Domaine du Castel Winery latest releases
As I have been posting so far, I enjoyed my last trip to Israel and Europe, and I am almost done with my Israeli winery posts. Last we left off, we had just had our second kosher wine tasting at DD’s house. The actual winery visit to Domaine du Castel Winery came before the 2nd tasting, but as I stated already, I wanted to cover the tastings first.
This was my latest visit to Domaine du Castel Winery, and as I have stated many times already, the reds were still from the 2015 vintage, with a couple of reds being released now from the 2016 vintage. The 2015 vintage was tough as I explained here, it was one of the worst Shmita years that I can remember, but I do not remember was the 1994 vintage in Israel was like. The 2001 and 2008 vintages were epic years for Israel, while the 2015 vintage was not quite the same.
More than the poor quality of the 2015 vintage is the 2015 Shmita overhang – forcing wineries to sell all their wines locally, as most locales like the USA and others do not buy the 2015 wines.
Castel grows and expands facilities
We arrived a bit early and hung around walking around the new winery that Castel put up a year ago, in Yad HaShmona, after a 23-year run in Ramat Raziel. The winery is stunning plain and simple. The winery is stunning and the tasting room is gorgeous, with massive logs, exposed beams, making for a cozy ski chalet feel. The barrel room below the winery is even more beautiful than the one they had in Ramat Raziel, and again is an ode to the barrel room of Chateau Mouton Rothschild in Pauillac. With a beautiful hearth, fireplace and of course wines all around you. The tasting room a perfect melding of the beautiful mountain and hills surrounding it that are visible from the massive windows
This is not my first visit to the winery, but my last full-scale post of the winery is old, so it needed a refresh. Besides the expansion of facilities, the winery also expanded its wines as well. This all came together in 2015 when the new winery and new wines were brought together. The winery in Ramat Raziel is still in operation, but it will slowly be phased out over time. Until then it continues to be a dual winery arrangement.
With the expanded facilities the winery scaled up from 140K bottles in 2014 to 250K bottles in 2016. With that large change in bottles came three new wines, two that are already released and one new one that is or will be soon released. The two known wines are the La Vie wines, with a white and a red. They are meant to be easier drinking wines, wines that do not need waiting like the Petit Castel requires some vintages.
The sad fact that they expanded in the very tough 2015 vintage was just plain old bad timing. The winery bought a powerful piece of technology to fight the bad grapes that came from the 2015 vintage – an optical sorter – a very cool piece of technology that looks at the grapes going by and blows directed air and removes the grape from the sorting line – very cool!
Even before the expansion of the facilities the winery vinified each plot of its vineyards separately, much like the great chateau in Bordeaux. With the new winery in Yad HaShmona came the next level in winery practices – gravity. Good old gravity, the oldest technology that man knows about is all the rage today. Instead of pumping the wine must into the tanks to ferment the grape must is lifted up using small containers and then placed into the tanks. After the wine ferments, the press is brought over below the tanks and the wine and its must is lowered into the press using gravity. Once the wine is pressed out it flows down to the lower level – where the casks lie waiting to age quietly till their time to be bottled.
The La Vie wines are aged in concrete tanks – another old technology that is all the rage now – in few words, the old is new at Domaine du Castel Winery.
A quick word about the Judean Hills wine quartet. I have spoken about this before so there is no need to repeat it, but I am really happy that great kosher wineries in Israel, like Domaine du Castel, Flam Winery, and Tzora Winery are behind the push to educate the world about what can be created in Israel.
As we looked around some more, Mr. Eli Ben Zaken appeared right on time and the tasting started with haste, as Shabbat was looming. I must say that the 2015 wines were the same as where they were earlier on if not a bit worse, that was a tough year. The 2016 wines were all good, with some very good, and it is clear that the winery is moving the direction of many wineries in Israel to a riper and round fruit profile.
