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My wonderful and wine eventful Jerusalem whiteout – Day 1

Snow mountains surrounding JerusalemTwo weeks ago I was in Jerusalem and all I can say is that the words, “in God We Trust” cannot have been more fulfilled than on this journey. To start, I had flown into Israel for one of my nephew’s weddings, and a lovely wedding it was, but that is getting ahead of ourselves. I arrived on Tuesday the 10th and while deplaning, I was asked to join in on a group prayer – which initially I was not so interested in, as I had a ton of things to get done in the day. Thank goodness I agreed and while talking with the group at the conclusion of the services, I hear my name being bellowed out! Now, sure I love Israel, and I know people there, but I am not Netanyahu or Gal Gadot, nor do I know anyone who knows Gal Gadot (trying to stay current and yes I know she is a female model – just making sure you are following), so I had no idea why someone was calling out my name!

So, I turn around and lo and behold who is there, Mendel! Now you may not remember Mendel, but he has been canonized on this very virtual pages, here and here (de-boning a duck) – though incorrectly familiarly associated with Elchonon. I state this because it will be with Mendel’s hands that my wine salvation will be realized. He wondered if I remember who he was, and after sharing a few pleasantries, we agreed to keep in touch as he was interested in joining me on my wine escapades, which sounded great to me!

From there we both got our cars and I went off to see my sister in HarNof. That evening I was so exhausted, I tried to order a burger from a place that will go nameless. Two hours later, no burger and my card was charged! To be fair, after much cajoling they did refund my money, which I understand in Israel is requires an act from God to implement, but equilibrium was returned.

The next day, I WhatApp Mendy and sure enough he is up and ready – like I was, so I asked if he minded to drive and off we went to pursue the wineries around Jerusalem. I must start by saying that I have no issue driving, but as I explained many times in the past, Israeli drivers have no drive control or manners, they are 100% certifiable! Well, I guess either work; “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” or “Fight fire with fire”, and that is exactly what Mendy does so well. The roads were slick with rain, at some points the roads were almost washed out with a literal deluge of rain, making the roads slick and a perfect pairing for hydro-planing. No worries, Mendel is at the wheel! So, our first stop was Castel!

Domaine du Castel

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2009 Tzuba Metsuda and Alcohol and brown sugar braised ribs

2009 Tzuba MetsudaThis weekend we enjoyed a simple meal of alcohol and brown sugar braised ribs cooked in a crockpot overnight. The ribs were lovely and only needed for the fat to be removed from the braising liquid – and magically we have a dinner. The dish was paired with some brown and black rice and a fresh green salad.

For wine we opened a bottle of the 2009 Tzuba Metsuda. This wine is a Bordeaux blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, and 15% Cabernet Franc. The wine was nice and round and ripe, but not so complex to keep your attention for long. The ripe blueberry was interesting, but that was about it. A rich and even somewhat layered wine, but lacing in complexity was its issue.

I have written about Tzuba Winery a few times already here early on, here again, and my latest post here. The winery was early in planting much of the Judean Hills while the rest of Israel concentrated on the Shomron and the Galil. Now they are the grape capitalists of the Judean Hills and are improving both their wines and their winery facilities.

The wine note follows below:

2009 Tzuba Metsuda – Score: B++
This wine is a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, and 15% Cabernet Franc. The nose on this wine starts off with nice green notes, as it opens it reveals charcoal, graphite, currant, and blueberry. The mouth is full, ripe, and plush with integrated tannin, along with plum, blackberry, boysenberry, sweet cedar, and herb. The finish is long and herbal with menthol, chocolate, tobacco, and spice. This is a wine that is not very long for this earth. I would drink this within the next year or so.

Israel wineries I visited in the Judean Hills and the Shomron during my second week and the The Wine Mill wine shop

Wine Mill wine shop in the center of Jerusalem

The Wine Mill wine shop

Last week I posted that I was in Israel for three weeks over the month of December, and in that first post I wrote about the wineries I saw in the Galilee wine region (the north of Israel). What I failed to talk about was Gabriel Geller and his wine shop in the middle of Jerusalem. I spoke about the Wine Mill wine shop in a previous post, it is located smack dab in the middle of Jerusalem, close to the city center, and to many hotels and restaurants. The address for the Wine Mill wine shop is 8, Ramban Street, 92422 Jerusalem, Israel, it is a shop that I can say is stocked with wines that I would be happy to enjoy and is the main wine shop that I use when in Israel. Why? Because Geller knows his wines, sells only wines he or his customers like, and knows the wines he sells. His shop is filled with wines that are often only sold at the winery itself, like Midbar Winery wines (see below) or Herzberg Winery wines (see below). His shop is also filled with small winery wines, like Weitzman Petite Verdot, or Gat Shomron Winery, and many others. Please do not think that this is a paid advertisement or something – LOL! I do not take money from people. I bring up Gabriel Geller and the Wine Mill, because during my three week stay in Israel, I was either in Geller’s store, with Geller himself, or calling Geller everyday, including Friday day and Saturdays (Saturday night of course)!

