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Puttanesca, Cholent, and two more 2007 Binyamina Yogev wines

This past week we enjoyed some simpler home cooking; Puttanesca and Cholent. I have long ago modified the original puttanesca recipe, for many reasons. Pasta sauce recipes call for finishing the sauce by placing the pasta into the pan of sauce. The issue here is that on Shabbos this is really not the best way to serve this for us, as it does not last long this way, and two of us will not finish the dish. We do this so that we can have leftovers, but again, that does not match the recipe format. Also, I like to add things to the recipe, like ground tofu and vegetables. So here is my revised version of the recipe, and enjoy whichever you prefer:

Puttanesca Sauce Recipe:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 finely chopped onions
  • 1 tsp of salt to help sweat the onions
  • 1 pound of sliced brown mushrooms
  • 3 diced zucchini
  • 6 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 oz of anchovies (tin or tube)
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes (or crushed by you) with juice
  • 1 jar of Kalamata olives without juice (any other olive is a waste of time)
  • 2 tablespoons drained capers
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried crushed basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper flakes

First put the oil in a large pan and heat up the oil till it is almost smoking. Then saute the onions and salt and watch them till they get nice and browned. Then add in the mushrooms and saute them till they just start to get soft and are releasing their juice, then throw in the zucchini and wait till they are just soft. At this point the mushrooms should be getting browned and the onions should be golden. Then make room in the pan so that there is enough exposed space to heat the garlic and the anchovies. The idea is that the anchovies become paste like and integrate into the vegetables. If you are starting with anchovies from a tube then you are already there. If you are using anchovies from a tin, like I do, then you need saute them in their oil until they get warm and start to fall apart. Once the mixture is all integrated, add in the tomatoes, Kalamata olives (without juice), capers, basil and red pepper flakes.

Wait for the mixture to thicken, which takes some 40 or so minutes, and then it is ready. I cool it down and warm it back up on Friday, before the Sabbath. That said, others may well want to serve it right then and there, along with some lovely al dente pasta. We do not finish the pasta in the sauce as the recipe calls for two reasons; we like to eat more sauce than pasta, and because putting the pasta in the sauce for a few hours, even right before the Sabbath starts, would turn the al dente pasta into mush in short time. For Saturday lunch we had some nice vegetable cholent which is something we enjoy and whose leftovers we enjoy throughout the week.

When looking for some wine to pair with these dishes I decided to try more of the Yogev wines that I had in the cellar. I did this because I wanted to know if last weeks’ bad showing for the 2007 Binyamina Yogev Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz was a fluke or sad reality. The truth is that they are well past their prime and, while they were not DOA, they are clearly vintages that need to be drunk ASAP.

The wine notes below are listed in the order that they were tasted:

2007 Binyamina Yogev Cabernet Sauvignon – Shiraz – Score: B to B+
The nose on this dark garnet to black colored wine, with brown overtones, is filled with blackberry, black currant, black cherry, vanilla, crushed herbs, light oak tones, along with pepper notes. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine follows the nose with blackberry, cassis, and black cherry. The mid palate is balanced with soft tannin, cedar, acid, and dates. The finish is long and spicy, with rising pepper notes, cedar, black fruit, and vanilla, with black cherry, pepper, and vanilla lingering. Drink up this wine is dying quickly.

2007 Binyamina Yogev Cabernet-Merlot – Score: B to B+
This wine is declining very quickly! The nose on this dark garnet to black colored wine, with a hint of brown, is filled with dirt/mineral, blackberry, cranberry, black Currant, cedar, and bramble. The black currant quickly overpowers the palate and nose. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine has soft tannin, bramble, dirt, blackberry, black currant, along with a lovely mouthfeel. The Black Currant again becomes dominant on the palate, throwing it a bit off balance. The mid palate is balanced with acid, lovely tannin, oak, tobacco, and coffee. The finish is nice with tobacco, coffee, oak, black currant, black berry, and bramble. Black Currant, tobacco, and coffee linger long on the palate after the wine is gone. Drink UP!!!!!


2007 Binyamina Yogev Cabernet/Shiraz, 2007 Barkan Classic Petite Syrah, Chicken Soup, Lemon Roasted Chicken, and Cholent

The weekend of February 18th, was the first one home in some time, so it was all about easy food and blessed relaxation. My wife whipped up her lovely lemon roasted chicken and I pulled out some chicken soup, that I had whipped up before I left, from the freezer. Chicken soup freezes really well, but be wary about which vegetables you choose to freeze with the broth. Some vegetables do not mind freezing, like carrots and sweet potato, however turnips and zucchini do not fare nearly as well. Also, while chicken soup does well in the freezer, it is all about what technology you use to freeze the soup. In one word – air – is your enemy. So, the simplest and least expensive method I have found for freezing is to use freezer bags, from your favorite brand, and fill them up with the soup, making sure to get out every drop of air, while being mindful to not make a massive mess. This method has worked great for us, and we put the bag in a tupperware and such, to give the bag extra support, and protection from protruding metal and other hard surfaces, that would like to puncture the bag’s outer shell.

