Vitkin Winery’s latest releases
As I stated in my last post, I landed in Israel and I had very few days to see a lot of wineries. Vitkin Winery was the first winery I visited and I finally got the chance to taste the entire kosher line. Asaf Paz, is the head winemaker there now, after spending so much time helping at Vitkin for years, he is finally at home in his family’s winery for good I hope.
I have written before about Vitkin in passing last year when I tasted his 2015 wines, the first year he made the winery kosher! Yes, as stated last year, Asaf believed that it was time to go kosher, so why not make it on a shmita year! They moved from 60K bottles in 2014 to 100K bottles in 2015 and on. The hope there is that expansion would be possible by moving kosher. Royal Wines is the USA importer for their wines from 2016 and on.
The winery has grown from its early days in 2001 to now making 100,000 or so bottles of wine, and though it has space for more, it will stay there for now. We arrived during the crush for Grenache, so it was fun to see how the tanks are situated in the winery. They do not use pumps to move the wine must to the top tanks, but rather they use hydraulics to move the bins to the top of the tank and drop them into the tank. This makes sure that the fruit and it’s must is not crushed a second time, allowing for better wine. After the wine is finished fermenting, using gravity the grapes and the must are placed into the press and then the resulting wines are then dropped into the barrels. Tank to press to barrels all using gravity, with an assist from the hydraulics at the start. This is not a new scheme, it can be seen all over France, but it is nice to see it in Israel as well (Galil Mountain winery also does this along with others, but not many family-run boutique wineries show such care and concern).
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 initially the whites and rose were the only available options. Of the wines, we tasted 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, sadly there was no 2016 Riesling. The 2016 Gewurztraminer and Grenache Blanc, have the added collector’s edition moniker on them. The current red wines that are kosher all fall into the Vitkin wine label, both the 2015 Vitkin Israeli Journey, Red and the 2016 Vitkin Israeli Journey, Red, along with the 2015 Vitkin Pinot Noir, 2015 Vitkin Cabernet Franc, 2015 Vitkin Petite Sirah, 2015 Vitkin Carignan. The 2015 Vitkin Grenache Noir is the only red with the collector’s edition moniker.
There are two fascinating aspects of the wines produced the Vitkin Winery. One is that 50% of the bottles produced are either rose or white! Think about that for a second! Are you kidding me, that is really impressive if you ask me personally. Israel has changed so much in the last 10 years, in two core aspects. The Israeli public now drinks more wine, and they like white/roses, and the second is that red wines are turned riper – a drum I constantly beat – and one that is not changing yet.
Secondly, the Vitkin winery’s varietals are not the usual Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay – the usual winery starting label set. Asaf understands that Cabernet is a nice wine, but not one that is made for Israel. Sure it can be done well, but the real varietals for Israel are the Mediterranean varietals – like Carignan, Grenache, Petite Sirah, and Syrah. There are two other varietals that are far from Mediterranean, the Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc. These two varietals are tough to grow and make good wines in Israel. The white varietals are also off the well-beaten path, like Colombard, Riesling, Gewurtztraminer, Roussanne, and Viognier. The last two are classicly southern France, while the Riesling and Gewurtztraminer are classically German in nature and surprising that they do well in Israel.
Overall, the 2015 vintage is not great, as already described here, but I was surprised by some of the reds. The 2015 vintage was really tough and I expect the 2016 vintage to show far better for Asaf and the winery.
The last interesting fact is that they made Cabernet Sauvignon in 2001 and then they dropped it and all other such varietals in 2002, their first real vintage as a winery. Also, they were the first winery to make wines from Mediterranean varietals, long before all the other wineries were doing it.
I arrived a bit early and took pictures, the loveliest part of the winery tasting room is the massive bar that was made by Doron Belogolovsky, one of the winery’s original founders and the chairs made from barrels by Assaf’s father, Avraham Paz.
Asaf was very kind to sit with us and share all his wonderful wines. My many thank yous to Asaf and the entire Vitkin winery for their kindness. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:
2016 Vitkin Israeli Journey, White – Score: A-
This wine is a blend of Colombard, Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Gewurztraminer, and Viognier. The nose starts off with notes of Gewurztraminer attributes, like orange blossom and pineapple, with peach, and lovely guava. The mouth is nice with good acid, balance, showing green apple, grapefruit, with yellow pear, sweet but balanced and nice. The finish is spicy and with nice cloves and slate, but really fruity, little straw, mineral, and really lovely earth and tart fruit lingering long. Fun refreshing and tart. Nice!
2016 Vitkin Grenache Blanc, Collector’s Edition – Score: B+ to A-
The nose on this wine is lovely, with pink grapefruit nose, but balanced well with slate, mineral, green apple, and straw. The mouth of the medium body is nice but misses a bit of acid, with a nice weight, good fruit focus with fruit pith, nice orange, nectarines, tart fruit, with great fruit zest and slate. Long and tart zesty finish, with good restraint and nice spice, with cloves, and tart fruit lingering. Available only at the winery.
2016 Vitkin Gewurztraminer, Collector’s Edition – Score: A-
This is a lovely dry Gewurtztraminer and one that is really worth finding. Classic nose, of green pineapple, lovely guava, nectarines, with lovely spice. The mouth on this medium body is crazy fun with great acid, spice, tart fruit, with yellow apple, green plum, with kiwi, and passion fruit, all coming together. The finish is long and spicy with great sweet fruit but balanced with pith and bitter notes. Lovely with slate, mineral, and green notes with hay and spice. Available only in Israel.
