|About Us||Holy Land Sites||Holy Land Tours||Photos||Christian||Community||Travel Tips||Easter 2013|
Tags - israel
The Tishbi Winery, located in Binyamina, is one of Israel's better known wineries. With a history of grape growing and winemaking going back for five generations, it's wines have mirrored the trend of improving quality since it's inception in 1985.
Jonathan Tishbi, the founder of the winery grew grapes for the the Carmel collective before launching his own commercial winery. Even though his son Golan Tishbi oversees most of the winemaking details, Jonathan stills steers the helm, chairs marketing meetings and supervises many of the day to day business affairs. This kind of father/son team work has been proven sucessful at other notable wineries in Israel such as Domaine du Castel in the Judean Hiills and Margalit south of Hadera. Each winemaker son interned or studied overseas and upon their return grew into the winemaker while their fathers continued on as mentors and cheif executives. Even though Jonathan is clearly in charge of a staff of 50 employees no job is too small for him or other family members. Golan modestly says 95% of a good wine's quality comes from good grapes and few grapegrowers have more experience or family tradition in their pocket than Jonathan Tishbi.
Jonathan can often be seen driving the forklift or even filling bottles at the Visitor Center or dining with guests at the vistor center. This isn't the kind of hands on involvement you typically see at Israel's more corporate wineries and the Tishbi's present themselves as Israel's largest family owned winery producing about 1 million bottles/year. They claim their persomal involvment helps them keep the standards they've attained and kept on track for future improvements in their wines as well as their dining facilites.
Daughter Oshra Tishbi has introduced a line of fine foods to the family's product line that compliment the efforts of the winery including Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Wine Jellies and Jams. The sold out of last years production, are dramatically increasing this years and our making many of their jams kosher for passover this year. She's managed to secure a place in Israel's culinary scene and founded the wineries thriving restaurant/wine shop ion the main thoroughfare of neighboring Zichron Yaakov to the north.
The winery has a wide range of selection for the buyer to choose from with four lines. The entry level Tishbi series include a Cabernet-Petite Sirah blend which has been a year to year staple of the winery and as a table wine wine has been a driving force in the winery. At 25-32 NIS or about $ 6-8/bottle it's an unoaked, drink now red that's priced to move and popular for large parties and is available like many of their entry-level wines as mevushal wines when the mevushal process is required by certain kosher consumers.
The mid-range Vineyard series offers some of their best bang for the buck (or sheckel) wines though at every level their wines match well with others in Israel for the same price. This is where their Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc singe varietal wines are offered with reds selling at about 43 NIS or $11/ bottle with the whites at about 32 NIS or $8.
The Estate series is where we start to see some of Tishbi's award winning wines. With hundreds of dunams ( an Ottoman measurement used in the Middle East which equals about 1/4 acre) to choose from, the finest grapes are often chosen for the Estate wines. Since many of these grapes are grown at much lower yields than other grapes for other wines the cost needs to be reflected in the bottle price. The reds in this series sell for about 85 NIS or $21.
Their best grapes of the year go into their Jonathan Tishbi Reserve series of wines. Though not released every year for the winemaker, Golan wants to make sure this series is exceptional and if the grapes don't warrant it or somewhere in the production process the wine falls even slightly shy of his highest standards for this series. Their 2004 Sde Boker Reserve, a classic Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc is well worth the 169 NIS (about $42) charged at the winery. It was written up this year by maybe the world's most famous wine blogger, Gary Vandechuk, as his favorite kosher wine and his 4th favorite wine in his book on his favorite 101 Wines. As praised as the 2004 Reserve has been, I was lucky enough to taste the 2007 Reserve from the barrel and I think it might even have more potential to bring even more attention and acclaim to Golan who has only been a winemaker for less than ten years (relatively a few years for a winemaker in charge of such a large winery).
The winery has several special events throughout the year a the visitor center attached to the winery in Binyamina ( a short bus ride from the Binyamina train station)sincluding a Jazz series that host about 100 guests and a grander Junior party every November featuring a Beaujolais Noveau style wine catered to about 600.
The Visitor Center features a kosher restaurant to complement the kosher wines. As kosher restaurants either feature meat or diary dishes, the restaurant offers only dairy dishes including breakfast dishes such as omelets, Shashuka (a traditional Morracan dish featuring eggs on top of stewed tomatoes) and lunch dishes such as pasta, salads and pizza. The pizza oven has a special meaning for the winemaker, Golan, as he made the oven himself and I've kidded him he's so proud of it he should have a picture of in his wallet. I have to admit as someone born in the States, Israeli pizzas don't ussually impress me that much but these pizzas are a welcome exception with dough made on the premises and the freshest toppings to choose from. Since they serve dairy dishes they also serve great cheese plates serving local israeli gourmet cheeses and the cheeses are also available to go by the kilo. The Visitor Center is open 8-5PM Sunday through Thursday and Fridays until 3PM with the restaurant being open until 3PM Sunday through Friday. All kosher restaurants are required to be closed on the Sabbath: Friday Sunset to Saturday Sunset.
Anyone wanting a later wining or dining expereince with Tishbi wines should visit their Tishbi Wine Shop/ Bistro in Zichron Ya'acov just a few kilometers north of their winery. At the entry way into the town's main boardwalk, it's a great starting place touring one of Israel's most scenic towns or a last stop out of town as it's open to midnight everynight but Friday. It has a similar but more extensive menu than the Wineries vistor center with all their wines for sale though it's a much more happening eatery with a sidewalk cafe feel that reminds one of any other Mediterranean thoroughfare. This restaurant is also kosher but there's nothing about kosher food that should intimidate non-Jewish diners as you wouldn't even know if it wasn't mentioned.
