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Tzora Vineyards Winery and the latest releases

Tzora Winery 4

Well, I have finished all the KFWE posts, and my past personal wine tastings posts, and now it is time to get back to posting about wineries I visited on my last trip. To remind you, I came to Israel for Sommelier 2017, then flew to Paris and back the next morning for the Bokobsa tasting. Upon my return to Israel, I drove north for a day, before coming back to the Jerusalem area, and then flying home. I have already posted all the wineries I visited in Israel’s North. I also visited wineries in the Jerusalem area, including one of my absolute favorite kosher wineries in the world – Tzora Vineyards Winery. Why? Because Tzora (and Domaine Netofa Winery as well) are wineries that prove you can make GREAT old-world style wines in the new world of Israel! All that you really need to make great balanced and beautifully made wines is to care, and Tzora winery cares!

If there is a winery that gets terroir in Israel it would be Tzora. I wrote about the late founder, Ronnie James, who sadly passed away in 2008. He saw the power of terroir in Israel. He understood what vines to plant where and why! It was his passion and belief that great wines could be made in Israel, that continues to fuel Eran Pick MW (Master Of Wine), the head winemaker and General Manager of Tzora Vineyards and the rest of the winery, forward. I have had the honor to meet with Mr. Pick many times at the winery now, and each time it is always a joy to see how the winery continues to grow leaps and bounds above the rest of Israel’s date juice producing masses. For the few that can understand the quality and beauty of Tzora’s wines, there is a treasure to be reaped for sure! Here is a winery that cares, and does not sell out to the million bottle siren and the date juice wines that it demands.

It had not been long since I was last at Tzora Winery, but there were new wines to taste, the new Misty Hills and the new red Shoresh, as well. Mr. Pick was very kind to do the tasting with us, and he even had the winery put out these incredibly fragile and lovely wine glasses, from Zalto – just to make sure we were on our toes and very careful! The glasses were the first surprise, but the second one was the insane wine we tasted at the end of the tasting. It was a wine that is yet to be bottled but one that has already been pulled from the barrel, the 2015 Misty Hills. I swear that if I was tasting blind, I could have guessed it was a 2012 Saint Emilion. It was bone dry, old-world in the absolute real sense, and did not taste ripe or Israeli in any manner. We also got a blind taste test and sadly this time, I did not get it. The blind tasted wine was a glass of pure Petit Verdot, it was very ripe and somewhat unidimensional, but its color, depth, and tannin were really impressive. Eran allowed us to taste components of the Judean Hills Blanc 2016 and some of the 2016 Shoresh blanc as well, they both showed beautifully, but till those wines are complete and put in a bottle, I will hold my notes.

The best news (for me anyway) is that Skurnik Wines, who has been importing Tzora wines for many years now, has all of these wines in NYC! However, the even better news is that they will also be on the west coast very soon! Yes, can you believe it, someone finally listened to me, and Skurnik will have a West coast distribution setup, and ready to go by May 2017! Finally!

The wines are available from Gary at Taste Co – email him at: info@tastewineco.com or call at (212) 461-1708. Some of them are also available at kosherwine.com and skyviewwine.com.

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Lueria Winery and the latest releases

Lueria Winery Tasting Room.jpg

Well, I have finished all the KFWE posts, and my past personal wine tastings posts, and now it is time to get back to posting about wineries I visited on my last trip. To remind you, I came to Israel for Sommelier 2017, then flew to Paris and back the next morning for the Bokobsa tasting. Upon my return to Israel, I drove north for a day, before coming back to the Jerusalem area, and then flying home. I have already posted all the wineries I visited in Israel’s North, excepting for my visit with Gidi Sayada at the lovely new visitor tasting room of Lueria Winery. We tasted all the new releases and as always, it is a joy to sit down and taste wines with Gidi.

The wines that Gidi makes use the grapes that were planted by his father, Yosef Sayada some 22 years ago. The vines were planted on the hills surrounding Moshav Safsufa. Interestingly, Safsufa is an Aramaic word meaning – late ripening fruit. The burial place of the revered kabbalist Rav Yitzchak Luria, who was one of the foremost Kabbalist experts in his time, overlooks the vineyards. It is in his honor that the winery is called Lueria Winery.

