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Tzora Vineyards Winery continues to impress

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, I was talking about – Domaine du Castel Winery. However, that was the third winery that we visited that day – the third of the four wineries that make up the Judean Hills quartet, three of which are kosher. We visited all three of them on that Friday, and in this post, I will cover the second of those three – that one being Tzora Vineyards Winery.

Judean Hills Quartet

I have already posted here about my appreciation for the Judean Hills quartet, I think what they are doing is great and is the correct way to go after the gaping sinkhole in what some would call Israeli wine education. They happen to also be some of the best wineries in Israel, which is a blessing. Who would want Yarden pushing their date juice and declaring this is the future of Israel’s wine revolution?? Instead, you have wineries like Domaine du Castel Winery, Flam Winery, and Tzora Vineyards, along with a winery I wish I could enjoy, though sadly it is not kosher – Sphera Winery – run byDoron Rav Hon, who made some of the best Chardonnays and Pinot Noir in Israel when he was in Ella Valley – those were great days!!

Tzora Vineyards Winery

As we arrived that morning, Eran Pick was busy crushing the last of his red grapes – the Petit Verdot. The last grape that Tzora takes in is the late harvest Gewurztraminer that is used in the making of the lovely Or wine – that is “frozen” late harvest Gewurztraminer.

Of course, you all know my great affinity for all things Tzora Vineyards! It is clearly one of the top 3 wineries in Israel and one that continues to focus on old-world style wines in the new world and fruit forward crazed wineries of the Holyland.

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 love that the winery is defined by its vineyards both in name, Tzora Vineyards and in reality! 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 newly bottled Misty Hills and the 2016 whites, as well. Sadly, as stated, Mr. Pick was busy with the last of harvest, but we still had the chance to taste the wines with him, as he came to talk to us for a few minutes, and he even threw a few barrel/tank tastings in as well. Once again, the winery put out these incredibly fragile and lovely wine glasses, from Zalto – just to make sure we were on our toes during the tasting and very careful!

The wines continue to be imported by Skurnik Wines, who has been importing Tzora wines for many years now, and they have all of these wines in NYC, even the shmita wines! I continue to buy from NYC, either kosherwine.com or Gary at Taste Co – email him at info@tastewineco.com or call at (212) 461-1708, even though Skurnik has set up a west coast operation.

As always, Tzora Winery has three labels. The first is Judean Hills with two wines under it, a red blend and a white blend. Next is the Shoresh label, it also has a red blend and a white wine as well, that is pure Sauvignon Blanc. The Shoresh brand also has the dessert wine called Or. Finally, there is the flagship wine – Misty Hills.

Tasting

We were a large group that descended upon the winery, AO, JK, and his wife, OM, MB, and myself. We had the chance to taste through the current wines plus two extra older library wines, and some early barrel tastings, but I did not post those as barrels are for Eran to work with, I normally only write notes of bottled wines. Last time we were at the winery was in March, and we tasted many great wines – and we did taste a few of those wines again, along with the now bottled 2015 Tzora Misty Hills, and some library wines.

The tasting consisted of the newly released 2016 whites along with two library wines and the now bottled 2015 Misty Hills. It was great to taste the 2013 Shoresh white, it is a wine I had not tasted in some time. The wine showed how much it can change is so short a time. The last time I tasted it was already past its oaky start, showing crazy acid and lovely brioche. Now, the wine is balancing out very well, showing a balance between oak, fruit, and mouth texture – impressive. It is so vastly different than the 2016 vintage which shows far less oak. I asked Mr. Pick when he was so kind to join us, and he agreed that indeed there is less oak showing on the 2016 Shoresh white, but he said rest assured it is there and may well come out with time. The other library wine was the 2012 Tzora Shoresh Red. It was beautiful and showing very well. Read the rest of this entry

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Gvaot Winery’s latest releases

The next winery that I enjoyed on my last trip to Israel and Europe, was Gvaot Winery. It has been too long since my last post on a visit to Gvaot winery – so I made it my priority on this trip to Israel, to get to Gvaot Winery and visit with Shivi Drori, the head winemaker. As was common throughout my trip, each of the wineries was in the middle of harvest, so my many thanks to Mr. Drori for finding the time to sit down with me and taste through his wines.