Cabernet Sauvignon in Israel, like most of the wine world, is the king of red wine grapes. One of the five blending grapes used in many of the world's most sought after wines in it's original home of the Bordeaux region in France. It's typically the principal grape blended with any one or more with the other four (Merlot, Caberent Franc, Malbec and Petite Verdot).
In the New World of wine, defined as anywhere outside of traditonal European wine regions, Caberent Sauvignon has broken through the shroud of obsticating French wine labels that most often display the region or vineyard but not the grapes on the label. Used in Israel and other "New World" wine regions most often on it's own to make wine's that are fruit bombs and less nuanced than it's traditional roots in France. FYI: Many wine regions define a blend as any wine with less than 75% or 85% of one principal grape. So a wine for instance with 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Merlot and 5% Petite Verdot might not be considered a blend but marketed as a single varietal Cabernet Sauvignon while a wine with 50% Cabernet Sauvignon 35% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc would be a blend.
Many notable Israeli wineries are making Bordeaux-type blends as their top-tier reserve wines (such as Domaine du Castel's Grand Vin, Carmel's Limited Edition, Yatir's Yatir Forest and Tishbi's Jonathan Tishbi Reserve Sde Boker ) while others are making Cabernet principals their top tier wines (such as Margalit). Either way, Cabernet plays a major role in most Israeli premier wines.
It is questionable whether in the future for Israel to create a bigger niche in the world wine market if Cabernet Sauvignon will remain the grape most widely associated with Israel although right now Cabernet and Cabernet blends are accounting for the majority of world recognized wines (for now).
Fruit Flavors: Black Fruit such as Black Currant/Cassis, Blackberries, Black Cherries and Plum
Herbal/Vegetative: bell pepper, olive and green bean
Other flavors: pepper, cinnamon, chocolate, coffee, vanilla and cigar box
Apple, pear, blackberry, elderberry, shallot, domestic and wild mushrooms, wild rice, fresh tarragon, basil, mint, green peppercorn, cinnamon, nutmeg,
allspice, nuts with stronger tannins like hazelnut, pecan and walnuts Most People find tomato or orange sauces clash with Cabernet Sauvignon maybe try Cabernet Franc instead which has higher acidity. * Adapted from Wine & Food Affinities by Karen Johnson
Other Notable Wine Regions: Bordeaux, France, Tuscany ( Super Tuscans) , Italy, California, Washington State, USA, South Africa and Chile
Colombard/ French Colombard
Cabernet Franc: Dad Deserves his Props
OK, here's a good trivia question for you wine geeks: What two grapes have been proven to be the genetic parents of Cabernet Sauvignon?
Answer: Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc
No one knows exactly when this marriage took place yet it's without question that Cabernet Sauvignon has outshined it's parentage in reputation and demand. That shouldn't discourage anyone from enjoying both of these noble varietals.
Anyone within earshot knows I've been a big fan of Cabernet Franc and I think it has the opportunity to become a focal wine grape for Israel.As one of the five Bordeaux red grapes (with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec and Petite Verdot) and as the noted principal grape in many Loire Valley wines, Cabernet Franc can be found as a part of many of Israel's finest Bordeaux style blends. However, it's a single varietal or principal grape that I believe Cabernet Franc shows it's potential for making a place for Israeli wines on restaurant wine lists around the globe. Where there are thousands of Cabernets and Merlots being produced, Cabernet Franc offerings are slim and few between and no one international region has grab onto it's coattails to get on wine shop shelves and restaurant wine lists.
As Sauvignon Blanc opened doors for New Zealand's wines including their Pinot Noir and albec opened up doors for other Argentenian wines (including their Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Merlot) Cabernet Franc might just be Israel's spearhead off the kosher wine shelf to being situated in more prominent and greater frequency in the highly competive wine list/ shelf placement arena.
One place that is well acquanted with Cabernet Franc is Long Island, New York. On Long Island, there is some well regarded Cabernet Franc producers who sell mostly to the local population and tourists but the grape is well respected in the region and not just a blending partner and since many Israeli wineries do the majority of their US exporting (which can be as much as 70% of their total exports) to the greater New York/New Jersey market (because of the highist concentration of Jewish residents in the US and the hightest concentration outside of Israel) it seems a natural fit.
Notable Israeli Cabernet Franc Producers: the Chateau Golan, Ella Valley, Gush Etzion, Margalit, Pelter, Psagot, Recanti, Tishbi, Tulip, Vitkin, Yatir, Zemora wineries all provide splendid well reviewed examples of how this grape is coming into it's own in Israel.
Tabor makes a well reviewed Cabernet Franc Rose
Fruit Flavors & Aromas: black currant, plum, cherries and raspberries
Vegative Flavors & Aromas: herbs, green vegetables: green peppers, green olives, eucalyptus
Food Pairings: Cabernet Franc has many of the same flavors of Cabernet Sauvignon with a lighter body and higher acidity that makes it a much more food friendly choice for the table. Matches well with grilled vegetables & eggplant, zuchinni, and tomatos as well dishes flavored with thyme, saffron, rosemary and sage.
