Wine Meets Port Fair at Jaffa Port
This is the first time I’ve been to one of Grape-Man‘s own events so I didn’t know what to expect.
What I did expect was to be able to find it, but that proved to be something of a challenge. The event turned out to be inside a large hangar in Jaffa port where a number of restaurants are located. Outside there was no sign for the event and I traversed the entire port twice before finding it, and then only after calling the organizers for directions and asking some people in nearby restaurants.
When I arrived I discovered that this was essentially a try and buy event. All of the wines were presented at three tables: all whites and some reds at one, additional reds at another, and sweet wines at the third (I skipped those). There were also samplings of what were purported to be Israel’s best olive oils. As I had limited time, and since I’m not much of a maven as far as olive oil is concerned, I skipped those as well – there’s only so much one can taste in a couple of hours. Unfortunately there were no winemakers or representatives of the wineries present to tell about the wines, and the only information available was the little that was printed on the labels.
Before proceeding further a personal thank you to the folks at Grape-Man for inviting me to the event, and also for providing a complete list of wines on their website; for many wines there were links to detailed pages describing them. This enabled me to prepare tasting sheets in advance and decide which wines I wanted to taste.
Turnout was good and the folks pouring the wine were kept quite busy. A bunch of the who’s who in the Israel wine scene were in attendance, including Israel Praeker of the Wines-Israel website, who decided to interview me, giving me an opportunity to put in a plug for my wineries map. Several winemaker friends also stopped by as guests, and it was good to see them.
Other than that, there’s not much to tell about the event itself, so I’ll just mention my impressions about some of the wines. For convenience (mine) I’ll present them in alphabetical order by winery, whites first.
1848 Winery – White Varieties 2010 5th Generation: A blend of Chardonnay (70%), Chenin Blanc (24%), and Semillon (6%). The three varieties blend quite nicely to produce a light not-too-fruity fruity wine with notes of grapefruit and sourish apricots (a flavor I particularly like).
Ben Haim – Chardonnay Reserve 2010: 100% Chardonnay barrel aged for 10 months sur lie. Lighter and grassier than I’d expect from a Chardonnay, especially on that had spent so long in oak, I’d have wrongly guessed there was some Sauvignon Blanc blended with it. I know that the sur lie process is supposed to help preserve the fresh clean character of the wine, but I have not experienced such a profound effect in the past. In any event, I found this to be a very enjoyable, if atypical, Chardonnay.
Ella Valley – Sauvignon Blanc 2012: another wine that I did not taste at this event. I was quite impressed with it at the White Wines Festival a few weeks ago at the Herzlia Marina. See my posting here.
Mia Luce – Bianco 2011: As mentioned above, a brand new winery for me. This blend of French Colombard with 7% Chardonnay is a nice summer quaffer. Flavors of not-too-sour yellow grapefruit make this wine very refreshing, and the lingering aftertaste invites another glass.
Odem Mountain – Volcanic Chardonnay 2012: Oak aged for five months sur lie, the oak influence is greater than other Chardonnays tasted at this event that spent less time in the barrel. The result is a fuller bodied Chardonnay that will be great with fish like salmon, some of the stronger cheeses, and even not-too-spicy chicken.
I had also been interested in trying the Tavor Rose Pearls Rosé but somehow I missed it.
Moving on to the reds. Instead of saving the best for last I’ll put it right up front so you won’t miss it if you haven’t the patience to read to the end.
As far as I’m concerned the hand’s down winner for the best wine at the event (at least of the ones I tried) was the Soreq Winery‘s Kerem Latroun Grenache 2007. I liked everything about this wine – the color, the aroma, the mouth feel, and definitely the taste. Very mouth filling with flavors of plums and other dark fruits, a slight tantalizing bitterness, and a pleasant astringency. My notes simply say “wonderful.” Imagine my disappointment to discover that there was none of this wine for sale. When Nir Shaham, the winemaker of Soreq, showed up later in the evening he confirmed that there is none left at all, with the possible exception of a small personal stash, and that he provided a few bottles for this event so we could all enjoy tasting it. What’s worse is that there will be no more in the future either as Soreq is no longer able to procure Granache from the Latroun vineyards. Soreq does have a 2008 vintage of this wine, but apparently it’s just not the same.
Agur Winery – Kesem 2011: Shuki Yashuv, owner and winemaker at Agur, has been making the Kessem bordeaux blend (Cabernet, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc) for many years. Earlier vintages were rather full bodied, but more recently the blends have been lighter and more suited to the warmer weather – a welcome change. The 2011 has flavors of red fruits, very soft tannins, and a medium finish. This is a wine can accompany a variety of dishes and also goes down very nicely on its own.
Barkan – Reserve Pinotage 2010: I sometimes get the Barkan Classic Pinotage as an everyday wine for a glass when I get home after work. The Reserve Pinotage is definitely a step up. More body, more complexity, more character, and more subtle fruits. Not a Shabbat dinner wine but quite fine to open when friends drop by between meals.
Barkan – Assemblage Tsafit 2010: I tried this wine when the Assemblage series first came out a couple of years ago. I wasn’t impressed then and I’m still not. An interesting blend of 53% Marselan, 20% Caladoc, 15% Pinotage, and 12% Carignan, I just can’t get excited about it. I detected some interesting fruit flavors, but the body was thin and there was little or no finish.
Montifiore – Red 2012: This wine was the biggest disappointment of the evening for me. The blend is Malbec, Shiraz and Petite Sirah, which sounded very promising. According to the description on Montifiore’s website…
The chunky fruit of the Malbec, spicy pepperiness of the Shiraz and the earthiness of the Petite Sirah shine through.
I’m afraid I didn’t notice any of that.
It went on to say…
Montefiore Red is medium bodied, unoaked, but with a very good structure. It is fruit forward and full of chewy, mouthfilling flavor, with aromas of ripe brambly fruit, hints of white pepper and a clean, refreshing, well balanced finish.
I agree with fruit forward, but I would say overly so. To me this is a very simple unoaked wine with no complexity or finish.
Red Sea Winery – Cabernet Sauvignon 2010: Located in Eilat, Red Sea has the distinction of being the southernmost winery in Israel. The grapes come from much further north, so I believe that Neot Smadar still has the southernmost vineyards. With a beautiful inky dark color, this wine is already pleasing just looking at it. For drinking I think it is still too young and needs time to soften. The flavor is a bit harsh and the fruit somewhat overpowering. I’d love to try it again in a year or two, but by then there probably won’t be any left.
Hans Sternbach Winery – Hakhlil Valley 2009: This blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (2/3) and Syrah (1/3) is truly delightful. The spiciness of the Syrah is immediately evident, followed by flavors of dark, but not too sweet, cherries. Full body with a lingering finish.
All in all I was pleasantly surprised by some wines, particularly the whites, and entirely unimpressed by others. Par for the course I suppose.
In any event, if there’s a similar event at the same venue some time in the future, at least I’ll know how to find it.