As I ended the previous posting – I wrote about my take on the Israeli wine scene, and I would like to add some more thoughts to the thread:

  1. If I had to give a color or fruit that best describes the 2010 vintage in Israel – it would blueberry! YES blueberry! No, I am not talking about malbec or Syrah or Petite Verdot. What I am talking about is all of those and more shockingly, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot! Try it out and see for yourself. When I asked the wine makers about it, they said that the growing conditions of 2010, hot and then cool led to the blue flavors.
  2. 2010 and on can well be the year of the small wine maker. Wineries are coming and going – that is for sure, but it is also a fact that small production wineries, like Herzberg Winery and Gat Shomron winery are popping up and staying afloat – because they do not have that much wine to move. Time will tell.
  3. Finally, more and more high level and high quality mevushal is occurring in Israel. Shiloh winery has been doing it for a few years now, as is Binyamina on its reserve series and cave, and others. It is not widespread or low quality. The process is being done at great cost and at great effort – bringing forth quality wine that happens to be mevushal, much like Herzog and Hagafen. While this is true of the few that I have listed above, Recanati has started doing it to some of their diamond label wines and the outcome is not that great. The 2010 Shiraz tasted cooked while the non-mevushal bottle in Israel did not have that taint – time will tell how these experiments will turn out.
  4. If you must pick a single varietal that shines in the Shomron – it would be Merlot. All the Merlot wines we tasted from the Shomron (whether made from a winery in the Shomron or wineries that source their grapes from the Shomron – like Teperberg) – the winners were always the Merlot! If it is the cooler weather the higher acidity – who cares – it is great wine!
  5. Wineries are getting the message – making more old-world wines with Israeli fruit. What that means to me is to make ripe and sweet wines that are controlled without the overripe date and raisin bombs that were so very prevalent some 5 years ago. In its place I find that Israeli wineries are producing wine with sweet and ripe fruit, while all the while showing clear control of both the sweetness of the fruit and the amount of oak used.
  6. Israel residents are finally starting to understand that they live in a Mediterranean country (with one of their borders on the Med) with blazing hot summers and therefore need to start appreciating white wines! I know, Jews like to drink red wines, something to do with the whole kiddush and shabbos thing. Still, white wine is lovely and is a wine that can be done well in Israel. Take the Midbar winery as an example. A winery that was built on the premise of making GREAT white wines in Israel! It took a long time for the perfect storm to occur, the nexus point of Israeli residents wanting white wines and for wineries to excel at the production of good white wines. Maybe it was a chicken-egg thing between the wineries and the residents, or maybe it was the whole culture thing – but Israeli wineries are figuring it now. More and more every winery is making a Rose, a Chardonnay, and many are doing Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling wines, and many others. So keep a look out for very solid Israeli white wines – they may actually remove them from Israel’s endangered species list!
  7. The main high end red wines being poured at wineries in Israel are shmitta wines, wines from the 2008 vintage. I say this simply as a warning and no more than that. If you care, than skip the wines. If you do not worry about it – than do what you wish. I simply state it here as an informational notice. Read the rest of this entry

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

Tzuba Winery – the Winery Incubator / grape capitalist of the Judean Hills

As we drive the 395 to get to Kibbutz Tzuba the winery’s vines grace our approach – they stretch from the bottom of the hillside along the valley below and all the way to the entrance of the Kibbutz. The Kibbutz is a high tech Kibbutz, building bulletproof glass and other protective shielding, a thriving business in these trying times.

As we drive up to the winery, which is to the left, after you enter the Kibbutz gate, the winery is straight ahead, and Paul Dubb was there to greet us. Paul is the wine maker for the Tzuba Winery and has been growing grapes for the Castel Winery, and some other 10 wineries, since 1996.

