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Israel’s lost decade for red wine

Well, it has been too long since I have posted and so I thought I would return with a thought that has been really eating away at me for far too long. Which is, it has been more than 10 years since I have tasted a wine from Israel that I would think would actually improve with age. The last ones that I thought could do it were the Flam 2010 and 2011 Noble, the first kosher vintages for the Flam Noble. Sure, you have Domaine Netofa as well, but that is where it ends.

I recently really enjoyed a 2007 Tzora Misty Hills, sadly I cannot say for any of the recent Misty Hills. Sure they are nice wines, but after a few years, they go really ripe and sweet. The 2013 Domaine du Castel Grand Vin is already tasting very sweet and is a drink-up now for my bottles. The 2016 Domaine du Castel was always super ripe to start and I do not have much hope it will last long either. The 2007 Domaine du Castel, that I had a couple of years ago was STUNNING. I will be honest, until maybe a year ago I thought the 2013 Domaine du Castel Grand Vin would live long, but after tasting it recently, that does not seem to be the case. It may well be the case that 2016 will live up to the original drinking window, but with how 2013 turned, and with where 2016 started, I am seriously worried.

This brings me to my point, in the last ten years Israel has produced hundreds of millions of bottles of red wine and I can honestly say I have bought maybe 20 of them, and of those, they are in drink-now mode. Domaine Netofa stands as the only real red wine that can age, but that is sad for a country with so much potential.

The crazy thing is that Israel has the ability to make great wines, it proved it during the aughts and yet they all decided that it is better to go for the least common denominator than for the world-class moniker. I get it, wine is a business and wineries need to hew to where the money is, and right now, that is riper wines. Wines that may well not hold out for a decade, and if they do, they will be riper and as long as the market holds up, all is good.

Israel produces white and sparkling wines that are world-class. Look at Yaakov Oryah’s work, his 2009 Semillon is getting tired but epic, his 2008/2015 Musketeer is INSANE. The 2005 Yarden Blanc de Blanc is crazy good, and the 2007 vintage is even better!

So, while Israel continues its need to push riper wines we have been blessed with many vintages of world-class wines from all around the world, which includes many Israeli white wines from Domaine Netofa and Yaakov Oryah Wines.

Of course, with time everything changes. Ten years ago, we had almost nothing from Europe, and we relied heavily on Israel, Herzog, and Capcanes/Elvi Wines. Now, that has flipped, and if the current batch of wines from Capcanes is a harbinger of what is to come, they too have sold out to the Parker-side of wines.

Sure, temperatures are rising all around the world, but Europe keeps pumping out great wines with higher temps, so nature is not the issue here, in regards to Israel’s desires, it is a market-driven decision and my response is to buy almost nothing of it.

I wish Israel only the best, it is OUR country, it is the land of the Jews, the land of flowing milk and honey, and it is where I feel at home most. I love the land with all my heart, I am just not a fan of the red wines. May we blessed with a year of success, health, family, great friends, and great kosher wines, no matter their origin.

Kosher Wine and Food Pairing Showcase at the Millesime Lounge in the Carlton Hotel, NY

With the Jewish New Year fast approaching (September 17th and 18th), it is high time for another massive wine tasting, this time a cross-section of the wine world and some lovely food to boot! The past two Herzog/Royal wine events, as lovely as they have been, centered on the universe of Royal Wines and Herzog Wines. Now, there is nothing wrong with the wine portfolios of both of these wonderful organizations, however when it comes to the diversity of options out there outside of Royal’s portfolio, I am excited when there is the opportunity to see them all in one place!

Until now, the only place where that existed was the Gotham Kosher Wine Extravaganza! The event brings every major kosher wine importer, including Royal wines, Recanati Wines, Bravdo Winery, Hevron heights, and many Spanish, French, and Chilean wines as well. The best French wine outside of Royal’s portfolio is clearly Fred David’s winery, his Cotes du Rhone wines and his upcoming Chateauneuf du Pape (CDP). David’s wines are imported by Allied Wine importers, along with Dalton wines, Gvaot, and Saslove! Very interesting that Allied has added Gvaot and Saslove.