Israel is a small country, about the size of New Jersey; but, the world of wine here is even smaller. There's many migrations of winery workers and even winemakers between wineries. Gil Shatzberg, the currrent head winemaker at Recanati Winery, since 2008, previously served as the winemaker at Amphorae wines for seven years , which was considered one of Israel's most promising wineries due to his efforts. Before that he worked at Carmel, Israel's largest winery and at two wineries in California including the reknown Jordan Winery. Ido Lewinsohn, Recanati's other winemaker, previously interned at the prestigious Margalit Winery under Asaf Margalit and at wineries in Europe and Australia.
The red wine being sold now is that of founding winemaker, Lewis Pasco, but the whites are all Gil's and both recently won recognition at the Israeli Wine Awards at the David Intercontinetal Hotel in Tel Aviv on March 30th, 2009.
Some Stars from Recaniti Wines including their Award Winning Petite Sirah-Zinfandel
The Recanati Winery offers four series of wines: The Yasmine series, the Recanati series, their Reserve and Special Reserve series. All of Recanati wines are made dry with no residual sugar.
Their 2008 whites I tried were a good entry point into understanding what their new winemaker is crafting at Recanati. Although he's 's continuing with the same vineyard program as under Pasco ( growing the same grapes in silmiliar ways), Gil will be pushing for more Old World style (more nuance, less fruit forward) than the wines once offered by Recanati. It will take a couple of years before all the wines, particualrly the reds show his influence. The 2008 Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, however, are subtle yet savory wines bridging the gap between Old World and New World styles. Less mineral than a Chablis, the Chardonnay shows off a good wine at a good price and why Chardonnays are becoming more and more popular in Israel as they have worldwide (though I think Viognier, Gewurtztraminer, Muscat or French Columbard have greater export potential to bust off the Kosher wine shelf to the International or Eastern Mediterranean shelf).
2008 Recanati Sauvingon Blanc 44 NIS (about $10.50)
sweet on the palette with expected grapefruit, smooth but with crisp acidity 13% alcohol no oak aging as expected of most Sauvignon Blancs.
2008 Recanati Chardonnay 52 NIS ( about $12.50)
these grapes come from Kibbutz Manara in the Upper Galilee overlooking the border of Lebanon
with 13% alcohol the tropical fruit the nose matches well pear on the palette and hints of coconut brought on by a few months in oak
Award Winning Chardonnay
2006 Recanati Shiraz 52 NIS ( about $12.50)
these grapes come from Ezrael and famed Ella Valley vineyard
14.5% alcohol 8 months in French and American oak barrels
exhibiting lots of black fruits: Plum and Black Cherry
don't be surprised if in the future these same grapes are offered as a Syrah and with less American oak to suit Gil's preference for Rhone varietals.
David Tasting & Enjoying the 2006 Recanati Shiraz
2006 Recanati Reserve Merlot
with grapes coming exclusively from the Ella Valley, this wine was treated to the wineries finest grapes and it's newest barrels. Both French and Hungarian oak was used for 16 months to produce a wine with lots of black fruit and a sweetness that doesn't come from any residual sugar but what the winery claims is a reflection of the Hungarian oak. This a wine sure to please fans of Merlot and maybe make a few new fans along the way.
Kosher Supervisor Rabbi Weiss, Wine Journalist David Rhodes & Winemaker Gil Shatsberg
2006 Recanati Reserve Petite Sirah-Zinfandel
This is what I would call a "California-blend" since these two grapes are more popular in California than anywhere else. This was one of Lewis Pasco's pet projects and maybe is a reflection of his time studying wine at UC Davis. Since Gil also studied there it's not suprising that this wine will continue in their future line-up.
This wine showed the best of both varietals, the octupus ink purple and busty body of Petite Sirah with the raspberry jam fest Zinfandels fans come to expect. The tannins are smooth for such a heavy hitter and easily accessable now.
With only 14% alcohol, a little less alcohol than one might expect from a California version but that is what might make it feel a bit more balanced.
Industrial Zone, Emek Hefer
(south of Hadera about a 10 minute walk off a Route 4 Bus stop)
Tel: o4 6222288 Fax: 04 6222882
Here's a partial list of the winners of the Israel Wine Awards, presented at a gala event Sunday March 30th, 2009 at the David Intercontinental Hotel in Tel Aviv (across the beach from the Eastern Mediterranean).
I didn't find out about the event until the night of the event which is a shame since it was also a charity event raising money for troubled adolescents, which I would have liked to get people to attend to donate or particiapte in the wine auction.
The Awards were decided by a panel of 20 judges, many of them wine writers, but were limited to wineries who submitted their wines to the competition so even though the award winners deserve credit and congrats for their award winning wines; these results and similar results from other events need to take that not all of israel's wines were represented into consideration.