To pair with soup and chicken I went looking for some nice wine and took out a bottle of the 2007 Binyamina Yogev Cabernet/Shiraz, which I bought last year during the Passover sales. Let me just say two words – DRINK UP!!! The bottle I opened was DOA (Dead on Arrival), which was a real shame. Clearly oxidized, without a nick or flaw to be found on the cork, so clearly a bad bottle, and down the drain it went. I then moved on to another Israeli 2007 bottle, and found a 2007 Barkan Classic Petite Syrah, also acquired last year during the Passover sales. This one was a bit more alive, but clearly on its way down. At least this bottle has an excuse of having been mevushal before bottling.

In the end, no real winners were found in liquid form this weekend, other than the wonderful chicken soup, which was really all I needed!

2007 Binyamina Yogev Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz Blend – Score: DOA

2007 Barkan Classic Petite Syrah – Score: B- to B
This is a nice and lively wine with rich blackberry, black cherry, kirshe cherry, and smoke on the nose and mouth, along with a now soft mouth feel. The wine is also starting to exhibit some cooked fruit flavors so drink up!!!

Binyamina Yogev Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot, Chicken Soup, and Tajine

This past week saw us lying low at home with the weather being cold and wet, and downright unpleasant. To start we cooked a lovely chicken soup, with nice winter vegetables, along with most of a chicken, the recipe can be found here. After that, it was on to a non-meat Moroccan Merguez Tajine, using Tofurkey and Trader Joe’s sausage. That was paired with nice Brown Basmati rice and a fresh green salad. You cannot go wrong with Chicken Soup on a cold winter night, but the Tajine also hit the spot quite nicely.

To pair with the diverse dishes, I went into the cellar for a bottle of 2007 Binyamina Yogev Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot. The bottle is OK, but the real interesting aspect is the fruit that I was having a problem recognizing. It is a fruit that I have found often in French Bordeaux, at least the ones I have tasted, a Black Currant. I have tasted this fruit in wine before, but I could never really lock down what it was. I double checked Daniel Rogov’s book and sure enough it was Black Currant, at least according to his last tasting. So, once again, you learn new things every day! The Yogev blend is a classic Bordeaux blend, and the wine also shows notes of tobacco and some nice earthy elements, all of which would have made me think this was a French wine, if not for the fact that I knew it was not.

Either way, it started off nice, but over time the Black Currant became too dominant and tilted the wine off balance a bit. Still, it is a lush and medium to full bodied wine that has nice mouthfeel and one that is probably a bit past its peak.

The wine note follows below:

2007 Binyamina Yogev Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot – Score: B to B+
The nose on this dark garnet to black colored wine, with a hint of brown, is filled with dirt/mineral, blackberry, cranberry, Black Currant, date (from slight oxidation), cedar, and bramble. Over time the Black Currant becomes dominant and tilts the nose a bit off balance. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine has lovely tannin, bramble, dirt, blackberry, date, black currant, along with a lovely mouthfeel. The Black Currant again becomes dominant on the palate, throwing it a bit off balance, but still nice. The mid palate is balanced with acid, lovely tannin, oak, tobacco, and coffee. The finish is nice with tobacco, coffee, oak, black currant, black berry, and bramble. Black Currant, tobacco, and coffee linger long on the palate after the wine is gone.

Baked Meatballs, Tomato Sauce, Brown Rice, and Binyamina Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve

This week we were interested in trying some new stuff.  Last week we could not eat meat leftovers, so it was vegan week.  However, this week we decided that it was time for some meatballs.  We have made meatballs before using a boiling technique in tomato sauce, but I always want to monkey with meatballs, for a reason I truly do not know.  So, I went looking around the internet for people’s opinions on meatballs, and most folks are of the opinion of frying or baking, but very FEW recipes recommend boiling meatballs in a sauce.  So I went with Alton Brown’s recipe, but used ground almonds to coat the outside of the meatballs instead of breadcrumbs, and the spices from my recipe linked above.  We liked the meatballs but where I was looking for a crunch or at least some resistance on the outside of the meatball, we found almost none, this even after baking them at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.  I will try this recipe again as I am reticent to fry the meatballs unless I am absolutely forced into that technique to get some crunch.  The tomato sauce was the exact recipe I always use, and it was awesome.