The good news is that all of the wines stated above along with many more options will be available at the upcoming Kosher Wine and Food Pairing Showcase – on September 10th. The event will include many new wines, including new vintages of stunning wines, along with wines that are not often talked about; including Shirah Wines Power to the People!

However, while we all like to taste some wines, Man does not live on wine alone! To meet this need the event organizers have come up with an original approach, that being placing the wines next to the foods or dishes that they believe best shows the wine’s potential. It is an original idea, and while some maybe concerned about the clash of humans and aromas fighting your interest to taste a wine or two – fear not! The promoters of this event have purposely limited the attendance to 150 people within a room that easily fits 300 – all with the mind of trying to best accommodate the event, its new approach, and the attendees who are interested in an evening of food and wine.

It is an original approach – appealing to both the foodie and wine lover in all of us, and one that Todd Aarons and Herzog Winery has done beautifully since day one of the IFWF in Oxnard and LA. However, even Mr. Aaron has never tried to place the food and wine in an easily accessible and taste-able pairing – it is an idea whose time has come and is a solid evolution of the food and wine festivals, but also one that needs to be carefully planned! Which is not a problem for the acclaimed Nelly Rosenking, who has made a name for herself as a first class kosher event planning coordinator, will be coordinating the logistics of the event!

Further, as stated before, the wines are a venerable list of who’s who in the kosher wine world, with the requisite Yarden and Royal wines. However, as stated previously, do not underestimate the wonders that lie in other importer’s portfolios; Recanati, Dalton, Gvaot, Saslove, Gush Etzion, Bravdo, Odem, and do not forget the oft-maligned Hevron Heights!

I am a contributor to the Israeli and kosher wine forum, and so are Isaac C, Pinchas L, and Adam M. The three of them have helped create the menu along with the wines chosen. However, in the end, the actual wines that will be served are being underwritten by 67 Wine, a wine store that I most admit I have never heard of before or bought from in the past. That is not to say in any way that this is not a store to buy from, rather it is to notify everyone that there is yet another wine store on the block – and one that is getting serious around the kosher wine scene, as is evident with this very event. The prices on the site look inline with the prices, though not as aggressive as Gotham or However, as previously stated, you will get a list of further discounted prices for the wines you taste at the event, which gives you the opportunity to find the wines you like and then notate that on the list, and hand the list in at the end of the tasting – to get them at a discounted rate – a big WIN-WIN for all.

Along with the opportunity to buy the wines you taste, there will be the opportunity to buy some wines that did not sell last year at the Kastenbaum kosher wine auction. Much of the wine did not sell, as the bids did not hit the reserve price for the item. So, if you wish to dig deep or put on your voyeur’s hat – then by all means – check out the wines, many of which were highly acclaimed.

Finally, one cannot talk about this upcoming event and leave out the space or time. The event will be held in the newly refined and refurbished Salon Millesime in the Carlton Hotel, located on Madison Avenue b/n 28th and 29th street. The event will go on for three hours, giving you a chance to peruse through the Kastenbaum wines, taste the wines at hand, consume copious amounts of fish, hor d’oeuvres, meats, and yes for you tree huggers out there – salads and veggie dishes as well!

The event sounds crazy epic, and from the looks of the folks saying they will be attending on Facebook – this thing is going to sell out FAST! So grab your tickets here and make sure not to miss this epic event that is sure to satiate the foodie and wine lover in you!

Wine Enthusiast again covers a wide variety of Israeli Wines

Once again Israeli wines are getting more good attention – a large divergence from its almost invisible past. This time, the Wine Enthusiast did rather large wine tasting, covering many importers, and most importantly – not JUST for their once-year obligatory Passover article! So first off – Kudos and Bravo for giving Israel, Greece, and Cyprus coverage and showing the world their potential.

