Yossi’s Wine Page

Wake Up!

If you have somehow missed the onset of spring in Israel, just have a look at the vineyards; they’ll tell you all about it.

A couple of weeks ago I went to the Salomon Winery’s annual pre-Pesach launch of their latest vintage (see notes following the pictures).  Along the way, I passed lots of vineyards and I noticed that they were in various states of awakening. Some were full of leaves and even showing flowers. On the other hand some vines had only a very few leaves and a few had  none at all. I even saw two adjacent vineyards, one looking very much alive and the other quite the opposite.

IMG_7089a Read more…

Sommelier 2014 – Part I

If I wait to post till I’ve written the entire posting, it may never see the light of day, so I’m posting in installments. This is Part I.

Sommelier is a two day trade fair at which wineries present their wares to distributors, wine merchants, restauranteurs, hoteliers, sommeliers, and the like. It is a major opportunity for wineries to get their products on shelves and wine lists. Sommelier is also open to wine journalists, and even wine bloggers like yours truly.

After a hiatus of several years the Sommelier Wine Fair was back where it belongs, at Tel Aviv’s Charles Bronfman Auditorium (what many people still call the Mann Auditorium).

Naively I thought if I went both days I’d manage to try most of the wines that interested me, and speak to most of the people I wanted to. And while I did manage to cover a lot of ground, and even though I skipped many wines that were already familiar to me, I still didn’t get anywhere near tasting and schmoozing as much as I’d intended.

This year there was something new – a vertical tasting of Margalit’s Cabernet Franc, including all the vintages from 2007 to 2011. Participation required registration in advance and there were limited places available, so I was quite fortunate to get one.

Margalit rarely participates in wine festivals, and they only open their winery to the public once a year during the weekends preceding Pesach. Even then, only the latest bottled vintage is available for tasting. The problem is that Margalit wines tend to be harsh and unapproachable when young, and I for one am hesitant to purchase an expensive wine now that I may or may not like in five years. Anyway, that’s why I was particularly pleased to participate in this Margalit tasting. Also, I do rather enjoy Cabernet Franc.

The Margalit tasting was presented by Oded Shoham, an independent winemaker in his own right (more about Oded’s wine later on). Oded started off by explaining that Margalit’s Cabernet Franc grapes come from their own vineyards in Binyamina and Kadita, and that the vines are neither irrigated or sprayed. The wines were not 100% varietal Cabernet Franc, with the blend varying from vintage to vintage (the 2011 contained 6% Cabernet Sauvignon and 3% Merlot). As with most Margalit wines, these Cab Francs were oak aged in a mix of new, once used, and twice used barrels (1/3 +1/3 + 1/3), except the 2009 vintage which didn’t see any new oak at all.

We started with the 2011, which was surprisingly approachable. When I tasted it at the winery last year, I found this wine to be distinctly bitter with harsh tannins. The extra ten months in the bottle had a dramatic effect; even though it’s clearly not anywhere near its prime the wine goes down much easier now, with medium+ body, and subtle notes of  green pepper.

The 2010 was a different story altogether; richer in aroma though surprisingly lighter in taste, less astringent, and with the beginning of a finish (can one say that?). Some of the difference is undoubtedly owing to the extra year in the bottle, but Oded said that the colder winter of 2009-2010 also influenced the character of the wine.

2009 was clearly a more mature, better integrated wine, with a stronger cabernet-ish aroma. The green pepper element was more subdued and the wine had a longer finish.

Skipping over the 2008 we proceeded to the 2007. Despite its age, the 2007 had a fresher character than the younger wines. Overall quite an elegant wine and extremely well balanced Cabernet Franc that was just a pleasure to drink. The 2007 was my hands down favorite.

Oded saved the 2008 for last due to its unique character. As soon as we had it in our glasses we could all detect the distinct barnyard smell of Brettanomyces. Some people like the complexity contributed by “Brett” and others not so much. I do know that there are winemakers who go to great lengths to get just the right amount of Brett in their wines. At Margalit I believe it is more hit or miss, with Brett showing up in the 2004 and 2008 Cabernet Francs. Oded and the winemakers at Margalit are pleased with the Brett influence, and while it certainly makes for a more interesting wine, I can’t say that it really appeals to me.

This is probably a good time to put in a plug for this year’s annual tasting at Margalit, which will take place during the weekends of March 28/29, April 4/5, and April 11/12 (see posting here).

Adjacent to Margalit I found Rami Bar-Maor with the latest offerings from his Bar-Maor Winery. Rami apprenticed at Margalit before opening his own winery so it’s rather fitting that they were situated in close proximity at Sommelier.

Bar-Maor is an estate winery using only their own grapes. According to the winery:  “Relying only on winter rains, with no irrigation … the roots of the vines having instinctively deepened further into the sub-soil locating water and natural nutrients highly beneficial to the creation of a vine with true expression and personality.” This is a true win-win situation, conserving water and improving the quality of the wine. On top of that, Rami uses only the free run juice for his wines, further enhancing the wine.

As I wanted to pace myself I tried only two Bar-Maor wines – Cabernet Franc varietal and a blend called Lilith, both of the recent 2012 vintage.

As expected, both wines were quite fruity and a bit lacking in depth, which is characteristic of young wines. Nevertheless, I found them both to be quite fruity. The Cabernet Franc was very enjoyable with good acidity to balance the fruit, and though a bit rough it had a lovely finish. In a year or two I expect it to be more balanced and subtle.

