Yossi’s Wine Page

Archive for the month “November, 2011”

17 Nov 2011 – Kadma Winery’s Grand Opening

There is something special and unique about each winery, especially the small ones. The people, the place, the process. For the Kadma Winery, it’s all of the above, but most particularly the latter.

Kadma is located in Kfar Uriya, where the wine making tradition dates back to biblical times, as evidenced by the ancient stone hewn crushing floors and wine storage pools that can still be seen throughout the area. When they decided to establish their winery, winemaker Lina Slutzkin and her extremely supportive husband Vlad wanted to include ancient wine making elements in the process. From her childhood in Soviet Georgia (Gruzia) Lina remembered local wines being made in huge clay vessels, and she decided to look into it. I won’t go into the whole story, but the bottom line is that Lina and Vlad decided to use these kinds of vessels, they call them earthenware tuns, for their winery. Acquiring the tuns was no mean undertaking, as such vessels are only made in Georgia, and only by a very few people.

Kadma held their festive grand opening last Thursday evening and I was privileged to be invited. While Lina greeted and chatted with guests, Vlad gave tours of the winery and described the production process of both the tuns and Kadma’s wines.

After crushing, the grapes and juice go into the tuns where the fermenting takes place. The inside of the tuns are coated with beeswax, which minimizes seepage, and which also helps keep the wine fresh due to its antibacterial properties. Curiously, and fortunately, the beeswax does not inhibit the activity of the yeast.

After the tour, there was a screening of a movie all about the winery, followed by a few words of thanks by Lina to everyone who helped with the design and construction of the winery, and with the winemaking process. When planning the winery, Lina and Vlad put emphasis on making it ecco-friendly. The roof is covered with solar panels that produce more electricity than the winery uses. In addition, the walls are well insulated, the exposures minimize heat buildup inside, and climbing vines cover the southern walls to shade them from the sun.

Also to speak were Dr. Arkadi Papikian who provided consulting services and support throughout the winemaking process, and Moshe Dadon, mayor of the Matte Yehuda Regional Council.

The 2010 vintage is Kadma’s first, and there are three wines: a varietal Sangiovese, a varietal Cabernet Sauvignon, and a sweet desert wine made from Sangiovese and Petit Verdot. All of the grapes are from vineyards in the north, though I do believe Kadma plans to use their own grapes once the vines they planted are sufficiently mature.

Of the three, I enjoyed the Sangiovese the most. I don’t know if fermentation in the earthenware tuns has anything to do with it, but this wine tastes significantly more mature and integrated than I would expect from such a recent vintage. On the other hand, the color and flavor of the Cabernet Sauvignion attest to its youth and while it is certainly approachable now, I suspect I will enjoy it more in a year or so. The desert wine was very flavorful, but as with most such wines, too sweet for my taste.

At the “bar” Vlad was pouring shots of his grappa (or grape vodka as he calls it), made by distilling the grape skins after fermentation. At 45% alcohol, the grappa is powerful, but much smoother than the proof would suggest. This grappa goes down very easy, and I admit that I had more than one shot.

In addition to the information on their website, there is an interesting article about the Kadma winery (in Hebrew), as well as a youtube clip  of a TV interview with Lina (also in Hebrew).

Kadma is open to the public on Fridays and Saturdays and I strongly recommend paying them a visit. As with all small wineries, please call in advance.

Kadma Winery

8 Nov 11 – Sommelier 2011

Too many wine events all at once.

The Judean Hills Wineries Fair on Thursday night, the Wineries Run on Friday morning, and Sommelier this week. It wouldn’t be so “bad” if I didn’t have to go to work along the way. And to top it off I’m fighting a cold. Well it’s a tough job but someone’s got to do it.

So yesterday I left work (Herzlia) shortly after 15:00 expecting to get to the Nokia Stadium, where the Sommelier event was held this year, in about 20 minutes. Just my luck that the Ayalon was backed up most of the way, and it took me much longer to get there. At least parking wasn’t a problem.

Inside, a number of wineries’ tables were set up around the perimeter of the stadium floor, with quite a few more spread around the mezzanine area.

As usual, I tried to skip wines and wineries that I know, and as usual I failed. After the first few tables, most of which had quite good, but in my opinion overpriced wines, I fully intended to skip the Saslove table. But then I saw that Roni was there, and it would have been rude not to stop and chat. Roni went off to Australia to study winemaking a number of years ago, and now she and her father Barry are Saslove’s winemaking team. In particular, I wanted to talk  to Roni about an idea I have for another wine shirt, as I understand she has some friends who might be able to help me with the graphics.