I can already hear the ubiquitous first question – was this tasting just wines from Royal Wine’s portfolio and their new IWPA? The answer, a resounding no! For this tasting, there were double the number of Israeli wine importers involved, in dramatic contrast to the Wine Enthusiast Passover article in April, 2012 where all 49 or so wines reviewed were Royal or Yarden wines. This month, there were 32 wines, imported by the ubiquitous Royal Wines and Yarden Wines, but it also included Recanati wines that are imported by Palm Bay and a few wines from the highly underrated Happy Hearts Wine Importers! My only complaint – why did Happy Hearts not include the wines from the wonderful Bravdo Karmei Yosef Winery?

The wines included many that we have written about in the past, from the Royal wine tasting (IFWF) in Los Angeles, and the Gotham wine event. The most prominently showcased winery was the Recanati Winery, which had four whites, one rose, and six red wines. The highest scoring Recanati wine was the famous 2009 Recanati Wild Carignan, Reserve, which we liked as well. However, in classic Recanati style, and as we discussed in the post, Recanati is famous more for its wines that score 86 or higher and are priced at 12 to 15 bucks. Those are Recanati’s bread and butter wines, and the product that is starting to get some good attention.

Some of the lower scoring wines that were interesting, was the 2010 Psagot Shiraz, that scored an 85, the Recanati White RSR which was scored an 88, and the Psagot Cabernet Franc which was scored an 86. There were no other real low scoring shockers and there was not a plethora of 91+ scores either. Rather, the review was chock full of 88, 89, 90, and a few 91 scored wines – which is highly respectable. Once again proving that Israeli wines are getting there. They are improving the quality, with solid grape and vineyard management, along with better wine production extraction and processes.

Bazelet HaGolan continues to impress in the wine press, though it is a winery that for reasons beyond my comprehension, produce wines that I cannot get my head around. I was really happy to see Carmel continuing to receive great wine scores and notes. The Carmel Appellation wines all scored 90 points, received great wine notes, and all of them were Editor’s Choice to boot! The winner, if you must call it that, would probably be Domaine du Castel – being that both of their wines were given a score of 91 – nicely done!

Also, all the wines are new vintages for the United States, except for maybe a few and that bodes well for Israel, as 2010 and 2011 were really bad growing years, and still the scores are more than respectable.

So, congratulations to the continued solid work and wine production by so many of the wineries in Israel and our appreciation to the Wine Enthusiast for adding Israeli Wines to the September edition! Once again, the scores are listed below in the order that the Wine Enthusiast scored them:

White Wines

  1. 2010 Domaine du Castel ‘C’ Chardonnay – 91
  2. 2010 Recanati Chardonnay – 88
  3. 2010 Recanati Special Reserve (RSR) White – 88
  4. 2011 Recanati Yasmin White – 85
  5. 2010 Recanati Sauvignon Blanc – 85


  1. 2011 Odem Mountain Rose, Volcanic Dry – 86
  2. 2010 Recanati Rose – 86

Cabernet and Blends

  1. 2009 Bazelet HaGolan, Reserve – 91
  2. 2009 Domaine du Castel, Grand Vin – 91
  3. 2009 Carmel Cabernet Franc, Appellation (Editor’s Choice) –  90
  4. 2009 Carmel Cabernet Sauvignon, Appellation (Editor’s Choice) – 90
  5. 2009 Carmel Cabernet Sauvignon-Shiraz Blend, Appellation (Editor’s Choice) – 90
  6. 2009 Or Haganuz Winery, Namura Select – 90
  7. 2010 Psagot Edom – 90
  8. 2009 Recanati Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve – 90
  9. 2009 Binyamina Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve – 89
  10. 2009 Or Haganuz Winery, Merlot-Cabernet-Petit Verdot, Amuka – 89
  11. 2010 Psagot Cabernet Sauvignon – 88
  12. 2009 Mony Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve – 87
  13. 2010 Or Haganuz Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot, Har Sinai – 86
  14. 2010 Psagot Cabernet Franc – 86
  15. 2011 Dovev Cabernet Sauvignon (Best Buy) – 85
  16. 2010 Recanati Cabernet Sauvignon – 85
  17. 2011 Recanati Yasmin, Red – 85