Actually, Tzuba is a winery whose history and very existence is intrinsically intertwined with Castel Winery, and many of the other big boys of Judean Hills. How you ask? Well, it all started in 1996 when Kibbutz Tzuba made a highly fortuitous and almost prophetic decision to plant some 110 acres of grape vines! That was only a year after Castel’s maiden release of its Grand Vin, and only a few years after Ronnie James started Tzora Winery, also in the Judean Hills. The crazy thing is that the Kibbutz decided on doing this even before they had actual contracts to sell these grapes. Further, they planted more than just the classic noble grapes. Of course they planted Cabernet, Merlot, Chardonnay, Shiraz, but they also planted Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Sangiovese, Petit Verdot, Malbec, Grenache, Mourvedre, and Nebiolo! The winery has three sets of labels for its wines (levels if you may): the top-of-the-line Metzuda that is produced only in selected years; Tel Tzuba of varietal and blended wines, and the popularly priced Hamaayan.

Yes, that is the setup, but how is Tzuba Winery intertwined with Castel and other Judean Hill wineries? Simple, where did these wineries get their grapes? Who had vines back in 1999? Tzuba! Who was the vineyard manager in 1996? Paul Dobb. Who was the vineyard manager for Castel in 2000 till 2004? Yes, Paul again. What is Castel named after, the old Belmont Castel fortress that Eli Ben Zaken named his winery after! The very same castle/fortress that over looks the Tzuba Winery! The very same fortress that the Metzuda (the fortress) wine label is named after. The same fortress that the Belmont wine label uses. In so many ways the Catsel winery is deeply intertwined with the Tzuba Winery. In a way, you could say that Kibbutz Tzuba and the Tzuba Winery are the grape capitalists of the Judean Hills.

With all that said, this is NOT to say that Tzuba is Castel’s second label, rather Tzuba is many ways is the purveyor of Castel’s very blood, its grapes. Further, Tzuba’s approach is actually 100% counter to Castel’s approach. Mr. Ben Zaken will be happy to tell you that his desire is to recreate Bordeaux, without its terroir flaws (climate and temperature). In many ways Ben Zaken has been successful in his desired transportational affect, but that is not what Mr. Dobbs is looking for. Actually, Mr. Dobbs is looking for Mediterranean styling in his wines. He desires the very fruit, mineral, and rich herbs that drench the hillsides of the Judean Hills to be transported into the very body and nose of Tzuba’s wines.

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Lemon/Red Pepper Flakes Roasted Chicken and Tzuba Merlot Kosher Tel Tzuba

This past week has been crazy, so we settled for a simpler meal of Brown Basmati Rice, Lemon/Red Pepper Flakes Roasted Chicken, and fresh green salad. A nice relaxing meal. For lunch we finally got up to making a cholent. We really do not make “cholent”, but more like a vegetable stew with buckwheat as the binder. It works, and no one complains.

To match the food we went with a wine that I had higher hopes for. That said, I should have read Daniel Rogov’s review for it ahead of time, really more about his prognosis for the wine. It is a wine that has unfortunately hit its peak, and is now over the hill. The wine confounds me, when the wine is open it is a clear B+ wine, after a few hours the wine goes down a bit and it becomes more of a plain B wine. It is a real shame, I wish it was different but so it is.

2006 Tzuba Merlot Kosher Tel Tzuba – Score: B to B+
This is a wine that is on the other side of hill waving goodbye to those at or before the peak. It is a shame, as the wine starts off quite nice, but quickly fades into a red fruit and loam wine, which is still OK, but not its potential. Daniel Rogov had it dead right, this wine hits its peak at the end of 2009, and now it is dying.
The nose on this light garnet colored wine with brown leanings, starts off with lovely plum, cassis, blackberry, raspberry, oak, vanilla, crushed herbs, and minerality. After a few hours, the nose turns one-dimensional with vanilla, loamy dirt, raspberry, and cherry. The mouth is mouth coating with nice integrated tannins, plum, blackberry, and raspberry to start. Again, after a bit of time, the wine turns to loamy dirt, dark cherry, plum, a bit oxidized. The mid palate is acidic and balanced with slight oak, and minerality. The finish is long and spicy with toasty oak, loamy dirt, nice tannin, and plum.

Second Day Passover Meals and Wines

To celebrate the end of Passover, we had guests and family over for meals on the last days. We spent the entire Sunday cooking, and while it was crazy work, it was a ton of fun.