The 2016 barrel sample of the GV was mind-blowing, it could well be their best yet, but only time will tell. There was a leftover bottle of the 2002 Grand Vin that was tasted earlier and we had a bit of that as well. My many thanks to Mr. Eli Ben Zaken for being so accommodating to me and my friends and sharing his wines with us to taste.
There is a new wine that is called M, it is a Muscat-based sweet dessert wine. Again my thanks to Mr. Ben Zaken and the winery for a wonderful tasting. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:
2016 Domaine du Castel, Rose du Castel: Score: A-
This wine is a blend of 60% Merlot, 20% Malbec, and 20% Cabernet Franc. The nose is
lovely with lychee, guava, gooseberry, mounds of floral notes, with dirt, mineral city, slate. The mouth on this wine is layered, controlled, with good focus, not over the top, but really good acid that is popping, easy drinking, and it can go with lots of food from its fruit structure, lots of sauvignon blanc stylings, with vanilla, and strawberry, followed by earth, and mounds of fruit pith. Bravo!! Fruit pith and acid lingering long. DRINK UP!!!
2016 Domaine du Castel La Vie Blanc du Castel – Score: B+
This wine is a blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Gewurtztraminer. This wine is really ripe and sweet, showing a bright nose with green apple, pineapple, lychee with gooseberry and lovely dry melon. The mouth a bit too sweet for me with rich mineral, saline, with nice pink grapefruit and good hints of slate that try to balance out the sweet notes with bitter notes of almond pith and nectarines. Drink by 2019.
2016 Domaine du Castel C, Blanc Du Castel Chardonnay – Score: A-
Lovely nose of rich smoke, toast, and oak with rich saline and lovely flint that is fun. The mouth on this wine needs time, for now, it is round and rich and layered and creamy, with ripe green apple, good acidity, nice mineral, butterscotch, and rock that gives way to creme brulee and brioche, showing fruit that is really tart, Asian Pear, with tart citrus, spice, nutmeg, and cinnamon. The finish is long and creamy and tart, with great bitter notes and fun zesty citrus pith. Drink from 2019 to 2025.
2014 Domaine du Castel C, Blanc Du Castel Chardonnay – Score: A-
What a beautiful wine! The nose on this wine shows lovely butter and brioche but still balanced with green fruit, apple, white pepper, and candied pear. Lovely wow what a wine with great acid and fruit structure, nice butterscotch, and peach with a nice viscous mouth draping and elegant, with yeast notes and rich ripe guava and hints of pineapple. Lovely round and rich finish, with elegance and hints of quinine and yellow plum with nectarine at the end with citrus, spice, and cloves. A lovely Chardonnay that should hold well till 2024.
2015 Domaine du Castel La Vie Rouge du Castel – Score: B to B+ (shmita wine)
This wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Petit Verdot. The nose is really ripe showing dark fruit that is really pushed with hints of date, blackberry, and plum. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is further pushed, with clear date notes, rich and ripe dark fruit, with hints of green notes, earth, roasted herb, and spice. The finish is long and sweet with more dark fruit and spice. Drink soon.
2016 Domaine du Castel La Vie Rouge du Castel – Score: B+
This vintage was clearly better from the start, with a nice ripe nose with black and red fruit showing nice hints of forest floor, nice green notes, and lovely roasted herb. The mouth is medium bodied and almost controlled, but still more sweet than I like it, with good herb, blackberry, currant, cranberry and nice tart red fruit with good acid and tannin. The finish is long and dark with dark chocolate, herb, and garrigue on the long finish. Drink by 2020.
2015 Domaine du Castel Petit Castel – Score: B+ (shmita wine)
The nose on this wine is really ripe, 2015 was a tough year, it shows notes of sweet oak, blackberry, mint, with very ripe plum, and floral notes. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is really pushed, showing a very rich, round, and extracted mouth with black fruit, light acidity, and a sad lack of balance given the ripeness without the acid to bring it around, all wrapped in searing tannin and herb. The finish is long and tannic, with more oak, dark chocolate, and graphite. Drink by 2019.
