Wine and Ch…
A few months ago Dina met Hagai Ben Asher at a networking meeting.
After working with hi-tech start-ups for many years, Hagai decided, about a year ago, to pursue his passion to be an artisan blacksmith. Along with custom designed and hand crafted railings, fences, gates, artistic ironwork, etc., Hagai builds meat smokers for home use and restaurants. At the networking meeting Hagai announced an upcoming event to be held at the Asambia venue in Binyamina, at which he would be preparing smoked chicken.
Since Asambia is only a ten minute walk from our house, and since it sounded like a nice way to have dinner and try something new, we decided to go. There would also be wine tastings from the Fusion Global Winery, making this event almost irresistible. To add to the lure, the price was right. Portions of chicken were NIS 30, and wine was another NIS 30. For tastings, that may be high, but for unlimited wine to accompany dinner, it’s rather reasonable.
Fusion Global follows a rather different and unique paradigm from other wineries. (Even the traditional jargon may not be strictly applicable; for want anything better I’ll stick with the terms “winery” and “winemaker.”) Though based in Israel, the wines come from all over. Chief winemaker Doron Yitzhaki travels to the great wine regions of the world to select wines from which he creates Fusion Global’s blends. The winery’s website provides a good bit more information, including a page of links to articles about the winery and its wines.
When we arrived at Asambia we began with the wines since they were presented at the entrance while the food was inside. Eynat Yitzhaki, Doron’s wife, explained about the winery’s concept and briefly described the wines.
A word about Asambia. Located in the historic center of Binyamina, Asambia provides a rustic style setting for small gatherings and events. With wooden tables under cover and open areas among vineyards and olive trees, the atmosphere is welcoming and relaxed.
I started with the whites. The first was a 2011 French Gewurztraminer that was aromatic and pleasant, but overpoweringly sweet. As a desert wine it might have succeeded, but for me this was not a wine to accompany a savory meal.
The second white was a 2011 semi-dry German Riesling. Definitely more delicate than the Gewurztraminer, but still not my choice for dinner.
Of the two reds I first tried the 2005 Australian Shiraz-Merlot blend. The second red had just been opened, so I set aside a glass to try later after it had had a chance to breathe and open a bit.
Inside, Hagai had prepared two styles of smoked chicken – 0ne spicy and one herbed; we tried one of each.
I started with the spicy smoked chicken and it paired well with the Shiraz-Merlot blend. The chicken, which had been smoked over citrus charcoal for about 3-1/2 hours, was juicy, peppery, and very tasty, though only mildly smokey. The wine had a deep purple color, was fruity and very full bodied. There was a hint of bitterness that was not unpleasant, and which dissipated with time as the complexity developed. The most enjoyable aspect of this blend was its long outstanding peppery finish, which perfectly complemented the spiciness of the chicken.
The herbed chicken, though smokier in flavor, was less interesting than the spicy one, rather lacking in any character of its own, though I did enjoy its smokiness. I suppose the degree of smokiness has to do with the position of the chicken in the smoker and the time spent in it. A combination of smokier and spicier would probably be most to my liking.
By this time I was hoping that the second red, a 2005 Spanish Tempranillo-Garnacha blend, would be ready to drink. As with the chicken, the second red wine was less to my taste as well. To me it started with an earthy, not entirely inviting aroma, pleasant fruitiness, medium body, and an unremarkable finish. Keeping in mind that this was 2005 wine that had been open less than half an hour, I suspected that those impressions were premature, and indeed over the next 20 minutes, the wine improved considerably, becoming more full bodied. In all fairness, Dina enjoyed the Tempranillo-Garnacha blend much more than I.
So for me, the winners of the evening were the spicy smoked chicken and the Australian Shiraz-Merlot blend.
After we had finished eating, Dina & I had the pleasure of meeting Hadar Dor-Onn who, together with his wife and children, owns and operates Asambia. In addition to that endeavor, Hadar is a fifth generation vintner whose forebears grew grapes for Baron Edmund de Rothschild. It turns out that Hadar was one of the first in Israel to plant Viognier and Malbec, but that story will have to wait for another time.
Note: Rogov (z”l) reviewed Fusion’s red wines in 2009, and his notes are by far more professional than mine. Rogov recommended a prime drinking window for these wines through 2011.