i'll post all the winners as the official results are published and I'll give you some of my insights of the event
3rd Place Carmel 08
2nd Place Galil 08
1st Place: Gamla 08
3rdPlace: Recanati 06
2nd Place: Ella Valley 07
1st Place:Yarden 06
Read the separate blog on the Recanati winery
2nd Assaf Viognier 06
1st Vitkin Riesling 07
2nd Yasmin Recanati
1st Avanim Galil
3rd Asaf Reserve 06
Tie 2nd Place: Evigan reserve & Alexander the Great 05
1st Place: Ella Valley Reserve 05
read the separate blogs on the Alexander Winery and on the Cabernet Sauvignon grape
3rd Yarden 04
2nd Place Ella Valley 06
1st Place Recanati Reserve 06
read the separate blog on the Recanati winery
Read the seperate blog on the Cabernet Franc grape
3rd Recanati Petite Sirah Zinfandel 06
2nd place malbec Teperberg 07
1st place Petite Sirah Carmel 05
red the separate blog on the Recanati Winery
Ist Place Amphorae 05 (Gil Shatsberg: Wine Maker)
3rd Place: Moscato Golan 08
1st Place: Carmel Gerwurtraminer
If as what's been suggested that Israeli wine is going through a cultural and technological revolution, how can you tell when the revolution is successful. Maybe it's when the powers to be, the guardians of the status quo, come full circle and agree with their critics. So when the Carmel Winery, Israel's largest winery by far, admits that it has had a well deserved reputatation for making wines of low regard and little character and lots of it and they've launched a game changing amount of measures to salvage its image by striving to be not only the biggest but one of Israel's best wineries, it deserves the attention of the wine drinking public and wine writers like me.
Carmel's Historic Winery in Israel's most famous wine village Zichron Ya'acov
Now many wine writers tend to shy away from writing about big wineries. It's challenging on several different levels. First, a winery like Carmel in Israel has so many labels there's no way to practically taste them in a day. Second, larger corporate wineries can often lack the charm and romance of "boutique" wineries. Additionally, it can be far more difficult to talk directly to the winemaker or owner of the winery which with smaller wineries is often the same person. A lot of times you get shuttled around by a well meaning Public Relations spokeperson whose knowledge of wine doesn't much exceed that of any internal corporate literture. Additionally, larger wineries often have received so much previous attention what angle does a writer take to make their story fresh, relevant and appealing to the reader.
So Much Wine, So Little Time: David tasting the large portfolio of Carmel
So with some initial trepidation, I went to tackle the task of covering Carmel, not only Israel's largest winery but at about 15 million bottles producted yearly, they're responsable for 30 to 40% of Israel's wine production on any given year. As recently as 20 to 25 years ago Carmel was producing about 90% of Israel's wine. So in writing about Israeli wines, there's no way to avoid Carmel coming up in the context of talking about other wines so it was important at some stage for me to take on the challenge of exploring their portfolio. "On the Road Less Travelled" of wine writing, better sooner than later. That being said if Carmel had been making the same wines they were making ten years ago, I may have found a good reason to avoid this story just the same.
When wine magazines such as Wine Spectator and Decanter & wine writers like Robert Parker and Mark Squires talk about Israeli wines making a revolutionary change in quality, they were talking about in contrast to the lowly regarded 90% of Israeli wines Carmel used to make. Carmel today says they too are part of that revolution but as a student of history I like to see it as a counter-revolution since when you are the wine establishment and one of the last wineries to make drastic changes, it's hard to say you're leading the revolt. To Carmel's credit though, it's been a Herculian endeavor and an investment of ten of millions and ten of thousands of man hours in the vineyards and wineries to have made the dramatic changes that they started almost ten years ago that is just in the last few years starting to show results.
As an example of it's commitment to change, they've managed to halve their production from a high of 30 million bottles to 15 million bottles, a great indicator that "the monster of the Israeli wine marketplace" is reigning in the beast of bulk wine making and mending their ways and is starting to seriously attempt to stress quality over quanity. Much of this transition was enacted by shying away from flooding the kosher wine market with mass quanities of not very profitible "kiddush wine" (sacramentel wine for Jewish holidays and rituals). A de-emphasis on other food products such as grape juice and olive oil also has allowed it's upper management to focus on the task at hand of making better wines. The significance is that if Carmel can redeem an image of it's wines as sweet, syrupy liquid religion to that of a large producer with a wide range of price points with relative quality and value, it's place as Israel's largest producer can only improve the image of all Israeli wines.
Carmel has also made significant changes in it's selection of vineyard location and how it manges the grapes it harvests. First, it's made huge investments in planting new vineyards in the Galiilee, considered onr of Israel's premier grape growing appellations. Historically, they were getting most of their grapes from lower alitude regions that were suitable for high yield bulk wine production. In fact, according to Carmel they are now the largest grower of grapes in the Galilee and this has given them the flexibility to make better wines and a to make awider variety of wine single varietal wines. Their affiliated and renown Yatir Winery with vineyards in the Judean Hills and the Negev, two other respected wine regions, also provides Carmel with choice grapes that weren't available as recent as ten years ago.
Carmel's Well-groomed & Valued Kayoumi Vineyards in the Upper Galilee
Carmel started off and continues in many ways as a collective of as many 250-300 growers with a management team directing winery and marketing efforts. Lior Laxer, the chief winemaker of seven who work at their wineries, explained it was an uphill battle for the wineries management to convince the growers to switch to lower yield grapes for higher qulity wine than the bulk producing yields they had been accustomed to. On e way was to pay per dunam, about a quarter acre lot, rather than pay per ton. another was to pay the grower on the quality of the grapes being produced. This merit system linked what which Carmel series the winemaking team decided the grapes quaified and the higher the value of the wine (and the more the winery could charge) the more the grower got paid. Some of those families have been tending to high-yield vineyards for over 100 years.
