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October 14, 2009October 14, 2009  0 comments  Uncategorized

    As you begin to learn about wine you might find it confusing reading a wine label whether it's from Israel or somewhere else.  One reason is labeling laws and designations differ from country to country and sometimes region to region within a country or some terms even winery to winery. As a whole, a label can be confounding to the uninitiated but if you break the label down into common factors you'll find the information more enlightening than mystifying.

 

Varietal: is a term that refers to what grape specifically was used to make a wine. in Israel as in other New World wine regions, at least 85% of the grape listed on the front label must be in the wine and at least the second major grape must be lited on the back label. If no grape varietal is listed on the label it's most often a blend with the most significant grape being less than 85%


In Israel, common Red varietals are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Carignan, Merlot, Syrah/Shiraz, Pinot Noir, Petite Sirah Cabernet Franc  & Muscat Hamburg


Common white varietals are Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Emerald Riesling, White Riesling,  French Columbard, Gewurtraminer, Muscat Alexandria & Muscat Canelli although French Columbard is most often found in brandies, sparkling wines and less expensive blends.

 

Appellation: referes to the specific region the grapes were harvested from more than the where the wine is made.


Vintage: Vintage is the year the grapes were harvested and not the year the wine was realeased although in some cases it can be the same year.


Alcohol level: The alcohol level/% of the wine often can tell us the style fo the wine. Higher alcohol wines are more typical of generally warmer wine regions such as Israel.

 

Kosher: It used to be Israeli Kosher wines had some stamp of kosher supervision on the front label but now it's more common on the back label. Wines that are kosher are also typically kosher for Passover as well and will say as much.


Mevushal: Mevushal is a standard of kosher winemaking intended for observant Jews when they believe non-observant Jews or non-Jews would be handling the wine after it's opened.

 

 


August 30, 2009August 30, 2009  6 comments  wine

    In going from winery to winery, wine event to wine event and talking to winemakers, employees and wine customers in Israel, one of the names that frequently comes up in conversation about wine is food and wine critic Daniel Rogov.  His critiques in Israel pick apart the idiosyncracies of a restaurant's food, service and atmosphere with high praise, mixed feelings or maybe just desserts for the restuarants efforts or offenses. His wine reviews analyze the complexity, balance and expressiveness of a wine (or the lack there of) and describe a profile of flavors one might expect if they bother to take the time to savor and not gulp down their next glass or two. Every Wednesday, readers of the English version of the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz (Tuesday in the Hebrew edition) can read his wine reviews. Every Thursday, they can read a resteraunt review. Since Haaretz is the Israeli affiliate of the New York Times (the International Herald Tribune), these articles can have widespread impact.

   As Israeli wines and even it's restaurant scene have improved dramatically it's only natural that his reputation and stature have improved as well. It's almost as if you were selling people on Yugo's and Yugo's all of a sudden (or over 25 years) started to make a product that competed with BMW and Infiniti, they're bound to take someone more seriously or even just take more notice of the guy who was speaking about the potential of Yugo's all along. Not that his reputation has depended strictly on the performance of Israeli wines, he also has a small apartment in Paris and Florence that allows him to travel and write about European wines for other publications. As much as he's tied to Israel, he grew up speaking Russian, English and Yiddush, three languages not too uncommon for a kid being raised in the 40's in Brooklyn, New York.

daniel rogov
Daniel Rogov at a cafe on Basel Street in Tel Aviv

 

   Having moved to Israel, Christmas Day, 1976 he got to Israel well before the wine revolution started in Israel. He started to write about food and wine in Europe before starting to write in Israel in 1982 (just as vintages were being picked would find their way into game changing Golan Heights wines and soon after Tishbi wines). These two wineries started the dry wine revolution against kiddush wine and insepid bulk wine that then dominated the Israeli wine marketplace.

   So, he has much perspective about Israeli wines as almost anyone having tasted each of these wineries evolve, older wineries revamp and newer wineries emerge. Yet, he's a very controversal figure in Israeli wine. Why, well to start he's a critic and critics give their opinions and the better the critic the more opinionated they might be.

   Now opinions are subjubctive in nature even if some criticisms are more fact based than others. But additionally, the taste of food and wine is subjective as well, and rating the service or atmosphere of a restaurant maybe even more so. Having expressed his opinion thousands of times over almost three decades he's had the opportunity to engender praise and gratitude for positive reviews as well as scorn and antipathy for negative reviews. After 27 years he might even have several genrations of families who love him or hate him but if you're in either the restuarant or wine business it's diffcult to ignore his influence.

   That being said, I have had the recent opportunity to debate Daniel Rogov on a few issues on another site about various issues about Israeli wines. It shouldn't have come to my surprise that he, like me, has a background in philosophy. Criticism is actually, like logic, a common theme in philosophy and our arguments online were poignant yet often dialectic. I can't say if either of us ever convinced the other of our views but we drew a lot of other parties into the discussions and at least brokered some debates that were interesting to follow and participate in (one was about the quality and perceived quality of mevushal wines and another was about whether a site promoting Israeli wines or Israeli wine writers should review Lebanese wines since they've been at a continuos state of war with Israel since 1948). I won't say who was on what side and how the discussion played out (so as not to rekindle the same debate) but the views others brought to it and their reasons were as much as interest to me as of Rogov's and mine but it's his participation in debating the merits of food and wine issues that gives a certain gravitas and magnitude to these discussions for his articles in newsprint cause people to stand up and take notice.  Agree with him or not, I don't think Robert Parker is spending the time online engaging his readers the way Rogov does.