I also planned to skip the Gush Etzion table, but there were tastings of their outstanding Cabernet Franc, and I couldn’t resist. Asaf Rosenberg, son of owners Shraga and Tamar, asked me to stay a while as I was singing the praises of the Cabernet Franc to anyone who was willing to listen.

Gush Etzion was the last table on the stadium floor, so I headed up to the mezzanine where I found the Tepperberg table and winemaker Olivier. I had not met Olivier before, but we spoke on the phone last week when I called to ask where I’d be able to taste their Malbec, about which I’d heard so much. Olivier told me I’d be able to try it at Sommelier, so I made that a priority. Looking over my notes now I see that I failed to record my impressions for this wine, but I do remember that it was quite different from the few Argentinian Malbecs that I’ve had, being a good bit lighter in body. For me this is a good warm weather red, of which I have not found too many that I like. I also ran into Tepperberg’s chief winemaker Shiki, so of course I asked him when they’ll be opening their new visitor’s center across from Kibbutz Tzora. He told me it would be another two years. I wonder why it’s taking so long.

And then I reached the Barkan table. Normally I wouldn’t stop at Barkan as I am familiar with many of their wines and I was trying to pace myself. But then I saw that Ed Salzberg was there and I had to stop. Ed is the chief winemaker at Barkan, but I met him back in the late 1980s when he was the winemaker at the Tishbi Winery (when it was still called Baron Winery). I have not seen Ed in well over ten years and we took a few minutes (turned into more like half an hour) to catch up. Ed introduced me to Barkan’s new Assemblage line of blends. These wines are priced somewhere between Barkan’s Reserve and Altitude series. Of the three, my favorite was the Reichan 2009, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Merlot. The most interesting of the series is called Tsafit, and it is a blend of Marselan (which the internet tells me is a cross between Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache), Caladoc (a cross between Grenache and Malbec), Carignan, and Pinotage. I think it’s great that Barkan is experimenting with new-to-Israel grape varieties, and I am looking forward to more new and interesting wines in the coming years.

After a few other minor stops I made it to Chillag to be greeted by Orna Chillag and her winemaking sidekick Yariv. I have tasted Chillag’s wines both at the winery and at the Israel Museum’s wine festival this summer, and I thought I had tried all of their offerings. I was wrong. At Sommelier, Chillag was offering tastings of a Carignan that I’d never seen or heard of before. With the exception of a wine still in barrels, this Carignan immediately became my favorite Chillag wine. Full bodied, complex, soft tanins, long finish … just perfect. I have no idea how much it costs, but I must get some.

Then just when I was thinking that I had really had enough and it was about time to start heading home, I came across the Ramot Naftaly table and owner/winemaker Yitzhak Cohen. My friend Steve and I were in Ramot Naftaly in August (visit described in the posting I never wrote), where we visited the 3 Vines and Na’aman wineries.  We did want to visit the Ramot Naftaly winery too, but they were closed that day so I was especially pleased to find them at Sommelier. Having more or less reached my limit by that time, I tasted only two of Ramot Naftali’s wines, their Malbec 2008 and Petit Verdot 2009. I won’t go into much detail, just suffice it to say that these wines are absolutely fantastic, and far superior, in my opinion, to many wines costing much more. At NIS 120, these are still above the NIS 100 limit that I try not to exceed too often, but I tasted quite a few wines last night that were more expensive and nowhere near as good. If you’re anywhere in the area it’s worth going out of your way to visit the wineries in Ramot Naftali; they are all good and the winemakers are all very friendly.

Next to Ramot Naftaly, was the Na’aman Winery and owner/winemaker Rami Na’aman. From the names of his wines – Pink Floyd (rose), King Crimson (Cab-Merlot), and Deep Purple (Cab-Merlot-Cab Franc), it’s not too hard to guess Rami’s musical taste. Having tasted Na’aman’s wines at the winery, I didn’t try any at Sommelier, but I can tell you that Rami also makes an excellent Petit Verdot, of which I bought a bottle in the summer. Apparently the climate in Israel agrees with the Petit Verdot grape, because there are a number of excellent Petit Verdot varietals here from both the Judean Hills and Golan Heights regions. I have seen Petit Verdot from other areas as well but have not tried them.