Tomato Sauce Recipe:
2 pound of sliced onions
2 tbsp of olive oil
2 tbsp of sea salt
5 cloves of garlic
4 tsp of fresh basil
2 tsp of black pepper
2 28 oz cans of whole tomatoes
2 cups of red wine

The recipe is as simple as it gets.  Heat a wide and deep pan with olive oil, once the oil starts to shimmer, add the sliced onions and sprinkle them with salt (to help them release their water), and then sauté them until they brown nicely.  Once the onions are browned, drop in the garlic and basil and wait for them to start to toast and become fragrant, NOT TOO long or else it will burn.  Then add the tomatoes and wine to the pan, along with some black pepper.  Cook the sauce until it starts to reduces by a third, then let cool down over night, reheat the next day and serve with whatever you want.

I wanted to have a nice and powerful red wine for this meal.  Normally the pairing calls for a Chianti, Pinot Noir, or acidic Merlot.  However, I was in the mood of a bigger wine, so we went with the 2006 Binyamina Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve.  I bought this wine for a song during the Passover sale, and I regret not buying more.  As you will soon see, this wine is already feeling the effects of the mevushal process, but the wine is still awesome and has another year at least.  The only other regret I have was not having had a non-mevushal bottle of this wine to compare side by side.  Binyamina has started to release mevushal wines for the US market, and seems to do the mevushal process (flash pasteurization) at bottling time, which is the worst time possible.  The earlier you do it, the better chance the wine has of surviving it.  Hagafen and Herzog have both done fantastic jobs of mevushal-ing their wines and still garnering large and respectable scores.  That said, not doing any mevushal-ing is even better!  The process of flash pasteurization takes the wine from room temperature to absolute boil (210 degrees or so) and back to room temperature in less than ONE second.  Still, one never wants to boil their wines, so doing the process is still harmful to the wines, and the later you do it, the worse it damages the wine as well.  So, it would have been great to taste the two wines side by side, one with and without mevushal-ing, but they do not export the non-mevushal wines reserve wines to the US.

As explained already, we normally boil our meatballs in our favorite tomato sauce.  However, this time we baked the meatballs and did NOT put them back in the sauce as that would have just made their shell soft.  However, we served the baked meatballs alongside brown rice, topped with tomato sauce, and another side of fresh green salad.  The wine matched well with the tomato sauce and meatballs, as the wine has enough acidity to match the tomato sauce’s acidity, and enough body to match the meatballs and the earthy almond coating.

The wine note follows below:

2006 Binyamina Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve – Score: A-
The nose on this garnet to black colored wine is hopping with ripe blackberry, raspberry, black plum, rich and extracted oak, loamy dirt, and spice. With time the wine’s nose changes to show mounds of pepper, almost redolent with pepper and some stewed plums or prunes (from the mevushal process). The mouth on this full bodied wine is complex and concentrated with blackberry, ripe plum, and bramble. Clearly the oak and tannins play a huge role in this wine. The body opens and softens with clear oak and tannin presence, along with nice weight. The mid palate is nice and balanced with acid, oak, integrating tannins and a hint of chocolate. The finish is super long and concentrated with blackberry, plum, oak, and a dollop of vanilla and tannins. After time the finish is equally long, super spicy, with oak, an explosion of pepper, blackberry, black plum, along with some nice vanilla at the end.

Baked Gefilte Fish Loaf, Sweet and Sour Brisket, Roasted Root Vegetables, and many wines

This past shabbos saw us hosting friends and family for a Chol HaMoed Shabbos dinner.  We had Baked Gefilte Fish Loaf, Sweet and Sour Brisket, Roasted Root Vegetables, whose recipes can be found here.  We changed the brisket recipe only slightly, by NOT using ketchup, and using tomato sauce and brown sugar instead, which is really, well, ketchup, minus the vinegar.  Anyway, to pair with this feast we had a list of wines, some that people brought over, and some that I took out of the cellar.

The list of wines can be found here, in the order they were enjoyed:

2006 Casa Da Corca Douro – Score: B++
The nose on this garnet colored wine is screaming with tobacco, rich black cherry, dirt, raspberry, appealing black fruit, coffee, vanilla, and oak.  The mouth on this medium bodied wine was a bit effervescent and was a bit confusing to start, but I got past that soon enough.  The mouth is concentrated and filled with black fruit, black cherry, raspberry, and vanilla.  The mid palate is busy with oak, integrated tannin, effervescence, coffee, and oak.  The finish is long with black fruit, black pepper, tobacco, coffee, vanilla, oak, and fruit.  Nice bottle of wine, and fun to enjoy.