Gvaot Winery is one of the few wineries that did not produce their wine lineup in 2015, this past Shmita. They made some whites, but not many at all, and they did them under the Otzar Beit Din, which was unique for anyone who made wine this past Shmita. As discussed in past posts, most of the Israeli wineries this past Shmita, that made wine did so using Heter Mechira, citing issues with the beit din, costs, and restrictions that did not work for them.

Like many of the wineries in Israel, Gvaot has changed over their labels. Gone is the Herodian wine line, as it was confusing to some. The Gofna and Masada wine lines stay.

So, what that now means is that there will be three wine lines, the Gvaot Winery line, which has the whites, rose (when made), a Cabernet, a Merlot, and the two dances wines that are blends, Dances in White (a blend of Chardonnay and Gewurtztraminer) and vineyard dance, a red blend of Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot, and sometimes other fruit. Then there is the Gofna label that has the Chard/Cabernet blend, the Petite Verdot, the Cabernet Sauvignon, the Pinot Noir, and the new Wind and Sun port-like wine. Finally, there is the Masada line which always has the flagship wine of the winery, and in the past also had the beautiful Pinot Noir.

Just walking outside the winery takes you to another place altogether. The landscape is beautiful, the winery is surrounded by vineyards and mountains in the distance stretch on forever. It is truly one of the few wineries in Israel that could place the words “estate-bottled” on their labels if it were allowed in Israel.

The prices in Israel have come down a bit, but they are still too steep for me ever to apply the QPR label upon the winery’s wines. That said the wines are very good and some are well worth finding.

There will be a rose again in 2017, from the looks of it. The winery produced 40K bottles in 2016 and looks to be bottling 50K in 2017. My many thanks again to Shivi Drori and the rest of the winery for putting up with me in the middle of harvest. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

2016 Gvaot Chardonnay/Cabernet Sauvignon, Gofna – Score: A-
This wine is a unique blend of 80% Chardonnay and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon juice that was not allowed to sit on its skins, leaving it clear. The wine was aged in barrels for 8 months.
The nose on this wine is lovely and smokey showing lovely flint, with orange and nectarines, nuts and butter. The mouth is creamy and balanced with lovely spice, nice nutmeg with good weight, with lovely creamy notes and almost oily texture, showing green and yellow apple, peach and rich mineral. The finish is long and spicy, showing creamy and tart at the same time, with great sophistication and rich fruit, all balanced well with mineral, acid, nice citrus zest. Drink by 2019. 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

Assorted wines tasted these past few weeks

Well, I have finally caught up on my main wine themes throughout these past few weeks – but I also realized that I had missed a few wines here and there, and so I am creating a catch-all post to track these last few wines that have slipped through the cracks.

They are a hodgepodge of wines that I have tasted, but people were asking for the notes – so the easiest way to get them all up is to put them here in one post

The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

This is fun, a really lovely nose, with white pepper, hints of funk, with good sweet notes, mounds of crazy honeysuckle, honey, showing pineapple, mango, and nice grapefruit, and lemon sorbet. The mouth on this medium bodied is where things go slightly off course, this wine is not as dry as I had hoped, with good acidity, but too much sweet notes, with good balance, showing more of crazy floral jasmine notes, with blossom as well, giving way to sweet citrus, and tropical fruit. The finish is long and tart, crazy acid, with slate, rich sweet notes, and tart fruit. This is more of a very good dessert wine to me than a “dry wine”, but a fun one either way. Drink Now.

2014 Saporta Rioja – Score: B+ to A-
We also tried to taste the Saporta Crianza, but it was corked 😦
This is a lovely wine, with a nose of bright fruit, fresh and vibrant, with good notes of coffee, tar, earth galore, dark cherry, vanilla, and nice spices. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is well made, with good acid, very nice dried and almost candied fruit, with herbs galore, mint, rosemary, and sage, with nice earth, dried raspberry, and more cherry. The finish is long and acidic with a good core of mineral, spice, nutmeg, and tobacco. Nice! Drink by 2019.

2001 Herzog Syrah, Special Reserve – Score: A- (not mevushal)
Lovely wine, I am shocked it is still alive, with crazy white and black pepper, with lovely roasted meat, with mushroom, and truffles. The mouth is layered and quite alive, with good acid, still nice tannin, rich and still richly layered, impressive and attacking with great focus, with lovely juicy fruit, showing green notes of tobacco, menthol, and herb. The finish is long and green with crazy spices, nutmeg, cinnamon, with lovely herbal notes, and tar galore. Bravo!! Drink up!