That’s it. There were lots of wineries and wines that I didn’t mention, like the port style wine from the Har Bracha (Mount Blessing) Winery, which was made from grapes harvested at 35 brix! I didn’t know the sugar content could get so high.

As I was leaving I saw that Clos de Gat had a table hidden away up some stairs, but there was an announcement over the PA system that the event was closing and asking everyone to leave. I have been wanting to try Clos de Gat’s wines for a long time, but I guess I’ll have to wait a bit longer.

So after spending over five hours at Sommelier (I have no idea where the time went) I can offer the following advice: If you have a cold, and if you are a wine enthusiast, just go to a wine event like Sommelier, and you’ll forget all about your cold. At least I did.

And to top it off, I discovered four new wineries (Dadah, Sassy, Shamayim, and Shoshana) which I will soon be adding to my wineries map.

On the way out, I passed the Saslove table again and “complained” to Roni that there was too much wine. “No such thing” she said, and I realized that she was right. There isn’t too much wine, there just isn’t enough time!

4 Nov 11 – 3rd Annual Judean Hills Wineries Run

I’m not a runner. Really.

As a kid I was quite asthmatic; I couldn’t exert myself very long without wheezing and losing my breath, so I didn’t much like sports and I almost never ran.

But this was a wineries run and I wanted the shirt.

About a year ago, Dina & I started on an LCHF regime, significantly lowering the carbohydrates in our diets and increasing natural saturated fats. This is a rather controversial practice, but it is gaining popularity, and you can’t argue with the results. We both lost a bunch of belly fat and started feeling more energetic without ever being hungry.

With all the extra energy, we decided to start doing some jogging. Actually, Dina decided to start doing some jogging, and good sport and loving supportive husband that I am, I agreed to go along. The more we did it, the more Dina enjoyed it and the less I did. Never mind.

Recently I worked my way up to about 5 km (while Dina stayed home working on her LCHF blog), so I figured why not do the 5k wineries run, and I signed up.

Friday morning I managed to get up early, even though I had been at the wineries fair the night before (see previous posting), and we drove to the kickoff point by Kibbutz Nachshon.

First I went to the signup table and got my number and shirt. I actually thought about leaving then since I already had the shirt, but that wouldn’t have been very honorable.

After we waited around for a while and did some stretching, Moshe Dadon, the head of the Matte Yehuda Regional Council, said a few inspiring words followed by a toast with Nachson’s triple vintage Syrah (see yesterday’s posting). Then the 265 participants in the 18k run gathered at the starting line; the horn sounded and they were off.

Ten minutes later it was our turn. The horn sounded again and we 5k runners (there were just 49 of us) followed in the wake of the 18k’ers.

You may recall that there was quite a downpour on Thursday night. Consequently there some very muddy spots along the way. Not that I mind mud, but this was the thick gooey kind and the buildup easily added up to a kg to each shoe (at least it felt that way) until I managed to scrape most of it off. There were also several large and deep puddles on the route, and we had to detour through some heavy rushes to get around them. A machete would have been handy.

I’m not really complaining. It was fun (kind of), though it was harder than I expected and I had to stop to walk a bit a few times (I wasn’t the only one), before I could get my legs working properly again.

Bottom line is that I managed to finish, and not in too shabby a position either. I was 24th out of 49 overall, and 11th out of 15 adult men (many were a good bit my junior).

Guess I’ll have to train better before next year’s run.

3 Nov 2011 – 13th Annual Judean Hills Wineries Fair

The 13th annual Judean Hills Wineries Festival opened on Thursday night with the traditional wineries fair. Last year the fair moved from its long time outdoor venue at Ein Hemed to the Leilot Canaan tent at Kibbutz Tzorah. Good thing too, because an hour or so after the event began, the skies opened up. The noise of the amazing downpour was quite loud, and it was quickly augmented by applause for the much needed rain. We are all hoping that this is an omen of a very wet rainy season ahead.

24 of the Judean Hills wineries were in attendance, and I sampled the offerings of about 12 of them. I intentionally limited myself this time since I wanted to get enough sleep, and not imbibe too much alcohol, before the Judean Hills Wineries Run in which I planned to participate the next morning (see next posting). Still, I tasted 20 or so wines, though I did spit out more than usual.

As with last year’s event, the wineries were set up at tables around the perimiter of the tent, and there were small tables with bar stools and comfortable chairs spread around the center. There was also a very pleasant jazz band playing not too loudly throughout. All in all a very enjoyable and relaxing atmosphere.