    With my only contact at this point with Rogov (as he often signs his correspondance) being online, it was a result of a cancelled meeting one day in Tel Aviv recently that I followed up on an opportunity to meet this iconic figure in Israeli food and wine.  We met at a local coffee shop on Basel Street (or Bazel Street... Tel Aviv maps and street signs are infamous for having multiple inconsistent English spellings of the same street on different street signs... I think Ibn Givrol might be the worst offender). Of course he preferred sitting outside, he's a reknown smoker (more about that later) though it was a dripping hot sticky humid summer day. We sat for about an hour with Rogov interviewing me at first as much as I interviewed him.

 

Daniel Rogov and David Rhodes at a coffee shop in Tel Aviv: Where's the wine at?


    Although he is incredibly active on various internet sites, he says it's disturbing how anonymous some people remain in discussion forums and how cowardly it is to attack others who post their real identity while the attackers often hide behind screen names. So I guess, the fact that I not only posted my name and my contact information and that in our online discussions/debates my opinions may have seemed less based on conjecture than others, he agreed it would be good to put a face to who we were talking to online.

    Now that being said, I was inately curious about how the meeting might progress. I had mentioned to him about how I had wanted to interview him for this site but I thought by our discussion on the phone it might be a pre-interview introduction more than anything else. Yet, the casual get together quickly gave way to the give and take of an interview and he was very careful to say what was on the record and what was not for publication. He often would interject with personal antecdotes that made for a quicker sense of familarlarity than otherwise might have happened at our first meeting and made for a less stuffy start to my afternoon.

     Rogov has a certain charm about him that is disarming even though he can't seem or doesn't care to censor his comments for affect on how it might offend others. For instance, when I made contact with him and I asked him where he lived, he repsonded with "the Holy City", (then a pregnant pause) Tel Aviv. Now I thought it was funny but he didn't know me and I could see how it could offend others the wrong way and maybe as someone who's been a critic for decades his work and habits of expressing comments and opinions have given him a poetic license to always say what's on his mind. Friends of mine may say that I might exhibit a similar trait but maybe that's why writers need editors.  In fact, some of his most vocal critics seem to be religious Jews living in Israel who wished he would refrain from reviewing non-kosher wines and non-kosher restaurants. Maybe his new book about strictly, the best kosher wines in the world will be seen as an act of contrition to the kosher consumer. With over 1300 kosher wineries in the world (there's only about 2-300 Israeli wineries many of them which are non-kosher) writng about world-wide kosher wineries might be even a more daunting task than writing exclusively about Israeli wines and Rogov does propose that he has probably tasted more kosher wines than anyone else in the world.

       Now with only an hour or so for our first meeting (and I hope one day I'll be able to sit and actually drink wine with him instead of meeting over coffee) there was a lot of questions left unasked for another day but Rogov was good at cutting to the chase. In explaining what he saw as the role of the critic, he asserted that a critic should write "what you percieve as the truth." This opened up to the disclaimer that "...critics are not always right. We make mistakes. We're human". Yet, he proclaimed his "only boss is the readers" of what he writes.

 

 

 


November 11, 2009November 11, 2009  0 comments  wine

     Well, the third Thursday of November has come and gone and as many wine lovers around the world are aware that means it's time for the release of France's Beaujolais Noveau. This wine's release has become a big hit in the United States as this tradition has been tied into Thanksgiving and the start of the holiday season. Beaujolais Noveau isn't thought to be one of the world's premier wines (selling for about $12 or 35 NIS/bottle)  but they are the first release of every year and it's more about a celebration of the harvest and drinking a fruity youthful uncomplicated yet fun wine than a wine meant to impress wine snobs.

      In Israel, on Thursday November 19th three of Israel's largest wineries released their version of a Beaujolais Noveau style wine released as the first 2009 vintage release of their respective wineries just weeks after the grapes were harvested. All three wines are kosher and available only in Israel.  Each winery has it's own take on how to make a young, fun & fruity red wine meant to be drunk now and not later and chilled, yes a red wine designed to be chilled.  Being a light but fruity yet chilled wine these wines will be tend to match well with fried fare, lighter cheeses, tomato based dishes, grilled vegetables and roast chicken. In the US it's a natural match for Thanksgiving Day dinner as Beaujolais Noveau wines (from the Gamay grape)  are known to pack cranberry aromas and flavor profiles.

    Binyamina (Israel's 4th largest winery) makes their Binyamina Baby a wine maybe best described as a "Beau-Jew-lais Noveau" (please excuse the pun sometimes I can't resist). It's made from 100% Carignan grapes (Israel's most planted red wine grape) embracing the carbonic maceration method that is used in Beaujolais to make their Noveau wines. 8,000 bottles were produced. It's relatively light alcohol (12%) for an Israeli red and it's fruitness might make it more ideal match with Asian dishes than most red wines.

