Vitkin Winery visit – November 2018

As I stated in my last post, I was in Israel for a very short trip, but I wanted to get to Vitkin WInery to taste the new 2016 reds. Vitkin Winery was the first winery I visited and while I came with the entire group of guys to taste AK, AO, JK, OM, AD, and myself, things did not quite work out that way. Somewhere there was a miscommunication, and sadly there was no way to accommodate the guys. Sadly, Asaf Paz was not available, and while he made sure the tasting would happen, it was only me.

I have written before about Vitkin last year, the second year after he made the winery kosher! Yes, as stated last during the 2015 vintage, 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 this year, 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, with the Grenache Blanc and The Gewurtztraminer adding the Collector’s Edition moniker. The current red wines that are kosher all fall into the Vitkin wine label, both the 2016/2017 Vitkin Israeli Journey, Red, along with the 2016/2017 Vitkin Pinot Noir, the 2016 Vitkin Cabernet Franc, the 2016 Vitkin Petite Sirah, old vines, Collector’s Edition, and the 2016 Vitkin Carignan, old vines, Collector’s Edition.
They did make a special run of wine called Emek Hafer, as a private label for a client. I only tasted the Cabernet Sauvignon, in a blind tasting and I was not impressed, though I did not taste the Sauvignon Blanc.

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 the 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 was not great and the 2016 vintage, while a bit better is really ripe and fruit forward. The white wines are my kind of wines, tart, well balanced, and richly acidic. 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.

All the reds from the 2016 vintage will make its way to the USA (with most of them already here now, while only the Gewurtztraminer and the Riesling, from the white wines, will be sold in Israel exclusively. The Grenache Blanc and the Israeli Journey will be (or are already) available in the USA.

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:


2017 Vitkin Israeli Journey, White – Score: 89
This wine is a blend of Colombard, Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Gewurztraminer, and Viognier. The wine is simple enough but nice. The nose is ripe, with sweet fruit, floral notes, Jasmine, with lovely peach and apricot, spice, and citrus. The mouth on this light to medium-bodied wine is balanced, with good acidity, and fruit, nice mouthfeel with slate and tart fruit lingering. Nice! Drink now!

2017 Vitkin Gewurztraminer, Collector’s Edition – Score: 90
This is a lovely dry Gewurtztraminer and one that is really worth finding. The nose on this wine is lovely and unique, with rich honeysuckle, Jasmine, with incredible and crazy peach, along with pineapple, and passion fruit. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is well balanced and fun, showing great acidity and focus, with nectarines and tart guava, citrus, pink grapefruit, and nice weight. The finish is fun and long with pith, nice almond paste, slate, and rich tart fruit lingering long. Nice! Drink now! (Sadly this is only available in Israel)

2017 Vitkin Grenache Blanc, Collector’s Edition – Score: 90
This is not as minerally focused as the 2016 vintage was, but it still a fun wine. The nose on this wine shows good spice and really good focus, tart fruit, floral notes, violet, with yellow pear, and peach. The mouth is nice, showing rich acid, lovely weight, with great pith, showing grapefruit, guava, with tart gooseberry and straw, hay lingers with scrapping mineral, slate, and more pith. Nice! Drink by 2020.

2017 Vitkin Riesling – Score: 90
Israel is really hopping with solid Riesling options, and this is another nice one. The nose on this wine is nice, with petrol notes, followed by rich notes of peach and apricot, with grapefruit and gooseberry. The mouth is really lovely really rich with acid and great lime and lemongrass showing great salinity and earth. The finish is really lovely with great fruit focus and rich mineral, and lovely nectarines and dry citrus. Bravo!! Drink by 2020. (Sadly this is only available in Israel)

2018 Vitkin Rose – Score: 90
I tasted this from the tank, it was already filtered and ready to bottle, so I hope these notes hold up! To me, this is the best rose that Vitkin has released since it has gone kosher. The nose on this lovely Gris style wine shows lovely dark cherry, tart, and juicy strawberry, raspberry, with rich saline and grapefruit. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is fun, tart and rich, with crazy saline and acid, showing rich lemon and lime, with notes of mineral and earth, with slate. The finish is fun, showing lemongrass and rich tart fruit. Bravo!

2017 Vitkin Pinot Noir – Score: 89
The wine is nice, but riper than I like. The nose on this wine shows sweet and ripe fruit, but stylistic correct with ripe Bing cherry, raspberry, and dark fruit. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is showing dark fruit with soft tannin and nice acid, ripe, but not over the top, with cranberry, pomegranates, and nice dirt, with good tannin that coats the mouth. The finish is long and tart, with loads of vanilla and rich coffee. Nice. Drink by 2021.

2016 Vitkin Grenache Noir, Collector’s Edition – Score: 91 (notes from a previous tasting)
Nice! This wine is a blend of ripe and sweet fruit, while also showing control and dry notes on the nose, with lovely dark cherry, ripe raspberry, lovely mineral, and literal dirt, and fresh loam, nice! With time the nose starts to show lovely mineral, roasted animal, and more earth. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is ripe, controlled, but also like the nose showing dry notes, of white pepper, lovely balancing acid, that shows nice weight, wrapped in ripe strawberry, with more earth, lovely mineral, hints of saline, black fruit emerges with time, with wonderful ethereal but persistent mouthcoating tannins. The finish is long and green, with red fruit, backed by black plum, rich minerality shows later, with lovely graphite, pith, tobacco, citrus notes, and lovely sweet baking spices. Nice! Drink until 2023.

2016 Vitkin Cabernet Franc – Score: 89
This wine is mostly Cabernet Franc along with some small amount of Petit Verdot. The fruit comes from near Shamai in the North. The nose on this wine is ripe, that is for sure, but again, it is stylistically correct, with white pepper, but man is it showing ripe fruit, really dark fruit, raspberry, and pomegranate. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is really showing nicely with good fruit, cherry, dark plum, lovely earth and nice vanilla with chocolate and dry heather. The finish is long and green, with foliage and leather and nice tobacco and more. Nice! Drink until 2023.

2016 Vitkin Carignan, old vines, Collector’s Edition – Score: 89
The nose on this wine shows nice blue and red fruit showing great earth with lovely warm spices and Zatar. The mouth on this full bodied wine is ripe and layered, with more spice, blackberry, raspberry and blueberry with nice tart fruit showing a good fruit focus, even if the fruit is really ripe, with dark black fruit brooding in the background, all wrapped in sweet tannin and earthy notes. The finish is long and dark, with green notes and lovely warm spices, backed with rich saline, mineral, loads of herb, nice oregano, cloves, with great tart fruit and nice spices. Drink until 2024.

2016 Vitkin Petit Sirah, old vines, Collector’s Edition – Score: 89
The nose on this wine also shows very ripe with dark fruit, ripe and sweet blackberry, dark plum with boysenberry, and lovely floral notes of roses and yellow flowers. The mouth on this full bodied wine is ripe and layered and crazy with dark forest floor berry with some control, showing ripe plum with rich extraction, and rich dark fruit that gives way to nice acid and rich gripping tannin. The finish is long and earthy, with green notes, rich smoking tobacco, with more blue fruit, dark milk chocolate, and rich coffee with graphite and mineral, and lovely warm spices. Nice. Drink until 2024.

Posted on December 11, 2018, in Israel, Israeli Wine, Kosher Red Wine, Kosher Rose Wine, Kosher White Wine, Kosher Wine, Uncategorized, Wine, Wine Tasting, Winery Visit and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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