2014 Hajdu Counoise, Eaglepoint Ranch – Score: B+
The nose starts off hot, with lovely pepper, warm spices, lots of sweet oak, sweet dill, with hickory notes, roasted meat, and black fruit abounds. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is deeply extracted with more of the sweet oak, lots of rich searing tannin, that gives way to blackberry, blueberry, hints of peach, and white fruit, followed by raspberry, and crazy heady spice. The finish on this lovely wine is spice first and tobacco second, with nice mineral, earth, leather, and rich black tea. Nice Drink by 2019

2010 Damien Gachot-Monot Bourgogne – Score: A- (Crazy QPR)
I must admit I was expecting more old world notes to start from this wine, it starts off more Cali in style than Burgundy, but as it opens it literally transforms within 10 minutes to a classically old world wine, insane, with clear sweet notes of dill, herb, and dried cherry, to start, but with time that changes to rich loam, dirt, earth, with mounds of saline, mineral, and lovely sweet juicy raspberry, dried red fruit, and lovely spice. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is clearly sweet, and Cali in style to start, but with time, it opens to classical Burgundy, old-world notes of hints of sweet notes, but far more balanced, with mushroom, hints of barnyard, candied life saver, all wrapped in mouth drying tannin, that flows into smokey oak, charcoal, and lovely tilled earth. The finish is super long, richly balanced with impressive acid, with more smoke and mushroom lingering long, with almost hints of smoked meat, spiced plum, and candied fruit. A fun experience and a crazy good price! Drink by 2019

2014 Capcanes Peraj Petita – Score: A- (Crazy QPR)
This wine is a blend of 60% Grenache, 15% Tempranillo, 15% Merlot, and 10% Syrah. The nose on this wine starts off fruitier and more accessible than previous vintages, showing a more new world in style. With more time that changes a bit and straddles the two worlds, with nice roasted meat, mounds of smoke, mineral, hints of mushroom, dirt, and tar, with sweet spices, and lovely blue fruit. The mouth on this lovely wine is still very controlled even with its new world leanings, but it is clearly fruitier than previous vintages, with mounds of blueberry, boysenberry, wrapped in searing and draping tannins, that give way to dark cherry, dried herb, menthol, and forest berry that are cocooned by sweet oak, and balanced by lovely acid and dirt. The finish is long and searing still with more tannin, but well balanced with green notes of tobacco, foliage, mushroom, and mounds of mineral, graphite, and black olives. A very fun wine indeed! Drink by 2020

2014 Shirah One-Two Punch – Score: A-
This wine is a blend of 50% Grenache and 50% Syrah. The nose on this wine is lovely, with black and blue fruit, showing cherry, blueberry, and lovely earthy and spicy, cloves, all spice, really impressive and fun, with coffee and vanilla. Lovely medium body with great spice, with great acid and focus, showing nice blueberry and raspberry and spicy oak with coffee and candied currant. The finish is long and spicy, with mineral, and dill with smoke and candied fruit. Drink by 2020.

Three more French roses

I was in NYC for a few days and I walked into as many wine stores as I could and in one of them, I found three more French roses that made me hopeful. Sadly, they were all disappointments, essentially.

This continues to prove the point – there are not many good roses from 2016, at least so far – no matter how many I taste. Well, this is the 5th attempt to taste roses in a group, and these were some of the worst.

The previous tasting – had my roundup of best kosher roses and nothing has changed after this tasting – sadly.

I tasted three wines from Provence, two from the Cotes du Provence and one from Bandol. Shockingly, the mevushal Almae rose was the best of the tasting. I tried to look up the Almae Rose, and all I find was the Alma rose from Dalton, which we had at the first rose tasting.

I have no idea who this Almae rose is – it is made by Rashbi wines, but not sure of more than that. The other two are famous – and neither has been very good for me, on previous tastings, and this one was no different for me either. The 2016 Bandol Rose and 2016 100 Tropez Rose. The funny part is that when I put some of the Almae rose into the Bandol it was very nice, it became a really nice Provence. When I did it the other way around (Bandol into the Almae) it was not very interesting at all. Adding anything to the Tropez netted us nothing.