Lueria Winery has been growing slowly but surely, going from a few thousand bottles in 2006 to more than 100K bottles in 2016. Most people would not think that Lueria Winery is pumping out that much wine, but since Gidi started making wine, after learning winemaking in Israel, and cutting his teeth with Tal Pelter of Pelter Winery (not kosher) and Matar Winery, it is clear to see that he has found his own way now. With the abundance of his father’s grapes to choose from, some 45 acres, comprising many classic varietals, like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, along with some more Mediterranean varietals, like Syrah, Sangiovese, Barbera, and Roussanne.

This winery, like many throughout Israel, is not afraid to make half of their wines – white wines. Why? Because contrary to the USA palate, Israelis have finally found the love for all things white and rose! Sadly, this year, Gidi did not make a rose. In its place, he started a new label, the 2016 Roussanne! Also, gone is the pure dry Gewurztraminer that we had a few years here and there. Now, he is making some dry Gewurztraminer and placing it into the lovely, Lueria White wine. The white varietals used in the winery are Gewurztraminer, Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, and Roussanne. There are very few wineries in Israel making Pinot Grigio, the ones I know of are Dalton (a five-minute drive from Lueria Winery), Lueria Winery, and Yarden Winery. Each wine is stylistically different from each other. The Dalton PG is all about acid and fruit and is light on the mineral. Shockingly, the Yarden PG is less about fruit and more a balance between the fruit and mineral. Finally, the Lueria Winery PG is smoky and mineral rich, with nice fruit as well. Get them all and then taste them in a blind tasting!

The red wine labels have been cleaned up, in both appearance and names. Now it is just two blends Rosso and Terrace at the first level, followed by two single varietal dominated wines, Shiraz, and Cabernet Sauvignon. With the Grand Vital being the flagship wine of the winery, which is a blend of the best barrels from each vintage. Its parts change each year but it’s mostly dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon, along with some Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Sometimes Syrah is added as well, but in the past many years that has not been the case. I think the streamlining and simplification of the labels, along with cleaning them up a bit as well, really makes for a lovely lineup of wines.

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Adir Winery – Latest releases

adir-winery-and-dairy-2I have been visiting Adir Winery for years now, and it finally dawned on me that I have not yet made a proper post on the winery. I did post about the winery in passing two times, here and here, but it was high time to take a little more time to talk about this winery and to post wines notes for the current releases.

This was my third winery that I visited on my trip to the north, on my last visit to Israel. I had already been Kishor in the early morning, followed by Matar by Pelter after that, and then on to Adir Winery after Matar.

Adir winery started long before it was a winery, long before they thought of a winery. It started with the Rosenberg and Ashkenazi families. The Rosenberg family came to Israel in the late 1940s, leaving war-torn Poland for a new life. The Ashkenazi family immigrated to Israel in the early 1950s from Turkey. Eventually, they both found themselves in the Upper Galilee, near Moshav Ben Zimra. The Rosenbergs started planting vines in the 1980s, and then again in the 1990s, essentially planting much of the vines on the now famous Kerem Ben Zimra slopes and plateaus. In the meantime, the Ashkenazi family raised the largest flock of goats in the north, producing milk and cheese.

In 2003, the families got together and built what to many did not seem obvious from the start, a dairy and a winery in one. The dairy serves lovely cheeses and ice cream to the masses that come to the winery, while the wine is served on the other side of the building.

The winery has three main lines of wines. The first is their Kerem Ben Zimra wines, which has Sauvignon Blanc, Shiraz, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Then there is the A wines, which are blends, and have a white and red. Finally, there is the Plato and now a 10th Anniversary wine.

As I was visiting this time, Adir is in the midst of its biggest ever expansion, moving from two large building to 3 even larger buildings. The current wine cellar will move to another building, while the current tasting room will expand into another building as well. It will all be state of the art, and from what I could see very cool, with audio and visual sensory technology, along with lots of space to serve more cheese and wine than before. Read the rest of this entry

Kishor Vineyards Winery – the latest 2015 and 2016 wines

Kishor Winery Tasting Room

I wrote about Kishor Winery a couple of times, when I saw them at Sommelier the last few years. I also wrote a more in-depth article about the winery here, last year. Well, since they did not come to this year’s Sommelier, it meant I had to go and see the winery again this year.

Last year I loved the 2014 Kishor Savant Red, but when we tasted this again late last year, it had turned hard. I asked to taste it again at the winery, and it had indeed become another wine, not the crazy old-world wine I adored last year.

