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April 19, 2009April 19, 2009  0 comments  wine

 

 

      There's a few different doors through which people enter into working with wine.  Many come into wine through the hospitality industry. Caterers, hotel and restaurant workers and owners have many opportunites to learn about wine through tasting the wines they serve. The wineries and distributors will often go to great effort and expense to give their staffs training (Eli Ben Zaken at Domaine du Castel for example was the owner of the Italian restaurant Mamma Mia in Jerusalem before making his fiirst wine).  In Israel, many children were lucky enough to have their parents catch the bug before them and have had a winery to set their sights on early in life. (Assaf Margalit and Golan Tishbi are examples of such winemakers who followed in their father's footsteps). Many winery owners switched from wine successful career paths in unrelated industries to the more romantic venture of winemaking (count Dalton and Recanati amoung these Israeli wineries). Some others entered through their curiousity while following academic pursuits ( I first studied wine through my college's geography department and Yair Margalit was a research chemist at UC Davis, which hosts one of the world's most famous wine programs). Much more rare but becoming more common is when a child paves the way for a parent. Ido Lewinsohn and his father Amnon are such a pair of aspiring wine entrepeneurs. 

     Ido has gained an immense amount of diverse winemaking experiences in a relatively short span of time.  Besides launching his new and promising winery, Ido serves as a winemaker at the award winning Recanati winery under the tutelage of noted winemaker Gil Shatsberg.  Ido has been been there for about two years so he was there when the winery went through it's transition from Recanati's founding winemaker Lewis Pasco in 2008 to Gil who had come over from the pretigious boutique Amphorae. Amnon Lewinsohn, had a long and fruitful career as a mechanical engineer before partnering with his son on making fine wines.  For a small winery, a mechanical engineer is an asset of immeasurable value. There are so many devices that need tinkering and many processes that can benefit from a trained eye especially in the limited space starting wineries often inhabit. Incidently, Ido mother's maiden name, Winezoff, loosely translates from Polish into "wine taster" so maybe a recessive gene is partly responable for Ido's devotion to oenology.

 

 

 

     Unlike many of the previous generation of Israeli winemakers, Ido and many of his contempories have had intensive training and work expereince in international wine schools, vineyards and wineries. Ido started quenching his curiousity about wine at the University of Milan where he studied oenology and viticulture. Since his initial studies, his practical experience has been bountiful and well traveled. From the "Old World"of European origin, he worked at the 2002 vintage of Domaine Haut Lirou in the Pic St. Loup appelation in the Languedoc region of France. In 2004, he returned to Italy to the Sassicaia Winery, in Tuscany, a producer of of notable "Super Tuscans."  In 2005, he gained valuble expereince creating a new winery in France's Rhone Valley, the Mas du Notaire in appelation Costieres de Nimes. He continued there the following year as well as crafting the wines at the Haut Lirou.

     Though his wines show an evident respect for Old World traditions of lower alcohol, less oakey, more nuanced wines, Ido isn't without his New World winemaking expereinces.  In 2003, he worked with the Margalit family in Israel (who themselves are noted for merging the best attributes of Old World and New World winemaking) and has maintained a close working relationship with the Margalit's ever since.  In 2007, Ido went to the far reaches of the winemaking world when he ventured to spend that vintage year at the Domaine A on the Austrailian island of Tasmania. This immediatley preceded his return to Israel and his start at Recanati. This was also the stage at when Ido transitioned from a student of wine into a teacher as he became the director of the winemaking course at Ariel University in the West Bank. These winemaking courses are evolving into a one year program for those aspiring to establish boutique wineries.

    The Lewisohn line-up is typical of many Israeli boutique wineries offering 3 wines: two reds, a Merlot and a Cabernet Sauvignon and a for the one white a Chardonnay.  Though all of his wines equal or surpass the quality of many of Israel's other reserve wines, there is a barrel of Cabernet which might be later released as the winery's first reserve. Although the choice of varietals is not surprising, the special care he has taken in nuturing these wines manage to convey qualities rarely seen in their Israeli peers and could compete for bragging rights against well recognized international offerings.

     There are few distinct steps that Ido credits for his wines unique appeal, to me and to the select few who've been treated to his first vintage and a sneak preview of the the 2008's.  First and most importantly is Ido buys only the best grapes including some from the Margalit family's Galilee vineyards. He pays a premium to secure grapes he knows makes the highly sought after Margalit wines from their Kadita vineyard in the Galilee. Many winemakers will admit that you can only make great wine from from great grapes and I've heard some credit what happens in the vineyard accounts for 85 to 95% of the quality of any given wine.

     Not only does he secures great grapes he picks them at a lower than usual Brix level (sugar level) which provides for higher acidity than usual and lower alcohol levels. The lower alcohol and higher acidity levels allows for a wine that can convey more balance, a longer finish and more complexity unmasked by higher alcohol.  The lower brix picking has also been adopted by the Margalit's and that's good company to be keeping.

     Warmer weather regions typically have shorter growing seasons than cooler regions because the fruit ripen quicker which can give more dependable harvests but don't allow for more complex flavors and acidity to develop.  In Israel altitude can often make up for latitude and hilly and mountainous regions such as the Galilee, Golan and Judean Hills can produce grapes associated with more northern climes (or southern if you think of southern hemisphere wines in Argentina, Chile, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand for example).