2006 Yarden Chardonnay – Score: B+
The nose on this golden colored wine is hopping with ripe and fresh honey, butter, toasty oak, straw, flowers, lemon, peach, and apple.  The mouth on this medium bodied wine is rich with peach, lemon, melon, and apple.  The mid palate is balanced with bright acidity, rich toasty oak, and butterscotch.  The finish is long with bright and crisp acidity, butterscotch, and toasty oak.  Drink up, but a lot of fun.

2006 Galil Mountain Barbera – Score: B+
The nose on this purple colored wine is filled with fig, rich super ripe black plum, cherry, raspberry, black fruit, black pepper, and oak.  The palate on this medium to full bodied wine is lush and ripe with black plum, cherry, and raspberry.  The mid palate is nicely balanced with acidity, oak, and coffee.  The finish is long and fat with more coffee, black fruit, acid, and spice.  A nice wine that is a bit on the other side, drink UP!!

2005 Binyamina Merlot Special Reserve – Score: A-
The nose on this purple to black colored wine was screaming with tobacco, chocolate, licorice, blackberry, plum, cassis, and spicy oak.  The mouth on this full bodied Merlot was heavy with still not yet integrated tannin, blackberry, raspberry, and plum.  The mid palate is balanced and layered with chocolate, oak, acid, licorice, and smoked meat.  The finish carries on with smoked meat, chocolate, spicy oak, black fruit, and licorice.  A real nice wine, and this one is NOT Mevushal, so be careful, the 2005 Binyamina Reserve line seems to be Mevushal here in the US, but not the 05 line.

2005 Recanati Shiraz – Score: B++
The nose on this purple colored wine is hopping with bright and herb encrusted raspberry, plum, loamy dirt, and oak. The mouth on this semi concentrated / focused medium to full bodied wine, is full of plum, raspberry, and nice integrated tannin. The mid palate is balanced nicely with bracing acidity, oak, integrated tannin, and white pepper. The finish is long and elegant with pepper, oak, red fruit, leather, and spice. This wine turned a bit darker with air and added a lovely chocolate component that was just delicious, along with a more full mouth feel and integrated tannins.

Dinner out with friends, Four Gates Cabernet Franc, Barkan Altitude 624 Cabernet Sauvignon, Binyamina Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve

This past weekend saw us enjoying a dinner with our friends.  Dinner started with a lovely homemade whole wheat challahKiddush was made on N.V. Four gates Cabernet Franc (2000 & 2001 vintages).  The wine was a bit musty out of the bottle, but that blessedly blew off quickly, before Kiddush started.  The challah was followed by a bowl of lovely vegetable barley soup.  After a bit of singing, the soup was followed by a plethora of sides, along with some lovely roasted chicken.  The sides consisted of Israeli Couscous salad, herb roasted fingerling potatoes, fresh green salad, roasted pineapple noodle kugel, along with roasted eggplant salad, and two tomato salads.  The dinner was paired with two Israeli wines, one a bit over its peak, and one that is still young.

I would like to thank to our hosts, for their warm hospitality, atmosphere, guests, and wonderful dinner.  The wine notes follow below:

N.V. Four Gates Cabernet Franc – Score:  B+
The nose on this garnet colored wine has vanilla, cherry, raspberry, and a hint of floral notes.  The mouth on this medium bodied wine is soft with cherry and raspberry.  The mid palate is balanced with acid, dirt, integrated tannins, and oak.  The finish is long with bright acidity, red fruit, and vanilla.

2005 Barkan Cabernet Sauvignon Altitude 624 – Score: B+
The nose on this dark garnet to black colored wine is filled with rich sweet oak, blackberry, cassis, and vanilla.  The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine, is mouth filling and coating, but not complex, with trailing blackberry, oak, and a hint of raspberry.  The mid palate is balanced with oak, fully integrated and softened tannins.  The finish starts off short, but lengthens a bit with air, with black fruit, roasted herbs, and sweet oak.  This wine is a bit over the hill.  Drink up!!

2006 Binyamina Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve – Score: A-
The nose on this black colored wine is ripe and electric with fresh blackberry, cassis, plum, and spicy oak.  The mouth on this full bodied wine was super concentrated and packed with layers of blackberry, cassis, and spicy oak.  The mid palate is a bit tight and balanced, with acid, oak, and nice tannins.  The finish is long and bright, with spicy oak, black fruit, and tobacco.  This is a really nice wine that is ready now, and will come together even more as it ages.