Many of the wines were as I expected, but there were some very pleasant surprises, starting with Nachshon’s Pushkin, which is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Shiraz. Aged in oak for half a year, this wine is quite dry with not too much fruit, medium to full bodied, and has a surprisingly long finish. At just over NIS 50, this is a wine I will probably acquire when there’s room on the shelf.

Nachshon also had a very interesting triple vintage Shiraz, blending 2005, 2006, and 2007 vintages in a single wine. Apparently this had something to with renovations at the winery that prevented earlier bottling of the older vintages. Be that as it may, this is a marvelous full bodied shiraz with lots of flavors and a long peppery finish. The bottle hadn’t been open long when I tasted the wine, so I expect it would have opened up and been even better had it been given sufficient time to breathe.

The Nevo winery is a relative newcomer to the Judean Hills Wineries Club, but the winery and owner/winemaker Nevo Chazan already have a reputation for producing high quality wine. Located on Moshav Mata, Nevo has access to grapes from the Mata vineyards, which are some of the best in the area. Specifically, Mata is known for its outstanding Petit Verdot, so it’s no surprise that the wines currently available from Nevo are both Petit Verdot blends. Tonight Nevo was offering a 2009 Petit Verdot – Merlot blend (60/40) called Tura. For a wine so young, it was very mouth filling and I enjoyed it very much.

At Seahorse I was greeted by owner/winemaker Ze’ev Dunie, with the wonderful news that he has started making his Zinfandel based Take Two wine again, and that it should be ready by Pesach. In the past, the Zinfandel was blended with Petite Sirah and Carignan, and the result was one of my very favorite wines. Needless to say I was just a bit disappointed when Ze’ev stoped making it a few years ago, and I am delighted that it will be available again.

What I tasted from Seahorse is the 2010 James, which is a varietal Chenin Blanc. James is Seahorse’s first and only white wine, and it is named after Ronnie James, who was a pioneer winemaker in Israel, and winemaker of the Tzora Winery. I have had the 2007 James, which was the first vintage and which was exceptional. I can only say that the 2010 is even better. Chenin Blanc is one of those under appreciated grapes, like Carignan, that is making a comeback now that the growers and winemakers are learning how to get the best from it.

At the Soreq table I tried the 2009 Petit Verdot. Soreq’s Petit Verdot grapes also come from Mata, and this is a delightful wine. Before Pesach Soreq was selling this as a future wine (it hadn’t been bottled yet) and I bought a half dozen. I guess it’s time to go pick them up.

A wonderful surprise was Tzafririm. Owners Lori and Shaike Lender are terrific people, but in the past I wasn’t so excited about their wines. I’m glad to say that has now changed. At the fair I tried their 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon – Shiraz blend. Last year Rogov reported on this wine saying that it has “notes of spicy cedar wood and fruits … bittersweet chocolate and tobacco.” I don’t know about that, but I do agree with his score of 87.

Srigim was another very welcome surprise. When Dina and I visited the winery a couple of years ago we didn’t really enjoy the wines, though we did have an enjoyable visit. At the fair I tried two of Srigim’s wines, their 2007 Barrique, a blend of Cabernet Suvignon, Petit Verdot (also from Mata), and Cabernet Franc, and their 2007 varietal Cabernet Sauvignon, and I enjoyed them both. The former is a medium to full bodied bordeauxish style blend with a long finish, and the latter is very fruity, with astringence suggesting it can be kept for at least another year or two – probably a good bit longer. As with most of the wines at the fair, these would probably have been even better after airing longer.

There are lots of wines that I didn’t taste since I already know them. I did make an exception for the La Terra Promessa 2007 Rubino Reserva limited edition Cabernet Sauvignion – Merlot (60/40) blend. Dina & I both love this wine, and we bought a few bottles at the winery a few months ago when the new vintage was released. The Rubino Reserva is barrel aged for 36 months, which can be too long for many wines, but is apparently just right for this one. The tanins are smooth and gentle and the flavors are complex and mouth filling. I just couldn’t resist having a (small) glass. Only 586 bottles of Rubina Reserva were made in the 2007 vintage, and I believe a good many were sold at the fair. In short, if you want some, now’s the time.

I did manage to resist having more than a symbolic taste of the Katlav and Yehuda wineries’ offerings, which was quite an act of restraint as I like both of their wines very much.

It was about 22:30 when Dina & I said our goodbyes to our growing group of winemaker friends, and we actually got home in time for me to get a decent night’s sleep.

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