Sunday Night Menu (with family):
Chicken soup with matzo balls (my Father-in-law was not feeling well)
Roasted chicken
Carrot kugel (secret recipe) which I LOVE
Cranberry/Pineapple/Orange Relish
Fresh Salad

Wine Menu:
2007 Yarden Mount Hermon Red
– Score: B+
The nose on this garnet colored wine is filled with raspberry, cranberry, cherry, and blackberry. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is soft with raspberry and cranberry. The mid palate is balanced with integrated tannin, acid, and slight concentration, along with a bit of roundness, without extreme oak presence. The finish is long and soft with nice dark fruit, full mouth, and acid. A nice wine that is ready to drink.


Monday Day Menu (Friends and Family):

Baked Gefilte Fish Loaf
Eggplant salad
Guacamole
Stuffed Vegetables
Vegetable Chunks
Fresh Green Salad

Eggplant Salad Recipe
2 Tablespoon of olive oil
Three onions cubed
1 lb of mushroom cubed
Two Eggplant cubed
1 16 or so ounce can of tomato sauce
Garlic Powder
Salt

Sauté the cubed onions in the olive oil, until brown.  Once browned, add the cubed mushrooms and wait for them to wither and brown as well.  Then add the cubed eggplant and wait for them to release their water.  Once the vegetables are soft, add in the tomato sauce, the spices, and wait for the mixture to firm up.

Vegetable Chunks (Feeds 24 or so folks)
4 large sweet potatoes cut into 1 inch wedges
6 red potatoes cut into 1 inch wedges
4 russet potatoes cut into 1 inch wedges
6 zucchini cut into 1 inch wedges
2-3 onions cut into 1 inch wedges
Olive Oil coated roasting pan
Garlic Powder
Paprika

Place the vegetables in water for 30 or so minutes.  Then drain the water and lay them in a large oiled roasting pan.  After each layer of vegetables cover them with garlic powder and paprika.  It is fine to have at most three layers of vegetables, but two is better.  Roast in oven covered at 350 degrees, for 30 minutes, then mix the vegetables around, cover with spices again, and place back in the oven till just tender, but with a bit of bite still left.

Wine Menu:
2004 Four Gates Chardonnay
– Score: A-
This bottle is quite different from the previous one we had. Instead of intense toasted oak, the wine showed characteristics very much in line with our tasting from 2008, except without the green flavors. The nose on this light gold to gold colored wine is filled with ripe fruit, peach, lemon, melon, butterscotch, and oak. The mouth on this medium to full bodied and very rich Chardonnay is powered by some residual sugar, peach, melon, and citrus flavors. The mid palate is a strong crisp acid core mixed with some sweetness, and nice toasty (but not over the top) oak. The finish is a long crisp and refreshing stroll with toasty wood as a partner, along with butterscotch, and ripe melon. The wine is crisp yet has weight at the same time, a real joy.

2006 Tzuba Cabernet Sauvignon – Score: B+ to A-
This bottle turned out to be more red than our previous tasting of this wine, but it was still a concentrated mouth which was nice.  The nose on this dark garnet colored wine is filled with raspberry, cranberry, plum, toasty oak, and coffee.  The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is concentrated and focused with raspberry, cranberry, plum, tight and spicy.  The mid palate is bracing with acidity, toasty oak, and still not yet integrated tannins.  The finish is long and toasty with coffee, red berry, spicy oak, vanilla, and spice.  I guess I will chalk this one up to bottle variation.

Monday Night Menu (Family)
Chicken soup with matzo balls (my Father-in-law was not feeling well)
Roasted chicken
Stuffed Vegetables (leftovers)
Carrot kugel (secret recipe) which I LOVE
Cranberry/Pineapple/Orange Relish
Fresh Salad

Wine Menu:
Leftovers of FG Chardonnay and Yarden Mount Hermon Red

Tuesday Day Menu (Friends and Family):
Baked Gefilte Fish Loaf
Eggplant salad
Guacamole
Stuffed Vegetables
Kielbasa Stew
Vegetable Chunks
Sweet and Sour Brisket
Fresh Green Salad

We normally go with one or at most two dishes, but this time things worked out better for us to make the Kielbasa Stew that we have had pretty good success with recently.  Our guests brought two bottles of wine and they were really great, and they went very well with the dishes we had on the menu.

Wine Menu:
2006 Yarden Chardonnay, Odem Organic Vineyard
– Score: A-
The nose on this light gold colored wine is hopping with ripe melon, fig, kiwi, apples, sweet oak, honeydew, and floral notes.  The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is toasty and spicy with oak, peach, melon, and apple.  The mid palate is bracing with core acidity, orange peel, spicy oak, and butter.  The finish is super long with butter, toasty oak, lemon, ripe melon, and good acidity.  Finally, the flavors of oak, butter, and lemony acidity linger forever on the palate after the wine is long gone.

