This morning Dina and I had some free time in Jerusalem and we were in the right part of town, so we stopped by to visit the Katamon Winery. We had never been there before, but we had heard about it from friends and seen a write-up in the paper, so we were very curious.
The winery is owned and operated by Avital Goldner, and is located in two store rooms in the apartment building where he lives. One of these rooms serves as the crushing and fermentation area. This room also has a desk where Avital practices his other profession as a Sofer (scribe). Barrels and bottles are stored in the other room which is underground and air conditioned.
Avital ferments his grapes at a relatively high temperature in order to extract maximum flavor, and ages the wines for one and a half to two years in new and once used oak barrels.
The first wine we tried was a 2007 Merlot from the barrel. This wine is far from ready but it already shows a lot of promise. After that we tasted a 2006 Merlot – Cabernet Franc blend that was medium bodied with well integrated tannins. We sampled this wine immediately after opening and found it a bit harsh, and then again some ten to fifteen minutes later when it had had a chance to breathe a bit. By that time it was much more drinkable, but clearly more time would have made a big difference. The crisp acidity of this wine also suggests that will continue to improve with age in the bottle.
Finally Avital opened a bottle of his Grand Vin, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc from the 2005 vintage. This wine is definitely drinkable now, but Avital intends to offer it for sale only from 2010. Even though we tasted the wine immediately after opening, we could tell right away that it was in a class of its own. This is a wine with many flavors and nuances, and we are looking forward to trying it again when it is officially released.
Avital asked if we’d be able to come back in a few hours so we could taste the wines again after they’d had time to breathe, but unfortunately Dina needed to get home to do some baking.
Katamon also makes a dry Riesling using Emerald Riesling (for body) and Rhine Riesling (for acidity) grapes. We weren’t able to taste this wine since Avital recommends having it well chilled and he didn’t have a cold bottle on hand, but we did buy one and plan to have it with our Shabbat dinner. Perhaps I’ll add a tasting note to this posting once we’ve tried it.
When I mentioned our Har Adar tastings, Avital was very interested, so we’re hoping to host him and his wines some time this season.