 

baby

Binyamina's 2009 Baby

    The Golan Heights Winery (Israel's 3rd largest winery) makes the most traditional Beaujolais Noveau style wine and the most of it producing 18,000 bottles a year. Released under their Golan label (their label for their youngest wines) they make their Golan Gamay Noveau from 100% Gamay Noir grapes, the traditional red wine grapes used in Beaujolais.  The wine will be released with four different labels designed by four different Israeli art students and the winery plans on making this just the first year of a new tradition.  In light of their artist derived series of labels, the Golan Heights Winery held a pre-emptive party Wednesday, November 18th 2009 at 9PM at the Urbanix Gallery at 45 Sheinkin Street (Corner of Melchett) in Tel Aviv. There was also a party at the winery in Katzrin (in the Golan Heights) the next day and like the other two wines will be the focus of parties at restaurants and bars across Israel.

 

Golan Gamay Noir

Four different labels for the 2009 Golan Gamay Noveau

 

    Last, but not least, is the Tishbi's Winery's Junior wine maybe the most Israeli of these Israeli wines because it bucks all traditions. It is a wine that celebrates the harvest like the other wines but it neither uses carbonic-maceration during fermentation or Gamay Noir grapes. To instill the fruitiness expected, Golan Tishbi winemaker and heir apparent to Israel's largest family owned and operated winery (Israel's 6th largest winery), this wine uses free-run juice from selected Carignan grapes from their choice of family vineyards. The winery hosts their Junior Party every year on the third Thursday of every November.  (In 2009 it falls on November 19th). It's only 150 NIS for what comes out to be an evening of all you can eat and drink and a bottle to take home as well at the end. A DJ spins music for the night in their unique brandy distillery for the over 600 guests who attend. About 6,000 bottles will be produced and as with the Gamay Noveau and the Baby, Junior is expected to be drunk within a few months of release and before next year's harvest produces it's own Noveau wines.

 

Tishbi's Junior Event

My last bottle of Tishbi's 2008 Junior

 


January 13, 2010January 13, 2010  0 comments  wine

 

    Behind every good winery there's typically a good story.  Since the Flam Winery is considered one of Israel's best wineries, it's only natural it has one of the most compelling stories. The winery was started humbly in 1998 by brothers Golan & Gilad Flam. In their first vintage they only made a couple of barrels of wine, one of Cabernet Sauvignon and one of Merlot.  Now that's how many family wineries start and many if not most never get too much bigger although this wasn't any average family of vintners.

 

dsr and Golan Flam

David Rhodes becomes a fan of winemaker Golan Flam and his wines

 

    After graduating with a degree in agricultural studies at Hebrew University Rehovet, Golan Flam furthered his studies as a winemaker while becoming a Master of Wine in Piacenza, Italy and then while serving a full year's intership at the Carpineto Winery in Italy's romantic Tuscany witnessing and participating in a grapes evolution from the vine to wine.  He extended his studies abroad taking a year to spend a full season in Australia at the Hardys Maclaren Winery.  Now that's not too unusual. Many of Israel's best winemakers have spent a year or two overseas gathering expertise before coming back to apply their knowledge and experience to an Israeli vineyard and/or winery.  Assaf Margalit, Gil Shatsberg, Ido Lewinsohn and Roni Salove, to name just a few, all interned overseas well before they gained recognition as great winemakers here in Israel. And the fact that his brother Gilad started the winery with him applying his acumen and education in business and law to managing the Flam Winery's business affairs isn't that extraordinary as well. What makes the Flam Winery's story unique is the cache the Flam name had when they first opened their winery and why it still does today.

 

Flam Winery

entering the Flam Winery in the Judean Hills

 

The reason the winery's name had a lot of gravitas when they started in 1998 was that at the time their father Israel Flam was the chief winemaker for the Carmel Winery, Israel's largest winery.  He had worked at the Carmel Winery since 1971 and would continue to do so until 2005, seven years after his sons had substantiated their following his passion for making wine.  Israel Flam has been a pioneer in Israeli winemaking in many ways. After serving as a paratrooper in the Israeli Defense Forces in the 60's, Israel Flam became the first notable Israeli winemaker to pursue expertise overseas and would become the first of many to study at California's UC Davis, one of the world's most pretigious university programs focused exclusively with viticulture and winemaking. 

 

dsr israel flam

Wine Pioneer Israel Flam... could I ask for a better tour guide?

 

    Israel served as chief winemaker at Carmel when it was undergoing many of its market shaking changes from being a big bloated giant producing tens of millions of bottles of cooked/ mevushal winery to a winery half it's former size sacrificing quanity to insure better quality.  Israel Flam had also been the winemaker when Carmel first launched it's Yatir sattleilte. As well, Israel Flam was at the helm when Carmel's Limited Edition, Single Vineyard and Appellation series of wines started showing a finer side to Carmel. As Carmel attemted to shed the baggage of decades of flooding the market with ton after ton of "liquid religion" and bland bulk wine, Israel capped a 35 vintage career at Carmel with inertia in what almost everyone agrees is an appreciated direction.  Considering he was a major player spearheading a reformation towards quality at Israel's largest winemaker (which now produces about 30% of Israel's wine... about 15 million bottles of Israel's 50 million bottles), the Israeli wine drinker and the industry as a whole owe Israel Flam more than most people a measure of gratitude for the amount of quality wine now being produced with "Made in Israel" on the label.

