Category Archives: Winery Visit

Matar made by Pelter Winery’s latest releases

The next winery that I enjoyed on my last trip to Israel and Europe, was Matar by Pelter winery. I have been to the winery a few times over the past years and my posts can be found here, and they continue to impress with their red and whites wines alike. Though I must say, that the red wines have become riper with time. Time will tell if this is a blip or a conscious desire.

There is not much more to say here. Their white and rose wines from 2015 were nice, but nowhere near the level of their 2014 wines. The good news is the 2016 white wines are far closer to the 2014 vintage. Sadly, the 2015 reds are not showing like Matar wines normally do, but again 2015 was a really bad year. They are not date juice, but the 2015 reds, like the Merlot and the Petite Verdot, are just riper than usual and are showing a bit unbalanced.

My many thanks to the winery, and especially Gal Yaniv, the winery’s CEO for going out of his way to help us in many ways – my many thanks, sir! The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

2016 Matar Sauvignon Blanc – Semillon – Score: A-
Another lovely vintage of this wine. The nose is ripe with gooseberry, green apple, crazy grapefruit, fresh cut grass, and kiwi. The mouth is great, ripping acid, with a super focus along with lovely spice, rich ripe melon, and lovely cloves, with slate and rich citrus pith. The finish is long and green and it is pure acid, bravo with cinnamon and slate. Bravo!!

2016 Matar Chardonnay – Score: A-
The nose on this wine is a lovely chard nose with green apple, a bit of gooseberry, citrus, pear, with herb and lovely foliage and green notes. A nice medium mouth with crazy acid, great fruit focus, with intense citrus pith, lovely tart mouth-filling fruit that gives way to crazy pith, slate, and lemon Fraiche. The finish is long and tart, with good mineral, slate, rock and fruit pith lingering long. Nice!

2016 Matar Chenin Blanc – Score: A-
This may well be their best Chenin Blanc ever, the wine is very close in style to Netofa’s Chenin Blanc, it is far drier than previous vintages and is showing purity and original style.
The nose is very different than previous vintages with great Chenin funk, with honeysuckle, straw, rich floral notes and herb. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is lean, rich and yet focused with old world style, great mineral, rich saline, lovely straw, earth, all balanced with epic acid, and great dry yellow melon and pear. The finish is long and mineral-focused, with lovely flint, smoke, earth, slate, backed by crazy saline, acid, and tart fruit. Bravo!

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Tabor Winery’s latest releases

Well after my last couple of posts, this one returns to wines and wineries I enjoyed on my last trip to Israel and Europe. The next winery was Tabor winery and many thanks to Justin for meeting with us and sharing his knowledge and wines.

My last post on Tabor winery was earlier last year, though I have been posting about the white wines and rose wines throughout the summer.

The winery’s tasting room has undergone a radical renovation and I really like what they have done with it! The labels have also undergone a continuous facelift, over the past few years, and I think these are here to stay – as they are now. The special wines – which they called Adama II in the past has been renamed the Premium line. There are two new wines, the Tannat and Marselan, and they are under a new line, the Single Vineyard line.

We also have once again changed the flagship wine’s name! It started with Mescha, then it was changed to 1/10000 or whatever the bottle count was that year. Then it was renamed Limited Edition, and now it has been changed to Malkiya. I really hope this will be the last name change – we can only hope!

So at this point, the wine lines stand at:

  • Har (Mount Tabor) – these are the baseline wines
  • Adama – these are the wines we all love and the QPR superstars live here, like Sauvignon Blanc, Roussanne, Rose, and the Cab and Merlot
  • Premium Wines – these used to be called Adama II and they hold all the wines, like Sufa, Ram, Zohar, and others
  • Single Vineyard (like everyone is doing a single vineyard line now) – this is where the two new Tannat and Marselan wines live
  • Malkiya – this is the new name for the 1/10000

Sadly, I missed out tasting the Tabor Roussanne, Adama, which was a shame as the wine I hear is very nice, and there are very few Roussanne available in the kosher market, other than Covenant Winery’s Mensch, Hagafen Winery’s Don Ernesto, and Netofa Winery’s new Roussanne wine (more on that soon).