Well this year, there are new releases, and many are quite nice, even if they were 2015 wines. As I have stated before, in my post on the Sommelier event, 2015 whites were and are a disaster. There were a few here and there, but the vast majority were horrible.

That said, I am finding that the 2015 reds are actually drinkable, at least some anyway. Sadly, the curse of Rose in Israel has continues into 2016, the crop of roses so far are B+ wines at best. However, the clear white grape of 2016 is Viognier – it is doing very well in all the wine regions of Israel.

I arrived early, really early, like 9AM early, and my many thanks to the team for meeting me at this early hour. As I stated on my Bokobsa post, I had just landed at 5AM, dropped my bags at my host, then I essentially drove directly to Kishor! So, it was early when I arrived, and it was great to taste some nice coffee and get down to tasting wine!

Yair Una, the winery’s marketing agent was there when I arrived, and he was VERY kind to call the winemaker, Richard Davies, to come from the fields to taste the wines with me. Richard Davies is one of those Vignobles of Israel. He makes the wines and he prunes the vineyards himself! He is one of those Renaissance guys you read about in the wine books!

davids-vineyard-outside-of-kishor-winery-tatsing-room

The winery has three labels. The Kerem Kishor wines (rose, white and red) are the first label. Next is the Kishor Winery label, which seems to only have Viognier, and finally the Savant label, which has the red blend. Read the rest of this entry

Domaine Netofa Winery – tasting the first batch of the new 2016 wines

Domaine netofa Winery Tatsing room 3

As I stated in my previous blog post, I was in Israel for a few days (and Paris for a few hours) and I made the most of all the days there, wine wise anyway. One of the places I had to go to again, was Netofa Winery. Yes, I was there at the end of last year, to taste the new 2014 Domaine Latour Netofa red, and it was a true joy to enjoy, and it made it to my top 25 wines of the year.

So, I made sure to come by again in 2017, to taste the new wines that will be released soon. The 2016 Domaine Netofa Rose, and the 2016 Domaine Netofa White were ready, but sadly the 2016 Domaine Netofa Red was not yet ready to taste. Thankfully, he also brought an early sample of the 2016 Latour Netofa Roussanne.

Yes, there are two new horses in the Netofa stable, Roussanne and Grenache!! The Grenache shows itself nicely in the new 2016 Rose, and I hope will allow the rose to stay alive longer than previous vintages. The Roussanne is a new wine, aged in oak, like the other Latour Netofa wines, and is made in the classic old-world Hermitage style. It was a very early sample, and I am sure it will change more with time. This sample needed two to three hours of air till it came around, so this one will be a doozy for sure, when it is finally released in July 2017, or so.

When I was in Paris at the Bokobsa tasting, they had the two new 2016 wines, the rose and the Netofa white, but I said no, I am tasting them with the chef himself (Mr. Pierre Miodownick) the next day, so I kindly bowed out and moved on to more French wines!

So indeed that is what I did, I tasted through all the 2014 French wines and then ran out the door to catch my plane back to the Holy land to spend time with the chef himself! I actually arrived on time again! Two times in a row, maybe I will make a habit of it going forward!

We enjoyed the new white, rose, and the epic Roussanne. I must be honest, at the start, the Roussanne was a bit too oaky. However, I have learned from being around wines in their incubation state, oak has a very interesting effect on wine. When you drop the wine in the barrel to start, it seems to soak up the oak like a drunk sailor (maybe a sponge would have been a better analogy). However, after some time, the oak stops being noticed as much as what the oak is doing for the wine. I am not a winemaker so I cannot talk to what the difference is, but I can feel that this wine was not in the soaking stage as much, and more in the maturation stage, but what do I know. After, an hour or more, the oak receded to the background and the wine’s rich and unique flavors really started to pop out. Gone was the oak and in was the rich straw, flowers, nuttiness, all melding with the oak’s inspired brioche and cobbler. Really unique. There will be no score on this wine, as it is not a final product, but it is unique to say the least, and please look for this when it is released in 6 months. Read the rest of this entry

Domaine Netofa Winery – when once is not enough

2011-2014-latour-netofa-white-2013-domaine-netofa-winery-red-2012-2013-2014-latour-netofa-red-2013-dor-syrah-2013-2014-tinto-2010-lbv-2012-ruby-port

In late November, 2016, I asked Pierre Miodownick if I could come by the winery to taste his new 2014 Latour Netofa red, and he was very kind to let me come by again. I normally visit Netofa Winery once a year in February, and I taste the new wines of that vintage. This time, there was no 2015 vintage, yet I came anyway to taste the new 2014 Latour White, and re-taste some older wines, in early 2016.