 

   The fact that Israel Flam fathered a pair of sons who would go on to establish one of Israel's most beloved boutique wineries is a testament to him (and his wife) as well. Though Golan and Gilad have surely made the Flam Winery their own triumph in winemaking and marketing success, having their father available as a consultant must have surely provided levels of confidence and experitese that most starting wineries could only envy. 

    By most measures, the Flam Winery makes some of Israel's best wines.  Golan supervises each wine from it's early days as grapes in the ninety plots they contract (in the Upper Galilee and the Judean Hills) to a wine's fermentation, aging and bottling.  Most of their vineyard plots have long term contracts with growers insuring they have access for up to 25 years. The growers are paid by managing the production designated per dunam (about a quarter of an acre) rather than by the tonnage of grapes each plot produces. This practice is fairly standard with wineries seeking quality over quanity and it can at least triple to quadruple the cost of the grapes they're pressing into wine by restricting the yield by at least 2/3 to 3/4 or more of a higher yield attempt.


   Even though their winery has steadily grown from it's initial 600 bottles to about 95,000 bottles/year, you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who'd say they've sacrificed quality along the way.  They've made measured steps each time they've sought to get expand production and by limiting their offering to a select few wines they've added a new offering here and there but haven't ever tried to bite off a bigger bite than they were seemingly able to chew. It's typically at about this level that most wineries have sought kosher certification if they hadn't already. The Flam Winery hasn't but Israel Flam insists that they're doing everything a kosher winery would be doing anyway and that his wines are "kosher but just not certified kosher."  Asked if they ever will seek certification, he responded "never say never," but there are no current plans.


    Their biggest selling wine is their entry level Classico series. This one wine series is about a 50/50 "Bordeaux blend" of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. It's got more New World punch than the typical Bordeaux but not as heavily oaked as a California or Australian 50/50 blend might be. It's become extremely popular as a wine by the glass in trendy Tel Aviv wine bars and restaurants and ages only 6 months in the barrel and then 6 months in the bottle before being released. This wine retails for 74NIS at the winery. The Classico accounts for about 60,000 of the 95,000 bottles/year they're currently delivering to the marketplace.

 

flam classisco 

2008 Flam Classico, 50/50 Cabernet Sauvignon/ Merlot

 

   Their second tier wine is their Flam Superiore wine. This wine is typically about 75 % Syrah and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon though it varies from year to year. The intention which might be soon realized is to make this wine an exclusiving Syrah wine. As their French clone vines have matured year after year, they've supported the flavor, backbone and complexity of the wine with older Cabernet Sauvignon stock. The feeling is sooner than later the Syrah will be ready to stand on its own though possibly it might find it's way into a blend with Mouvedre, another red Rhone grape they've been cultivating.  This wine matures for 12 months in the barrel before resting another 6 months in the bottle before release.

 

flam super

2007 Flam Superiore Syrah/ Cabernet Sauvignon

 

   The two top tier wines from Flam are their Merlot Reserve and Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve. These two wines have consistently been two of the best received wines in Israel year after year.   The 2006 Flam Merlot Reserve is 90% Merlot from Upper Galilee and 10% Petit Verdot from the Judean Hills.  The 2006 Flam Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve is 87% Cabernet Sauvignon 10% Merlot and 3% Petit Verdot.  This wine received 90 points from Robert Parker,  a high score for an Israeli wine from an internationally recognized wine critic.  In this series of wines, they're aged for 18 months in oak before an additional 6 months in the bottle.

 

2006 flam merlot

2006 Flam Merlot Reserve

 

   In any given year, red wines typically make up about  85 to 90%  of the Flam Winery's production. About 10% of their production is comprised of an immensly popular white wine that is a Sauvignon Blanc/Chardonnay blend. It's in such high demand that it typically sells out from the winery within two months of release.

  This year the winery is also realeasing a 2009 Rose. More and more Israeli wineries are releasing roses. It's a sensible market to explore as warmer regions tend to lend themselves to making better received red than white wines though the heat of summer might tempt one to a chilled glass white or rose rather than a big tannic glass of red wine.  Their initial rose will be a Cabernet Franc/Merlot blend. The Cabernet Franc juice was in contact with the skins for a lengthy six and half hours giving the wine a deep strawberry hue. The Merlot juice was added strictly for flavor and was not left for any time with the skins.

 

2009 flam rose

2009 Flam Rose Cabernet Franc/Merlot

Although the Flam name speaks loudly to the last 30 years of winemaking in Israel and all the changes that have happened along the way, their wines being crafted by Golan Flam speak to a rewarding future as more and more great Israeli wineries emerge with an ever increasing selection of interesting and delicious wines.


February 23, 2010February 23, 2010  0 comments  wine

When you visit Israel, explore the idea of trying out the local wines. Israeli wine has been undergoing a revolution lately and have received great reviews by many internationally recognized wine magazines (such as Wine Spectator in the US and Decanter Magazine in the UK) and critics (Hugh Johnson, Robert Parker, Jancis Robinson). One affordable way to try several Israeli wines is to have a personal tasting at your hotel or during a dinner along your travels here in israel.