The notes follow below:

2016 Almae Rose, Cotes de Provence – Score: B+ to A-
This wine is a blend of 60% Grenache, 20% Cinsault, and 20% Syrah. The nose on this wine is nice with peach, rose hips, floral notes, slate, and good apricot. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is nice, with good weight, showing nice acid, good structure, with nice fruit pith, strawberry and creme, nice light tannin, and nectarines. The wine is slightly sweet but very nice and round.

2016 100 Tropez Rose, Cotes de Provence – Score: B to B+
The nose on this wine is lovely with good citrus, grapefruit, lemon, raspberry, and peach. The mouth on this medium weight wine is flat, lacking the middle, showing fun saline, and green olives, with strawberry, Sad.

2016 Domaine Bunan, Bandol, Provence – Score: B+
A really nice nose of strawberry and creme, vanilla, rose hips, with juicy raspberry, and good spice. The mouth on the medium bodied wine is ok, but lacking the acid I crave, it has an ok balance, with more fruit pith than acid, that does help it a lot, not bitter, with good sweet red fruit, showing a bit of sweetness, but balanced with slate. A nice enough wine, wish it had more acid and more interesting notes.

Age is beautiful – Four Gates

I must say that as annoyed as I am from how few people age their wines, and how early they drink young wines, I have been seeing a new desire for well-aged wines. In my article on Bordeaux, I wrote about how to build a successful cellar, and recently, I have been enjoying some wonderfully aged Four Gates wines.

As I stated in that article, Four Gates has been blessed with land and climate that gives Benyamin Cantz grapes that are dripping with acid and terroir. The grapes he sources from his vineyard, that he personally tends to, are; Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot.

I have posted about two large tastings with friends at Four Gates where we enjoyed some well-aged wines, here in 2014 and then again in 2015. In those cases, just like recently, the wines all showed beautifully, though one showed more new-world in style than other vintages. The first and oldest that I enjoyed was the 1996 vintage Merlot, long before Benyamin used monikers like La Rochelle, M.S.C., or Cuvee D 🙂

Yes, you are now thinking, wait the first vintage of Four Gates was 1997, no? Yes, you are correct, however, Benyamin also made an entire vintage in 1996, however, because of liquor licensing reasons, he was not allowed to sell, but we sure enjoyed MANY of them for years!

Of the recently tasted Four Gates Merlot wines, the 2001 vintage shows a very old world style. The 2006 vintage, in comparison, is a more new world style, with the 2005 vintage straddling between them both, with a slight leaning to an Old world styling. Finally, the 2009 vintage is also a more new world Merlot in style and is still a baby, but I posted it here as I seem to not have posted notes about it before.

The Pinot Noir is very old world in style and one that is a true joy to taste, though it is not a Burgundy in any way. Burgundy Pinot Noir is far more earth and dirt focused, while this is more fruit focused, but it is still a wonderful old world style new world Pinot Noir – Bravo my friend!!!

It was a lovely Pinot but did not come close to maybe one of the best Pinot Noir I have ever tasted, the 1997 Four Gates Pinot Noir – that wine was insane!

My many thanks to Benyo for sharing his wines and allowing me to truly enjoy what age can do for a wine that has the potential to improve from long cellaring.

My notes follow below:

 

2001 Four Gates Merlot, La Rochelle, 2005 Four Gates Merlot, M.S.C, and 2006 Four Gates Merlot, La Rochelle

1996 Four Gates Merlot – Score: A- to A
Lovely dirt and incredible barnyard, with lovely green notes, foliage galore with ripe raspberry and currants. Wow, what a mouth, medium body with mouth draping tannin, crazy acid with still beautiful red and black fruit, plum, red cherry, and ripe fruit with lovely sweet dill, smoke, and beautiful sweet oak. The finish is long and green and tannic, with acid that jacks the whole thing up, with more barnyard and loam lingering long. Drink by 2019.

1999 Four Gates Pinot Noir – Score: A-
Wow, what a joy, the wine opens eventually, with a rich mushroom that takes a bit of time to show, with lots of lovely fruit, cherry cola galore, lovely smoke, and earth. The mouth on this full bodied Pinot Noir is filthy, with layers of rich mouth draping tannin, lovely mushroom, earth, rich and evocative acid, with lovely raspberry and cherry taking front stage. The finish is long and cherry filled, with good concentration, acid, coffee grinds, toast, smoke, and more mushroom on the long red berry finish. Drink by 2019.