2016 Domaine du Castel Petit Castel – Score: B+ to A- (Barrel sample)
This wine is better than its older brother, it shows a clearer control on the fruit, with really dark berry, blackberry, plum, dark rich berry, and spice. The mouth is rich and layered, with an impressive first hit of rich chocolate, ripe but more controlled with black forest berry, dried and candied raspberry, followed by mineral and rich extraction that is wrapped in mouth drying tannin that is rich with black fruit and graphite. The finish is long, dark, and green with foliage, followed by coffee, chocolate, with earth and lovely green notes, with tobacco and more mineral. Nice! Drink by NA (Barrel sample)
2012 Domaine du Castel Petit Castel – Score: A-
A really old world and earthy nose with lovely green and red nose with great finesse and rich mineral. The mouth is beautiful with dark fruit, blackberry, raspberry, extraction with layers of green and red fruit that flow into forest berries and lovely mineral with graphite and tannin that is rich and layered. The finish is tart and tar-laden with scraping mineral, mint, mushroom menthol and dill. Bravo! Drink by 2020.
2015 Domaine du Castel Grand Vin – Score: B+ to A- (shmita wine)
Really pushed, fruity and ripe with green and red fruit with black hints and spice. The mouth on the mouth is rich and layered and green with dark fruit that is pushed but only on the end with controlled fruit on the front with elegance and lovely layers of chocolate and graphite that is expressive, powerful and yet elegant with forest floor and lovely mouth-drying tannin. The finish is long and dark and really spicy with nutmeg and cinnamon with sweet notes and lovely roasted herb that is expressive but equally balanced with tobacco and garrigue and lovely foliage. Rich and layered and elegant. Drink by 2023.
2016 Domaine du Castel Grand Vin – Score: A- (barrel sample)
Crazy ink color with inky notes of tar, mineral, and ripe and rich black fruit. The mouth is incredible and richly extracted, showing an elegance that is both expressive and yet elegant with mineral and richly expressive blackberry, dark plum, fruity and expressive with chocolate notes that give way to mouth drying tannin and rich fruit. The finish is long and tannic and green with dark fruit, intense chocolate with tar and lovely earth and sweet spices like nutmeg and green herbs. Bravo! Drink by NA (this was a barrel sample)
2002 Domaine du Castel Grand Vin – Score: A- to A
The nose showed a bit tired as it was open for quite some time but lovely with mineral, mushroom, almost diaper with rich notes of red fruit and green notes that give way to graphite and green foliage, forest floor. The mouth is rich layered and lovely, with crazy tannin, shocking tannin that is still alive with great saline and lovely menthol with Heather and leather that gives way Raspberry, dried black fruit, with currant, and rich elegance and expression that shocking with green tea, earth, loam, with more dry mouth and mushroom. A lovely and really old world, pure hedonism wine showing perfection, incredible for such a poor vintage of Israel to create a great like this. The finish lingers with chocolate, mouth coating tannin, mushroom, green notes, and barnyard madness. Bravo!! Drink by 2019.
2016 Domaine du Castel M – Score: B+
Really sweet lovely nose of guava, pineapple, lovely tropical notes with rich fruit balanced well with bright kiwi and ripe peach and candied apricot. The mouth is rich and layered and with an oily yet sweet mouthfeel that while being balanced is a bit too sweet for me, showing too much richness for the body without bracing acidity, and lacking the complexity to grab you. The finish is tropical and rich and well focused. Drink by 2024.
Posted on November 6, 2017, in Israel, Israeli Wine, Kosher Dessert Wine, Kosher Red Wine, Kosher White Wine, Kosher Wine, Wine and tagged Blanc du Castel, C, Domaine du Castel, grand vin, La Vie, M, Petit Castel, Rouge du Castel, Winery Visit. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.