Having a tasting at dinner or at your hotel can help you save time to visit other historical sites while in Israel (as there are so many) and can allow you to try some of Israel's best wines that don't have vistor centers.

Another option is to travel to a winery or two or three here in israel. There's over 256 although many don't have interesting visitors centers some do and I have many relationships witht the wineries to get you VIP treatment on these visits.


If you enjoy wine and want to make it part of your trip. Let's explore how we can do it together.

You can listen to my weekly wine show on Israeli wine on Rustymikeradio.com as well as listen to my more than 30 podcasts.


Or check out my over 50 articles on wine here on Travelujah,com

 

Did you know the first recorded mention of a wine in the world was that of Noah planting a vineyard in Genesis?

 

Did you also know that in Robert Parker's new wine book there's as many pages about Israeli wines as South African?


David Rhodes

israeliwineguy@gmail.com

052-702-WINE (9463)


November 25, 2010November 25, 2010  1 comments  wine

   There are usually unsong heros in most wine regions: winemakers and grape growers whose reputation and reknown haven't yet met the level of their contributions to the scene.  One such unsung hero in Israeli wine is Paul Dubb. He's not unknown in Israel among other winemakers but he's not the first name mentioned in wine circles overseas or among Israeli wine consumers when Israeli wine is mentioned. He should be more often than not. Paul is making some impressive wines at reasonable prices at the Tzuba Winery located in the Jerusalem Hills on the outskirts of the "Holy City". Paul has not only has made an impact at Tzuba but has made a ripple in the Israeli wine pond as he's matured as a winemaker and vintner.


  Paul was trained as vitaculturist in his native South Africa and helped Kfar Tzuba plant its first vines in the 1997. It was several years later in 2005 that the winery opened on the same named kibbutz (collective farm) its is located on. Paul was managing the vineyards from the start but after a kibbutznik served as the initial winemaker for the first two years, Paul grew into that role and proved to be a great fit. Even though Paul was never formally trained as a winemaker, he had been making dry wines since he was 16 and had always studied periphial studies that led him towards becoming a remarkable winemaker.  For instance, Paul's training as a chemist alows him to do all the lab work at the winery and not have to send samples of wines for testing to outside labs. He did a brief stint at the Tisbhi Winery (as many Israeli wine people have including yours truly, Yair Marglait, Adam Montefiore and Assaf Paz...good company to be in) and was the vineyard manager for the Castel Winery from 2000 until 2004 (when he left to become winemaker at Tzuba). Kfar Tzuba actually grows most of Castel's grapes under Eli Ben Zaken's direction. Tzuba grows for a few other notable Israeli wineries so they must be doing something right in the vineyard and as most week geeks know what makes good wine mostly goes in the vineyard. A winemaker can do more harm than good when great grapes are in play. Yet Paul handles his grapes adeptly and he plays a major role getting the grapes ready the way he sees fit to make the best wines from his vines.

   The first Tzuba wine that should come into play at a tasting of their wines is their only white dry wine in production, their Chardonnay.


The 2009 Tzuba Chardonnay is aged 50 % in new French Oak barrels for 4 months on the sur lees (the yeast after it has died after fermentation) and 50% in stainless steel.  No secondary malolactic fermentation is implemented to avoid the big body and creaminess that can overwhelm the fruit in many Chardonnays. Paul thinks malolactic ferementation in white wines make them too much like a red and strips away what makes a good white wines special: that crispiness that reds lack.

Paul likes the red grapefruit that emerges in his Chardonnay that he fears can be surpressed by over oaking in other's white wines and that's why he only commits 50% of the wine to oak which Paul says adds that classic Chardonnay aroma.

For 79 NIS or about $22 (at November 2010 rates of exchange) the wine is a great deal for one of Israel's best Chardonnays.


    Tzuba's Chardonnay is made from 100% free-run juice with the pressed grape juice going towards their Chardonnay fortified dessert wine.  This is currently Tzuba's only dry white wine although they've made other white wines in the past. Paul had found making a few white wines too labor intensive and logistically challenging for a small boutique yet wants to maintain at least one white wine in their portfolio to give a full range of wines to Tzuba's loyal fanbase.

    Right now, Paul only uses 100% French Oak for all of their wines and maintains that most of Israel's best wines follow suit though he is experimenting with American Oak that is designed to mimic French Oak and is interested in seeing how Amercan Oak can contribute to the complexity of their wines though he doesn't think there's a privation of complexity in Tzuba's wines but as an industrious winemaker he always experimenting on making his wines the best he can. He does concur with me that often the best winemakers are the one who can adaptly stay out of the way of their grapes and act as a midwife to delivering them into the best wine they can be with as little tinkering as possible.

    Previously the winery released Semillon, Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc in different incarnations but now Tzuba sells off these grapes to other wineries. They do have access to them for future wines as they grow one can imagine they may come back to familiar grapes.  Originally, the winery made about 15 wines but under Paul they've culled themselves to 10 wines for now to regroup and focus on quality rather than quanity of labels though they want to continue to increase their production at about 15% to 20%  a year reaching 150,000 bottles in about six years from their current 40,000 bottles.


