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Tura and Har Bracha Wineries – two great examples of Shomron Wine Passion

Sunset outside of Tura WineryThe title may seem extreme but there is a clear and present passion and almost zeal to the wine makers and vineyard managers of the Shomron. In no way is that a slight to other wine regions, or to denote that others are not as passionate. The real point is that when I met with 30+ wineries on my past trip to Israel, every winery spoke about their wines and their processes and technology, but none spoke as passionately about their land as the winemakers in the Shomron. I need to stress, that many speak about their vineyards, the terroir, like Tzora and others, but the passion about the land versus the correct vines to grow – the sheer desire to own and plant trees or vines – it was truly an uplifting experience.

However, before we get into all of that, this post is about day two of week three during my trip to Israel last year December (2012). This posting is an account of my visit to both the Har Bracha and Tura wineries, in that order. Since we left off, I had completed week one all by myself, and week two partly with my nephew, who yes slowed me down, but truly added so much color and life to the proceedings, that it was a fair trade 🙂 The day started off like any day in Israel, we were set to see as many wineries as possible within a single day! The day started off with Doron and I picking up Gabriel Geller, yes the dastardly mastermind of the previous week’s Monday adventure to Ella Valley, Teperberg, Flam, and Herzberg Winery. It was a grand day trip and one that Geller was ready to try again! Talk about committed or is it that he needs to be committed, I am really not sure! Anyway, we pick him up and off we go to another wine adventure on Route 60! There were many stories that occurred to us on route 60 on this storied day, but being that they were part of the tapestry of the day, we will weave the tails into this wild and ruckus wine trail adventure.

The Shomron day started off with a visit to Shiloh, and then to Gvaot, described here. From there we were pointing our car towards Har Bracha and that is when we should have listened to the darn phone – both of our phones! The madness started with Doron’s phone which texted him with a very important message. You see he has an AT&T phone, a very nice phone actually, that did not easily support popping in a new SIM (the modus apprendre of international cell phone travelers when they visit Israel), so he went with an international plan from the US with certain countries on it. Simple enough plan, that is until you enter route 60, or more specifically, the Shomron area of route 60. AT&T was texting Doron to notify him that his data plan did not work in the new country he had just entered! Well, if that was not enough of a hint, at about that same time, my phone starts to chirp. Now, I must be specific here, we were interested in getting to Har Bracha which is north of Shiloh and we actually have to pass Tura to get there, but that was because Tura was not available at that time, so Har Bracha was where we were pointed towards.

Har Bracha Vineyards 5To quickly remind you, Yossie’s wine map is an awesome resource for finding kosher wineries in Israel, and for getting a sense of what and where the kosher wineries are in Israel. The map gave us a great layout of our day, and it also gave us a closer understanding of what was driving waze so crazy! Waze is the only real navigation tool in Israel and one that I explained saved my life at least two times in the north. Well, my girlfriend (waze’s voice is a female’s voice and it tells me where to go at all times – so all my friends think it fits) started to notify me that I needed to get ready for a left turn coming up. Now, driving in Israel is an already tense and terrifying enough of a job, looking at a navigation device is too much. So, Doron and Gabe (back seat driver) were thrust into the navigator role. Doron had the girlfriend and Gabe knows most of the roads by heart, and he also had his own phone-based girlfriend as well. All the phones were telling me to turn left, while Gabe was coaxing me forward – with soothing words of, do not worry we need to keep driving – no warning! Read the rest of this entry

Har Bracha Cabernet Sauvignon, Highlander

This past weekend I wanted some warm comfort food for the cold weather that was setting into the Bay Area, so I chose to make a sausage stew – but not one I have made before. This time we made a leek, mushroom, sausage, potato, and Brussels sprout stew. Yeah, I know I need a shorter name – but for now I will go with leek, mushroom, sausage stew, with fun additives.

Leek, mushroom, sausage stew Recipe:

  1. 2 ounces of oil
  2. Two onions diced
  3. Two leeks sliced thick
  4. 32 ounces of Portobello mushrooms sliced thick
  5. 8 red potatoes cubed large
  6. 6 smashed garlic cloves
  7. 8 basil leaves diced well
  8. Salt and pepper to taste
  9. Two to three pounds of sausage sliced into half-inch cubes
  10. Two pounds of Brussels sprouts

In a large Dutch oven heat the oil till it starts to shimmer and then add in the diced onions and leeks and saute them until browned. Lower to a simmer and add in the Portobello mushrooms and sweat them till they release their liquid. Then throw in the potatoes and coat them with the onions, leeks, and mushrooms and let braise until the potatoes are halfway softened. At this point the pot should be a quarter filled with vegetable liquid. Throw in all the spices and herb along with salt and pepper. Then throw in the sausage and let it them cook for half an hour. Finally, throw the Brussels sprouts into the pot and let them cook for 15 or so minutes, or until they soften – but not to the point where they become too soft – it is a fine line.

