek world) off guard! Here was a wine coming out of Israel, and it just appeared in NYC in the summer of 2015 and within a few months, it was sold out! Major props go out to both Mr. Capsouto for making the wines, but a huge hand of applause goes out to Road House Wine, the import company that brought in the Capsouto wines. My only ask for next year is, can you please bring the Rose and whites in earlier? They sell better when the weather is hotter and they drink better that way too, so it is a real win-win for us both. Of course, that requires the wine be ready for sale, but here is hoping!
The 2015 and 2014 Vintages
This year Capsouto released three new 2015 wines; a rose and two whites, while also still selling two reds from last year’s vintage. They are the: 2015 Capsouto Cotes de Galilee Village Cuvee Albert, Grand Vin Blanc. The 2015 Capsouto Cotes de Galilee Village, Cuvee Eva Blanc, and the 2015 Capsouto Cotes de Galilee Village, Cuvee Eva Rose. The other two wines I tasted were the 2014 Capsouto Cotes de Galilee Village, Cuvee Samuel Rouge, and the 2014 Capsouto Cotes de Galilee Village, Cuvee Marco Grand Vin. The wines are all named in memory of Jacques family members that have passed away. Eva is named in honor of Jacques mother, Samuel is named in honor of his grandfather and brother, Marco is in honor of his father, and Albert is named in honor of his younger brother.
My friends love to talk about Israel and so do I, but not always about wine. White and sparkling wines in Israel have made huge strides in fewer than 5 years. However, the reds are well, not unique, while also being unidimensional, and unfocused. I feel a lot of that comes from the wines being made for mass market pull the larger winery’s focus away from the real wines, and as such both suffer. The real answer for Israel is the smaller boutique wineries that can focus on quality and do not need to cowtied to the date juice craze that has taken hold of the Israeli kosher wine market. It is so great to see real passionate wine lovers building a future in Israel, based upon varietals that can thrive in the desert like climate, and which have the potential to produce great wines!
The wines are nice, but as the vines age and continue to improve, and as the winery learns more about these vines, look for more wines that really excite the imagination. The clear winners were the Grand Vin wines. The Grand Vin Blanc is unoaked, but the extra weight is quite impressive. The Grand Vin Rouge is lovely, but it is a bit expensive at 50 or so dollars.
My many thanks to Mr. Jacques Capsouto and Road House Wine. The tasting notes follow below:
2015 Capsouto Cotes de Galilee Village Cuvee Albert, Grand Vin Blanc – Score: A-
(NOT KOSHER) This wine is a blend of 43% Marsanne, 33% Clairette, and 24% Roussanne. The 2014 Cuvee Eva had the Clairette in it, and it is clearly the first kosher and now second kosher wine to have it (the Eva this year also has it), other than maybe some kosher Rhone I have never seen. Vignobles David has some of it in his vineyards, but I never tasted a kosher version from him. This wine is classic in its proportions, The wine does not have the sweeter Grenache Blanc that its sibling has, but it has more of the Marsanne and Roussanne, showing the weight, oily structure, and aromatics that are typical in such a blend. The nose on this wine is dry, with intense mineral, showing great floral notes, restrained honey, straw, mineral, rosehip, herbal, and dirt. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is lovely with good acid, attack and focus, complex, and concentrated with layers of acid, oily texture, tart fruit, much richer wine than Eva, with great ripe apricot, and dried kumquat, but it is a bit flabby but still impressive. The finish is long and mineral with good cloves, dried mint, and dried grass.
2015 Capsouto Cotes de Galilee Village, Cuvee Eva Blanc – Score: B+
(NOT KOSHER) This wine is a blend of 40% Grenache Blanc, 30% Clairette, 20% Marsanne, and 10% Roussanne. This wine is very slow to open. The wine differs from its sibling in the added Grenache Blanc, its tight focus, and more tart/acidic profile. The difference in terms of affect is that the nose is more sweet, almost tropical, typical of the Hajdu Grenache blanc on the nose, but lighter, dry, and more tart in the mouth. The nose on this wine is really elegant and restrained with lovely mineral, dried fruit, lees, with ripe peach, hay, green apple, and honeysuckle, flowers. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is balanced and spicy, with nice freshness, this needs time to open, with great saline, mineral, slate, surprising mouth drying tannin, and nice focus, followed by tropical fruits like gooseberry and passion fruit. The finish is long and bitter, with great pith, spice, mineral, and dried herb.
2015 Capsouto Cotes de Galilee Village, Cuvee Eva Rose – Score: B+
(NOT KOSHER) The wine is a blend of 50% Cinsault, 25% Grenache, and 25% Mourvedre. Lovely pink color with lovely nose of rose petal, grapefruit, raspberry, almost dried chocolate notes, and lovely ethereal notes. The mouth on this wine may not have ripping acid, but this is a lovely balanced wine with great pith, mineral, with notes of funk, yeasty lees, followed by lovely raspberry, peach, grapefruit, dried citrus, and lovely dried fruit and flowers. The finish is long and pith focused with great bitter notes, more acid, cranberry, and rich spice, with flint, and dried/roasted herb. This is a refreshing and tray wine that is balanced and quite enjoyable! Nice!
2014 Capsouto Cotes de Galilee Village, Cuvee Samuel Rouge – Score: B+
The wine is a blend of 40% Mourvedre, 31% Grenache Noir, 26% Counoise, and 3% Syrah. The nose on this wine is ripe, almost date, with really extracted fruit, mushroom, earth, roasted animal, tar, lovely floral notes, and some blackberry and plum. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is really all over the place, with drying tannin, and lacking focus, with searing acid, saline, more flowers, mineral, and dried blackcurrant, giving way to cloves, and mad spice. The finish is long and spicy, with asphalt and black pepper.
2014 Capsouto Cotes de Galilee Village, Cuvee Marco Grand Vin – Score: A- (and more)
This Chateauneuf Du Pape blend is made up of 44% Grenache Noir, 38% Mourvedre, and 18% Syrah. The nose on this wine is smoky, with butterscotch, sweet dill, dark cherry, roasted animal, and sweet cedar. The mouth on this medium to full-bodied wine is controlled and balanced, with nice sweet oak, draping tannin, with good focus, nice earth, mushroom, with blackcurrant, plum, blueberry, boysenberry, and rich spice, black pepper, and heady spice. The finish is long and spicy with dark chocolate, mouth drying tannin, and good spice, tobacco, and loamy earth. BRAVO!!!!
Posted on August 31, 2016, in Israel, Israeli Wine, Kosher Red Wine, Kosher Rose Wine, Kosher Wine, Wine and tagged Blanc, Capsouto Winery, Cotes de Galilee Village, Cuvee Albert, Cuvee Eva, Cuvee Marco, Cuvee Samuel, grand vin, Jacques Capsouto, Rose, Rouge. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.