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.