    Even more unique than harvesting lower brix grapes is how Ido implements gravity in processing his wines. Gravitation winemaking is when the winemaker at every stage or even at critical stages uses gravity to assist the crushing, fermentation and even bottling processes.  During crushing the Lewinsohn's can accompish this by using a small crusher/destemmer that can process about a ton of grapes an hour but can be placed directly over the tank the juice is intended for.  This allows the grapes to avoid being being pumped to the tanks as most wineries do.  During pumping, the skins, stems and seeds are handled more harshly according to gravity proponents and this translates into more bitter tannic tasting wines with more vegetative aromas.  To complement this, instead of pumping over the juice to let the grapes slowly gently open up Ido uses open top tanks which allow for "punching down" which he asserts is even more gentle with the potentially problemeatic seeds, stems and skins (oh,my).

   Another suggested advantage of gravity processing is that the less pumping and other mechanical manipulations of juice from the grapes to tanks to barrels to the bottles, the less mechanical energy transferred to the grapes and the juice and the less interference with the natural tastes emerging from the wine.  Some winereies have gone to making 4 or 5 story wineries that allow every stage of the processing to use gravity to assist in the wine migrating from one stage to another. However, Ido considers "100%" gravtity assisted winemaking a marketing ploy and and an unnecessary extravagent expense and that it's only in certain stages (crushing,fermenting and bottling) that these efforts translate into noticeble differences.  Never the less, no Israeli competitors are 100% gravity assisted and few if any are known to be using it to the extent he's adopted. If his wines gain the respect they deserve, look forward to others to follow though it's far more manageble on the smaller scale of a boutique winery than a larger more industrial producer.

 

    An even more unique innovation Ido is introducing is sur lees aging to his reds. Now sur lees aging, aging the feremented juice with the already spent yeast, is quite common with white wines, but seldomn used with reds and almost unheard of with for aging up to the year Ido is aging his reds.  The sur lies provides another nuance to the taste and feel of the wines as the yeast cells impart a certain flavor but also as they break open impart a fuller body as they release polysaccarides into the wine. Polysaccarides by definition area long chain of sugars which give way to a  fuller body to the wines can provide balance otherwise  lost to lower alcohol levels due to the lower brix harvesting.

     Though his efforts supporting Gil Shatsberg at Recanati are more easily accessable in Israel and overseas, Ido has secured a few placements with Israeli restaurants that have been buying up his whole production of Lewinsohn Wines at between 4 to 6,000 bottles a year so far.  Al Ha'mayim, Messa and the Metushelach Wine Bar would be worth investigating just to try Lewinsohn wines and  if they have sought out such a high quality winery for their list, it wets one's imagination what else they might carry and what food they may serve to complement their wines. Currently, the 2007 Chardonnay is selling off the wine lists for 220-240 NIS/bottle (about $55- $60/bottle which isn't bad for a premium Chardonnay over dinner). The wines are retailing for 110 NIS for the Chardonnay and 130 for the reds (about $26 and $30 respectfully).

     Besides enjoying the fruits of his own labor with Lewinsohn's and Recanati's line-up of wines, he indulges in Margalit and Clos de Gat wines. His days in Europe weren't for naught and he does like to invest in Italian Piedmont wines when and where they're available.

   Fans of Israeli produced wines should be enthusiasic that Israel is nuturing and producing skillfull and concientious winemakers like Ido Lewinsohn and I hope they find ways to supports his efforts at Recanati or his own Lewinsohn wines less he be recruited to once again ply his craft overseas.

    I'll be looking forward to tasting his soon to be released 2008 Chardonnay which relied on grapes from Red Poetry vineyards.

 

 

 

 

 


December 20, 2009December 20, 2009  0 comments  wine

Like in most world wine regions there's a host of themes of how people get into winemaking. There's the industrialists who make oceans of wine, there are the artists who make small but often amazingly well crafted batches of bliss and then are growers who evolved into winemakers after seeing their crops being utilized for much higher profits than they ever realized just selling their grapes.

The Red Poetry Winery is one of these grower launched ventures. Located on the windward side of the Judean Hills, the vineyards of the winery sits among fields of figs, peaches, nectarines, olive groves and a variety of table grapes.

 

2007 Red Stains

100% Carignan from 30 year old vines

aged with 1 year old barrels for about 18 months

 

very fruity and very expressive with apparent yet fairly soft tannins showing great aging potential

 

2007 Aronson

Mourvedre 75% & Syrah 25% reminiscent of a southern Rhone Valley blend

a much lighter earthier wine with Syrah being predominant on the nose which seemingly is becoming a common element in blends in this region

 

2007 Erlich

Syrah 40%, Merlot 40% with the remaing 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Verdot


coconut on the nose from the oak aging

 

1-2,000 bottles produced

 

2007 Red Poetry Merlot

made from 100% Merlot

 

2006 Cabernet Sauvignon

very fruity with soft tannins showing enough character to age nicely

 

 

 


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

 

 

 


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DavidRhodes
Posts: 54
Comments: 59
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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