As I have been posting so far, I enjoyed my last trip to Israel and Europe, and I am almost done with my Israeli winery posts. Last we left off, we had just had our second kosher wine tasting at DD’s house. The actual winery visit to Domaine du Castel Winery came before the 2nd tasting, but as I stated already, I wanted to cover the tastings first.
This was my latest visit to Domaine du Castel Winery, and as I have stated many times already, the reds were still from the 2015 vintage, with a couple of reds being released now from the 2016 vintage. The 2015 vintage was tough as I explained here, it was one of the worst Shmita years that I can remember, but I do not remember was the 1994 vintage in Israel was like. The 2001 and 2008 vintages were epic years for Israel, while the 2015 vintage was not quite the same.
More than the poor quality of the 2015 vintage is the 2015 Shmita overhang – forcing wineries to sell all their wines locally, as most locales like the USA and others do not buy the 2015 wines.
Castel grows and expands facilities
We arrived a bit early and hung around walking around the new winery that Castel put up a year ago, in Yad HaShmona, after a 23-year run in Ramat Raziel. The winery is stunning plain and simple. The winery is stunning and the tasting room is gorgeous, with massive logs, exposed beams, making for a cozy ski chalet feel. The barrel room below the winery is even more beautiful than the one they had in Ramat Raziel, and again is an ode to the barrel room of Chateau Mouton Rothschild in Pauillac. With a beautiful hearth, fireplace and of course wines all around you. The tasting room a perfect melding of the beautiful mountain and hills surrounding it that are visible from the massive windows
This is not my first visit to the winery, but my last full-scale post of the winery is old, so it needed a refresh. Besides the expansion of facilities, the winery also expanded its wines as well. This all came together in 2015 when the new winery and new wines were brought together. The winery in Ramat Raziel is still in operation, but it will slowly be phased out over time. Until then it continues to be a dual winery arrangement.
With the expanded facilities the winery scaled up from 140K bottles in 2014 to 250K bottles in 2016. With that large change in bottles came three new wines, two that are already released and one new one that is or will be soon released. The two known wines are the La Vie wines, with a white and a red. They are meant to be easier drinking wines, wines that do not need waiting like the Petit Castel requires some vintages.
Well, I am back, landing the day before the Shabbat preceding Shavuot. I was there for my Nephew’s wedding and we stopped off in Paris for two days – that post can be read/seen here. From there we jumped on an EasyJet plane and we were in Israel, but those kind of things do not just happen. In hindsight I would use EasyJet again – simply because there really were few other options. The direct flights were these (listed in cost order); Transavia (I wonder if the count sleeps in luggage), EasyJet, Arkia (Israel’s second largest airline), El Al, and Air France. I tried to use miles on AF – but they were crazy high. So, in the end, EasyJet it was.
EasyJet is one of those airlines that will nickel and dime you all the way to and in the plane. But the best plan (since I had no checked luggage), is to pay for seat assignment and then you get a roll on and backpack. I was stressing about my rollon, it was a bit heavy, and I was worried they would nickle me to death. In the end, the dude at the counter was very nice and they took the rollon – asking to check it, which was fine with me. The trip was fine, as there is a lounge in the CDG terminal, and what we really wanted was just a place to be normal in a land of madness.
Once we got to the gate they were boarding us only to leave us in the gateway for a good 25 minutes – no idea why. Once we boarded, I was asleep, which was a blessing. I had lots to watch – but sleep was what I craved. Once I awoke we pretty much landed, with maybe 20 minutes or so before landing anyway. Once we landed we disembarked quickly, and then well – no one was there at security check. There were loads of people backing into the anteroom. It would be another 20+ minutes before folks actually arrived and started to cut through the backlog.
Once we got through our bags were there already and we were off to get our car – or try! Look I like Budget in Israel, they normally treat me well, but this trip was horrible! They made us wait 1 hour or more and then they treated us in classic Israeli style and gave us a car that was smaller than what we ordered/paid for and then told us to leave them alone! Love people like that!
Anyway, we were off and really that is what I cared about – I wanted to be home! After that, I can say that the trip was really about tasting late 2014 released wines and 2015 wines. Before, I get into that – let’s recap the state of 2015. As stated here, this is what happened in 2015 and after tasting some 40+ wines from 2015 – nothing has changed my opinion.
Well after two world-class vintages in 2001 and 2008, 2015 was a huge letdown. The white and rose are for the most OK, and nice. The white and rose wines are not at the level of 2014 (more on that below), but they are very respectable. The 2015 reds on the other hand is an entirely different subject.
A few things going on here – first of all the weather was perfect through August – looking like yet another blockbuster Shmita vintage. Wet winter, tons of rain and no deep freezing, followed by very moderate spring (making for good bud formations). This was followed by temperate highs and nice cool evenings throughout the summer, except for a few spikes here and there, that was all until August! In August nature took a very dark view on Israel – starting with some of the worst highs in the history of Modern Israel, and power consumption that peaked for an entire week that broke record after record. August continued with crazy heat – but it was early September when all hell broke loose. September saw a return of the epic sandstorm – but this time it reached almost biblical proportions in September. Just look at these satellite images – they are crazy!
Overall, the season was not what it was meant to be. The sand storms brought even higher temps, it all unravelled at the end. The funny thing is that – the wineries that pull early, AKA do not produce date juice, were affected far less – like Recanati and Tabor. The ones who pull later or pull from the Galilee – even if they are great wineries – were affected. In some ways it will mean that lower level wines at wineries will have normally better fruit. It will also mean that many wineries will have less of their flagship wines. Of course this is all from what winemakers and wineries have told me so far. Only time will tell to see what really comes out, but agriculturally, it was not a great year. Read the rest of this entry