2006 Domaine du Castel, Petit Castel – Score: A-
This wine starts off slow but explodes with a crazy rich nose and mouth as it airs out.  The nose on this dark purple to black colored wine explodes with a rich voluminous oak, rich dark chocolate, plum, jammy cassis, and blackberry.  The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is soft, supple, and rich with a full/velvety mouth from lovely soft tannins that still coat the mouth, along with ripe blackberry, cassis, chocolate, and black plum.  The mid palate is filled with oak, integrated tannins, and still good acid.  The finish is super long with chocolate, blackberry, oak, lovely tannins, rich/ripe plum on a bed of chocolate and tobacco.

Passover Seder Wines

This past week, saw us enjoying two wines that we brought, and two wines that others brought to our hosts homes.  Mine were not as good as the others brought, but good to try and drink.  We of course brought these wines to two Passover Seder for the four cups (arba kosos).  We decided this year to not host the passover seder, like we did last year, and so, we went to our friends for the two evening meals.

The notes for the wines we enjoyed can found below:

2004 Recanati Cabernet Franc – Score: B
The nose on this garnet colored wine has cranberry, raspberry, plum, oak, and mint. The mouth on this full bodied wine is still expressive with red fruit, crushed herbs, and a touch of mint. The mid palate is still bracing with acid, soft tannins, and oak. The finish is still strong with coffee, acid, red fruit, and oak. Drink UP, or use it for a nice cholent for the next few months.

2006 Tzuba Cabernet Sauvignon – Score: A-
The nose of this almost jet black colored wine is packed with rich and spicy oak, blackberry, cassis, raspberry, and spice.  The mouth on this full bodied wine is super concentrated and super extracted with blackberry, cassis, and oak extraction.  The mid palate is bracing with bright acidity, toasty oak, and still biting tannins, that will smooth out soon.  The finish is very long with bright acidity, toasty oak, and big black fruit.  A nice concentrated Cabernet that will evolve a bit still.

On the second night we enjoyed these wines…

2004 Domaine du Castel Petit Castel – Score: B+
The nose on this purple colored wine was crazy nice with blackberry, chocolate, sweet oak, bright berry, and pepper. The mouth on this very soft medium bodied wine was not as bracing and complex as I remember it to have been. The mouth is soft and almost tannic free, with nice black fruit, black berry and plum. The mid palate is soft and not bracing, with oak, and not much more. The finish is very nice with more black fruit, chocolate, and a bit of oak. Nice, but soft and ready to drink NOW!

2003 Yarden Merlot – Score: A- to A
The nose on this black colored wine screams with black cherry, raspberry, berry, crushed herbs, and rich and toasty oak.  The mouth on this massive full bodied wine is rich with concentrated black cherry, berry, and toasty oak.  The mid palate is acidic with rich oak, and integrating tannins.  The finish is long and rich, with more black fruit, oak, and green notes.  The wine is super fun, extracted, and rich.

Purim 2010 Wines

This past Purim my friends and I enjoyed a wonderful meal at the synagogue, along with a few wines that I brought along, and a couple of wines that were brought by some other congregants.  Some of the wines I tasted have notes, while others have just feelings or memories, sorry, this was Purim after all.  My friends still give me a hard time for the one time that I actually took notes on Purim.  To me, tasting wine is about friends, memories, along with a bit of a job.  To others, especially on Purim, it is about friends, memories, and a bit of a buzz.

Anyway, the wine notes follow below in the order that they were tasted:

Tzuba Port Style Wine – Score: A-
This is a wine that I brought back from my last trip to Israel, one that I bought during my visit to the Tzuba Winery.  The nose on this dark garnet to black colored wine shows rich loamy dirt, bright oxidation, rich spicy oak, ripe fig, blackberry, and spice.  The mouth on this full-bodied and mouth filling wine, starts with a concentrated attack of spicy oak, rich sweet and ripe blackberry, and fig.  The wine is layered and concentrated with ripe fruit and spicy oak, yes I repeated that because it is so nice.  The mid palate is filled with nice acidity, integrated yet still gripping tannins, and spice that flows into a lush loam and oak forest.  The finish is crazy long with rich chocolate, oak, mounds of spice, rich and ripe black fruit, and a lingering palate of oak extraction, spice, and more black fruit.  A nice bottle that can handle just about any sweet desert you throw at it.

