6th Annual White Wine Fair at the Herzlia Marina
With so many wine events going on at the same time, it’s impossible to attend them all, but I wasn’t going to miss this one.
First of all, as I’ve mentioned in the past, I work in Herzlia Pituah, and it’s just a 20 minute walk from my office to the marina.
Secondly, as far as I know, this is the only white wine event in the country. Most wine festivals in Israel feature a few white and blush wines, but reds definitely dominate. Some events have almost no whites at all.
As the weather is getting warmer, consumption of whites is on the rise, and it’s great to be able to sample a wide variety and be better equipped to make selections at wine shops and even supermarkets.
This is the third time I’ve attended the White Wine Festival (my thanks to Grape Man for the invitation and for preparing the list of wines), and this year the winemakers seemed to have had my personal taste in mind, as I liked far more of the wines than in the past.
I was particularly impressed with two wines this year.
In the value for money category, Binyamina’s BIN Viognier 2012 is my hands down winner. At NIS 25 (!), there’s just no competition. The wine is refreshing and light, in contrast to some Viogniers that are just too heavy (IMHO) for the warm weather. Needless to say I hurried to the shop at the Binyamina winery (walking distance from my house) to pick some up after the festival.
At the other end of the spectrum is the Ella Valley Sauvignon Blanc. Crisp and grassy, for me this is Israeli Sauvignon Blanc at its very best. But quality comes at a price – this wine will set you back NIS 90, which is certainly steep for a white, especially one that goes down this easy (a bottle won’t last long).
In the rosé department, I was very impressed with the Backoushe Rosé 2013. Eli Backoushe is a graduate of Nir Shaham’s winemaking school at the Soreq Winery, and he clearly paid attention during the lessons about white and rosé wines. I met Eli a week earlier at Soreq’s Home Wineries Fair (hopefully I’ll eventually get around to writing a posting about that event too), and was pleased to see him again at the marina. Eli’s rosé is quite atypical, and even he admits that blindfolded he might very well identify it as a white wine, as there is none of the strawberry-ness, or much fruitiness of any kind to this rosé; I’m pretty sure that I would fail to peg it as a rosé. The wine is made from 75% Carignan and 25% Granche, which is certainly a promising start for any wine. The grapes are crushed and pressed together and then the juice is divided in half, with each half fermented using a different yeast. I certainly don’t understand all the black magic involved, but the result is a crisp and refreshing lovely pink wine. Eli brought only a very few bottles of his rosé, and I am grateful that he agreed to set one aside for me.
Eli also brought his Semillon 2013, which I had sampled and bought at the Home Wineries Fair. The Semillon (100%) has a mildly floral aroma and is just slightly off-dry, making it nice match for light dairy summer fare.
I definitely intend to keep my eye on Eli and his winemaking adventures. He’s certainly off to a promising start.
An honorable mention goes to Ella Valley’s Rosé 2013, which is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Syrah. Quite different from the Backoushe, I didn’t particularly like it at first, but it grew on me after lingering in my mouth for a while.
On to the Dalton table where I started with their Fumé Blanc, which I’ve been enjoying for as long as I can remember. At the festival it was going for the special price of NIS 55, but I can still remember buying it at 4 for NIS 100 some 15 years ago. Dalton’s Fumé Blanc has special significance for me as it’s the first wine I shared with Dina at a picnic in the rose gardens across the street from the Knesset in Jerusalem, shortly after we met. Fortunately she was as taken with it as I am, otherwise, who knows where we’d be today.
At Carmel I was very pleasantly surprised by the Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc 2013 from the Vineyards series. 1/3 of the Chardonnay is barrel fermented, with the remainder fermented in stainless steel tanks, and then the lot is barrel aged for a few months. The result is a fresh tasting, medium bodied Chardonnay that does not taste at all over oaked. My favorite Sauvignon Blancs (with the notable exception of Dalton’s Fumé Blanc) rarely get anywhere near a barrel, and such is also the case with Carmel’s Vineyards offering. The wine is light, crisp, and grassy, with a hint of fruitiness that reminded me of pineapple. I must admit that the days when I would never recommend a Carmel wine are definitely long gone. Today, Carmel produces some noteworthy and very enjoyable wines, and because of their size, they can afford to encourage and support the boutique wineries rather than taking an adversarial stance. Much credit and appreciation to Adam Montefiore for this.
One of the most interesting wines at the fair was Tavor’s Roussanne Adama 2013. To the best of my recollection, the 2013 is rather similar to the 2012 that I tasted last year, and once again I enjoyed it. The wine has a slight bitterness that is quite titillating and begs for food to accompany it. Perhaps a spicy ratatouille.
So much for the Israeli wines. There was also quite a number of imports, but giving priority to Israeli wines I didn’t have the capacity to try too many of them, as I still had a walk to the train station ahead of me and I didn’t want to miss the last train. Of the imports I did sample, I particularly enjoyed the wines of the Francois Lurton Winery, represented by New Code Imports. Both the Les Fumées Blanches Sauvignon Blanc 2012 and Domaine Les Salices 2012 Chardonnay appealed to me, both being very good, and enjoyable, examples of those varietals. Call me a Zionist, but for similar prices I still prefer purchasing Israeli wines. On the other hand, perhaps reasonably priced imports will help bring the prices of Israeli wines down a bit.
In addition to the wines, there were, of course, various food offerings, including gourmet cheeses, and even kanafeh.
No boutique beers at the festival this year, but Buster’s Cider was there with a new alcoholic lemonade that they were just introducing.
So, that’s the wrap up for this year’s White Wine Festival at the Herzlia Marina. A thoroughly enjoyable evening with more wines to my liking than I had dared expect.