Yossi’s Wine Page

Tel Aviv Wine Fair 2013 at the Eretz Israel Museum

Most wine fairs/festivals I’ve attended in Israel have some kind of unifying theme or character. Judean hills wineries, home wineries, kibbutz wineries, wineries in the north, white wines, Kosher wines, value for money wines. You get the picture. The Tel Aviv Wine Festival at the Eretz Israel museum was not like that at all. I suppose it was more in the Tel Aviv spirit of just going out to have a good time. Certainly nothing wrong with that.When I arrived I was directed to the press booth where I was given a handout listing most of the wines being presented at the festival. That certainly made it convenient for taking notes, and since there were descriptions of each wine as well, I didn’t have to take such detailed notes. That was a big plus for me since I sometimes (read often) have trouble reading what I’ve written. What can I do, penmanship was never my forte, to say the very least. My hands are good for lots of things – carpentry, massage, pulling corks, but writing isn’t one of them.

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I started off a bit disappointed because some of the wineries that had been listed weren’t in attendance. In particular I wanted to meet the people behind the Sphera winery and try their product. I have only tasted one of their wines and it was a sweet one, which isn’t really up my alley. I was also interested in tasting the new vintages from the Gush Etzion winery. Both of these had been listed on the advert, but neither was there.

On top of that, my taste seemed to be off. The vast majority of red wines that I tried were just too fruity for me, with the fruitiness overshadowing the more interesting flavors. Some of those wines I had tasted and enjoyed not so long ago, so it must have been me.

Nevertheless, there were some wines that I enjoyed very much, so I’ll focus on those.

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The tasting tables were spread around in two adjacent areas and they were widely enough spaced that there was no crowding. Small bar tables and stools, and some benches, were provided for those who wanted take a break from tastings and have a bit of a sit down. And in the background there was a band playing Beatles with a twist that contributed to the relaxed atmosphere. Of course there were also a bunch of food stalls, but I didn’t investigate them.

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Some years ago I met Meir Kfir while Steve, my oldest partner in wine, and I were looking for new small wineries to explore. Back then Meir had his winery in his home in Gan Yavne, where he had impressively converted his basement (the winery is now in Kiriat Malachi). At the time I enjoyed several of his wines, particularly his Syrah – Petite Syrah blend and a port style wine made from a blend of Cabernet, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc. I’ve been drinking it slowly; there’s still a tad left in the bottle and it’s still good. At the Tel Aviv Wine Festival Kf’ir had a new vintage of the Petite Syrah – Syrah, but there were also two new and very interesting wines. The first was a 2007 Barbera with 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. According to the notes, the two varieties were fermented separately in open vessels at low temperature, and then aged for several months in oak barrels. After that the two varieties were blended and then aged together for an additional 12 months before bottling. Sounds like a complex, labor intensive process, but I’d say the results are worth it. Nice dark fruit flavors and a very pleasing delayed finish.

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The second wine, a 2009 vintage 60% Malbec – 40% Cabernet Franc blend, was even more interesting. Produced using a similar process to the Barbera, this wine is more complex. It is quite full bodied though not overpowering, making it a good match with a wide variety of foods, while still being really nice all by itself.

For a small winery producing about 5,000 bottles a year, Kfir has an  impressive range of wines made from over a dozen varieties.

There were not many white wines at this festival. One of them was a 2012 unoaked Chardonnay from the Binyamina winery. While I enjoy light white wines, this one was so light as to be thin, and the Chardonnay’s character barely came through.

Much nicer was the Dalton 2012 unoaked Chardonnay. This wine has been a winner for Dalton in the past and it is again. A light, but not too light, summer Chardonnay with notes of grapefruit, I liked it quite a bit. Also as pleasant as ever was Dalton’s Fumé Blanc. I’ve been drinking this wine for at least 15 years and it had never let me down; to me this is the perfect cellar defender white.

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Another very enjoyable white was the Hugel Gentil (imported by Shaked) from France. A blend of Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Muscat, and Sylvaner (a new variety for me), this wine reminded me of the crisp, dry Rhine wines my grandfather used open for special occasions. Not surprising, I suppose, considering that the Hugel winery is only about 25 km from the Rhine.

Shaked also imports a sparkling Blue Nun from Germany. Very dry, fresh, bubbly and fun. At NIS 40 this is probably the best deal around for a sparkling brut.

The last Shaked import I tried was also a white – Henri Bourgeois Petit Bourgeois 2011 Sauvignin Blanc. This is exactly the way I like Sauvignin Blanc – very dry, very crisp, and grassy. To me, there is no better summer wine, and I’d venture to say that it is even more enjoyable here in Israel than in Europe where it doesn’t get nearly as hot. Of course, that may change as the effects of global warming become more and more pronounced.

Ok, back to the reds.

At the Shiloh table I tried their Shor 2008 Cabernet with 5% Merlot. I found this to be a rather typical and very enjoyable Cabernet. Here’s what Rogov (z”l) wrote about it from a pre-release tasting.

A round and well structured wine, dark ruby-garnet, full-bodied with soft tannins and a gentle influence of dusty and spicy oak. On the nose and palate traditional Cabernet Sauvignon blackcurrants and blackberries, those parting to make way for notes of bitter citrus peel and dark chocolate.

By and large I agree, though I didn’t notice the dark chocolate. But then again I’m not Rogov.

Much more interesting was Shiloh‘s Legend II, a curious and singular (literally) blend of Cabernet (75%), Carignan (20%), and Sangiovese (5%). Winemaker Amichai Lourie told me that he had set out to create a wine that stands well on its own and still goes well with a wide variety of foods – a well integrated wine with full body and smooth tannins. And at all costs Amichai wanted to avoid the barnyard (Brettanomyces) smell that often accompanies Carignan (I noted this in my Vitkin posting a few months ago though at the time I didn’t know what it was). Apparently Amichai was pleased with the result, which is why there’s a picture of Houdini on the label with the tagline “Anything’s Possible.”

Shiloh Legend II - Anything's PossibleAdding to the mystique of the blend, the source of the Carignan is a closely guarded secret; Amichai would only tell me that it’s from somewhere no one would expect.

Having lived in Har Adar for about five years, I know winemaker Yaron Rabanyan’s wines rather well and I have been impressed by their steady improvement over the years. Since moving to Binyamina I’ve not had many opportunities to meet Yaron so I was glad to see him at this event.

Without mincing words, Har Adar‘s 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon with 7% Petit Verdot is quite simply a very good, solid Cabernet. With well balanced fruit, subtle flavors, nice body, and a lingering finish, the Petit Verdot adds that little extra something that makes this Cabernet memorable..

I generally enjoy Tanya‘s wines, but they didn’t appeal to me on this occasion. I will however provide a picture of owner/winemaker Yoram Cohen wearing his signature hat.

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At these events it is often my habit to save something sweet for the end, and this time it was the Side Effect Cider from El Rom. There were two, one dry (6% alcohol) and the other semi-dry (4%). I started with the dry, which was light, refreshing, and slightly fizzy. The semi-dry was not as sweet as I expected, and its flavors were similar to the dry cider, but fuller. I enjoyed them both and can recommend them without reservation.

There were more wines I wanted to try, notably Binyamina’s Malbec – Carignan, but I needed to run to catch the train home (I made it with literally just seconds to spare). Fortunately I can visit the Binyamina Winery any time since it’s walking distance from home.

Who else attended this festival? Post a comment to let me know what you liked or didn’t.

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