Vitkin Winery visit – April 2019

I have written before about Vitkin last year, and this year (2018 production), makes it the third year of kosher production for the winery! 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. Avi Davidowitz, of KosherWineUnfiltered, and I arrived during the start of post-production work on the 2018 vintage for reds and some of the special whites, that we will talk more about later on.

The winery does 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 2018 Vitkin Israeli Journey, Red, along with the 2017/2018 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.

There are two fascinating aspects of the wines produced the Vitkin Winery. One is that more than 55% 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, though maybe some will make it to the USA this year, as they made more of it in 2018. The Grenache Blanc and the Israeli Journey will be (or are already) available in the USA.

We tasted through the new whites and rose, along with the new 2017 Israeli Journey red and the 2017 Grenache Noir. Finally, we tasted two special wines, one is a yet to be disclosed varietal (which was recently disclosed to be Macabeo) and another is the first naturally occurring botrytis wine since the 1988 Yarden Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc.

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:

2018 Vitkin Israeli Journey, White – Score: 89
Blend of 40% Colombard, 20% Viognier, Roussanne, and Grenache Blanc. The nose on this wine is nice with flower blossom, with nice mineral, controlled pineapple, with hints of soap and heather, with passion and green notes. Nice balance on the mouth with good acidity, showing lovely citrus, orange, with lemon, melon, with great weight but good acidity with slate and pith galore. Nice overall wine with tart fruit and good fresh wine.

2018 Vitkin Gewurztraminer, Collector’s Edition – Score: 91 to 92
This wine is dry and lovely pineapple, with ripe melon, and green notes and lychee galore, with funk and hints of soap, incredible aromas, white pepper, smoke, flint, and redolence. The mouth on this wine is lovely, with grapefruit, citrus, lovely pith, with apple, pith galore, followed by complexity and bitter notes of melon, yellow Apple, lovely weight, slight tannin, with sweet notes honeysuckle, sweet pineapple, and balance. The finish is long and green and sweet and mineral balanced. Bravo! Drink by 2021.

2018 Vitkin Riesling, Collector’s Edition – Score: 92
Lovely nose, great bright fruit, incredible honeysuckle, with heather and rich mineral galore. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is really fun, and really fun funk and petrol, with great mineral and saline backbone, followed by citrus, lemon, and rich complexity, with great blossom, litchi, and rich green notes that come together with mineral, ribbons of funk, and slate galore. Wow with mineral, saline, slate, and citrus and funk lingering long. Drink by 2023.

2018 Vitkin Grenache Blanc – Score: 91 to 92
I keep coming around to the idea that this wine, the 2016 and 2017 vintages, needs a year to come together, the 2016 vintage is screaming great now.
The nose is a basket of ripe but well-controlled fruit, with great white blossom, honeysuckle, with honeyed fruit, with great honeyed notes and melon. The mouth on this medium to full-bodied wine is mouth draping, with great richness, followed by ripe melon, citrus, with green apple, lovely rich salinity, with great mineral, sweet notes in the background, with great tart and incredible saline and weight of apple, pear, melon and grapefruit, with mineral and crazy hay and straw with slate. The finish is long and green, acidic and rich mineral and lovely weight and fresh and tart lychee. Lovely! Drink by 2022.

2018 Vitkin Insight, Macabeo – Score: 91 (if it is as good when bottled)
Lovely nose of yellow and white blossoms, with great and crazy green notes and apple galore, with yellow plum, and Asian pear galore, so French and so absurd, with redolence galore. The mouth on this wine will blow people away, this is not an Israeli wine palate wise, with great salinity, acid, slight tannin, incredible Asian pear pith, and lovely orange and lemon body with pear apple and tart and dry fruit galore. The finish is long and dry with fruit galore and lovely light notes of melon, lovely.

2018 Vitkin Chardonnay – Score: NA (Barrel sample)
The nose on this wine is apple and orange with hints of Oak, with beautiful pear and green notes. The mouth on this medium-bodied wine is now almost pure acid, with loads of tart and bright apple, lemon curd, slight hints of creme, with great fruit, lovely grapefruit with control of fruit and acid coming together into a bouquet of spice, herb, and rich mineral with Oak bulking up the apple and pear. The finish is long and green, with creme, spice, nutmeg, and light cloves. Fun!

2017 Vitkin Israeli Journey, Red – Score: 88 to 89
Nice nose of black and red fruit, with olives, and herb galore, floral notes. The mouth on this wine is tart, with acidity, lovely juicy but controlled fruit, blackberry, blueberry, with raspberry more in the focus with great mineral and lovely acidity, with great tannin and fruit structure. The finish is long and green and tart, with olives and nice spices, with green and black olives, with chocolate and herb. Drink now!

2017 Vitkin Grenache Noir, Collector’s Edition – Score: 89 to 90
This wine is crazy with a nose of black olives, with incredible roasted animal, followed by lovely red fruit. The mouth on this full-bodied wine is rich and layered, with rich extraction, roasted animal, dark raspberry, blackberry, and well balanced, with great weight, and good fruit focus, with more sweet fruit, showing lovely sweet spices, roasted herb, with nutmeg, and sweet herbs. The finish is long, sweet, with dark chocolate, hints of tobacco, and dried fruit, and spice galore. Drink until 2023.

2018 Vitkin Rose, Israeli Journey – Score: 90
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! This wine is only 11.9% ABV and 1.9gr/liter.

2018 Vitkin Late Harvest Gewurztraminer – Score: 92+
YEAY!!! This is the first naturally occurring botrytis wine since the 1988 Yarden Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc. It came in at 85% natural botrytis. This will need time to come around.
The nose on this wine is funk and really elegant, wow, with pineapple, melon, redolence galore, with apricot compote, and crazy sweet orange blossoms, wow!! The mouth on this wine really needs time, really lots of time, with great richness, with crazy acidity, so young, so tasty at this time, who knows how much more this will evolve over time, with rich sweetness, with ripe melon, guava, and balance galore. The finish is long, sweet, and rich and well balanced, bravo. Drink from 2022 until 2030.

Posted on May 6, 2019, in Israel, Israeli Wine, Kosher Dessert Wine, Kosher Red Wine, Kosher Rose Wine, Kosher Semi Sweet Wine, Kosher White Wine, Kosher Wine, Wine, Wine Tasting, Winery Visit and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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