2001 Four Gates Merlot, La Rochelle – Score: A-
The wine is clearly showing its age, in all the right ways! The nose is rich and filled with lovely barnyard, rich soil, loam, followed by lovely green notes, rich eucalyptus, menthol, and dark fruit abounds. The mouth is full bodied but softer than the other Merlot we tasted this evening, showing lovely cassis, black plums, and raspberry, that give way to still beautiful acid, with gripping tannin that give way to green foliage and lovely mineral. The finish is long and green, with rich dill, vanilla, leather, followed by black fruit, butterscotch, and lovely tobacco, all still wrapped in a cocoon of still lively acid and mushroom heaven. Bravo! Drink by 2021.

2005 Four Gates Merlot, M.S.C. – Score: A- to A
This wine is a perfect example of what California can create. It is a pure joy that shows hedonism in all the regal manner you can imagine it. Bravo my friend!
The nose on this wine is packed with blackberry, cherry, plum, eucalyptus, mad mineral, graphite, rich mushroom, and good hints of green notes, and dirt. The mouth on this full bodied wine is richly layered and extracted with waves of concentrated fruit, intense ripe raspberry, plum, cassis, and mouth coating still gripping tannins that all come together with bracing acidity, sweet oak, and lovely sweet dill, and mushroom. The finish is long and spicy with leather, spice, still searing tannin, sweet notes, espresso, chocolate, and hints of tobacco and cloves – BRAVO!!! This is a wine that is still going nowhere anytime soon with more acid and tannin to keep this alive for another 6 years. Drink by 2024

2006 Four Gates Merlot, La Rochelle – Score: A-
Tasting this beside the 2001 vintage La Rochelle, and 2005, I can say that this is nice but not as good as those two. The nose on this wine is hopping with rich plum, raspberry, eucalyptus, blackberry, sweet oak, spice, chocolate, along with lovely mushroom. The wine does not feel old, it still young and not showing the same secondary notes that the 2001 vintage feels like. The mouth on this full bodied wine is integrating nicely and the tannins create a caressing mouthfeel that is mouth coating, but it is fruitier than the 2001 or 2005, with dark plum, blackberry, and raspberry, with lovely mineral, graphite, and loam. The finish is long and lingering with black fruit, raspberry, oak, chocolate, and minerals. Drink by 2024.

2009 Four Gates Merlot – Score: A-
What can I say – way to go Benyo! This is a classic Benyo Merlot nose, a brilliant purple colored wine, showing a lovely rich and redolent nose with great blue and black fruit, blueberry, blackberry, oriental spice, crazy rich roasted herb, sweet oak, and pomegranate. This is a lovely rich and dark and full bodied wine with ripping acid, lovely saline, mineral, butterscotch, black fruit, green notes, all wrapped in rich layers of tannin, concentrated fruit and spice. The finish is long and spicy with chocolate and spice and cloves, nutmeg and vanilla. With time, the mouth opens more to show rich mushroom and mounds of loam. BRAVO!!! Drink by 2027.

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.

Read the rest of this entry

2015 St. Urbans-Hof Nik Weis Selection Riesling, Wiltinger, Gefen Hashalom

2015-st-urbans-hof-nik-weis-selection-riesling-wiltinger-gefen-hashalom

Sadly, when I tasted through the horizontal of the Rieslings last week, I had yet to receive the new 2015 Nik Weis Riesling. This Riesling is not the same as the 2014 Nik Weis Riesling. The 2014 Riesling was a SAARFEILSER, which comes from a St. Urbans-Hof vineyard at the Mosel tributary Saar. This vineyard is one of the closest vineyards to the river itself. The SAARFEILSER vineyard has a southern exposure, that allows for the sunlight to reflect off the water, which makes it one of the warmer vineyards in Nik Weis’s portfolio. Last year’s Saarfeilser

Last year’s Saarfeilser wine was made pretty dry, and considerably drier than this year’s Wiltinger style wine. The Wiltinger wines are made sweeter, and more fruit forward, though they have a lower alcohol content. Why? Well, the higher the ABV (alcohol content) the lower the residual sugar. This wine comes in at 9.5% ABV, while last year’s Saarfeilser came in at 12% ABV.

Once again, the world of kosher German wines is very small indeed. Also, I have only had these two, and from what all my friends who know German Rieslings, these wines are what we are meant to hold all other wines to, not the other way around. Sadly, my palate desires drier wines, and as such, the 2015 vintage is not a wine I go gaga for.