  1. 2010 Bazelet HaGolan Merlot – 87
  2. 2010 Recanati Merlot – 86
  3. 2009 Odem Mountain Merlot, Volcanic – 85

Other Red Wines

  1. 2009 Recanati Carignan, Reserve, Wild – 90
  2. 2010 Recanati Shiraz (Best Buy) – 90
  3. 2010 Binyamina Carignan, Reserve – 86
  4. 2007 Hevron Heights Judean Heights Tempranillo – 85
  5. 2010 Psagot Shiraz – 85

Mamilla Hotel Winery and kosher Wine Bar in Jerusalem

Though this wonderful establishment is not a winery, since it has winery in its name, I will count it as my 12th article on wineries in the Judean Hills.

Truly the simplest way to describe the Mamilla Hotel Winery is to call it for what it is; the only kosher wine bar in Israel! As sad as that sounds, at least there is one. There are many wonderful wine bars in Israel, with many wonderful kosher wines, but they are not exclusively kosher, unlike the Mamilla Hotel Winery.

I arrived early on my first trip to the wine bar. I like to do that so that I have the chance to take in the ambiance and since there were few patrons initially, it gave me the chance to talk with Hadas, the wine bartender. It turns out after talking with Hadas for sometime that she and her father are good friends or acquaintances of Alice Feiring, the Joan of Arc of all things natural and wine.

The wine bar has been open for some three years now, and the last two times I tried to go and enjoy some wine there the bar was closed. To be honest they do keep strange hours at this wine bar. The hours are:

Sunday Through Thursday 15:00 – 20:00
Friday 12:00 – 18:00
Saturday Closed

The wine bar is more a feeder for the larger bar and restaurant than a self-contained and sustainable system. It is a real shame as I found the selection and service at the wine bar to be top-notch.

The wine bar has some twenty or so seats and is just outside the famous mirror bar and a few steps from the elevator to the rooftop restaurant in the Mamilla hotel, on the mezzanine floor of the hotel. As you look around and take in the ultra modern, minimalist, and sleek style of the wine bar, you can feel yourself starting to relax and as you start to settle into the atmosphere, you find yourself instinctively yearning for a fine glass of wine. Well, mission accomplished Mamilla Winery! Read the rest of this entry

Alexander Winery

The winery is tucked away at the edge of the road leading out of Moshav Beit Yitzchak – which is located in the Sharon.  The winery was founded by Yoram Shalom in 1996 when his father (who had injured his hipbone) asked someone in the family to carry on the tradition he had been keeping alive his whole life.  So in 1995 Yoram started to produce small quantities of wine, which his father quite liked.  That gave Yoram the push to keep producing wine.  Yoram was quite an accomplished producer and technician of television programs within Israel.  However, in 1998, based upon the encouraging responses to his wine production – he decided to quit his day job and jumped into the wine business full time.   When we called Yoram to talk about our meeting – he was excited to hear that I was also of Tunisian decent.  Tunisia artwork graces all of his wines along with the label names that are all of family members.  Alexander the great – is named after his father (who unfortunately passed away in 1997).  The other lines are named after his sister, brother and mother.

After many years of highly successful releases for his wine, Yoram decided that the 2006 year would be kosher.  Most of the reds from that year, are either still in barrels or are just being bottled.  Yoram hopes to release them soon.  The whites have already been released and a tasting note for the Sauvignon Blanc Lisa 2006, follows below.

Upon meeting Yoram you quickly see the passion that exudes out of him along with the self confidence to leave a cushy and successful career and jump into the world of wine.  Upon starting the winery Yoram started learning about wine making full time and started with the vineyard managers.  As the edict goes – good wine starts in the vineyard, and Yoram knows that better than most.  Yoram is blessed with having some wonderful vineyards to build his winery upon.  The vineyards are in Dalton Plateau at Kerem Ben Zimra and Kefar Shamay.  Both are situated in the Upper Galilee and highly vaunted in their grape quality.  Besides the location, the vineyards are tended to with great care and quality control is of the utmost importance.  The vineyards are managed to ensure low yield production – which thereby produces grapes of higher quality and concentration.  The vineyards are of great importance to Yoram.  Whenever, we spoke of the wine he would always harken it back in ways to the grapes and their styling.