My many thanks to Justin and the winery for putting up with us during a harvest week. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

2015 Tabor Riesling, Shahar – Score: A- (Shmita) Sold only in Israel
This wine is more fun, in some ways than the 2014 vintage. It is more steely, leaner, with far drier and less tropical fruit. This is a lovely wine showing a very earthy side, with flint, rich fruit, petrol, crazy dry peach, with a soap/lavender aroma. The mouth is rich, layered, funky, richer than the 14, rich and yet really bright and showing great pith with great lovely acid, followed by bright summer fruits, no tropical fruit, with lovely Meyer lemon, orange and tangerine pith, and citrus galore. Really nice, floral and funky. Bravo!

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Recanati Winery’s latest releases

2016 Recanati Shiraz, Upper Galilee Series, 2015 Recanati Purple Blend, 2015 Recanati Merlot, Reserve, 2015 Recanati Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, 2015 Recanati Syrah, Reserve, 2015 RecanAs I stated in my last post, I landed in Israel and I had very few days to see a lot of wineries. Recanati Winery was the second winery I visited. Kobi Arviv, who is now the head winemaker at Recanati Winery. He is also the head winemaker at his own winery, Mia Luce Winery, and had been the associate winemaker at Recanati Winery, until June this year.

I have posted in the past about Recanati Winery, and the only real change since that post is that Kobi is now the new head winemaker and that their wines had moved riper in the past few years, my hope is that they return to the control they showed in 2010 and 2011. Since then, it seems they have moved to riper wines, like the rest of Israel.

The wines have stayed the same for the most part, with slight changes to the makeup of some of them. The biggest change overall is to the labels and some new fun and easy drinking reds and whites have been added in.

  • Yasmin/Jonathan – these are the entry-level labels, that are also mevushal
  • Upper Galilee Series – these used to be the diamond series or the baseline series. Not much has changed here other than the labels, though they have been a bit riper these past few years.
  • Then the roses along with this new French Blend wine. The roses have become dryer and are lovely, but the French blend is too sweet for me.
  • Specials – these are fun and well-made wines that are made for either restaurants or the Derech Hayayin stores in Israel.
  • Single Vineyard Wines (Also called Reserve Wines) – this is the largest change of them all – labels wise. Here they have moved the Med series under the single vineyard label concept, though the labels themselves have not really changed. Actually, the reserve wines of old have folded under the Med series and now all the wines show the vines from which the wine was made. This is where the new Marawi wine lives.
  • Flagship wines – what used to be called Special Reserve wines are now flagship wines. It consists of the red and white Special reserve wines.

While the number of labels may have expanded and their look changed, the essence of the winery which was the thrust of my previous post has not changed at all. The winery’s main focus is quality, and for most people, that continues to be the winery’s rallying cry. The prices of the single vineyard wines have gone up, which to me is a real problem because another of Recanati’s rallying cries was price control, and to me, they have lost control of that one, at least here in the USA. I think that issue is a combination of Palm Bay making hay while the sun shines (Wine Advocate, Wine Enthusiast, and others), and Recanati moving its prices up a bit as well. Read the rest of this entry

Vitkin Winery’s latest releases

2016 Vitkin Israeli Journey, White, 2016 Vitkin Grenache Blanc, Vitkin Gewurztraminer, 2016 Vitkin Israeli Journey pink, 2015 Vitkin Pinot Noir, Vitkin Grenache, Vitkin Cabernet Franc, VAs 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. Read the rest of this entry

Tzora Vineyards Winery and the latest releases

Tzora Winery 4

Well, I have finished all the KFWE posts, and my past personal wine tastings posts, and now it is time to get back to posting about wineries I visited on my last trip. To remind you, I came to Israel for Sommelier 2017, then flew to Paris and back the next morning for the Bokobsa tasting. Upon my return to Israel, I drove north for a day, before coming back to the Jerusalem area, and then flying home. I have already posted all the wineries I visited in Israel’s North. I also visited wineries in the Jerusalem area, including one of my absolute favorite kosher wineries in the world – Tzora Vineyards Winery. Why? Because Tzora (and Domaine Netofa Winery as well) are wineries that prove you can make GREAT old-world style wines in the new world of Israel! All that you really need to make great balanced and beautifully made wines is to care, and Tzora winery cares!

If there is a winery that gets terroir in Israel it would be Tzora. I wrote about the late founder, Ronnie James, who sadly passed away in 2008. He saw the power of terroir in Israel. He understood what vines to plant where and why! It was his passion and belief that great wines could be made in Israel, that continues to fuel Eran Pick MW (Master Of Wine), the head winemaker and General Manager of Tzora Vineyards and the rest of the winery, forward. I have had the honor to meet with Mr. Pick many times at the winery now, and each time it is always a joy to see how the winery continues to grow leaps and bounds above the rest of Israel’s date juice producing masses. For the few that can understand the quality and beauty of Tzora’s wines, there is a treasure to be reaped for sure! Here is a winery that cares, and does not sell out to the million bottle siren and the date juice wines that it demands.