As I noted in the notes, this wine is still a year away from being ready, if you must enjoy it now, open it two or three hours before drinking time. Also, I would not drink this wine at cellar temp, I would go more with room temperature, as the colder it gets, the more muted is its nose. Truly, if there is one con to this wine, it is its muted and stifled nose. The mouth is well balanced and truly clean. The wine I compare it to, the 2015 Hagafen Riesling with 2% residual sugar, is far more tropical than this wine which is clean and old-style in nature. Still, The Hagafen is richer and more acidic to handle its rich sweetness. The Wiltinger is acidic, no question (once you allow the wine to air out, otherwise from opening it tasted flat), but while it has racy acid, I would crave a drop more.

I bought my bottles from Gary at Taste Co – email him at: info@tastewineco.com or call at (212) 461-1708.

The 2015 vintage is meant to be one of the best in a long time in Mosel and Saar areas (Saar is a sub-region of Mosel). I am thinking of putting a few of these aside along with the 2015 Hagafen 2% and watch them age alongside each other.

My wine note follows below:

2015 St. Urbans-Hof Nik Weis Selection Riesling, Wiltinger, Gefen Hashalom – Score: A- (QPR)
WARNING! This wine needs time, LOTS of it, please do NOT jump to any conclusion about this wine before you have had it open for at least 6 hours and not overly chilled either., the cold mutes the already non-redolent nose.
When you first open this wine, this wine is a complete letdown, but as stated let this puppy open! Still, to a dry wine freak like me, it is a letdown from the 2014 vintage. So, where is it actually? It is sweet, no way around that, but it is very balanced and well integrated. The 2015 Hagafen 2% Riesling is also sweet, but the acid is more in your face and balanced, but it is also far more tropical, while this wine is not tropical in any way.
What is shocking is that this wine has a 9.5% ABV! While the wine has lots of RS, its profile shows clean and lean, which makes for an interesting wine, just not sure how interesting it will really be long term. Right now, I would prefer the Hagafen, but this wine has lots of potential, and its lean markings can make for a fun wine a few years from now.

The nose on this wine is dry, it is in NO way tropical like the Hagafen and other sweet Rieslings, which is very different than its mouth, the aromas are not redolent, like the 2014 vintage, it shows yellow apple, stone fruit, with flint, honeysuckle flowers, and other floral notes. The mouth takes time to open, but with time it does come around, it shows like a wine with 2% RS or more, showing nice integrated acidity, with crazy honeyed fruit, impressive citrus blossom, with sweet-tart lemon, almost like a limoncello, with peach, apricot, nice mineral, slate, with a viscous mouthfeel from the abundant residual sugar, but a wine that is clean, and really focused.
Now, will this wine appeal to many? I think so. The wine freaks who crave the dry 2014 vintage, will like that better. The people who like sweeter wines will find this wine well balanced and all-around a very enjoyable wine to taste and drink, with a plethora of food combinations, from fish, cheese, Asian and spicy dishes, and roasted fowl or fish. Nice!

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

Four Gates Winery – the newest wines for 2017

In case you have all been sleeping under a rock for the past 10 years – you all know my deep love for all things Four Gates. Last year was a great year for Four Gates Wine, and this year is no different. Once again, I have been asked about prices, and I am seriously not sure why this is being directed towards me. Sure, I am his friend, but prices are not my decision. Four Gates makes a tiny amount of wine and it is his business what he charges for them.

With that business out-of-the-way, let’s get to the wines for this years release. This year there is a new varietal, a Petite Sirah and there is a return of a Zinfandel, and there is a re-release of the 2013 Syrah and the 2013 Chardonnay. The Syrah, Petite Sirah, and Zinfandel, are not his grapes of course, as Four Gates vineyards is made up of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc.

The Cabernet Franc from this year’s release, also a 2013, comes from his aforementioned vines. It is a vastly different wine than the 2013 Cabernet Franc that he released last year, that was made from grapes sourced from the Monte Bello Ridge area. The Monte Bello Ridge CF was pure mineral and less fruit. This 2013 Cabernet Franc is a return of the classic Four Gates Cabernet Franc, rich in its floral and fruit notes.