Yet, many of the lowland vineyards were more suited to bulk production so new vineyards in the Upper Galilee, the Golan Heights, the Jerusalem Hills and the Negev desert (yes, the desert) have been planted and now are producing higher quality grapes. Additionally, much of the wineries equipment was suited for bulk wines so it was a huge expense to invest in equipment that was better suited for smaller higher quality production. Where as recently as 10 years ago Carmel barely made any wines with a smaller production of 50,000 bottles they are often making wines of just a few to several thousand bottles in the top three premium levels (compared to their three entry to mid level wines). An additional winery facility (Carmel's fourth if you include it's premeir sattleite Yatir) gives it the capacity to get the grapes form the field to a nearby winery anywhere it grows grapes. This protects the flavor, sugar, acid, tannin profile the winemaker's expected before harvest that could be disrupted through long hauls from a remote vineyard to one central winery. The additional facities and fermentation tanks allow each single vineyard harvested to get it's own tank and treatment and allows the winemakers the ability to monitor how each field was managed and how that manifests in the wine. This allows for informed changes in future vineyard practices and more refined blending options as well picking the best as special single vineyard releases.
First, let me say that my recent visit at the Carmel Winery in Zichron Ya'acov exceeded my expectations on several levels. The only wines I had from Carmel previously were their entry level Selected and Private Collection wines that most people have had, wines many Jews have had at a Sabbath dinner or Passover dinner or Bar Mitzvah. Those "supermarket" wines, at best, may have been considered good value wines but represent what Carmel wants the public to believe were their the bulk wines of Carmel's yesteryear. This day I tasted the wines Carmel hopes will change it's image of being a bulk, Kiddush (Jewish sacremental) and table wine manafacturer to that of a winery that doesn't make just make kosher wines as good as they can but rather great wines that just happen to be kosher. Of course this mantra is now being touted by every kosher winemaker I've talked to in Israel. But with the mass of Carmel's postion in the marketplace, as they change their image for the better they can't help but but bring the image of Israeli wines in general into a more flattering light.
I asked Lior about the one vineyard Carmel has in the Golan Heights since they've invested so much more into the compatible climate of the Upper Gaililee. Carmel claims through recent efforts to have become the largest wine producer in the Galilee when previously their holding were focused on the southern coastal plains near Tel Aviv and the northern coast aaround Zichron Ya'acov. I wondered if the government had been talking to the wineries who are some of the largest employers in the Golan what would happen to their investemets in their vineyards if the Golan is returned to Syria in a peace agreement. Lior confirms my suspicion that "no one in the government has talked about it" and suggests about planting vines and building facilities in the Golan that "it's a big risk." A sentiment that other wine executives in Israel share regardless of their political inclinations whether Israel should return the territory captured in 1967 and recaptured in 1973.
Carmel's Chief winemaker Lior Laxer tasting the fruits of his labors
Late Harvest Gerwurtzraminer
Lior explains about this dessert wine that "it's not the most profitable wine for the winery" because dessert wines in general don't sell as well as table wines and that this wine has such high expenses. The high expenses are mostly due to the low yield of these late harvest grapes are 450 to 600 kilos per dunam (about one quarter of an acrea) compared to up to 5 tons an acre for sone table wines. That's about one-tetn of a yield in just the weight of the grapes. Then Lior explains "there's also less juice that's pressed per ton because so much of the water/juice is already gone. There's so much sugar in the grapes in contrast to juice that you can hear the presses straining to get the juice out".
There's so much sugar that this wine when finished has 120 grams of residual sugar after fermentation compared to as much as only for 4 grahms or less for a dry table wine.
Zichron Ya'acov Telephone: 04 6390105
Rishon Letzion Telephone: 03 9488888
This is the short list of wine books exclusively dedicated to Israeli wine printed in English.
The Bible of Israeli Wines by Michael Ben Joseph
The Wine Route of Israel
Rogov's Guide to Israeli Wine 2009
other suggested Wine Books
The Wine Bible by Karen Macneil
Gary Vanderchuk's 101 Wines Guranteed to Inspire, Delight and Bring the Thunder by Gary Vanderchuk
The University Wine Course by Marian W. Baldy
Oldman's Guide to Outsmarting Wine by Mark Oldman
any wine book by Jancis Robinson
Yours truly, David Rhodes, trying local Israeli micro-brew, Manfred
The 5th Annual Jerusalem Beer Festival is over at Gan HaAtzmut (Independence Park) in the center of the city. From 6PM to Midnight, over 100 beers available here in Israel were served throughout the two night brew bash. Several of the beers are made by local breweries big and small (including my favorite Dancing Camel's Leche del Diablo) yet there are many nations and styles available including lagers, ales and stouts and beers from Belgium, Germany, Spain, Italy and Japan.
israel's aspring 3 year old micro-brewery Dancing Camel caught my attention...
As I cruised for amiable beer vendors willing to sample their beers to a humble (or not so humble) wine writer, I managed to coax about two dozen beers to taste (there's goes my diet for the week). Most were distinctly different from the next partly do to the variety offered and my preference to sample more obscure brands I hadn't tried before than indulging in the larger commercial brands such as Israel's Goldstar or Japan's Asahi (though I've had the occasion to enjoy both with shwarma or sushi repectively). One thing about beer (compared to wine) is that to taste it doesn't lend itself to sipping and spitting. A gulp or two or three under the summer sun seems the best way to judge a brew rather than a sip and spit at wine festivals (in fact no spit buckets were offered and no spitting was observed).