It had not been long since I was last at Tzora Winery, but there were new wines to taste, the new Misty Hills and the new red Shoresh, as well. Mr. Pick was very kind to do the tasting with us, and he even had the winery put out these incredibly fragile and lovely wine glasses, from Zalto – just to make sure we were on our toes and very careful! The glasses were the first surprise, but the second one was the insane wine we tasted at the end of the tasting. It was a wine that is yet to be bottled but one that has already been pulled from the barrel, the 2015 Misty Hills. I swear that if I was tasting blind, I could have guessed it was a 2012 Saint Emilion. It was bone dry, old-world in the absolute real sense, and did not taste ripe or Israeli in any manner. We also got a blind taste test and sadly this time, I did not get it. The blind tasted wine was a glass of pure Petit Verdot, it was very ripe and somewhat unidimensional, but its color, depth, and tannin were really impressive. Eran allowed us to taste components of the Judean Hills Blanc 2016 and some of the 2016 Shoresh blanc as well, they both showed beautifully, but till those wines are complete and put in a bottle, I will hold my notes.

The best news (for me anyway) is that Skurnik Wines, who has been importing Tzora wines for many years now, has all of these wines in NYC! However, the even better news is that they will also be on the west coast very soon! Yes, can you believe it, someone finally listened to me, and Skurnik will have a West coast distribution setup, and ready to go by May 2017! Finally!

The wines are available from Gary at Taste Co – email him at: info@tastewineco.com or call at (212) 461-1708. Some of them are also available at kosherwine.com and skyviewwine.com.

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Lueria Winery and the latest releases

Lueria Winery Tasting Room.jpg

Well, I have finished all the KFWE posts, and my past personal wine tastings posts, and now it is time to get back to posting about wineries I visited on my last trip. To remind you, I came to Israel for Sommelier 2017, then flew to Paris and back the next morning for the Bokobsa tasting. Upon my return to Israel, I drove north for a day, before coming back to the Jerusalem area, and then flying home. I have already posted all the wineries I visited in Israel’s North, excepting for my visit with Gidi Sayada at the lovely new visitor tasting room of Lueria Winery. We tasted all the new releases and as always, it is a joy to sit down and taste wines with Gidi.

The wines that Gidi makes use the grapes that were planted by his father, Yosef Sayada some 22 years ago. The vines were planted on the hills surrounding Moshav Safsufa. Interestingly, Safsufa is an Aramaic word meaning – late ripening fruit. The burial place of the revered kabbalist Rav Yitzchak Luria, who was one of the foremost Kabbalist experts in his time, overlooks the vineyards. It is in his honor that the winery is called Lueria Winery.

Lueria Winery has been growing slowly but surely, going from a few thousand bottles in 2006 to more than 100K bottles in 2016. Most people would not think that Lueria Winery is pumping out that much wine, but since Gidi started making wine, after learning winemaking in Israel, and cutting his teeth with Tal Pelter of Pelter Winery (not kosher) and Matar Winery, it is clear to see that he has found his own way now. With the abundance of his father’s grapes to choose from, some 45 acres, comprising many classic varietals, like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, along with some more Mediterranean varietals, like Syrah, Sangiovese, Barbera, and Roussanne.

This winery, like many throughout Israel, is not afraid to make half of their wines – white wines. Why? Because contrary to the USA palate, Israelis have finally found the love for all things white and rose! Sadly, this year, Gidi did not make a rose. In its place, he started a new label, the 2016 Roussanne! Also, gone is the pure dry Gewurztraminer that we had a few years here and there. Now, he is making some dry Gewurztraminer and placing it into the lovely, Lueria White wine. The white varietals used in the winery are Gewurztraminer, Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, and Roussanne. There are very few wineries in Israel making Pinot Grigio, the ones I know of are Dalton (a five-minute drive from Lueria Winery), Lueria Winery, and Yarden Winery. Each wine is stylistically different from each other. The Dalton PG is all about acid and fruit and is light on the mineral. Shockingly, the Yarden PG is less about fruit and more a balance between the fruit and mineral. Finally, the Lueria Winery PG is smoky and mineral rich, with nice fruit as well. Get them all and then taste them in a blind tasting!