When I arrived – Mr. Miodownick was there and we tasted through many of his wines again. I must say, that netofa reds and whites age so well, like classic French wines. I have posted often about Netofa Winery in the past four years, and I think it is one of the top 5 wineries in Israel, when you look at its quality, price, and the fact that they rarely to ever have duds. Add in the fact, that they make great old world wines in a New world climate, for both the reds and whites, and you quickly understand why they are in my top 5 of Israeli kosher wineries.

This time we once again tasted some lovely older wines, side-by-side some newer ones and once again I was blown away from how old-world the wines tasted. Mr. Miodownick really has it down pat by now, and as the vines grow older and get more in tune with their environment, the wines will only get better and better.

In case you missed it, I made the 2014 Domaine Latour Netofa red one of my top 25 wines of the year.

My many thanks to Mr. Miodownick and the winery for letting me come by and enjoy the wines with him! My wine notes follow below:

 

2011 Domaine Netofa Latour White  – Score: A-
WOW what a nose! This wine is also 100% Chenin Blanc, but was aged in French oak for 7 months. The nose on this lovely wine is stunning, with rich smoke, flint, green notes, with intense straw, and hay, really lovely floral notes of cassia, and ripe apple but dried fruit as well, lovely. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is rich and viscous, with ripe but dried tart fruit of green apple and quince, with beautiful brioche and straw, along with beautiful mineral, Asian pear, with saline and herb, WOW. The finish is long and buttery with great viscosity, but perfectly balanced with lively acidity, butterscotch, caramel, and lemon, lovely. BRAVO!!

2014 Domaine Netofa Latour White (QPR) – Score: A- to A
So the previous vintages of this wine were medium bodied but this one was full and layered and viscous – impressive! As I said before, these wines are improving and changing as the vines have more age under their belts! WOW what a nose! This wine is also 100% Chenin Blanc, and was aged in French oak for 7 months.
The nose on this wine is equally redolent with notes that are far more Sauvignon Blanc in style than the lees driven funk that I have come to find in this lovely wine, however, it does show the lovely straw, dry grass, mad honey, peach, honeysuckle, and more mineral. While this mouth is full-bodied as the 2013 vintage, it has even more acid, more focus, with dried quince, quince, all balanced well with grapefruit focused citrus, an overall impressive mouthfeel, viscous, tart, bright, with balance of oak influenced notes. The finish is long with saline, hints of bricohe that will show later in the aging process, and honeysuckle! BRAVO! Read the rest of this entry

Assorted wines I enjoyed over the past few weeks

Well, I hope I get into the flow of weekly posts, or even more often. For now, I am behind on wine posts from Yom Tov and other get-togethers. So, here is a list of wines I have recently tasted. Some I enjoyed and well, some not. There are a few shmita wines here, so be careful, as always I highlight them as shmita of course.

2007 Elvi Utiel-Requena Makor – Score: A- (Crazy QPR)
This wine is a blend of 85% Bobal and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. The nose on this wine is rich with lovely umami, soy sauce, ripe plum, rich earth, loam, mushroom, raspberry, and black cherry. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is rich and impressively structured for such an old wine, showing really nice acidity, still integrated tannin, with an inky mouthfeel of velvet and texture with crazy mushroom, earth, barnyard, dark concentrated fruit, blackberry, ripe fruit, perfectly balanced with ripe currant, dark red forest berry, and green notes. The finish is long and tart with more dirt, and barnyard, showing still gripping tannin, and nice ripe and rich fruit. The oak does not show strongly in the mouth but it’s influence is felt nicely. BRAVO!!