2016 Vitkin Israeli Journey, Pink Rose – Score: A- (QPR)
This is exactly as I tasted it before, I have posted this as one of the winners of the 2016 Rose list. It is a blend of 90% Grenache and 10% Carignan.
This wine is a blend of Grenache Noir and Carignan. The nose on this wine is lovely,
very flinty, earthy, rich with strawberry, floral notes galore, peach, and lychee. The mouth is lovely, with crazy mineral, slate, saline, lovely acid, rich earthy, lovely tart gooseberry, with ripe fruit, but perfect control, lovely, showing peach, currant, nice rich slate, rock, with good flint and lovely kiwi, gooseberry, and grapefruit. Bravo!!! An elegant wine.
2015 Vitkin Israeli Journey, Red – Score: B+
This wine is a blend of Carignan, Grenache, Syrah, and Cabernet Franc. This wine is
Shockingly ripe wine, with red fruit, hints of blackberry, blueberry, animal notes, with earth, dirt, and garrigue, herbs. Tobacco, smoke, vanilla, nice acidity, with good balance, nice fruit, and oak structure, with raspberry and currant, nice fruit, with tannic mouth coating. Nice finish with great acid, showing tart fruit, with a bonus of sweet fruit, not quite date, more fig with great spice, toast, and more roasted animal. Drink by 2018.
2015 Vitkin Pinot Noir – Score: B+ (Shmita wine)
The nose on this wine is classically Pinot Noir, with big ripe fruit, coffee, roasted notes, candied cherry, lifesavers, and fig. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine starts off with cedar, sweet notes, candied raspberry, and dark fruit in the background. The mouth is well balanced with nice mouth coating tannin, good acid, showing green dill and nice sweet spices, nutmeg, cinnamon, and earth. Drink by 2019. Available only in Israel.
2015 Vitkin Grenache Noir, Collector’s Edition – Score: A- (Shmita wine)
This wine is a blend of 85% Grenache and 15% Marselan. The nose shows nice red fruit with dirt, mushroom while also showing floral notes of rose and mineral. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is nice with good acid, showing clear sweet fruit, with candied raspberry, impressive tart cherry, and cranberry with nice juicy strawberry and coffee, balanced with a dollop of green notes and dirt. The finish is long and tart with clear sweet fruit leanings, showing tannin that lingers with leather, sweet dill, and lovely cedar. Nice! Drink by 2020. Available only in Israel.
2015 Vitkin Cabernet Franc – Score: B+ (Shmita wine)
This is one of those varietals that I wished could make it in Israel, sadly none have stepped up in the past many years. This one has potential I hope in a year outside of 2015. The nose starts off nicely but goes very sweet very fast with fig, red, hints of blackberry, raspberry, with cherry and spice. The mouth is too pushed for me, with hints of date, rich blackberry, red forest fruit, with lovely sweet oak, nice coffee, earth, with hints of green notes but really in the background. The finish is long with mouth coating tannin, nicely made with power and grace with tart fruit balancing the dark and ripe fruit. Leather and spice with green notes and earth linger. Drink by 2019. Available only in Israel.
2015 Vitkin Carignan, Old Vine – Score: B+ (Shmita wine)
What a nose, lovely roasted meat, crazy dried fruit, with lovely cranberry, red cherry, and great tar. The mouth is full bodied and pushed sadly a bit too much, but a great attack of fruit focus, mad mouth drying tannin, inky structure, with dark cherry, rich earth, blackberry madness, backed with tart fruit, spice, rich spices, cloves. The finish is long and spicy with great acid and tannin that flows into ripe black fruit and mineral, tar, and lovely rose and floral notes. Nice! For those that like this style, drink by 2021. For those that are more like me, drink by 2019. Available only in Israel.
2015 Vitkin Petite Sirah, Old Vine – Score: B+ to A- (Shmita wine)
Another pushed wine sadly that is nice and professionally made, with roasted and carrion meat, showing dark fruit, and nice mineral, with lovely blueberry and earth. The mouth is crazy extracted with impressive acid, rich mouth drying tannin, with blackberry, boysenberry, with rich spice, with great spice, searing focus, with blue and black fruit and nice control. The finish is long and spicy and rich black fruit and hints of sweet notes that linger with leather and lovely spice. Again, this is a wine that some will really love and those should start drinking from 2019 till 2023. For folks like me, drink by 2019. Available only in Israel.
2016 Vitkin Israeli Journey, Red – Score: B+
This wine is a blend of 66% Carignan, Syrah, Grenache, and Cabernet Franc.
The nose on this wine shows nice tart and controlled fruit, with red fruit and spice. The mouth is really balanced but still very fruity and juicy, with nice tart red fruit, spice, with coffee, raspberry, cherry, and earth, wrapped in nice tannin and good acid. The finish is long and blue with red fruit, juicy fruit, tart juicy strawberry, and searing acid, nice. Drink by 2019. Should be available in the USA very soon.
Posted on October 17, 2017, in Israel, Israeli Wine, Kosher Red Wine, Kosher Rose Wine, Kosher White Wine, Kosher Wine, Uncategorized, Wine Tasting, Winery Visit and tagged Cabernet Franc, carignan, Grenache, Grenache Blanc, Israeli Journey, old vine, Petite Sirah, Pink, Pinot Noir, Red, Rose, Vitkin Winery. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.