2009 Jerusalem Wine Festival – Pictures and Wine Notes

Our story begins in 2003 and bombs are exploding up and down the state.  Residents are worried to leave the house, and the wine industry is taking a severe hit, as overall morale is down.  As the state steps up, and brings its considerable weight to bear on the problem, private individuals start to wonder how to remove the malaise from among the populace.  Up steps Avi Ben, an owner of a successful chain of wine stores, who comes up with an idea to kill two birds with one stone.  So Avi sat down with a few local wine marketers, and organized the first Jerusalem Wine festival.  In his own words, as described by – We decided to organize a fair that would bring wine distributors to Jerusalem. We picked a great location, the Israel Museum, and once they agreed to house the festival, all the planning became easier. People loved the location, they loved the idea, and it was a huge success.  Under this backdrop, my friend and I were more than happy to attend the 6th annual Jerusalem Wine festival, which was once again located in the Israel Museum, Jerusalem.

Table of glassesAs we gave our tickets to the attendant (previously bought at the Nahalat Shiva Avi Ben store for 60 NIS) and slowly walked our way to the sculpture garden in the back, we could already take in the night’s air.  It was filled with the smell of olive trees, pine trees, open wine bottles, and the initial sense of excitement.  As we got closer to the open air arena, that hosts the 33 wineries that were presenting their wares for the evening, we were greeted by a table of glasses.  The glass was ours to use during the evening, one that would be our ever present partner to the evening’s soiree, and one that we could take home after the long evening.  I paused at the opening to the garden, and took in the spectacle that was in front of me.  Beyond the dim lights, the 33 wineries that rimmed the garden and the center as well, essentially creating a pair of concentric circles, what was evident was the lightness of the evening.  This was not going to be a wine snob event, or an event that would require heavy wine talk.  Instead it was a casual affair, accentuated by the dress code of many of the attendees – shorts, tee shirt, and flip flops.  But even more evident was the electricity, the life, the joy (even if alcohol fueled), that powered the evening and lit up the night’s sky.  It was almost ethereal yet real, and one of the most exciting aspects of the evening.

<slight tangent about kosher issues>

Unfortunately, I must take a moment to talk about what I can only now explain as a kashrut problem surrounding the whole evening.  As much as I loved the festival, those of us who are Orthodox practicing Jews, had a few problems that we faced that evening.  They were:

  1. Shmitta wines for those of us who live in the Diaspora.  The 2008 vintage is a shmitta year, and many of the wineries use a loophole called heter mechira, where they sell the grapes to non-jews.  This is a not so accepted practice in the modern era, and so most Orthodox Jews do not drink those wines.  The only way to know is to pick up the bottle and read the back label, where things of this nature are spelled out.  The wines from Yarden, Galil, and some others, use a more accepted practice called Oztar Beit Din, and so I happily enjoy Yarden and Galil wines from the 2008 vintage.
  2. As lovely as the Spieglau glasses were, they were not “toveled” – ritually immersed, which Orthodox practicing Jews do, before making use of the utensil.
  3. 99% of the wines served that night, were non-mevushal wines.  Meaning they were not pasteurized, which sounds great, because why would you want to pasteurize wine for goodness sakes, this is not milk with volatile bacteria.  Well, because “mevushal” wine can be handled by non Jews, while non-mevushal wines cannot be.  Furthermore, if a non Jew were to touch my wine glass or bottle, I cannot drink that wine anymore.  The law is not very PC to say the least and truly requires a long post to analyze it better (which I will be doing soon God willing), but my belief system is based on faith and not one that I can turn on and off when it suits me or my friends.  Now, I do not bring this up to disparage the Jewish lineage of those that were pouring the wines.  Rather, I bring it up because the rules around the open bottle were lax to say the least.  The open bottles, from which the wine was being poured was touched by many a passerby, and of their lineage, I have no idea.

My feeling is that the next time I go to this event; I would probably attend, but not drink any wines.