2014 Louis Blanc Crozes Hermitage – Score: A- (Good QPR)
This is a lovely black fruit Syrah, with hints of blue fruit in the background. The nose on this wine is lovely, with roasted meat, rich licorice, with blueberry notes in the background, along with earth, loam, mineral, and spice galore! The mouth on this medium bodied wine is balanced and well-focused, with a mineral core, followed by sweet boysenberry that comes alive with time, followed by blackberry, spiced plum, and rich loam, that is wrapped in spicy oak, rich mouth coating tannin, and fig. The finish is long and spicy, with leather, chocolate, lovely charcoal, and bitter almond notes that give the wine its edge. The sweet fruit shows quickly and really is a nice wine, I hope it turns more French with time. It is ready now and will be at peak in two years. Drink till 2021.

2015 Psagot 7 Shmita Red – Score: B to B+ (shmita wine)
This is a blend of all the varietals that Psagot bought/used for the Shmita year of 2015. The white shmita blend was really nice, while this was good enough. It is very green.
The nose on this wine is cranberry, cherry, and asparagus salad. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is nice, but nothing spectacular, other than the very impressive mouth coating tannin. Other than that, it feels like a second label French wine, with lots of press juice, very harsh and not balanced, with black and red fruit. The finish is long and green, with good acid, and mounds of herb and foliage.

2015 Psagot 7 Shmita White – B+ to A-
This is one of the nicer Shmita white wines, it is a blend of all the white varietals that Psagot has under control. The nose is redolent with Mango, lychee, floral notes, honeysuckle, and lovely bright citrus notes. The mouth is medium bodied with good acid, nice balance, all wrapped in straw, cut grass, mint, green notes, with lovely grapefruit, peach, and pineapple. The finish is long with nice acid, mineral, and spice. Nice!! Read the rest of this entry

Domaine Netofa Winery – a world-class shmita observant winery

If you have never heard of Shmita – I doubt you live in Israel. Last year, like many past Shmita years, was very complex for haredi Jews in Israel, as they were not allowed to consume fruits from Israel. Every 7 years, the land needs to lie fallow, and in doing so farmers are without income for the year. The Torah describes that when the Jews are following the laws and abiding by his commands, God will give double or more in the 6th year for the 7th year and the 8th – till food is once again harvested.

Nowadays, that promise is not working, so what happens to the farmers that still want to leave their land fallow? Well, the Israeli government supported some, while other organizations from around the world collected funds to support these courageous farmers. Once such organization; Keren Hashviis, collected some 22+ million dollars. According to this article from vosizneias, Keren Hashviis said that in total 33,000 hectares of land, or 81,500 acres, were left fallow this shmita year, and some 3,500 farmers ceased their work. However, according to the ministries of Agriculture and Religious Services, approximately 200 farms totally ceased agricultural work during the shmita year, or made use of another alternative, while 4,656 farms signed up to the heter mechira system. The article goes on to explain the discrepancy – but what is very clear to me is that this past year was one of the more concerted efforts by Israel and its religious Haredi Jews to move Israel towards truly leaving its lands fallow.

A vineyard in the Galilee that is observing shmitta

In terms of kosher wineries, there were not many that followed the Shmita concept to its fullest. Interestingly, Vitkin Winery chose 2015 to turn kosher – now that is not an easy plan to work out, though to Vitkin, like many wineries in Israel nothing changed for them by going kosher, and whomever was buying their wines before would not know or care that they were now kosher! Read the rest of this entry

My top kosher 25 wines of 2015

wall of wineWell, I have posted my year in review, and now I wanted to get to my top wines for 2015. Please beware that I know I missed many wines and that this list does not include wines that I have tasted that are not available on the open market – like older Covenant Wines and the sort.

I wanted to make this post short and sweet – so the criteria are simple I could care less about price, color, or where it was made. All that matters is that it is/was available this year sometime to the public at large and that I tasted it in a reliable environment, not just at a tasting, and that it was scored an A- or higher. Anything less would not be on my list.

On an aside, there continues to be a whole mess of madness around wines notes and scores, even the Jewish Week weighed in on the matter. So, let me explain this really simply – go look at some of my recent blog posts – they talk about some nice enough wines, but wines I would not specifically buy. They have all the nice words and such, which were all true and to the point. But without the final value score, I can tell you a Cabernet is full bodied with good fruit and spice – and you may say cool I want that – but then I would say well, yeah but it was not complex or layered. You could try to reason that out of the words I wrote, because the words complex and layered are missing. However, the simple fact that it was scored a B+ or whatever, would have told you that it is not always a wine worth going after (unless it is the Terrenal or such where it gets a QPR moniker).