   Their 2008 Tzuba Cabernet Sauvignon shows a glimpse toward the potential bliss awaiting a Tzuba imbiber featuring 100% Cabernet Sauvignon with only 13.5% alcohol (14% on the label... laws allow a 1% deviation from the label). 13.5% is significantly lower alcohol for an Israeli red which typically flirt with 15% alcohol levels.

    This Cab features 100% free-run juice with pressed juice being used for less expensive offerings. The grapes are harvested at a lower brix (sugar in the grapes before harvest) level to insure lower alcohol level and to avoid prune flavors Paul says become more prevelant in more alcoholic Cabs.  The earlier harvest also provides added acidity that lessens the need for tinkering with the wine's acidity at the winery which is fairly prevelant in warmer New World wineries.  Its a reasonable 89 NIS (about $25), a more than fair price for a Cabernet Sauvignon of this quality and though Paul thinks the wine might age for another ten years he suggests the wine will be best drunk within the next 4 to 5 years as Paul believes most Israeli reds don't age as long as their overseas rivals as the grapes ripen faster here and don't develop sufficient aging compounds to get longer shelf life. Since most people drink wine the night they buy a wine or at latest within 6 months it should more than adequately satisfy the wants and needs of most buyers. Only about 5% of wine consumers cellar their wines, so having wines that are easier to drink from day one is more of a marketing boon than a bust or at least it should be.

    HaMetzuda is Tzuba's top tier wine. Like many other flagship reds worldwide it's a Bordeaux derived grape blended wine.  The 2007 Tzuba HaMetzuda featured about 75 % Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot and 5% Malbec.  This wine features 100% free-run juice and retails at a more than reasonable 115 NIS. It easily meets or even surpasses it's price point's built in expectations by most consumers at this range.  It's full-flavored and well balanced with consisitent body from start to finish.  Aged for 24 months in all French Oak (60% new and 40% one year's vintage), this wine doesn't present as being overoaked though oak is present in the flavors. Black currant, black and red raspberries and cherries and a dark plum finish meld with some green pepper,  fruit cake, mocha, slight tobacco and lingering leather undertones.

   The yet to be released 2008  HaMetzuda shows even greater promise commercially than the 2007. Paul aged the 2008 for only 18 months and a lesser reliance on Cabernet in this blend may have paid dividends as well. The fruit shines through ore brilliantly here than the 2007 (though I appreciate the 2007 in it's own right as being different and not inferior in any way other than not as fruity as most Israelis seem to crave.  The 2008 is 60% Cab Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc. The wine exhibits deeper color than the 2007 partly from being younger and partly to what Paul attributes to the addition of the Cabernet Franc. It's nicely balanced as well and the Cabernet Franc lends a bit of floral aroma to the mix of flavors evident in 2007. The mocha seemed a little less prevelant and maybe less oak and no Malbec contribute towards these ends.

 Either way, these wines are great values for buyers who often pay 50% to 100% more for wines of this quality at other Israeli wineries.  I look forward to returning to trying the rest of Tzuba's ten wines and future vintages (though trying previous vintages would be a treat as well).


Other wines currently available in their line up include their:

2008 Tzuba Shiraz

2007 & 2008 Tzuba Merlot

2008 Tzuba Sangiovese


2007  Tzuba Pinot Noir

Whichever wine you try from Tzuba be rest assured that they are making great wines for a more than reasonable price and that even though a lot of critics haven't caught on to their wines you can be the first of your friends to sing their praises. After the critics wake-up expect their prices to eventually climb as demand soars.


David Rhodes can best be reached at

052-702-9463 (mobile in Israel)

israeliwineguy@gmail.com

Davids hosts the world's only English language radio show and podcast about Israeli wines at Rustymikeradio.com  and is available for tours, lectures  and private tastings about Israeli wines for those living or visiting in Israel.

David also acts a consulting sommelier for restaurants and a cellar consultant and broker for those seeking qaulity wines at the bests prices in Israel.





October 21, 2010October 21, 2010  1 comments  wine

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


October 29, 2010October 29, 2010  0 comments  wine

Located on Kibbutz Eyal (on the outskirts Kfar Sava) within a few steps of the well-established and prestigious Saslove Winery is Avidan. Less well known than it's neighbor, Avidan is rightfully and rapidly gaining it's own notoriety for the quality and unique character of their wines. Like it's neighbor, Avidan is a family affair.

Shlomo Avidan, who was the initial winemaker and studied under the iconic Ya'ir Margalit now manages the vineyards. Tsina Avidan, his wife, has grown into the role of winemaker. Their daughter Shira focuses on marketing but all three work as a team and make many of the decisions together.  Seemingly, its a formula that works well as their wines get rave reviews that might incite envy from many larger or longer established wineries. Shlomo's position as one of the managers of Discount Bank gives them the financial freedom to make wines the way they want to and not just to satisfy market demands. That being said they've grown from a garage winery started in Ra'anana in 2000 to a viable commercial boutique winery in 2004 when they moved to Kibbutz Eyal. Avidan now produces about 25,000 to 30,000 bottles a year.