</end tangent 🙂 >

HPIM2113Once we were finished taking in the scene/madness that was swirling before us, we moved our way to the booth of one of Israel’s most exciting wineries – Yatir Winery.  It has captured the imagination and attention of many wine lovers including myself.  I have been lucky to visit the winery twice before, and each time I am in awe of their progress and continual assault at the wine world’s malaise and opinion of Israel’s wine industry.  Just this past year they were awarded one of the highest scores for their flagship wine by Robert Parker and Mark Squires of the Wine Advocate.  There I had what can only be described as a brain freeze, when I tasted one of the best white wines of Israel – the 2008 Yatir Sauvignon Blanc, before I realized that the wine was produced using heter mechira.  I was mistaken at that time, and once more unfortunately, and is the main reason that I did not enjoy more of the whites that evening, as they were either produced by non kosher wineries, or because they were the 2008 vintage and used heter mechira.  That said the 2008 Sauvignon Blanc was wonderful, but was clearly not opened long enough to get its legs under it.  Still, it showed a nice tropical fruit flavor along with a bit of cut grass and some lychee.  From there we moved on to the Galil Mountain Winery‘s booth, where we were hoping to be able to taste the highly acclaimed Galil Meron.  Unfortunately, it was not available for tasting till 9PM, so we were “forced” to partake of their other showings until the hour passed.  I was happily distracted by the Galil Pinot Noir, which is a more classical take on a French Burgundy, than those recently produced by Israeli wineries.  Still, the wine has enough facets – like its soft oak and coffee flavors to throw you off the French scent.  The other two wines I tasted while waiting for the grand moment, were less than enthralling.  The 2008 Galil Rose, was bland and flat, and the 2007 Galil Barbera was but a glimpse of its older brother’s power and depth.  Where the others disappointing, the Galil Meron did not.  It was a wine well worth the wait and one that I highly recommend for those in Israel (the US allotment will not be available till 2010, probably for Passover).

Yarden Winery's Booth/PlatformWe next visited the booth of Dalton Winery, where we tasted a dud of a wine and a real nice winner.  The Dalton Rose, made of 100% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes was an average quaffer, with a rose petal flavored mouth and a raspberry nose.  Nothing to write home about or post about.  The winner was the 2007 Dalton Shiraz – WOW!  A solid blockbuster of a wine and one worthy or your attention.  We then weaved our way on over to the booth of the Binyamina Winery, where we took in a nice 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve.  While some booths had massive and expressive signs – note the Yarden Golan Heights Winery’s sign, other small wineries had zero signage.  Yarden being one of the biggest wineries in Israel had a sign to match their importance and prestige.  Heck, forget the sign, they had a whole platform.  The sculpture garden is lovely and expansive, but the floor is rock and dirt, which while native to Israel and Jerusalem, is a bit too native for many of the folks standing and walking around for the 4 to 5 hours that the event was open for.  Yarden and another winery had a lovely platform, with soft padding, great lounge chairs, a few tables, and awesome wines (which is obvious).   I cannot seem to find a picture of the platform, but take my word for it :-).  Anyway, we once again weaved around and through the crowd, and moseyed on over to the booth of Tzuba Winery.  We have spoken before about Tzuba, and we had the extreme pleasure of visiting their lovely winery before.  They are a winery with a long lineage of managing vineyards of the Judean Hills.  The wines were a nice selection of the wines available from the winery, within Israel, and yet another reason for us of the Diaspora to do Aliyah!  Yes, they export some wines, but the vast majority sells fine within Israel.  We enjoyed a lovely 2007 Belmont (55% Sauvignon Blanc and 45% Semillon) which showed nice dirt, lychee, grapefruit, and peach.  The 2006 Tel Tzuba Merlot was also quite nice.  The 2006 Tel Tzuba Cabernet was a bit off, so I did not write it up, the bottle tasted over ripe or oxidized.

HPIM2111We were off again, and moving towards a booth with a large sign, the Tishbi Winery Booth.  It was mostly a waste of a trip, this time around, except to prime the pump for a return trip later in the evening, to taste their wonderful desert wine, when my evening of tasting was done, and my evening of drinking began, but we are jumping the gun!  I digress again!  After the awful and overripe 2006 Tishbi Shiraz tasting, we ran into a bunch of acquaintances from Rogov’ forum.  The inner circle of wine booths did not take up all the possible space, so they filled the empty space with some nice standing tables.  I rolled up to the table to augment my wine notes, and as I am of to do, I struck up a conversation with the people around me.  Standing there as well was Zvi and his lovely wife.  He overheard the conversation I was having (which is shocking given my quiet personality), and quickly surmised that it was I that had blown him off earlier in the evening.  We were supposed to meet up at the booth of Assaf Winery.  Well that never happened, because we could NOT find the bloody booth!  It was one of those booths that had almost no signage, and so made it a bit hard to find, given the swarms surrounding the booths.  Anyway, after talking a bit, Zvi pipes up asking “did you get to taste the 2003 Magnum Yarden Merlot”?  Well no I say, heck I had yet to stroll over to the booth/platform at all.  Given the opportunity, I bid my adu, and head on over to the Yarden “booth”.  I nicely asked for a bit of the Merlot, and was rewarded with what can only be described as a drunkard’s convention sized glass of the dark garnet gold!  Keeping in the new Hebrew and non-sequitur slang the Merlot was chaval al ha zman (translated literally — it’s a waste of time” in slang — fantastic, wonderful, out of this world, great).  I lingered long at the booth while I slowly enjoyed my glass of wine.  The Merlot was fat yet not over ripe, red fruit, with a ton of chocolate and tobacco.  It almost felt like you were drinking ripe fruit and wood, while smoking a fat cigar and inhaling boxes of dark chocolate – quite a trip to say the least – like I said – chaval al ha zman.