Lilith is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (83%) and Syrah. Despite it’s composition of two full-bodied varieties, I found the Lilith to be lighter in body than the Cabernet Franc, though this may change with time. The lighter body (at least for now) make Lility a good match for dishes like chicken and veal that can be overpowered by heavier wines.

Bar-Maor is also having tastings of their new wines during the same three weekends as Margalit March 28/29, April 4/5, and April 11/12 (see posting here). As the two wineries are located just a stone’s throw from one another, it’s quite convenient to visit them one after the other. Considering that Margalit’s and Bar-Maor’s wines are rather different in character, visiting both wineries on the same day will make for an interesting experience.

To be continued …

Margalit and Bar-Maor Wineries Launching 2012 Vintages

Starting today and running for three weekends the Margalit and Bar-Maor wineries are launching wines from their 2012 vintages.

Margalit logo

Bar-Maor logo

Both wineries will be be holding their tastings on March 28/29, April 4/5, and April 11/12. Margalit will be open 10:00 – 14:00 and Bar-Maor will be open 10:00- 15:00. Read more…

Festival Update

As promised, new and updated information about the Festival of Wine & Plenty.

Festival of Wine & Plenty 2014 Banner - English Read more…

Festival of Wine and Plenty at Ramat Hanadiv – April 9 & 10

Exciting happenings are afoot! Patience, I’ll get there shortly.

The part of the country I call the Rothschild Region, centered around Zikhron Ya’akov and Binyamina, is the heart of Israel’s modern wine industry. In the late 1800s the Baron Edmond de Rothschild (“The Benefactor”) began importing French rootstock to establish vineyards in this region, and in 1882 he founded Carmel Mizrachi, Israel’s first and largest winery.

If ever there was a place in Israel for a wine festival, this is it. Hundreds of dunams of vineyards, including some of Israel’s oldest and most established, produce over a dozen varieties of grapes in and around the towns and agricultural settlements founded by the Baron. Three of Israel’s largest and most important wineries (Carmel, Tishbi, and Binyamina) and countless boutique wineries are here.

Yet for some reason, there are wonderful wine festivals in the Judean Hills, in the Galil, in the Golan, in Tel-Aviv, in Jerusalem, but none here. Read more…

Reuven Winery – First Visit

This posting is soooo late; my day job is interfering with my avocation :( . My apologies to Ayala & Eilat.

During Hol Hamoed Sukkot I finally visited the Reuven Winery located in Givat Ada. Considering that the winery is just a few kilometers from home, this visit was long overdue.

In recent years many grape growers in the Zikron Ya’akov – Binyamina region have established their own boutique wineries. With control over almost everything but the weather, these growers can select the best grapes for their own use, giving them a leg up over others who must buy grapes. The Reuven Winery is a perfect example of this trend.

After making small quantities of wine for personal use and to share with friends, and with the encouragement of his wife Ayala, vintner Eilat Ben Moshe took a wine making course, and in 2006 the two of them opened the Reuven Winery.

Reuven is an estate winery with some 45 dunam of vineyards (Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan, Petit Verdot, and Muscat) that were planted by Eilat’s father, after whom the winery is named. Most of the grapes are sold to the Carmel winery, with about 3,000 bottles worth of hand picked grapes reserved for their own wines.

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Boutique Wine Festival at Azrieli Tel-Aviv

Reading the paper in the train on the way to work a couple of days ago, I saw this ad for a boutique wines festival being held this week at the Azrieli shopping center in Tel-Aviv. So I left work a bit early and hopped back on the train to go have a look.

Announcement - Boutique Wine Festival at Azrieli - 24-27 Feb 14

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Wine Jerusalem Kosher Wine Festival 2014 – Feb 19 & 20

Wine Jerusalem 2014 announcement

The third annual Wine Jerusalem Kosher wine festival will be held this Wednesday and Thursday (Feb 19 & 20) at Binyanei Hauma. Organized by the A. A. Pyup kosher wine shop in Jerusalem, Wine Jerusalem is Israel’s largest kosher wine festival, with some 40 wineries participating. Read more…

The Best of Both Worlds

According to my research, the terms Old World and New World (in connection with wine of course) originally referred to geographical regions, but they have come to include viticulture practices, winemaking methods and philosophies, and of course wine styles.

Being an ancient-modern country, it’s hardly surprising that both styles are represented aplenty here in Israel.

Last month I attended two wine events that to me characterized the different styles quite clearly. The first was the Saluté Wine Festival in Tel Aviv on October 3rd and the second was the 15th annual Judean Hills Wine Fair on October 24th.

Both events were held at picturesque locations – the former at the site of the Old Train Station (HaTachana) near the historic Neve Tzedek neighborhood in Tel Aviv, and the later at Mini Israel near Latroun – but the styles of the wines were, for the most part, rather different. Read more…

Chillag’s 2009 Primo Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon

On Friday morning, instead of making some progress with overdue projects around the house, I headed to the Chillag Winery for the release of two wines from their premium Primo series – Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2009 and Syrah Reserve 2009.

Anyone who has spent more than 30 seconds talking to me about wine in Israel knows that for me, it’s the people that make the wine scene in Israel so special. Chillag is a perfect example.
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