Avidan's wines are a delight for a wine geek like me and anyone who wants to see traditional wines made with a flare or non-traditional wines made well enough to draw the praise of often jaded wine critics and sommeliers. Newcomers may shy away because of the price (which considering the quality is a steal compared to similarly lauded wines) or because some of the wines are non-traditional blends but the truth is in the tasting and many of their wines could convert the uninitiated into aspiring connesoirs.

The wines are split into three series and the make-up of each wine can change from year to year.


The Blend des Noirs is typically their biggest selling wine and is a blend of various grapes used in their other wines. In 2008, they made two blends, the Tag Segol ("the Purple") and the Tag Katom.

From an outsider, it seems like it might be two different approaches to making a similar wine.


The 2008 Tag Segol is 40% Merlot, 25% Shiraz, 20% Petite Sirah and 15% Carignan. Merlot tends to have softer tannins than the other three grapes would seem to add structure and firmer tannins as well as complexity. It's an unusual blend so the combination of flavors should be a refreshing change for many drinkers and the Shiraz and Petite Sirah also contribute the Deep Purple of Octopus Ink that those grapes typically imbue into wine. Blackberries and Blueberries come through for fruits. Black Pepper is a Petite Sirah trademark that shines through with chocolate and vanilla coming through from the Merlot and through the combination of 12 months aging in American and French Oak.


The 2008 Tag Katom is 40 % Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot and 25% Grenache. Starting with a base of Cabernet Sauvignon, a meaty wine with firm tannins it's softened with the addition of Merlot and gregarious Grenache ( a grape Avidan is helping proving worthy of further attention from other Israeli winemakers in blends and as a single varietal). Also aged in French and American Oak for 12 months.  The 2007 scored an 88 from Robert Parker.

The Fringe series offers a glimpse of the potential of Avidan as a game changer in Israeli winemaking. These wines, too, can change by name and grapes year to year. In fact, that's one of the most redeeming an couragous aspects of the winery that maintains their artisinal approach over commerical concerns. Each year, they make wines they want to make the best wine that their grapes allow.  Tsina told me it's like a sculptor who might say the stone dictates how they sculpt the rock that the grapes often dictate how she makes the wine and what wine she makes. she sees her role as sort of a mid-wife for the wine and Avidan wines often display this Old World perpective of winemaking.  Even though many of their wines are marketed as single varietals they don't seem to have an attachment to building a brand for customers to follow as much as earning the faith that their wines will be interesting and the best wines they can deliver.

 

The 2007 Avidan "Fringe" Prio  has become a pride and joy of the winery after receiving special attention from some revered sommeliers at a small tasting recently in France.   A blend of Carignan, Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot this wine along with other boutique wines from `Vitken, Somek and Smadar show a growing affection by Boutique winemakers for what was once a reviled grape that was a victim of neglect and abuse of high yield harvests from younger vines rather than inherent flaws of the varietal.

The 2008 Avidan "Fringe" Full Wine is a more traditioanl blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (60%) and Petite Sirah (40%). This wine might show the influence of the Margalit clan on Avidan since Margalit's Cabernet Reserve is about 85% Cab and 15% Petite Sirah but the differences in blends and vineyard locations (as well as several other winemaking variables) result in two dramatically different wines (though by many both highly desirable).

This wine could be called a "New World" wine made with Old World sensabilities. A Cabernet Sauvignon/Petite Sirah blend wouldn't be that uncommon in California but Petite Sirah never caught on its home of France (or anywhere else in Europe) before it finding favor in winemakers and consumers in America before coming to Israel. Although, part of a blend here and in other Avidan wines it's also becoming more popular as a single varietal as it gets more TLC in the vineyards which give it the character to get top billing as part of a Carmel Appelation wine or at the notable Chillag Winery (where winemaker Orna Chillag has been a role model for other Israeli women winemakers).

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Avidan Winery is open Friday and Saturdays 11am to 4 PM but is open by appointment on other days.

Contact Information:


Avidan Winery

Kibbutz Eyal

Mobile Post Central Sharon, Israel 45840


e-mail: Avidanwine@walla.com

Telephone: 09-7719382

Fax:           09-7712679

 

 

 


February 23, 2011February 23, 2011  1 comments  wine

       Today, I got to visit for my old friends (comparatively speaking in Israel) at Recanati. I thoroughly enjoy talking about wineries of their ilk because Recanati does a great job making great wines at different price points and their wines seem to get better year after year ( and they're only 20 minutes from where I live ttoo). This visit had some special significance because it was my first official tasting of their 2008 premium wines outside of tasting at events when there's too much additional stimulation to appreciate a wine without distraction and with the insight from the winemakers how they got to what your tasting in the glass. 

      The 2008 vintage wines have a special meaning at Recanati because the team of winemakers changed and this was their first vintage to see how the change reflected in the wines. The entry level reds of 2008 have been out a while but the higher end 2008's (Reserve now and the Special Reserve Red not too far down the road) which were aged longer are now on the shelves and there are noticable differences from previous incarnations.