Alexander Winery's BoothOnce I had my chance to talk with the Yarden crowd and enjoy my wine, I found my way over to the booth of Tzora Winery.  We have spoken about this winery before, and have also had the pleasure of going to their lovely winery, just before the untimely passing of their founder Ronnie James.  Well, the wine has not missed a beat, with the new winemaker Eran Pick.  The 2006 Neve Ilan was dirty and lovely.  The 2006 Shoresh was a bit lighter, but still quite enjoyable.  As I continued my trip around the inner circle, I hit upon Alexander Winery’s booth.  The winemaker Yoram Shalom was pouring and his marketing agent was talking – quite a show!  The wine that was pouring was the 2007 Sandro (named after Shalom’s brother).  We were fortunate enough to meet Shalom the last time we visited his winery in Moshav Beit Yitzchak.  The booth was abuzz with the recent award they won in a Spanish Wine Contest (missed the name – sorry) for their top star – 2005 Alexander The Great – Cabernet Sauvignon.  The 2007 Sandro was overripe, as I have said before.  The wines in the Golan and Upper Galilee can tend towards overripe flavors if not picked at the correct time.  The Sandro is a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot.  We meandered around a bit, and we found ourselves at the Agur Winery’s booth.  There I made my second faux pas, and tasted the 2008 Agur Blanca – which was also a shmitta wine and they use Heter mechira.  The Blanca was really nice, though there are critics out there that do not like it as much as I did, oh well :-).  I was not as impressed by the 2007 Agur Kessem (40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 20% Petit Verdot, and 10% Cabernet Franc), still a nice wine with a mix of black and red flavors, along with nice toasty oak, earth, and mouth coating tannins.

My friend disappeared by now, and I was moving around alone by now.  I swung by the Yarden booth again, to get a taste of the 2004 Yarden Ortal Merlot, which was stunning (I had not tasted this one before).  At this point, my palate was shot and I swung by the Tishbi booth once more, to get a taste of the stunning 2006 Jonathan Tishbi Barbera-Zinfandel Fortified Dessert Wine.  I absolutely loved it and it reminded me of the Carmel Vintage – which is another desert wine that is quite impressive as well.  The evening ended and I picked up some wines to go, in an outside pavilion.

Jerusalem festival - as the evening comes to an endMy take away overall was that the festival was well run, while most of the wine purveyors were pushing some light weight wares that met the interest of the majority of the festival customers.  There is nothing wrong with that, the average wine consumer likes their wine smooth and easy to drink.  Given that trend, the wineries were pouring wines that met the consumer’s interests.  The wineries that I highlighted were pouring wines that were quite enjoyable and highly unexpected (Galil and Yarden).  Finally, ignoring the wines for a second, the festival’s attendees were all very amiable, courteous, and joyous.  Yes they were imbibing alcohol, but alcohol can bring out the worst in people, and that was NOWHERE to be seen, and I stayed to the closing on Tuesday night.  There is a lovely saying in Jewish Lore that goes something like this; When alcohol enters the person’s true self comes out.  That was more than evident Tuesday night, under the full moon’s sky, the beauty that is Israel, was open for all to see and enjoy.

So, thank you so much to the Israel Museum, Avi Ben and all the wineries that were pouring their wares, the wine notes follow below:

2008 Yatir Sauvignon Blanc – Score: B+
The nose on this straw colored wine is filled with lychee, grapefruit, and tropical fruit, along with a strong sense of brightness, and almost clean steel smell. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is super bright with lychee, grapefruit, and tropical fruit, along with some nice balancing green flavors. The mid palate is bright which leads into a long and crisp finish of more tropical fruit. A really nice crisp Sauvignon Blanc with just a hint of roundness that comes from a bit of time in French barrels.

2007 Galil Pinot Noir – Score: B+
The nose on this dark ruby colored wine is classical in nature with nice terroir notes, along with cherry, cranberry, and raspberry.  The nose was hot out of the bottle, and I did not stick around long enough to see when it dissipated.  The mouth on this medium bodied wine follows the nose with more cherry, raspberry, and not yet integrated tannins.  The mid palate is still tannic and hot, along with coffee and bright acidity.  The finish is long and spicy with bright red fruit and an almost toasty flavor

2007 Galil Barbera – Score: B
The nose on this light garnet colored wine is filled with cranberry, plum, oak, and coffee.  The mouth on this medium bodied wine has nice light and integrating tannins that work well with the mouth’s plum and cranberry.  The mid palate is almost smooth with light tannins, coffee, and oak.  The finish is long with bright acidity, coffee, and red fruit.  This is not the winner that the 2006 vintage was, and may be too early to really tell where this wine is going.

