Vitkin Winery Open House
I think the last time I visited the Vitkin Winery was at least four years ago, and probably longer. Now that we have moved to Binyamina, it is much more convenient, and this event was scheduled at a very convenient time for me, on a Saturday evening.
When I arrived, there were 40 or 50 people in attendance, and the tastings were set up in stations, using barrels spread around the winery’s courtyard as tables.
The stations were arranged in the recommended tasting order, starting with the whites. The first was a 2011 Riesling (100%) that was very light with pleasant hints of yellow grapefruit. This is an off dry wine, and though it’s not entirely to my taste I believe it will probably have a broad appeal among those who prefer their whites less than bone dry.
The second white was Vitkin’s 2012 White Israeli Journey, an interesting blend of Viognier (30%), Gewurtztraminer (30%), French Colombard (20%), and Rousanne (20%). Considering the relatively high percentage of Gewurtzraminer, I expected some sweetness, but there was none. Instead, I found this wine to be well balanced, refreshing, and crisp, actually reminding me of a very dry Sauvignon Blanc, even though there isn’t any in the blend. I enjoyed this wine a lot.
At the next station I tasted the 2011 Red Israeli Journey and the 2010 Pinot Noir. The former is a pleasant, though to my taste, unremarkable, blend of Carignan, Syrah, and Cabernet Franc. The latter is a different story altogether. First a confession. All my experience with Pinot Noir is with Israeli wines, giving me nothing to compare with. Winemakers have told me time and again, that Israel’s climate is less than ideal (to put it mildly) for growing Pinot Noir, so for all I know, all Israeli Pinots may be poor compared with those from France and California. I have tried a number of Pinots, including Ramat Hagolan, Harei Galil, Anava, and one or two others I can’t recall, but until tasting the Vitkin, I had only tried one other, from the Bar Giora Winery, that I really liked. If I remember correctly, the Bar Giora Pinot Noir is priced at around NIS 150, about double the price of the Vitkin.
Next up were 2009 Carignan and Cabernet Franc. Vitkin’s Carignan has a well deserved reputation of one of the best in Israel, so I was somewhat surprised that I did not enjoy it this time. The aroma reminded me of a barnyard (though I don’t generally mind such smells), and the wine was too sour and astringent for my taste. I think perhaps it need more time to breathe before drinking. On the other hand, I rather liked the Cabernet Franc (with 5% Petit Verdot). Full fruit, full body, slight (but not unpleasant) bitterness, and a lovely finish, I’d like to have this wine with a good roast or possibly while gnawing on some ribs.
Last among the “regular” tastings was the 2009 Petite Sirah. My notes say that I liked this wine but couldn’t find the words to describe it. I suppose you’ll have to try it yourself.
Inside the winery Assaf Paz, one of Vitkin’s winemakers, was pouring tastings of Vitkin’s premium Shorashim blend. Comprising Carignan, Petit Verdot, Petite Syrah, and French Colombard, this is an excellent, well balanced, full bodied wine with a warm lingering finish. Shorashim is one of those wines that fills my mouth with wonderful flavors and puts a look of contentment on my face. Although it was aged for 24 months in new oak barrels, surprisingly, the effect of the wood is not at all overpowering. All in all a wonderfully flavorful and very well integrated wine. Unfortunately, at NIS 250, it’s out of my price range.
Just outside the winery building I met Assaf’s father, Avraham, who agreed to pose for me next to a table he had made from a wine barrel. As an amateur carpenter I appreciated the elegant utilitarian design of the table, and recognized Avraham’s skill in making it. Though it looks relatively simple, I doubt this table was a particularly easy piece to construct, but perhaps one day, if I can get my hands on an old barrel, and if Avraham doesn’t mind, I’ll try to build one too.
Often at such events I meet and talk to other wine enthusiasts. It is only natural for people attending these tastings to compare notes and share experiences. For me this is part of the fun. This time I met a woman named Hagit who writes for the shmanman-im blog, where you can read her impressions (in Hebrew) of this event (clearly she took better notes than I did). As you will note, sometimes we see (or taste) eye to eye (mouth to mouth?), but sometimes we are worlds apart. Of course, that’s what makes wine so much fun; it’s always an adventure.