2004 Four Gates Rishona (375 ml) – Score: A-
Well, we tasted the larger format of this bottle last week and this week we opened the 375 ml size, which was the originally released format.  We still loved it and it is still drinking really well, though the color throws you and the flavor is a bit dingy, the rest of the wines notes are exactly as the previous tasting, and listed here.  The color on this brown tinged/dark ruby colored wine, was hopping with chicken cherry cola, coffee, mature oak, fig, and raspberry.  The mouth on this intense and full-bodied wine was layered with bright black cherry, coffee, and oak.  The mid palate was bracing with bright acidity and oak.  The finish was long and tantalizing with more cherry, oak, and coffee, layered under a canopy of mature flavors.  This is clearly a wine that needs to be consumed now, but to some, this was one of the winners, which was shocking given the list of wines we enjoyed.

2006 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon Special Reserve, Napa Valley – Score: B/B+
The wine was OK, but it had a huge hole in the middle with almost no acidity to be found.  It was OK, but uni-dimensional with almost no fruit and a bit of oak.  Not fun.

2006 Baron Herzog Cabernet/Zinfandel/Syrah Special Reserve – Score: B++
Yummy, fruity, acidic, rich, with black fruit showing well from the Cabernet, while standing tall with enough oak and tannins from the Syrah.  Nice and one that is probably at or close to its peak.

2006 Hagafen Merlot, Napa Valley – Score: A-
I remember loving it that night for its classic Hagafen soft yet layered mouth feel, along with rich and ripe black fruit and chocolate.

2007 Barkan Classic Petite Sirah – Score: B/B+
This is a nice and lively wine with rich blackberry and smoke on the nose and mouth, along with a firm and structured mouth feel that allows the wine to stand up to meat and rich sauces.  A nice and simple wine that is enjoyable by all.

2007 Backsberg Pinotage – Score: B++
The nose on this bright purple colored wine is packed with loamy dirt, mineral, rich black cherry, mulberry fruit, spice, vanilla, oak, and pepper.  The mouth on this medium bodied wine is rich and spicy though not complex in nature, along with mulberry, Kirsch cherry, and a hint of strawberry.  The mid palate is bracing and almost tart with code acidity, nice soft yielding tannins, spice, and dirt.  The finish is long with layers of smoke and spice, along with red fruit, and a nice dollop of vanilla.  A nice wine for the price, quality, and its mevushal status.

2006 Rashi Select Barbera d’Alba – Score: B/B+
The nose on this wine moved from being bright and red to rich and chocolate.  Not a bad wine, but one that did not live up to my hopes for it.  The tannins were nice and helped to highlight the soft mouth, bright acidity, and red fruit.  With air the fruit disappeared, the mouth was still bright but turning fast, and the finish was packed with chocolate and vanilla.  I guess it is an OK wine, but drink up fast, and not  a wine worth its cost.

Tzuba Winery Visit and Wine Tasting

Ancient Wine Press at Tzuba WineryOn Friday in early August, my friend and I, drove around the winding roads of Route 3965 (Sderot Hahotsvim) up from Highway 1, past the Sataf junction, and on and up Route 395 to Kibbutz Tzuba.  At the entrance of the kibbutz, drive past the gate and take the second left and follow the sign to Yekev Tzuba.  The winery’s rectangular and unassuming building lies to the back of the kibbutz overlooking a bluff and an ancient wine press from the first millennium.  As you drive up to the building you can see the vineyards to the right and Tzora Winery’s vineyard to the north.

We met Paul Dobb – the head winemaker, at around 8AM in the morning, and we moved upstairs to the understated but quite lovely tasting room that overlooks the ancient wine press.  Paul said, he has plans to spruce up the winery with a deck and a tasting bar, which sounds nice, but I found the current setup quite enjoyable.  The winery is growing since we last visited them, and they are releasing new single varietals.  The first new varietal is the 2007 Pinot Noir.  A lovely French Burgundy look-alike with Israeli attitude.  Besides the new Pinot Noir, Tzuba is shipping some of their wines to the USA through Royal Wines (the largest importer of kosher wines).  Tzuba has sold all of last year’s wines except for their top of the line Metzuda series, which they are in no real rush to sell to distributors, because it is a wine that is just coming into its own, and has more life left in it.  So, the 2005 vintage of the Metzuda blend can be found both locally in the US and in Israel, while the rest of the lineup, which is long and impressive are only available locally in Israel. Read the rest of this entry

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