2006 Galil Meron – Score: A-
The nose on dark garnet to black colored wine is popping with blackberry, raspberry, ripe plum, chocolate, coffee, and rich oak.  The mouth on this full bodied and complex wine has layers of blackberry, tar, coffee, and rich plum.  The mid palate is layered with oak and integrating tannins that come at you in layers.  The finish is super long with tar, pepper, blackberry, and chocolate.  This is a real winner and one that is sure to please almost anyone at the table.

2007 Dalton Shiraz Reserve – Score: A-
The nose on this dark garnet to purple colored wine is filled with ripe fruit, plum, blackberry, tar, and pepper.  The mouth on this full bodied wine with complex layers hits you often with wave after wave of blackberry, ripe plum, and cassis.  The mid palate is filled with tar, oak, and coffee.  The finish is long and spicy, with oak, tar, blackberry, and chocolate.  Quite a nice Shiraz indeed.

2006 Binyamina Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve – Score: B – B+
The nose on this dark garnet colored wine was hot out of the bottle, with ripe fruit, cranberry, blackberry, and oak.  The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine has cassis and blackberry flavors.  The mid palate is balanced and spicy with oak and bright acidity.  The finish is bright and spicy with blackberry, coffee, and oak.

2007 Tzuba White Belmont (55% Sauvignon Blanc and 45% Semillon) – Score: B+
The nose on this bright light straw colored wine has mineral qualities, along with lychee, grapefruit, peach, and an almost toast aroma.  The mouth has very ripe flavored fruit that mingles nicely with earthy and mineral flavors, along with grapefruit and peach.  The mid palate is tart and earthy.  The finish is long with more tart fruit and clean mineral flavors.

2006 Tzuba Tel Tzuba Merlot – Score: B+
The nose on this dark ruby colored wine has nice earthy notes along with raspberry, cranberry, cherry, oak, and vegetal notes.  The mouth is medium bodied with integrating tannins, cranberry, and raspberry.  The mid palate is balanced with oak and acidity.  The finish is accompanied by earth, spices, and round red fruit.  This is a wine that can use more air in and out of the bottle and one that will serve you well.

2003 Yarden Magnum Merlot – Score: A-
The nose on this black colored wine (not showing any hint of slowing down or brown), is ripe with rich red fruit, slightly hot, plum, raspberry, cassis, rich oak, and mounds of dark chocolate.  The mouth on this complex and full bodied wine was throwing sediment, and comes at you with layers of with rich plum, blackberry, and chocolate.  The mid palate is bright and balanced with acidity, integrating tannins, and coffee.  The finish is long with tobacco, chocolate, and nice tannins.  It almost felt like you were drinking ripe fruit and wood, while smoking a fat cigar and inhaling boxes of dark chocolate, quite a treat indeed.

2006 Tzora Neve Ilan (70% Cabernet Sauvignon & 30% Merlot) – Score: B+
The nose on this dark garnet colored wine is filled with rich earth, blackberry, cranberry, oak, and coffee.  The mouth on this medium bodied wine follows the nose with cranberry, raspberry, roasted oak flavors, and something akin to toffee.  The mid palate has integrated tannins that flow into a long finish with spice, dirt, and red fruit.

2006 Tzora Shoresh (100% Cabernet Sauvignon) – Score: B+ – A-
The nose on this dark garnet colored wine filled with plum, raspberry, earth, and toasted coffee beans, and oak.  The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is spicy with somewhat gripping tannins that have yet to integrate, plum, cassis, and raspberry.  The mid palate is bright with acidity and oak, and leads into a long and earthy finish with rich oak, coffee, and nice spice.

2007 Alexander Sandro – Score: B – B+
The nose on this garnet colored wine is perfumed with almost overripe fruit, toasted oak, blackberry, and raspberry.  The mouth on this full bodied wine is gripping with powerful tannins, cassis and plum.  The mid palate is filled with toasted oak and balancing acidity.  The finish is long with cassis and plum fruit, and chocolate.

2008 Agur Blanco (65% Viognier & 35% Riesling) – Score: B+
The nose on this electric straw colored wine is perfumed with rich and lively grapefruit, honeydew melon, and peach.  The mouth on this medium bodied wine is rich and almost glycerol and oily with ripe peach and honeydew.  The mid palate is balanced with bright acidity that leads into a long and rich finish of tart fruit.

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