5 English & Belgian Beers & Ciders Beckon Thirsty Beer Festival Patrons
As a disclaimer as a "wine guy" I do try to drink wine on every occasion that liqour is being served. I see it as an educational opportunity that with so many tens of thousands of wines available on the marketplace that each time I might drink some other beverage it's a missed opportunity to explore an untasted wine. Yet there are a few exceptions when wine isn't my first choice of fermented or distilled beverages. One exception, for instance, is when the wine offered is dreadful. This is often the case when the wine list gives a choice simply of one white, one red and one rose without even naming the vintage, winery and region. Chances are then that a beer or almost any other beverage on the menu might be more pleasing. Another situtaion I might not prefer wine is when there might be a dish that is a better match with something other than any wine available. Additionally, being in the industry I can also often spot when a vendor is gauging their customers with their pricing and I don't have to have a drink with every meal. It keeps the calorie count down and my pocket full of a bit more shrapnel.
Banana infused beer, you may ask why? Read on !!!
The other time I drink liqour that isn't fermented juice of the vine is when it's an educational experience such as a festival of this kind and I can meet the makers and learn the craft as it were. There's a nexus of information between booze makers and I respect craftmanship that transends preferences of wine over beer or other libations. Besides, there's an old saying "it's takes a lot of beer to make a good wine" as many winemakers are closet or even outed beer lovers and like to have some brew during the workday or while they wait for their wine to mature. Additionally, I know many a winemaker who dabbled in beer making either before or after the wine bug first bit.
There are times I must admit I'd rather have a beer like at a sports game when the stimulus can be overwhelming for me to savor what's in a glass seem more beer worthy than a glass of my favorite vino. A beer at the festival, the Belgian Mongozo with it's banana infusion seemed like it was waiting for some coconut based Thai curry for a perfect match. or a wine glass isn't even available. On a sailboat when I'm crewing a can or bottle is easier to handle than a glass though it might be one of the exception when swigging from a wine bottle isn't the worse idea. eating certain foods beg for a beer as well. Mexican, Indian, Texas chili or even pizza and certain casual snack dishes such as chips with dips, pretzels, burgers or hot dogs and other BBQ fare (though wine matches do exist here as well).
t-shirt vendor chilling before thousands spill into the Festival
Back to the festival, this was an article about the Jerusalem Beer Festival (any Alice's Restaurant fans out there?) I had a great time and wouldn't hesitate to come back year after year. It's just not a beer festival but a rock/reggae jam and great BBQ too. Some of the same bartenders from the Jerusalem Wine Festival, hey Gabi and the crew from Mia, were at both events so it almost becomes like a family outing for me as most of my best friends in Israel are food and wine (and soon to be beer?) people.
For the record, my favorite beer at the 5th Annual Jerusalem Beer Festival was Israel's very own Dancing Camel's Liche del Diablo (" Milk of the Devil"). It might have been the first time I ever had a spicy hot beer and they pulled it off well. Just like I enjoy an acidic wine with fish (instead of getting the acidity from squeezing a lemon) it was great to get that kick to my senses from the beer instead of a plate of spicy BBQ or a bowl of fiery chili. I wouldn't suggest the beer with spicy food because it might cause sensory overload but maybe with fried food the heat and alcohol might cut through the grease to tease the taste buds. Beer-battered fried chicken, fish and chips or onion rings semed like a perfect match.
Two-fisting beers (reminds me of college days long gone by) my festival favorites
Dancing Camel's Liche del Diablo ("Milk of the Devil") & Belgian banana Mongozo
There are currently four producers of traditional sparkling wines in Israel. Carmel and Yarden's Gamla label are the largest and longest producers with mid-size Tishbi and boutique Pelter more recently adding to the list.
These four wineries offer sparkling wines reminiscent of a Champagne, Blanc de Blanc or Cava type sparkling wine while they and others also offer up frizzante wines as well.
Carmel offers two sparkling wines made in the Charmat (secondary fermentation) method and are the least expensive way to get a big pop at a party.
Gamla Brut, produced by Yarden, is the only Champenoise method wine (where the secondary fermentation takes place in the bottle) that uses the traditional Champagne blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes to make their wine.
Pelter makes maybe the best received Blanc de Blanc (white wine from white grapes in contrast to other sparkling wines that might use red grapes such as Pinot Noir)
The newest sparkling wine on the market is Tishbi's Brut made from French Columbard grapes. French Columbard is a popular choice for sparkling wines in warmer regions (as well as a common base for Cognac brandy in France). Typically, French Columbard wines are made into sparkling wine using the Charmat method but Tishbi uses the more expensive and labor intensive Champenoise method.
David Rhodes, CBW is a California trained food & wine expert now living in Israel. David is the wine writer for Israel's ESRA (English Speaking Resident's Assocaition) magazine as well is the regular weekly guest commenting about wine & spirits on RustyMikeRadio.com. He currently is writing a book about Israeli wines.
David can be reached at IsraeliWineGuy@gmail.com or in Israel can be reached at 052-702-WINE (9463)
The Levahn Festival (Levahn is Hebrew for white) is returning to the Herzliya Marina for it's second year. Last year, israel's first and only wine festival focusing on white wines, roses and sparkling wines attracted about 6000 people over two nights. This year their expecting more visitors so they've doubled their space. Instead of bartenders manning pouring stations seperated by wine types, each winery this year will por tastings and sell their own wines
As one enter's the wine village of Zichron Ya'acov on Richov (street) Hameyasdim there's a treat for those who plan ahead. The Smadar Winery is small and quaint as well as set back off Zichron's main street with little signage to tell a tourist there's a winery to visit nearby. But it's more than just a winery. For those interested, it's an all encmpassing experience, The winery is adjacent to a spa & a bed and breakfast that the family manages. So not only can you taste their wines (well worth the visit) but you can also stay overnight, swim in their heated pool or get a massage.
