Yossi’s Wine Page

Test Driving Chillag’s 2012 Whites

When you get to test drive sports cars, drink good wine, and meet good friends all at the same time it’s really a no-brainer.

Last Friday the Chillag Winery launched their 2012 white wines. Considering how much I enjoyed the 2011 whites, that was reason enough to go. But wait, there’s more! Chillag teamed up with the Alpha Romeo importer who brought a bunch of fun sports cars for no-obligation test drives.

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Since driving and drinking is ok (just not the other way around) I took a spin in an Alfa Guilietta Quadrifoglio Verdesounds (at the recommendation of my boss who is an Alpha fan). Here it is – too bad it’s white.

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Driving a sports car can be a lot like drinking wine – you don’t have to know much about it, just whether you like it or not. I definitely like it! Driving this car was just plain fun. Engine and steering were extremely responsive (there are even different steering and suspension settings for sportier or more sedate driving) and the 6-speed stick was very smooth (I understand the car is also available with automatic transmission, though I can’t fathom why). Unfortunately, the roads around the winery aren’t exactly appropriate for performance driving, and though I did manage to get to 5th gear for a minute or two, there was no chance to check out 6th. Anyway, it was a blast, and the salesman told me that the fuel economy isn’t even too shabby.

Having finished with the driving it was time for the drinking.

Last year Chillag released two whites, a French Colombard-Riesling and a Sauvignon Blanc (see my posting). This year there was one repeat and two new whites. I liked them all – not a common occurrence for me.

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The 2012 Sauvignon Blanc is similar to the 2011, with 5% Viognier – freshness from the Sauvignin Blanc and body from the Viognier. The wine was slow fermented at low temperature for ten weeks and then left on the lees until bottling. This practice tends to preserve the freshness of the wine, and in this case it seems to have worked rather well. I detected less grassiness than I  usually associate with Sauvignon Blanc, but there was a degree of mineraliness that I found rather pleasing. Flavors I noticed were a bit of lemon and apricot. The wine has a mouth feel that was very pleasant (apparently resting on the lees has something to do with that too), and a bit of a finish that I have not often experienced with SB.

Chillag’s second 2012 white is a varietal Viognier (100%) made from grapes grown by Hadar Dor-Onn in Binyamina. Exhibiting flavors of lemon and grapefruit without any sourness whatsoever, this Viognier has a very nice lingering aftertaste.

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As a rule, I am not a fan of Gewurztraminer, but Chillag’s 2012 varietal (100%) Gewurz may very well make me change my mind. The grapes are sourced from the same Binyamina vineyards as the Viognier, and they are thinned to a meager yield of 300 kg/dunam to achieve the highest quality, and the juice is fermented at low temperature  for three months. Unlike most Gewurztraminer, this wine is bone dry – I could not detect the slightest hint of sweetness. I am having trouble describing this wine but I definitely like it, and I bought two bottles (as I did also with the other two whites).

If you enjoy white wines in the summer heat, or any other time, I recommend trying Chillag’s. Quantities are quite limited (~1300 bottles of the SB, 450 of the Viognier, and a few hundred of the Gewurz), so don’t wait too long.

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Of course there were other wines to taste (and buy) at this event too, and several reds from the Vivo and Solo series were available.

In the past, the Vivo wines were not particularly to my taste, and that was thecase this time as well.

From the Solo series I tried the 2008 Syrah made from grapes grown in Chillag’s vineyards in Kerem Ben Zimra. I have tasted this wine in the past and it has definitely improved overt time. With 12% Merlot for softness and 5% Petit Verdot to deepen the color and add a bit of kick (not a very technical term I know), this wine can be misleading on first taste – to me it was a bit sour and bitter. My second taste was altogether different. The wine was full bodied with flavors of red fruits, and the sourness and bitterness were completely gone. this is a very good Syrah.

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My favorite part of visits to Chillag is barrel tastings with Yariv, the winery’s manager. This time I was treated to three, and I was not disappointed.

Orna and Yariv never seem to be content with their successes and they are always cooking up new blends. The first was what Yariv called GSM, a blend of Granache, Syrah, and Morvedre, in equal quantities. The Granache is from Mitzpe Ramon, and I’m gussing that the Syrah is from Chillag’s vineyars in Kerem Ben Zimra; I have no idea where the Morvedre is from. Being from the 2012 vintage the wine is still quite young, and at the moment it is light and pleasant. I can only guess what it will be like at bottling time, and I’m looking forward to finding out.

The second barrel tasting was a 2010 Cabernet-Syrah blend (50-50). The wine is a bit harsh and quite astringent, which is hardly surprising as it is in new oak barrels. The color is deep and gorgeous, and the flavors I could detect over the oak were dark and full. Given time to soften and come together this will probably be a wonderful wine.

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I consider the last wine I tried to be the most interesting of the day, and also the perfect wine to go with the t-shirts I designed a few years ago. A 2012 blend of Syrah (45%), Shiraz (45%), and Cabernet Sauvignion (10%), I am at a loss to describe this wine. Now, some of you may say “Wait a minute, aren’t Syrah and Shiraz just different names for the same grape?” Well from I’ve read and been told, the answer is that they are and they’re not. Maybe one day when I know more I’ll write a posting about it, but in the meantime I’m really only interested in whether I’ll like this blend when it’s released. According to Yariv it’ll be at least two year until that happens, so I guess it will that long until I know. By then maybe I’ll print up some more shirts for the occasion.

So, did anyone else have that much fun on Friday?

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