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More wines from this past weekend…

Well what can I say the theme continues with even more wines that I had the chance to taste this past weekend. There were some real winners and some very solid wines, without a dud in the bunch, including nothing short of heaven in a bottle, more on that in the notes below.

For now, I will leave you with a plethora of wines that I hope you can find in the your area and enjoy much like I did this past weekend with my family! Loved the food, tons of Sephardi food with many a treat!

The wines notes follow below:

2009 Tzuba Pinot Noir – Score: B+
Tasting this twice the wine showed a continuous expression of almost pure cherry, with Chica cherry cola, cherry, oak, ripe raspberry, bramble, toast, and espresso. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is ripe and tart with good acid, rich currant, medicinal cherry, nice spicy cedar, and nice integrated mouth coating tannin. The finish is long and spicy, with roasted herb, oriental spice, cherry candy, and cloves.

2007 Katlav Wadi Katlav – Score: A-
This is Katlav’s flagship wine and is a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, and 15% Petite Verdot. This wine starts of very closed and all you smell is crazy deep mineral, almost intense graphite and sulfur, quite nice but not its true self. The wine needs decanting, so go ahead and decant and fear not, unless you wish to wait a year or so more. Once it opens the wine screams with blackberry, black plum, cassis, and rich mineral, almost sulfur in its extreme, along with date and nice spice. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is rich with nice sweet black fruit, ripe red fruit, sweet raspberry, nice vanilla, and sweet cedar along with mouth coating tannin that lingers long. The mouth is rich, round, and sweet, showing the impact of being in oak for 24 months, but while it does not lack in acid, it lacks the zip that could make this a killer wine. The finish is long with sweet tobacco, black fruit, licorice, cassis, and spice along with mounds of sweet milk chocolate, and rich cinnamon and cloves. The wine is throwing sediment so beware if you decant. Read the rest of this entry

Rosh Hashanah Dinner and Katlav Merlot 2005

First night Rosh Hashanah found us at a good friend’s house.  We were served some lovely simanim that were both sweet and had really nice texture.  We had some nice white table wine with the appetizers, followed by festive meal.  There was Parve lasagna (parve cheese – really nice), salmon, and gobs of awesome side dishes.  I brought over a Katlav Merlot 2005, while others brought over a Segal wine, whose name, unfortunately escapes my memory.

The Katlav Merlot was way more than the food could handle, but still a nice showing for the wine.  The food was out of this world, I just need to remember to bring white or lighter red wines to dinner out sometimes.

The wine notes follow below:
Katlav Merlot 2005 – Score: B+
The nose on this dark garnet to black colored wine is filled with black cherry, blackberry, mint, and wood. The mouth on this medium body to full body wine starts with blackberry and cherry. The mid palate is filled with heavy extraction, which is quite surprising for this wine, as many had it as a well rounded wine. The finish is a bit more extraction followed by vanilla and black cherry into a long and satisfying finish. I think this wine is far better than people have scored it.

Katlav Cabernet, Ella Valley VC Cabernet, Zemora Castra Red, and Tajine

Tajine Pot

Tagine Pot

This past weekend I decided it was time to go out and make some food that was not quite run of the mill.  On my last trip to Israel I went to a Moroccan Restaurant and fell in love with Tajine (there seems to be a discussion about the correct spelling of Tajine or is it Tajine :-), either way the food tastes great!).  So I started searching for recipes to how to make a Tajine.  Well the official manner is with a Tajine itself used to slow cook or braise stews.  The beauty of the Tajine is the evaporative and condensing powers it beholds.  You see the genius behind this earthenware pot is in its tight seal and its tepee cover.  The tight seal means none of the flavors or good stuff evaporates outside of the pot.  Meanwhile inside the pot crazy stuff is going on.  The meat, fruit, and spices are percolating away and getting denser and richer and flavors are melding into the liquid which is evaporating under the oven’s heat.  But because of its ingenious cover, the liquid that evaporates and does not leave the well sealed pot, condenses and further adds flavors to the overall dish.  The sad thing is that most of us do not have one of these killer pots, or one big enough to feed 12 people.  So I went with my Le Creuset knockoff from Lodge, which did the trick.  The dish came out fantastic and was really a hit.  Of course with all that spice packed food, one needs wine that will stand up to the intense flavors.  So I had a few wines that have been sitting in the cellar waiting for their time on the table.  All of them hail from Israel and they were fun to drink, but No A’s today, my friends.  One wine scored an A- but no knockout.  Still they were enjoyable and kept up with the meal, which was the most important thing.

On an aside two of the wines traveled with me from Israel (the Castra Red and the Katlav Cabernet).  You remember my visit to the Katlav Winery and my visit to the Zemora Winery on my previous trip to Israel.  The good news is that you do not need to go to Israel and schlep one back.  The Katlav Cab and Merlot are available here in the US – it is imported by Abarbanel (who is really not stepping up – but that is a different topic for another time).  Do a quick Google on Katlav Cabernet and you will find many reputable shops that carry the wine (along with the far better Merlot).  The Zemora wine is not currently exported to the USA – but the winery is supposedly being sold, so I have no more information at this time.