After we finished our tasting I had a chance to talk with Yoram and Ilana – his wife who is a graphic designer by trade, and the designer of all of Alexander Valley’s labels.  The issues of wine export came up a common theme among Israeli wineries – looking to expand their reach into the global market.  He told us about many a story, where people upon tasting his wines, had offered him a nice business deal – of which kindly declined.  Though he never spoke about it, I believe that to Yoram it is more than just about the money, it is about family and his love for the winery.  I think he would happily take on a opportunity, where the exporter was looking out for the winery as much as they look out for their wallet, a tough thing to find in this global marketplace.

The winery’s wine production is about 45 thousand bottles.  The wines are being released in five different labels.

Sandro which is a blend of Cabernet (70%), Merlot (25%), and Sauvignon Blanc.  The wine is fermented at low temperature and aged in a mix of French and American oak for 14 months.

Alexander which is the varietal line of the winery.  The varieties are;

  • Cabernet Sauvignon (aged in American and French oak for 18 months).
  • Merlot (aged 18 months in French Oak)
  • Syrah (aged in French oak for 18 months)
  • Gaston – a blend of Merlot (76%), Syrah (12%), and Grenache (12%) which is aged in a mixture of French and American oak for 12 months.

Alexander the Great the flagship wine that is made out of Cabernet Sauvignon along with a touch of Merlot (5%).  The wine is aged in French and American oak for 30 months.  The barrels are switched at 15 months with new barrels to maximize oak contact with the wine.

Lisa – the white wine line of the winery.

  • Chardonnay – which is fermented and then aged in Burgundy barrels for 18 months.
  • Sauvignon Blanc which is cold fermented and co contact with wood.

Bruno – a port like wine which is fortified and released every 2 years.  It is made of a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah grapes and aged in oak for 36 months.

We want to thank Yoram, Ilana and everyone from the winery who were kind enough to host us for the tasting and after as well – until the cab showed up to take us home.  Following are the tasting notes which we sampled at the winery and afterwards as well.

Alexander the Great 2006 (Barrel Sample) – Score: A-
This dark to almost purple colored wine had just finished malolactic fermentation  and will be placed in new oak barrels for another 15 months.  The nose on the wine is filled with dark berries, chocolate, and oak.  The velvety mouth of this full bodied wine is laden with dark fruits, cassis, and blackberries.  The finish is long and velvety as well with cassis, chocolate, and oak.  This wine is still quite young and has yet to come into its own.

Alexander the Great 2007 (Barrel Sample) – Score: A-
This black colored wine has a story that is sad a wonderful at the same time.  The grapes could not be harvested at their optimal time because of Yom Tov and Shabbos.  When the grapes could finally be harvested – they were at some 30 brixs.  The initial problem was finding yeast that could eat away at that much sugar – after finally finding some – Yoram had to ferment the grape juice in small batches.  After essentially creating his own super yeast – he mixed them all together one more time and fermented them successfully.  The wine could possibly be the first kosher Amarone – like wine.  The nose is filled with an intensely concentrated aroma dates, figs, and honey.  The mouth of this full bodied wine is filled with cassis, chocolate and figs.  The finish is long and tannic.  This young wine has a long way to go and it will be fascinating to watch its development.

Lisa Sauvignon Blanc 2006 – Score: B+
The nose on this light straw colored wine quite expansive.  Aromas of pepper and honeysuckle and grapefruit are ever present.  The mouth of this medium bodied wine is initially acidic in nature.  But then it opens to a complex and crisp mouth that has strong notes of citrus and honeysuckle and finishes in a long stroll with a spicy and peppery flourish.

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