The family has been living in this spot since they moved to Israel in 1882 when a wave of Jewish Romanian immigrants oved to the area specifially to works vines to produce wine. The family now is on their fifth genreation of growers and winemakers though commercially having been making wine in 1998. Motti, the owner and winemaker, is the great-grandson of the original growers who settled here and his daughter,Smadar, runs many of the tests in the winery's lab. Motti studied winemaking under Yair Marglait for 1 year in 1998 in Tel Hai.
The family manages 30 dunams of vines, about 8 acres, that are just a few minutes ride from the winery.
The winery only typically makes three wines a year and those might vary from year to year. The 2006 vintage, the latest release, features a single varietal Carignan, a Cabernet Sauvignon and a red blend. The red blend is 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Carignan, 15% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc.
The family's bed and breakfast has only four rooms and their quite spacious by Israeli standards. The vaulted ceilings were quite noticeble as many Israeli rooms (and elevators) tend to tests one's resistence to claustrophobia. During the off-season they have deals on rooms during the week. Buy two nights and get a third night free. The rooms are 1000 NIS an evening (about $275/evening).
Whatever way you plan to visit the winery or stay in one of their rooms, it makes a lot of sense to call ahead.
Last night I attended for my first time, the Ramit Aviv Wine Festival at the Haaretz Museum (just north of Tel Aviv). It's the largest annual festival in Tel Aviv slated specifically towards the public attending. The musuem gardens, accented by lit olive trees, provided the perfect back drop for dozens of wineries offereing more than 100 wines for guests to sample. The event goes on for two evenings culimating this evening from 6 until 11PM. The cost is 59 NIS (about $17) for unlimited tastings. Several food vendors were selling fresh sushi, piping hot and tasty pizzas to order, pretzals and best all a wide assortment of gourmet kosher cheese plates.
The experience is well worth the price of admission. Several of Issrael's largest wineries are participating. The Carmel Winery , Israel's largest, is offering their appelation series wines which in their several series is situated in the lower end of their high end or the high end of their lower but definetly provide some of their best value wines. Their Cabernet Franc is one of favorites in this series because it's onr of the least expensive Cabernet Franc's in Israel but still provides the drinker with enough varietal characteristics to develop a taste for this ever more popular Israeli version of a Bordeaux varietal.
The Barkan Winery, Israel's second largest, alsp offered a decent amount of wines and their Pinotage (a South African varietal) is a wine fairly unique to them. They were also offering their Altitude series (412, 624 and 720) of Cabernet Sauvignons which differrentiate from each other by listing the altittude of each winery on the label and are a popular series with israeli consumers seeking to learn more about this powerhouse varietal.
Israel's 3rd largest Winery was also in attendance, the Golan Heights Winery. serving mostly their entry level Gamla series of wines, these wines represent some of the best value single varietal wines in Israel. Their sister winery, the Galil Mountain Winery was situated nearby and their Viognier seemed very popular with people as I walked by.
The Binyamina Winery, was affably serving several of their Reserve wines and their Late Harvest Gewurztraminer was a welcome to all dry wines. They have a great winemaking team that's bringing this winery into the fore front of well respected Israeli wineries.
The Tishbi Winery, Israel's largest family owned and operated winery, are offering several of their Estate wines and were giving an advanced tasting of a promising 2007 Petite Sirah (which would be their first release of Petite Sirah as an Estate wine).
For larger wineries the Dalton, Recanati and Tabor wineries were noticebly absent from the mix but wineries need to pick and choose which events to attend and how big of a footprint they wil make so they're probably mashalling their resources for a bigger presence at an upcoming alternative event such as the Sommelier in November.
There were several noteworthy smaller wineries ranging from those producing 5,000 too 80,000 bottles. The Mond Winery seemed to be a fan favorite and their 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon was one of the better wines at the whole event. Their Red Blend was possibly the best value wine at only 49 NIS (about $14). It was more expressive and balanced than many wines selling for almost twice as much.
Red Poetry is an interesting boutique winery who also grows grapes used by other wineries big and small. Their wines are typically unique foten offering atypical blends such as Sangiovese and Merlot or unusual but deirable single varietals such as Mourvedre yet they don't just survive on the fringes and make a highly quaffable Cabernet Sauvignon.
David Ventura's Domaine Ventura is one of Israel's newest and more interesting up and coming boutiques. Located on the outskirts of Jerusalem, French born David is making many French style wines with an Israeli twist. Making mostly reds, he made his first white for relaese a delectable Chardonnay. His reds vary from tradtional Bordeaux single varietal Cabernet Sauvgnon and Cabernet Franc to an unusual blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir.
Another new face on the scene is the Mount Blessing Winery. A little off the beaten path, located east of the green line, Mount Blessing might have people beating down their doors sonner than later once the word gets out how interesting their wine can be.
The Psagot Winery is also one not to be missed and their Cabernet Franc captured my attention and imagination of who I might share my next bottle with.
Overall, even though the festival wasn't as wild as other's I've attended, everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves, the attendees as well as the presenters and I look forward to going back tonight for more of the same.
Mostly every winery has a story worth telling. I'd venture to say that wineries with the most interesting stories often make the most interesting wines. One winery whose story pulls on the heart strings as well as pleases the palette is the Tulip Winery. Located in Kfar Tikva ( Hebrew for "village of hope"), this family owned winery is gaining more and more fans for their wines every year; yet, sometimes their inspiring story overshadows their delicious wines.