The wine notes follow below:
2004 Zemora Castra Red – Score: B+
This wine is a blend of 65% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc, 3% Shiraz and 2% Petit Verdot. The nose on this inky black wine is very Syrah like (which is strange given that the wine is so low in Syrah) Blackberry, cassis, mint, and wood. The mouth on this full bodied wine is layered, starting with cassis and blackberry, but mixed with some tart cherry and blueberry. The mid palate is a tannic and green, the finish is nice but dominated by wood and acid

2002 Ella Valley Vineyard’s Choice Cabernet Sauvignon – Score: A-
The nose on this black colored wine has blackberry, cloves, plum, and wood notes. The mouth on this soft full bodied wine is filled with blackberry, cassis, and wood. The mid palate is lush and balanced with caressing tannins. The finish is long with wood, tobacco, and hints of chocolate. This soft and full bodied wine is another example of the 2002 curse. It is a wine whose fruit is going fast and one that is well balanced without an overpowering wood presence.

2005 Katlav Cabernet Sauvignon – Score: B+
This nose on this deep garnet colored wine is filled with blackberry, cloves, and spicy wood. The mouth on this medium bodied wine has notes of blackberry and plum. The mid palate is acidic and herbal. The finish is filled with oak, oak, and more oak. The spicy oak overpowers the finish and I think takes away from an otherwise decent wine.

Katlav Winery in Judean Hills

Katlav Winery and Yittach

Katlav Winery and Yittach

Tucked away into the winding roads that meander through the misty Judean Hills – we find our selves driving through a small Moshav (town) called Nes Harim, in search of the Katlav Winery.  Like so many of the small boutique wineries that are popping up all over these hills – this winery is equally challenging to find.  However, what  separates this winery from many of the other up and coming wineries is the owner and wine maker.  We call Yittach Yossi on the cell and he answers us almost immediately and we explain to him – the best we can of course – where we are, and he goes on to explain that we had actually just driven by his house!  We find a driveway and turn around.  After tracking down the house – which in hindsight (as this story unfolds) should have been VERY easy to notice – being dwarfed by a hulking Olive Tree.  He comes and greets us covered in paint and trailed by two adorable dogs – he asks us to drive the road behind his house and meet him at the winery.  As we drive the small dirt road behind his house – the winery comes into view – but so does the beautiful overlook he has on the valley below.  Nes Harim is no different than any of these Moshav(s) that line the Judean Hills – they are all compact in size and are built on hill sides that surrender to beautiful vistas and those pesky switch back roads – that we finished traversing a few moments ago.

To say Yittach is passionate about wine would be an understatement.  He truly loves his craft.  He started out as a highly successful architect and builder – building building all around Israel.  It was chance meeting with an ailing Persian worker’s mother that changed his world and turned him into the wine maker he is today.  One of his Persian workers had turned ill and he went to see him in the hospital.  It was there that he met the worker’s mother and she told him I need two things from you – marry off my son and grapes!  Yittach asked why do you need grapes?  She went on to explain that she had been making wine for years, before immigrating to Israel – because of the lack of kosher wine in Iran, and she missed her home made wine.  Yittach got right to work – he made the man his wife’s brother-in-law – by marrying him to his sister-in-law.  Then he got to sourcing grapes, which 12 years ago was not as easy as it is today – unless you were looking for eating grapes.  After a bit of work he found the grapes and went on to learn the Persian process of wine making.  He took those techniques and improved on them (many times to detriment of the wine and Yittach) until 2000 when he released his first production of 1500 bottles.  Today his bottle production fluctuates based upon the grape quality and vine production – but averages 10 thousand bottles.  His vines are mostly dry farmed – which tend to produce fewer fruit from the vines, but ones with more tartness and more intense fruit flavors.  They are planted in the hills that surround Moshav Nes Harim and on the very same terraces that the settlers planted vines (until they went into disrepair).  The close proximity allows for better control of the vines, picking time, and sugar content – all the benefits of a Estate Bottled Winery.

Label Wadi Katlav 2005

We were led into his winery (which he built by hand) and we sat down at the table and talked for quite a long time.  Yittach is equally comfortable talking about wine as he is on a sundry of topics ranging from politics to spirituality.  We tasted two bottles of wine (notes below).  His warmth and comfort with his own skin seemed to draw us in to topics that we would not usually get into during a wine tasting.  It was a real joy and one that showed us the other sides of the wine business here in Israel.  Yittach then went on to show us the barrel rooms and his bottle cellar.  The  bottles are graced with a picture of the huge and ancient olive tree that graces Yittach’s front yard – the one we passed when driving by his house.

We would like to thank Yittach for his hospitality, passion and time when visiting his winery.  Following are the tasting notes which we sampled at the winery.

2005 Wadi Katlav – Score: B+
This red to black colored wine seems to shimmer in the glass.  The nose has strong aromas of blackberry, dark plums and some hints of green vegetation.  The wine is accessible yet complex and smooth with carry over from the nose of blackberry, currants, and vegetation.  The finish is long and satisfying with a mouth coating that lingers on the palate.

2005 Katlav Syrah – Score: A
This purple to black colored wine needs a fair amount of time to open.  At the start the nose has anis, dates and hints of pepper.  The wine opens in the mouth to reveal leather, tar and and almost inky flavor that lasts long on the mouth and ends with very nice spicy notes.

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