The red wine labels have been cleaned up, in both appearance and names. Now it is just two blends Rosso and Terrace at the first level, followed by two single varietal dominated wines, Shiraz, and Cabernet Sauvignon. With the Grand Vital being the flagship wine of the winery, which is a blend of the best barrels from each vintage. Its parts change each year but it’s mostly dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon, along with some Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Sometimes Syrah is added as well, but in the past many years that has not been the case. I think the streamlining and simplification of the labels, along with cleaning them up a bit as well, really makes for a lovely lineup of wines.

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Adir Winery – Latest releases

adir-winery-and-dairy-2I have been visiting Adir Winery for years now, and it finally dawned on me that I have not yet made a proper post on the winery. I did post about the winery in passing two times, here and here, but it was high time to take a little more time to talk about this winery and to post wines notes for the current releases.

This was my third winery that I visited on my trip to the north, on my last visit to Israel. I had already been Kishor in the early morning, followed by Matar by Pelter after that, and then on to Adir Winery after Matar.

Adir winery started long before it was a winery, long before they thought of a winery. It started with the Rosenberg and Ashkenazi families. The Rosenberg family came to Israel in the late 1940s, leaving war-torn Poland for a new life. The Ashkenazi family immigrated to Israel in the early 1950s from Turkey. Eventually, they both found themselves in the Upper Galilee, near Moshav Ben Zimra. The Rosenbergs started planting vines in the 1980s, and then again in the 1990s, essentially planting much of the vines on the now famous Kerem Ben Zimra slopes and plateaus. In the meantime, the Ashkenazi family raised the largest flock of goats in the north, producing milk and cheese.

In 2003, the families got together and built what to many did not seem obvious from the start, a dairy and a winery in one. The dairy serves lovely cheeses and ice cream to the masses that come to the winery, while the wine is served on the other side of the building.

The winery has three main lines of wines. The first is their Kerem Ben Zimra wines, which has Sauvignon Blanc, Shiraz, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Then there is the A wines, which are blends, and have a white and red. Finally, there is the Plato and now a 10th Anniversary wine.

As I was visiting this time, Adir is in the midst of its biggest ever expansion, moving from two large building to 3 even larger buildings. The current wine cellar will move to another building, while the current tasting room will expand into another building as well. It will all be state of the art, and from what I could see very cool, with audio and visual sensory technology, along with lots of space to serve more cheese and wine than before. Read the rest of this entry

Matar (By Pelter) Winery – newest 2015 wines

mount-hermon-covered-entirely-in-snowWell, in case you have not realized it yet, I am posting for each of the wineries I visited in the two days I was actually in Israel, outside of my one day at Sommelier. Of course, I visited the wineries that I love, and so far I have visited Netofa Winery and Kishor Winery, up till this point.

After I left Kishor Winery, I made my way northeast, to Ein Zivan, another 2+ hours away from Kishor. By this point I have driven 5 hours from Tel Aviv, to my host, then to Kishor, and now to Ein Zivan. It is the farthest north I would travel. From here it is all south. The image above, was a picture I took from the side of the road up north, showing a fully snow-covered Mount Hermon! Beautiful!

The destination was Matar by pelter Winery, a winery I have written about in-depth before. In my opinion, it is a winery that I think is building the best compromise, for artistic, yet non-religious, winemakers who want kosher as an option, but also like to interact with their wines. As you know the only real issue with kosher wine, is the religious jew requirement to make wine kosher. There are a few other ones, but that is the biggest, and most difficult one on the list.

So, if you are a non-religious winemaker and you want to make kosher wine, you have two options. You either stop touching the wines or you make non-kosher wines. Pelter decided to combine those options, and by doing so, it gives Tal Pelter, the head winemaker of Pelter and Matar Winery, the ability to still interact on a very personal level with his Pelter wines, while also being able to expand his portfolio with Matar wines to the kosher market, at the same time.

Anyway, getting back on track, the 2015 vintage was not bad for Matar. While most wineries could not put out a good white wine from 2015, Matar continued its impressive run, with good Shmita wines. The Rose was of course, much like the rest of Israel, average and not inspiring, the only “miss” for Matar in 2015, so far. The red Cumulus was nice as well. So far, IMHO, 2015 has been bad at most wineries in Israel, in regards to the white wines. For reds, there is more hope, with the best wineries creating very acceptable to very good product. Read the rest of this entry

Kishor Vineyards Winery – the latest 2015 and 2016 wines

Kishor Winery Tasting Room

I wrote about Kishor Winery a couple of times, when I saw them at Sommelier the last few years. I also wrote a more in-depth article about the winery here, last year. Well, since they did not come to this year’s Sommelier, it meant I had to go and see the winery again this year.