There are two 2013 Merlot, and sadly I only have notes on the MSC, but from what I remember the non – MSC is lovely. The notes follow below, in the order they appear on his website:

2013 Four Gates Merlot, M.S.C – Score: A- to A
I really love this wine, it shows really old style notes, showing mushroom, earth, with bright red and black fruit mingling into pure hedonism. The mouth on this beautiful and elegant wine is layered and concentrated with ripe blackberry, plum, and rich earth, mushroom, and forest floor, with green notes, and old world structure and mineral, with new world fruit, all wrapped in mouth draping tannin and green notes. The finish is long and green, with earth, menthol, coffee grinds, and roasted herb.

2013 Four Gates Cabernet Franc – Score: A- to A
It is back!! The Franc is classic, with lovely floral and feminine notes, showing rose, floral notes, with green notes, earth, raspberry, and red fruit. The mouth on this medium to full-bodied wine is lovely, old world, and expressive, with ripping acid, wrapped in lovely mouth coating tannin, showing red fruit, with black currant, rich earth, lovely garrigue, earth, and green foliage abounds, all with epic focus and bright fruit. The finish is long and green with spice, mint, lovely saline, graphite, mineral galore, with coffee notes and roasted herb. BRAVO!

2013 Four Gates Syrah – Score: A-
In the past year, little has changed in this wine. One word does correctly define this wine – FILTHY!!! The wine opens slowly – but once it does, the wine opens to a crazy redolence of blue fruit, followed by squid ink, licorice, sweet oak, intense black fruit, mushroom, and wondrous spice. The mouth on this full-bodied wine is layered and extracted to the max with intense black and blue fruit, blueberry, blackberry, blackcurrant, followed by lovely barnyard, crazy earth, mineral, graphite, rich extraction, dense concentration of fruit and mineral, and great acid. The finish is long and spicy, with cinnamon, all spice, root beer, and hints of asian spice, and roasted animal, and miso! BRAVO!

2014 Four Gates Zinfandel – Score: A-
This is a fun wine, a lovely classic California Zin, with blue notes galore, raspberry, currants, followed by bright fruit, and earth. The mouth on this full-bodied is really fun, full throttle California, showing lovely acid, zesty fruity juicy wine, with fun blueberry, blackberry, and zesty fruit, wrapped in a nice cloak of tannin and zesty spice. The finish is long and spicy with cloves, cracked black pepper, and nice spice. Nice!

2015 Four Gates Pinot Noir – Score: A-
This wine reminds me of the Cali Pinot Noirs to start, rather than the older world style of Benyo’s wines, to start. The nose on this wine is ripe and sweet, with sweet cherry notes, raspberry coulis, and baking spices. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is ripe and round, with good fruit structure, nice earth, dirt, and good sweet spices, that are wrapped in lovely searing tannins to start, but give way eventually to mouth coating tannins that integrate slowly. The finish is long and both tart and spicy, with great tobacco, earth, dill, and menthol that lift the ripe fruit and give it elegance and complexity.

2014 Four Gates Petite Sirah – Score: A-
The nose on this wine is dark and brooding, with hints of blue notes, followed by blackberry, plum, earth, and good mineral focus, with time the nose is redolent with blue notes, black fruit, and root beer. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is fun, it is slightly rustic in style to start, but that passes and turns more elegant, with mouth drying and coating tannin, giving way to a lovely inky structure, that is backed by lovely blueberry, boysenberry jam, balanced well with mineral and tobacco, with dark chocolate, and luscious tart and juicy strawberry, all wrapped in sweet oak. The finish is long and tart, with good sweet fruit focus, nice mineral, graphite, great tart fruit structure linger long, with tart boysenberry sorbet, and bright fruit lingering long. Nice!!

2013 Four Gates Chardonnay – Score: A-
The nose on this lovely gold colored wine screams of sweet oak, with honey notes, peach, apricot, guava, mad butterscotch, and creamy sweet notes. The mouth on this full bodied beast is rich, opulent, and viscous with layers of brioche, followed by rich summer fruit, quince, pineapple, grapefruit, lemon/citrus notes, creamy notes, vanilla, and lovely crème fraîche. The finish is long and creamy with lingering oak, great spice, nutmeg, cloves, mad intense acid, and overall balance from the oak and fruit. This is clearly Benyo’s first heavy oaked Chard, but give this wine time to settle out and round out. With time it will show the trademark creamy, buttery notes that make his wines so appealing.

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