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The state of aged carignan wine from Israel and many others

2015 Don Ernesto Clarinet, 2012 Hagafen Cabernet Franc, 2012 Matar Petit Verdot, 2010 2012 Bro.Deux, 2005 Four Gates Syrah, 2012 Trio Carignan, 2012 Mia Luce Carignan, 2012 Recanati Carignan, 2007 Gush Etzion Blessed Valley, 2012 Shirah Whites

I have been offline for a month because of many reasons – the chief among them being that we were away for a trip through South Dakota and Montana. South Dakota was a bore, but Montana and Glacier National park are impressive, worth the insane drive.

Now on to wine, before I left we had a dinner with friends and I opened the remnants of what I had in the world of kosher Carignan (yeah there is a new one from Hajdu, I know). As of now, there really is just four main wineries in Israel making good to great Carignan. The list in order of ageability by far is Mia Luce, followed by Trio, then Recanati, and finally Jezreel Winery. Now before, you scream at me, yes, Recanati makes a lovely Carignan – but after three years it is date juice. Many of my friends love them, date and all, good for them! To me and the folks at the table that night – it was the least drunken wine of the night! The Mia Luce was slow to come around – but it was lovely. The Trio was epic from the start till the last drop. Yotam Sharon was the winemaker at Trio till 2013 and the wines he made during his short time there are indeed impressive.

The Jezreel Carignan is nice, but not in the same league as the first three – but once the Recanati turns to date juice, it is indeed better. We tasted the three Carignan from 2012 and yes – the Recanati is not fun any longer, neither was the 2011 Mia Luce (but that was a one vintage issue for Kobi). The saddest part of all of this to me is that Mia Luce is no longer making Carignan wines. The 2012 was the last available Carignan on the market. The 2013 was pre sold and by 2014 – he has gone to Syrah. Trio is now in another winemaker’s hand and it is not the same quality – maybe that will improve. The Recanati, as I have said turns too quickly – the 2009, 2010, the 11, and the 12 are all date juice. Great quality wines – structure wise, professional in nature, but still – they turn too quickly.

So, IMHO Carignan is in a perilous state if you like them aged. Otherwise, continue to enjoy the Recanati Carignan and drink it within two years – three at most. The 2014 Recanati Carignan is epic, sadly the 2015 (shmita) is not as good, and not one I would invest in.

YG reminded me correctly, that I had forgotten the 2013 Capcanes La Flor Del Flor Samso, which is 100% Carignan. It is not from Israel, and I was talking about Israel alone, but sure it is good to remind people that the capcanes is epic, and is a better option than the rest but it is also almost double the price, though the price on the Recanati Carignan has gone up a bunch as well, in the past few years – which is very sad. Also, there is the epic 2013 Elvi Clos Mesorah which is 50% Carignan. Also a top-tier wine. I have added the two scores below to be complete.

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Assorted Kosher Red Wines from Four Gates, Yarden, Gush Eztion, and Yarden

This past weekend we were guests at a friend’s home, so I brought over a bottle of 2007 Gush Eztion Blessed Valley Red, which I really liked. They also served the 2010 Four Gates Pinot Noir, which continues to impress, and a bottle of the 2006 Yarden Cabernet. The Israeli date/raisin/new world issue was clearly evident in the 2006 Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon, a bottle that was purchased from a wine store the day before the dinner. The Yarden was still quite nice but infuriating, as it refused to open for hours and when it did, it was powerful and aggressive and full of date and raisin, a shame. The Blessed Valley red was nice and rich and controlled, but when you drink it after a Four Gates Pinot you again see quickly what acid does to a wine and what the lack of bracing acid feels like.

This was the second time, in recent memory, where had a Four Gates wine next to an Israeli red wine and each time – no matter how nice the Israeli wine is, it pales in comparison to the acid laden Four Gates wine.

Were the wines bad? No! The wines were just outmatched by a more complete wine – but not a wine that I would enjoy over them. It is a complex problem. The Four Gates Pinot is nice, but it is no 2009 Pinot and it is no 2006 Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon, and nor should it be. Still, the acid in it makes all other nice wines feel lacking. The 2007 Blessed Valley is a fine wine, but it lacks the acid and that shows when considered next to a wine like a estate bottled Four Gates wine. Still, if you bought the 2007 Blessed Valley in America – drink now, it is smooth and rich and ready and going to the other side. Again, this was a bottle that I did not sore in my house – but a bottle I got from the distributor here in California. It should last another year or so, so start drinking now.

The 2006 Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon was a beast to get open, but once open, as I stated before, raisins kept plopping out of my glass. The wine is crazy big, aggressive, and layered and mad good, but the real issue is the lack of control of baseline Yarden Cabernet wines. For lunch I opened a bottle of the 2008 Galil Barbera, which was quite nice. It opened a bit hot, but calmed down, smoothed out, while still being nice and acidic and capable of handling a bowl of cholent or a bowl of spaghetti and meatballs.

The wine notes are a bit lighter today as I did not have my wine note bending contraptions at my host’s home 🙂

2010 Four Gates Pinot Noir – Score: B++
The wine does not taste very different than a few months ago, when I last tasted it and wrote my notes. The menthol, bramble, dusty redwood aromas and flavors are ever evident. The red and black fruit are now really popping with a bracing acidity that could use another year to calm down, but for folks like me – the more acid the better.

2007 Gush Etzion Blessed Valley Red – Score: B+ to A
The wine is a blend of 77% Merlot and 27% Cabernet Franc. The wine is showing a bit worse for the wear in the US than in Israel. In Israel the wine was rich and popping and highly aggressive. Here, it has smoothed and is in drink now mode. The wine is clearly redolent with tobacco and green notes, along with big black and red fruit. The sweet cedar and smooth integrating tannin is a real joy and one that can handle quite an array of foods. We enjoyed it with brisket and corned beef. The wine is full in body, with blackberry, black cherry fruit and so much more. The finish is long and spicy with mineral and graphite and mouth coating tannin that rise. Not quite the killer it was in Israel, but still quite a lovely wine indeed.

2006 Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon – Score: A-
This wine is a killer with a killer’s instinct. The wine is rich and layered but needs a few hours to open up. The wine clearly has sweet/Israeli raisin notes, but they are also surrounded by crazy ripe fruit, blackberry, cassis, and searing tannin that almost make your mouth hurt. The wine is popping with good balance of fruit and acid, assaulting layers of concentrated and extracted fruit, and spicy cedar that starts to take over the palate. The finish is long and spicy with cloves, cinnamon, chocolate, and leather that lingers long with tannin, spice, and roasted herb.

2008 Galil Barbera – Score: B+
The wine starts off hot but after time calms to an almost herbal balm with crazy roasted herb, a rich perfume of dark cherry, light hint of date and raisin, good spice, and toast. The mouth is lovely and rich but controlled with sweet notes, toasty sweet cedar, wrapped up in softening sweet tannin, and plum delight. The finish is long and balanced with good acid, menthol, vanilla, and coffee.

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