Last year I loved the 2014 Kishor Savant Red, but when we tasted this again late last year, it had turned hard. I asked to taste it again at the winery, and it had indeed become another wine, not the crazy old-world wine I adored last year.

Well this year, there are new releases, and many are quite nice, even if they were 2015 wines. As I have stated before, in my post on the Sommelier event, 2015 whites were and are a disaster. There were a few here and there, but the vast majority were horrible.

That said, I am finding that the 2015 reds are actually drinkable, at least some anyway. Sadly, the curse of Rose in Israel has continues into 2016, the crop of roses so far are B+ wines at best. However, the clear white grape of 2016 is Viognier – it is doing very well in all the wine regions of Israel.

I arrived early, really early, like 9AM early, and my many thanks to the team for meeting me at this early hour. As I stated on my Bokobsa post, I had just landed at 5AM, dropped my bags at my host, then I essentially drove directly to Kishor! So, it was early when I arrived, and it was great to taste some nice coffee and get down to tasting wine!

Yair Una, the winery’s marketing agent was there when I arrived, and he was VERY kind to call the winemaker, Richard Davies, to come from the fields to taste the wines with me. Richard Davies is one of those Vignobles of Israel. He makes the wines and he prunes the vineyards himself! He is one of those Renaissance guys you read about in the wine books!

davids-vineyard-outside-of-kishor-winery-tatsing-room

The winery has three labels. The Kerem Kishor wines (rose, white and red) are the first label. Next is the Kishor Winery label, which seems to only have Viognier, and finally the Savant label, which has the red blend. Read the rest of this entry

Domaine Netofa Winery – tasting the first batch of the new 2016 wines

Domaine netofa Winery Tatsing room 3

As I stated in my previous blog post, I was in Israel for a few days (and Paris for a few hours) and I made the most of all the days there, wine wise anyway. One of the places I had to go to again, was Netofa Winery. Yes, I was there at the end of last year, to taste the new 2014 Domaine Latour Netofa red, and it was a true joy to enjoy, and it made it to my top 25 wines of the year.

So, I made sure to come by again in 2017, to taste the new wines that will be released soon. The 2016 Domaine Netofa Rose, and the 2016 Domaine Netofa White were ready, but sadly the 2016 Domaine Netofa Red was not yet ready to taste. Thankfully, he also brought an early sample of the 2016 Latour Netofa Roussanne.

Yes, there are two new horses in the Netofa stable, Roussanne and Grenache!! The Grenache shows itself nicely in the new 2016 Rose, and I hope will allow the rose to stay alive longer than previous vintages. The Roussanne is a new wine, aged in oak, like the other Latour Netofa wines, and is made in the classic old-world Hermitage style. It was a very early sample, and I am sure it will change more with time. This sample needed two to three hours of air till it came around, so this one will be a doozy for sure, when it is finally released in July 2017, or so.

When I was in Paris at the Bokobsa tasting, they had the two new 2016 wines, the rose and the Netofa white, but I said no, I am tasting them with the chef himself (Mr. Pierre Miodownick) the next day, so I kindly bowed out and moved on to more French wines!

So indeed that is what I did, I tasted through all the 2014 French wines and then ran out the door to catch my plane back to the Holy land to spend time with the chef himself! I actually arrived on time again! Two times in a row, maybe I will make a habit of it going forward!

We enjoyed the new white, rose, and the epic Roussanne. I must be honest, at the start, the Roussanne was a bit too oaky. However, I have learned from being around wines in their incubation state, oak has a very interesting effect on wine. When you drop the wine in the barrel to start, it seems to soak up the oak like a drunk sailor (maybe a sponge would have been a better analogy). However, after some time, the oak stops being noticed as much as what the oak is doing for the wine. I am not a winemaker so I cannot talk to what the difference is, but I can feel that this wine was not in the soaking stage as much, and more in the maturation stage, but what do I know. After, an hour or more, the oak receded to the background and the wine’s rich and unique flavors really started to pop out. Gone was the oak and in was the rich straw, flowers, nuttiness, all melding with the oak’s inspired brioche and cobbler. Really unique. There will be no score on this wine, as it is not a final product, but it is unique to say the least, and please look for this when it is released in 6 months. Read the rest of this entry

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