I totally understand that some find Brussels sprouts to be as evil as I find Cilantro (though to me Cilantro is the devil’s spawn). So, if you do not like Brussels sprouts – replace them with Okra or Cubed Squash. For a starch we used quinoa and paired it with a fresh green salad. Read the rest of this entry

Hameshubach Midbar, Ella Valley Cabernet Vineyard Choice, Herzog, Cabernet Sauvignon To Kalon Vineyard

This past weekend we had friends and family over for a lovely Friday Night meal. The meal started off with a warm bowl of Roasted Butternut squash soup and a bottle of the 2007 Hameshubach Midbar, Gold Series. The wine was looking a bit brown, but the flavor profile is exactly what I remembered it to be when I tasted it in March. Clearly a bottle to drink now. The soup tasted quite nicely, rich and sweet, with a twang of bitterness to compliment the flavors, from the orange rind. Benyamin Cantz (Benyo) from Four Gates Winery was there as well and brought over a 15 year old Champagne. The Champagne tasted nice, with tight bubbles, deep core acidity, some toasted almonds, and a hint of citrus fruit.

At the same time we opened a bottle of the 2006 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, To Kalon Vineyard that came from the Herzog Club. We opened it then to give it time to air out while we started on other wines. We then opened my last bottle of the 2003 Ella Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Vineyard Choice and that was a wise choice. The wine’s color was fine, along with its nose and mouth, still it was at its peak and starting to lose some of its complexity, so it is a good time to drink this up.

We then served Mushroom and Crookneck Zucchini Risotto, a plate of salami and turkey pastrami, along with braised roast beef, spinach kugel (parve souffle), and a fresh green salad. The Ella Valley Cabernet paired wonderfully with the roast and salami, while the risotto’s creaminess and mushroom earthiness added a certain level of balance to the palate of the food. We then poured the 2006 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, To Kalon Vineyard, and to be honest I was not initially impressed at all. It was OK, but it was more of a medium bodied wine with a finish that was lacking. Still, I kept some around, and the next day it tasted much better. This wine is the press wine of its monster of a brother, the 2006 Herzog Generation VIII Cabernet Sauvignon, To Kalon Vineyard, Napa Valley. It bigger brother is a massive wine with broad shoulders, a mouth feel that is rich and opulent, rich black fruit, and a finish that goes on forever. Its younger brother is far less massive and its finish is a bit lacking. The Generation VIII is free run wine, while this is press wine. Now, press wine is not bad wine, but what it has in tannin (in spades) and sometimes in color, it lacks in true fruit and depth. This is not to say they are bad wines just different. Many wineries will blend the two, the free run and the press wine. To make up for some of its issues, Herzog aged the wine in oak for 42 months, which may sound crazy, but oak does add lovely characteristics and helps this wine out immensely.

Truly this dichotomy reminds me of the 2006 Covenant Red C and the 2006 Covenant Cabernet Sauvignon. The Red C is a far more medium bodied wine than is the Covenant Cabernet. You see the 2006 Red C is also pure press wine, while the 2006 Covenant Cabernet is pure free run.

I will say that the 2006 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, To Kalon Vineyard is a nice wine, but I find it also reminds me of the styling’s of the 2008 B.R. Cohn Cabernet Sauvignon Kosher Trestle Glen Estate Vineyard, lighter in body, more finesse and elegance than sheer power, but I believe still lacking.

The wine notes follow below:

2007 Hameshubach Midbar, Gold Series (60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, and 5% Petite Verdot) – Score: A-
The nose on this garnet to mahogany colored wine explodes with rich raspberry, ripe blackberry, ripe black plum, mounds of rich chocolate, cedar, smoky notes, tobacco, and fig. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is rich and exploding with dark and brooding blackberry and black plum along with tar like flavors. The mid palate is balanced with rich oak, acid, chocolate, and tobacco. The finish is super rich and long with black fruit, blackberry, chocolate, tobacco, tar like flavors, and vanilla. This wine is clearly at or beyond its peak, drink up!!!

2003 Ella Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Vineyard’s Choice (97% Cab, 3% Cabernet Franc) – Score: A- to A
The nose on this purple to black colored wine is hopping with rich ripe cherry, blackberry, cassis, figs, crushed herbs, smoky notes, and lovely rich oak. The mouth on this full bodied wine is rich and structured with ripe blackberry, cassis, raspberry, and loamy dirt. The mid palate is balanced with rich oak, loamy dirt, crushed herbs, and chocolate. The finish is super long with sweet oak, ripe blackberry, chocolate, smokiness, roasted meats, crushed herbs, and dirt. Drink this up – it is time.

2006 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, To Kalon Vineyard, Napa Valley – Score: A-
The nose on this garnet colored wine is rich with chocolate, blackberry, raspberry, crushed herbs, rich cedar oak, vanilla, and licorice, a lovely and elegant nose. The mouth on this medium bodied wine has raspberry, red fruit, spicy notes, blackberry, and nice tannin. The mid palate is balanced with acid, integrated tannin, spicy oak, vanilla, and chocolate. The finish is not so long with chocolate, vanilla, spicy oak, smoky notes, and licorice. I thought the lack of a solid finish and it understated mouth structure was a lacking, but what it lacks in those things it does make up a bit with its elegance.


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