      Gil Shatsberg and Ido Lewinsohn make up the current dynamic duo of winemakers at Recanati. Even though Gil holds the title of senior winemaker, it's very much a collaborative effort and that seems to make for better wines as each brings a different background to the winery. Gil had training at UC Davis, the most preeminent wine school in the USA and worked at Carmel, Israel's largest winery and was the sole winemaker at the Amphorae Winery before taking over from founding winemaker, fellow UC Davis grad Lewis Pasco. Ido has studied extensively in Italy, France and Australia and interned at Israel's prestigious boutique Margalit Winery and worked with Lewis before Gil took the helm. Between them they literally have a world's experience of winemaking.

    So, how are things different in their newest wines from Recanati's and most other Israeli wines?

    First, there's a difference in the white wines. Let's look at their two different Chardonnays the 2009 Recanati Chardonnay and 2009 Recanati Chardonnay Reserve. They differ less from each other than most Israeli or other "New World" (outside Europe) Chardonnays. They both avoid the malolactic ferementation process that has become so common with New World Chardonnays. Malolactic fermentation is a seconday fermention process (the primary turns sugar into alcohol and CO2). The process turns the prevelant astringent maliic acid in wine into a smoother silkier creamier lactic acid.  Lactic acid is the acid prevelant in dairy products. The drawback of this process is much of the fruitiness and varietal character is lost in this process. This also gives many Chardonnays the weight people associate with the grape alhtough oak aging also adds to this equation as well.  But, both Gil and Ido have developed an aversion to bombastic wines and strive to make more elegant wines. So one way to still give a body to the wine but bypassing the malolactic conversion is to age their Chardonnay sur lees or with the yeast after its died after fermentation. This is common enough in European whites but rarer in New World Whites. Preserving the acidity also preserves a crispness that is more true to the varietal and helps good Chardonnays age into great Chardonnays. A few other Chardonnays in Israel also have embraced this technique including the Tzuba and Tzora wineries.

 

Recanati 2009 Whites

2009 Recanati Special Reserve White

2009 Recanati Chardonnay

2009 Recanati Chardonnay Reserve

 

    Although Ido wouldn't say he thinks their 2009 Chardonnay is better than their 2009 Reserve Chardonnay he does admit it suits his personal taste of a less oaky Chardonnay where the Reserve should be popular with American drinkers who generally have a quencihng thirst for heavier oaked Chards.

   In the 2008 reds and beyond some noticeble changes have also arrived. One of the major changes happens in the vineyard where in the past the wineery may have harvested as late as possible to get the most ripe or even overripe grapes to insure maximum sugar and therefore  higher alcohol ...) Gil & Ido have been favoring harvesting as early as possible to get added acidity from the grapes and more nuanced, greener (i.e. more Old World) less sugar i.e., less alcoholic wines. Additionally, they're favoring using less "New Oak" (unused barrels) for older oak and shorter exposure times in many wines and seeking preservatives from the acidity rather than from more traditional oak tannins. Now, it's not a long stretch of rational thinking because acidity is what most notable white wines depend on for their longevity but to rely on it for a red wine is fairly innovative and counter conventional wisdom where the tannins from the skins or barrels are more often relied on.  Time will tell as this new generation of Recanati wines age but if Gil & Ido got it right (and I suspect they did) it could be a game changer in how most quality Israeli wines are made.

   Another change which may or not be noticable is that almost all of the Recanati Reserve wines except the Petite Sirah/Zinfandel are Single Vineyard wines). This may not make any of the wines better per se but it will make them more unique and an expression of terroir rather than market driven more homeginized wines.   Recanati does have some impressive plots in the Galilee and the Judean Hills so this Single Vineyard approach I think will help promote the appelations the wines derive from as well. 

    There's been a bug push in the last few years as more and more big and mid size Israeli wineries make their higher tier wines single vineyard wines. Many boutique do it easily because their small production warrants a single vineyard (or less and sell of the remaining grapes) or they have limited access to grapes as they buy on the open market and haven't the long term contracts that more established wineries secure to insure a long term supply.

 

Dave at Recanati 2/23/11

OK the white wine's were a great start...now on to the reds

Enjoying Recanati's 2007 Special Reserve Red

 

     If that wasn't enough of a change on the macro scale another major change is happening on the micro change as the wines are going through a dramatically different filtration system. Filtration is a big factor on how the finish product presents itself. Filtering through a filter with larger holes allows for more color and body to remain in the wine. Recanati uses extensive and more labor intensive racking the wines to help clarify the wines that a more exacting filtration would accomplish. It's a lot more work but to avoid a more precise yet body/color robbing filtering, Recanati and many other wineries insist on taking that extra measure. To illustrate the point the winery's current filtration is about 1/3 to 1/4 as exacting as previous measures but when compensated for in racking that's plus and not the cosmetic and textural minus it might be otherwise.

I'll revist the winery sooner than later to try their remaining wines like their Cabs, Merlots, Syrah and Sauvignon Blanc as well as their Yasmin entry level blends and their highly regarded Rose.

 

 

 

wines tasted today 2/23/11

 


2009 Recanati Chardonnay


2009 Recanati Chardonnay Reserve


2009 Recanati Special Reserve White


2008 Recanati Cabernet Franc


2008 Recanati Petite Sirah/Zinfandel


2007 Recanati Special Reserve Red

 


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DavidRhodes
Posts: 54
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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

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