My point being that wine notes – without a proper context (AKA a real score) – is like looking at a wedding hall through a slit in the window. Sure you can “see” the hall, but are you really sure you want to get married there? I never scored wines to tell people to listen to my score. I score wines to set the context and to always read the notes to see if that sort of wine works for you!

OK, enough of the darn score rant for the day, back to the matters at hand, being wines of the year. The list is long – get over it. It is a list of wines that I would buy, have bought, and will buy again – simple enough I hope. I did not differentiate by another other criteria or aspect – if it was solid (A- or higher) it made the list. I hope you enjoy!

2013 Elvi Wines Clos Mesorah – Score: A- to A
This is the flagship wine of Elvi Wines (though the Herenza Reserva may have a word to say about that) and it is a blend of 50% Carignan, 30% Grenache, and 20% Syrah. Elvi Wines makes 7K of these bottles. The wine was sourced from vines that are 20 to 100 years of age. The nose on this wine is insane and intoxicating with aromas of watermelon, root beer, ripe boysenberry, blueberry, along with chocolate and black fruit. The mouth on this full bodied wine hits you with layers of concentrated fruit, with an attack of blue and black fruit, balanced perfectly, showing great elegance, along with mad mineral, graphite, slate, rich and freshly tilled earth, along with deeply concentrated black fruit. The wine is the perfect example of elegance and balance with ripe fruit that flows into a plush mouth made from mouth coating tannin and rich fruit structure. This is truly a wine speaks for itself. The finish is long and intense, showing rich roasted animal, lovely mushroom, and floral notes. With time, the wine shows mad barnyard, mushroom, and even more loamy dirt. Bravo!!!

2010 Elvi Wines Herenza Rioja Reserva – Score: A- to A
There are only 4K of these bottles made and each one is a true gift! The wine is closed and slow to open, but with time and a fair amount of decanting, the nose shows of mad soy sauce (like the 2009 Herenza Reserva), chocolate, richly tilled earth, loam, along with crazy mushroom and mad mineral. This wine is the epitome of umami, showing intense layers of umami with white summer fruit, cranberry, craisins, blackberry, pomegranate, and tart cherry in the background with mounds of earth. The finish is intensely long and dirt filled, with  dark chocolate, licorice, blueberry and red fruit. BRAVO!!!!

2012 Chateau Haut Condisas, Medoc – Score: A- (and much more)
The 2011 was very nice, but the 2012 a slight step up. The nose on this wine is rich and redolent with lovely dirt, dark black fruit, barnyard, earth, and mushroom. The mouth on this full bodied wine is rich, ripe, and in your face with nice chocolate, mad toast, mouth drying tannin, all wrapped in crazy acid, but bigger and riper than the 2011, almost Israeli in nature, but classically French controlled, with blackberry, raspberry, plum, with mineral and graphite. The finish is long and dirty, with hits of herb, along with layers of concentrated fruit, more mad mineral/earth/dirt/mushroom with dried raspberry, and rich garrigue. WOW! BRAVO!

2010 Chateau Fourcas Dupre, Listric – Medoc – Score: A- (and more) (CRAZY QPR)
This wine is on the list for its insane value and its goto ability above all wines from France for the price! The 2010 was a nice wine – but the 2012 is even better! The nose on this wine is lovely with rich dirt, cherry, crazy tart and juicy raspberry, followed by more dirt and mineral galore. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is lovely and still young but give it time, the acid is impressive along with nice spice, mouth coating tannin that is gripping along with lovely blackberry, cassis in the background, along with crazy mushroom, and layers of fruit and earth and forest floor that come at you and do not give up. The finish is long, with insane acid and more mouth drying tannin, more earth, dirt, tart lingering fruit, and lovely mineral/graphite. The fruit and mineral lingers long – BRAVO!!!! Read the rest of this entry

Netofa Winery – the Rhone Ranger of Israel

I have previously posted about our tasting and dinner last year with Pierre Miodownick and the Netofa Winery. They are two entities that are deeply intertwined with each other essentially Netofa is Pierre. The humorous aspect is that when I think of Pierre, I think of France, Bordeaux, Champagne, maybe Burgundy, but I do not think about Rhone! According to GG, Pierre did make a Rhone wine in the past, a Crozes-Hermitage, but I never tasted it. In a special way, Netofa is Pierre’s entry, on a large scale, into the Rhone and Iberian wine regions of the world, and like most things he makes, they are fantastic!

