If you have somehow missed the onset of spring in Israel, just have a look at the vineyards; they’ll tell you all about it.
A couple of weeks ago I went to the Salomon Winery’s annual pre-Pesach launch of their latest vintage (see notes following the pictures). Along the way, I passed lots of vineyards and I noticed that they were in various states of awakening. Some were full of leaves and even showing flowers. On the other hand some vines had only a very few leaves and a few had none at all. I even saw two adjacent vineyards, one looking very much alive and the other quite the opposite.
I’m guessing that a number of factors determine when the vines begin to leaf out and flower, including grape variety, age of the vines, and whether or not the vineyard is irrigated and/or fertilized. After speaking to a grower I know I can add to the list when the vines were pruned after the last harvest. The weather, of course, has much to do with it, but as these vineyards are all quite close to each other, I think the weather can be ruled out as a factor.
In any event, I found this all quite interesting so I photographed a number of the vineyards I passed on the way to Salomon to illustrate the differences.
The tasting at Salomon was enjoyable as always. I particularly enjoyed, and purchased, the 2011 Cabernet Franc and the 2009 Shiraz. There were also two Cabernet Sauvignons from the 2011 vintage, one aged in American oak and the other in French. The difference was quite dramatic with the wine from the American oak barrels being fruitier and lighter while the French was “darker” with more subtle and complex flavors: a true New World – Old World contrast. I preferred the French, though it’s really a matter of personal taste as both wines were quite good.
In the evening I went to Vitkin’s launch event (everyone’s doing them this time of year). My favorites this time around were the 2012 Masa Yisraeli (Israeli Journey) Red blend, the 2011 Pinot Noir (one of the best I’ve tasted in Israel), and the 2009 Petite Syrah. The latter is a full bodied, mouth filling, and powerful wine with a long, strong finish.
Vitkin is known for their Carignan, being the pioneer of old vines Carignan in Israel, and many in attendance declared the latest (2010) offering to be their favorite wine of the evening. As I tasted the Carignan after the powerful Petite Syrah, it was difficult for me to discern its character; all I can say for sure is that it is quite markedly different from last year’s Carignan, which was very “brett“. This means, of course, that you should go to Vitkin and try it yourself.
Chag Sameach to one and all; I trust you are all drinking your favorite wines for the holiday.