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Baked Gefilte Fish Loaf, Sweet and Sour Brisket, Roasted Root Vegetables, Tzora Cabernet Sauvignon Givat haChalukim, Yarden Merlot, Four Gates Merlot, Yarden Ortal Vineyard Merlot, Galil Mountain Winery Merlot

This past weekend saw us hosting one of our epic Friday night dinners.  We had friends and family over and I was really looking forward to tasting the Ortal Merlot, the best Merlot made in Israel by far.  We have had it a few times, but not for a couple of years now.  We purposely made a triple baked fish, brisket. and roasted vegetables on Wednesday to serve at both meals, and that worked out quite nicely, go there to see the recipes.

The night was supposedly meant to be Merlot night, but when I looked into the cellar, I did not have that much Merlot.  So I started with a 2005 Four Gates Merlot M.S.C. (that Benyamin brought over and still available for purchase), and threw in a Cab that I have been holding for too long, and finished with some not so spectacular Merlot bottles.  The 2005 Tzora Givat Hachalukim Cabernet was awesome, and one I brought in by hand a few years ago from Israel.  Well worth the effort, and one that is not available here – though the 2006 is available and really yummy.

Tzora is one of those wineries that truly appreciate terroir and a winery that is helping to define a flavor to Israeli wines.  Major kudos to them, especially after the passing of Ronnie James, the founder of the winery.  The first two bottles we had were really great and we thought that we were going to have one of those magical wine evenings.  That all came to a screaming halt when we had the two Yarden Merlot(s), which is a real shame.  I had been looking forward to tasting them and as you will see, they did not live up to the billing.  I can only hope that the Ortal merlot (of which I have a few more), is not dead in my cellar.

The meal was wonderful, and even better was the chance to catch up with my family after the meal, really quite nice.  The wine notes follow below, in the order they were drank:

2005 Four Gates Merlot M.S.C. – Score: A-
The nose on this almost black colored wine is packed with blackberry, cherry, plum, eucalyptus, and oak.  The nose and body have a fair amount of oak, more than I remembered before, I guess the wine is in a phase where the oak is showing a bit more right now.  The fruit is still very forward on this massive and brooding full bodied wine.  The mouth starts with more blackberry and raspberry.  It flows into a complex mid palate layered with oak, acid, tight tannins, and a nice amount of coffee.  The finish is long and luxurious with more black fruit, balancing acidity, and a dollop of espresso.

2005 Tzora Givat Hachalukim Cabernet Sauvignon – Score: A-
This was a fun bottle of Cabernet. The nose on this garnet colored wine is popping with cassis, plum, blackberry, raspberry, oak, and chocolate. The mouth on this full bodied wine is velvety with tight tannins, cassis, plum, and raspberry. The mid palate is popping with acidity, tannin, and oak. It flows into a long, satisfying, and spicy finish with more black fruit, oak, and chocolate.

2003 Yarden Merlot – Score: B
The nose on this garnet to black colored wine, was fresh with cherry, blackberry, and cassis.  The mouth on this full bodied wine was over ripe and almost oxidized, much like the Yarden Ortal we had the same night.  The wine’s full bodied structure was able to support the oak but was overpowered by the overripe/oxidized fruit.  The finish was long with fruit melding nicely with vanilla and herbs.

2001 Yarden Ortal Vineyard Merlot – Score: B+
This wine is meant to be a blockbuster, but something was wrong this night.  The wine tasted almost off/oxidized or maybe extra fruity.  Either way, it was not a hit.  The nose on this wine was absolutely awesome, with big spicy oak, super jammy blackberry, plum, and chocolate.  But once we tasted the wine all bets were off, which is a real shame, because it was a huge bodied wine with blackberry and cassis, along with a luscious mouth feel, that was totally thrown off kilter by the over jammy and/or oxidized flavors.  The mouth was complex with layers of fruit that flowed into a tannic and acidic core.  The finish was pure heaven with chocolate, oak, and tobacco.  Real shame.

2005 Galil Mountain Winery Merlot – Score: B+
Nice wine indeed, rich and satisfying, while keeping itself in balance and check, a nice showing.  The nose of this black colored wine is screaming with cranberry, raspberry, green pepper, and herbs.  The mouth of this full bodied wine is velvety with raspberry and cranberry.  The mid palate is bright with complex layers of fruit, acidity and terroir. The finish is long with more fruit, acidity, and herbs. Read the rest of this entry

Tzora Winery

We made an unplanned stop at the Tzora Winery on a cold winters day and we are so happy we did.  We arrived in the late afternoon and there was quite a party going on.  A bunch of kids from America had arrived and they were making the most of the winery’s insanely kind hospitality.  When we arrived the party was in full swing and we did not want to bother them or the winery staff.  As we were getting ready to leave (please folks – always make reservations in advance – do not expect to be as lucky as we were), the staff was super kind and was able to squeeze us into the wine tasting that was in progress.  The sad aspect is that though Tzora has increased the volume of wine – the best wines will continue to stay in Israel and not be imported abroad.

The thing that makes Tzora such a special winery are their vineyards.  Ronnie James tends to the vines, and it is a labor of love.  Unfortunately, as we write this article we are told that Ronnie has passed away.  Ronnie and Tzora wines were built on the ideal that terroir makes the wine.  The land that the vineyards sit on are the names given to the wines (Shoresh, Neve Ilan, Givat Hachalukim).

Ronnie was growing grapes since the 50s for himself and many other wineries.  We will all miss him and his wine and vines will continue to pay tribute to him and his legacy.

We would like to thank the staff at the winery for allowing us to join in and enjoy the tastings.  Following are the tasting notes which we sampled at the winery.

Tzora Judean Hills 2004 – Score: B+
The nose on this ruby red colored wine (60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Merlot) is laden with raspberry, cherry, and oak notes.  The mouth on this medium bodied wine fat with tannins and cherries.  The finish is medium long and quite enjoyable.

Tzora Givat Hachalukim 2006 –
Score: B+
The nose on this garnet colored wine (100% Cabernet Sauvignon) is laden with red berries and cherry.  The mouth on this medium bodied wine is smooth and balanced with oak and soft tannins giving way to cherry and spice.  The finish is not so long, but the wine lingers long on your palate after the wine is gone.

Tzora Shoresh 2004 – Score: A
The nose on this garnet colored wine (100% Merlot) is laden with red berries, mineral aromas, and cherry.  The mouth on this medium bodied wine is balanced with integrated tannins giving way to red berries and oak.  The finish is medium long with cherry and spice.

Tzora Or 2006 – Score: A+
This wine has quite a story around it as Robert Parker gave it one of the highest scores in a recent Israeli wine expose that he conducting along with Mark Squires.  We were able to taste the end of the bottle and it was still quite impressive – none the less.  Gewurztraminer grapes are harvested and then deep frozen for two months.  Then they are extracted for 24 hours and only the first drips of the grape juice become Or.  The nose of this golden wine is filled with honey and tropical fruit.  The mouth of this full bodied and almost syrupy wine is fruity with citrus, pineapple and a touch of mint.

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