Once again, it was GG and I making our way to Pierre’s house for a tasting of all the new Netofa wines and to see his beautiful new tasting room that was recently constructed. The wines are still being made at Or Haganuz, all done by Pierre himself. The tasting room however, is located in the same area as he lives, and it was an easy drive from the tasting room to his house for dinner and a chance to drink the wines at our leisure.

We made our way to the new tasting room in Netofa and after parking, we walked up the long set of semi-circles stairs to the tasting room. The door to the room is a massive sliding door of vertical planks, very akin to a barn, but in a lovely and tasteful manner. The room is beautifully appointed and upholstered with wine bottles all over the two walls. The other walls are the sliding door entrance and the glass wall with a door to the storage room.

The middle of the room is dominated by this massive squared- off horseshoe shaped table, with a lovely leather appointed chair in the middle. Pierre was very kind to have setup the tasting of all the new and some older wines with glasses all setup for us for the 4 types of wine we were going to be tasting; rose, white, red, and port. Really he had 6 glasses setup for us, but I use 1 glass for all my tastings unless it was the side-by-side tastings we had of the new and previous vintages.

When you look at Netofa’s wines, you have to wonder – why is a French Bordeaux expert making Rhone wines? So, being myself, I asked him. Mr. Miodownick explained quite simply that what he felt grew best near Mount Tabor, where his vineyards are, was Rhone varietals. Now, to be honest the winery has more than just Rhone varietals, it has Chenin Blanc and Iberian grapes as well. Still, the red wines are all Rhone varietals, ignoring the Tempranillo and Touriga Nacional that go into the Tinto and the ports. So, I guess my naming Pierre a Rhone Ranger is a bit off-kilter, given the diversity of his varietals. Maybe, Mediterranean Terroir would have been better, but that did not sound as good as Rhone Ranger!

Now, I did not come up with Rhone Ranger of course, that was done by the founding members of the association in 1980. The most famous of them may be Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon Vineyard. Still, the kosher wine world is finding that Rhone varietals work well in warm climates. Look at Elvi Wines and Capcanes – they both grow a fair amount of Rhine varietals, with different names. Grenache becomes Grenacha and so on. In California, you do not need to look further than Hajdu and Shirah wineries, where their wine portfolios are predominately made up of Rhone varietals. Still, Mr. Miodownick does grow grapes that originated from the Loire Valley and from Portugal, so the Rhone Ranger moniker may be a bit stretched, but I do love those SM wines! The white wines are all Chenin Blanc – a very unique wine for Israel, as the wine’s character is less about tart and refreshing fruit; but rather a younger brother of the Chardonnay grape, meaning it has elegance, power, and yet it also has that Rhone style straw and earth and dirt that we all crave.

The red grapes are Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Tempranillo (an Iberian varietal), Touriga Nacional (native to Portugal), and there are hints of Grenache lurking!!! The whites are the afore mentioned Chenin Blanc and Roussanne. I would love to taste Grenache Blanc or Viognier from Pierre – but so far that is not in the books. But you cannot blame a Viognier lover for trying! The Roussanne and Grenache are two newly planted vines, so they will not become available till 2017.

As we looked at the glasses in front of us, on the squared-off table, I could not help but stare at the bottles standing on the mirrored walls, and the glass that surrounded us. Yes, each bottle is standing up and resting on a curved platform that is mounted to the wall. It is quite a sight; behind the mounts and the bottles is a wall of moire mirrors that were custom built for the winery. The mirrors affect is to not really reflect as much as give make the room feel bigger and cozier, which they clearly got correct! The mirrored walls add an immense amount of class to the already classically elegant room. The wall of standing wines are also in a squared off horseshoe shape, and in the center is a wine dispensing machine that filled the bottles with innate gas as the wine is dispensed.  This allows the wines in the machine to essentially never oxidize while they continue to dispense wine, until of course the bottle is empty or the innate gas empties out – the latter is not recommended! Behind the table is a wall of bottles in cubbyholes, very akin to a wine cellar, stretching the entire length of the tasting room. The wine wall makes the room feel like you are in a cellar and again, like the mirrored walls, really looks cool!! Read the rest of this entry

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