Kfar Tikva is a village founded about 40 years ago dedicated to assisted living for disability challenged adults. All residents are over 21 and have employment opportunities in the village. Their primary employer is a Sabbath candle factory although the Tulip Winery also employs 5 residents (or about half their staff) in various roles about their facility.
Regardless of who is working at the winery, purchasing their wine shouldn't be seen solely as a charitable act unless your taste buds are your favorite charity.
Founded in 2003 by the Itzhaki family (who lives nearby) they've secured the services of Israeli winemaker Tamir Arzy.
They currently have about four series of wines (depending on how you count them) and comparitive value can be found at each level.
Their introductory (less-expensive wines) are their Just Series. The Just wines are 100% single varietals so they're great educational tools for wine newcomers who want to learn individual grape varietals. Wine veterans will find this series a good cross between value and quality for everyday drinking rather than raiding their stash of aging premium wines. They're only oak-aged for eight months which allows the fruit flavor and aroma profiles to really shine through.
Tulip's Just Cabernet Sauvignon and Just Merlot at 67 NIS (about $19) a common enough price point for Israeli boutique wines yet there's more there there than many lesser offereing from many other wineries at the same price point.
Their only white wine is White Tulip, also 67 NIS, and is an interesting blend of 70% Gewurztraminer and 30% Sauvignon Blanc (which are becoming more popular blending partners in Israel as well as popular single varietal wines). It nicely blends the expected white fruit flavors of Gewurz such as peach, apricot and lychee with citric, grassy, kiwi flavors of Sauvignon Blanc.
Many smaller boutiques don't even make white wines as they require aditional equipment and a different set of skill sets than making red wines. I often refer to white wines as "little princesses" because they tend to show every flaw where the deep dark color and viscoisty of red wines can hide minor transgressions. Most Israeli boutiques that approach 100,000 bottles a year eventually add a white or a few to their portfolio as it gives them better market penetration. Roses also are also more common with larger wineries as well though Tulip doesn't currently offer one.
With their 2010 vintage, Tulip plans to become certified kosher and their grapes and wine from this vintage were handled in a way to prepare for this evoluntionary change. There are added expenses to making wine kosher so most Israeli boutiques don't make this change until they approach 100,000 bottles as the economy of scale helps defray that cost over many more bottles than say a 10,000 bottle/year winery. The 2010 White Tulip which isn't oak aged should be their first kosher release hopefully in time the 2011 Israeli summer.
Their next tier of wines is their Mostly series featuring a Mostly Shiraz and Mostly Cabernet Franc. At 79 NIS (about $22) , it's not staggering leap in price from the 67 NIS (about $17) Just series but an experienced wine taster might find the Mostly wines more expressive, balanced and complex with a longer finish than the younger Just wines. The Mostly Cabernet Franc is 85% Cab Franc and !5% Cab Sauvignon which adds some body, structure, complexity and most likely tannins to the wine. The 85 % threshold of a single varietal is important for labeling wines a single varieatal for potential export to the US and EU. These wines are also barrel aged in French and American oak for 14 months which helps justisty the marginal cost difference with the Just series.
Mostly Shiraz is 65% Shiraz, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Petit Verdot. The addition of Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot seeminly add a lot of complexity that is lacking from other bombastic fruity Shiraz's appearing more frequrntly in wine shops. Flavors of Black Cherries, Plums and Blueberries were most evident to me at this tasting.
The most accessable of their top tier wines are Tulip's Reserve series. At 95 NIS (about $27), their Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and Reserve Shiraz are oak aged for 18 months and they have enough fruit to med with the additional tannins and oak induced flavors to age gracefully. The 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve is enhanced with 10% Cabernet Franc which typically is added to add acidity (which often is lacking in warmer region reds) and softer tannins.
The 2008 Syrah Reserve is 90% Syrah and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. Even though Syrah and Shiraz are actually genetically the same grape, different clones exist which emphasize different styles. Often the Shiraz varieties can be jammy fruiit bombs that could remind drinkers of an Australian bottle where Syrah tend to emulate French Rhone or Caliifornia Syrah which can be more nuanced and earthier than wines labeled Shiraz. The wine is as dark and deeply purple as octopus ink which often indicates the intensity of flavor and breath of body in Syrah/Shiraz as well as Petite Sirah. In Petite Sirah though this backbone often overwhelms the nuance one expects or desires from a premium wine although more sophsiticated Peitie Sirah's in Israel and California are becoming more common..
Their highest tier is their Black Tulip wine and at 175 NIS is a typical price point for many wineries' most limited released dry red wine although a few wineries recently launched new "Ultra-premium" wines at almost twice that price. Black Tulip is 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20 % Merlot, 13 % Cabernet Franc and 7 % Petit Verdot which might be catergorized as a Bordeuax style blend (Malbec being the only possible component grape not present). With only 3,000 bottles made it's scarcity helps justify the cost but it also receives 2 /12 years in oak which is extensive compared to most Israeli wines.
Currently, the winery offers free tasting to the public on Friday and Saturdays (though that might change once the winery is serving kosher wines) and the winery typically gives free tastings of one white and two red wines though more elaborate tastings are available at an additional cost.
David Rhodes worked at wineries in California & Israel, hosted over 100 wine parties.as a sommelier & adviser for the SDSU Business of Wine program. He speaks weekly about wine on Rustymikeradio.com & writes for ESRA magazine. Israeliwineguy@gmail.com