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May 4, 2009May 4, 2009  3 comments  wine

     If you try enough wine and venture to enough wineries in Israel or most New World wine regions you'll get your full of Cabernet, Merlot and Chardonnay. Hmmn, maybe C.M.C. should be an acronym for "can't make choices". At the the Vitkin Winery in Kfar Vitkin, however, they've chosen to buck conventional wisdom with their varietal choices: Carignan, Cabernet Franc, Petite Sirah and Pinot Noir for reds and Gewurtztraminer and Riesling for whites.  Vitkin Wines are doing what few wineries in Israel dare to do and they're doing it well. They are not making Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or Chardonnay. Hat's of to them.

    Don't get me wrong.  There's nothing wrong with making Cabs, Merlot and Chard. Israel has several great examples of each and I'll applaud them as I find them; but, does Israel's future as an exporter lye with these stand-bys or with more "unique-selling point" wines such as Carignan, Cabernet Franc and Petite Sirah? Vitkin makes as extraodinary examples or what innovation is availble with alternative varietals in Israel under the supervision of a gifted winemaker such as Assaf Paz.

The Vitkin Family

Sharona, Doron & Assaf: The Vitkin Team

   By visiting Vitkin and it's CEO, Sharona Paz-Belogolovsky, I got a chance to experience many varietals and their flavors and aromas that I haven't yet had a chance to write about. As a writer and a wine taster, it was a welcome opportunity (this doesn't mean I'm swearing off Cab Sauvignon, Merlot or Chards... there are justifiable reasons for the demand). It's just that when you taste as many wines as I try to taste other "Varietals are the Spice of Life."

    Since their first vintage in 2001, which released only 200 bottles (or one small barrel worth of wine), the "Vitkins" (less of a mouthful than saying the Paz-Belogolovsky's) have been steadily increasing their production and diversifying their offereings. Starting with Cabernet Sauvignon, (as most garage wineries here seem to do) their departure has established their niche in the ever increaing competitive Israeli marketplace. Producing about 40,000 bottles now they're hoping to sooner than later expand to 100,000 bottles at which point they'll probably make accomodations to become a Kosher winery which would only require them to hire a Sabbath-observant Jew to handle the wine according to Rabbinic stipulations. The increased production might mean a move to new facility and building an attached tating room/visitor center.


    It's worthy to note here that many of Israel's best wineries, which ae smaller wineries, dont have conventional tasting rooms. It's not by choice. Many of them, by where they are located on community or collective farms, aren't allowed to have attached tasting rooms by restrictive zoning practices. I hope to help advance getting Israel's Knesset to help pass new zoning to help provide zoning exemptions. In California, for instance, most boutique wineries sell 50% of their wines retail in their visitor center which is much more profitable than selling wholesale to restaurants and distributors.  The tasting rooms also become great toursit destinations. At this visit, I was kindly received by Sharona in the family kitchen which has a certain charm of it's own.

   Back to the wines... as they establish their own niche, the Vitkin wines are also proving some nay-sayers wrong about what wines can be made well in Israel. Take for example, their 2007 Pinot Noir which produced 3,000 bottles with 13.8% alcohol. It's been very well received with a lot more color and body than traditionally expected from Pinot Noirs but it retains those strawberry and cola flavors that are so sought after.  This wine uses 100% Pinot Noir grapes (as is the Burgandy style) from vineyards adjacent to Gush Etzion and Jerusalem at an altitude of 700 meters. This same elevated vineyard and microclimate accounts for their Viognier and Riesling grapes.  This wine reaffirms that Pinot Noir can be well crafted at lower latitudes around the globe at higher altitude vineyards. This coveted vineyard is exclusive to Vitkin. The vineyard is 10 degrees celcius lower in temperture than the surrounding area and actually expereinces frost in the winter which is indicative of a vineyard more apt for Pinot Noir than many other parts of Israel such as the coastal plains.  The wine is oaked in 350 liter barrels for 10 month before bottle aging and release.

   Another red varietal that hasn't received it's proper respect in Israel (as well as the rest of the world) is Carignan.  Carignan has long been Israel's most planted red grape, as it was in France until recently. Of course few avid wine drinkers and almost no casual wine consumer has heard of Carignan because it was mostly a blending grape or bottled as a non descipt table wine. You probably drank some under the label "red wine" without even knowing it. As in France, in Israel has had a history of growing Carignan as a bulk grown grape.  As a bulk grape, it did what was asked of it and delivered a mass of high-alcohol non-notable red wine.  However, when treated and tended to like a fine wine, harvested from older and/or well manicured vines producing up to one tenth of the over produced vines, the Carignan is quite capable of delivering a shock of a black raspberry fruit bomb with crisp acidity with oak infused notes of cinnamon, clove and sandlewood.

   Their Carignan currently hails from three vineyards in Binyamina, Zichron Ya'acov and the Carmel Mountain.  The vines range from 25 to 40 years old, a rarity in Israel as many Carignan vines were getting pulled as they aged because they would produce far fewer grapes (desirable fro a fine wine though detrimental if you were seeking bulk production which most Carignan growers wanted).  The Vitkin 2006 Carignan (released August 2008) retails for about 95 NIS (about $24) and is oaked 14 months in both 300 and 350 liter barrels. The wine is almost sold out.  100% Carignan grapes grown on 25 to 40 year old vines in Binyamina, Zichron Ya'acov and Carmel Mountain.

one of Vitkin's Cherished Vineyards

 

    Another red varietal that Vitkin is assisting to get in proper place in the mindset of israeli wine consumers is Cabernet Franc.  Cabernet Franc has been showing great promise with several producers here in Israel including Margalit and recently Tishbi.  This Bordeaux varietal demonstrates a far fruiter alternative than French releases. It's intrinsic higher acidity than Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot might make it better suited for Israel where warmer climes can challenge the acidity levels of grapes. Typically, warmer climes produce higher sugar in grapes and thereby when fermented higher alcohol where in cooler climes, lower alcohol and higher acidity is expected.  The acidity of Cabernet Franc also makes it more food friendly than it's Bordeaux brothers and is suggested as good company to herbal sauces, tomato based dishes and savory eggplant offereings.

    If you've been following my wine explorations, you should know by know, I think Cabernet Franc has the potential to be Israel's signature grape for several reasons. First, it's a Bordeaux varietal and there's a certain mystique, romance and respect that comes with that. Even though Malbec isn't used that extensively in France anymore, Malbec's status as a Bordeuax grape helped get Argentina on the world wine map. Second, Cabernet Franc isn't being exported in any significant quanity from anywhere other than France. France typically only exports it with the region it's from on the label and doesn't even mention Cabernet Franc on the lable.  Israel could brand Cabernet Franc as it's own. 

  Additionally, since most Israeli wine exports go to the United States and most of those go the Northeast and Mid Atlantic states, it should be helpful that Cabernet Franc is well planted in well regarded Long Island vineyards in New York State. As mentioned before, it food friendly acidity should be a blessing for those selling the wines to accompany home cooking or for placement on restaurant wine lists. As a little side note Malbec is Israel's least grown Bordeuax varietal rarely making a single varietal appearance and most often relagated to blends.

The Vitkin Cabernet Franc 2006  is comprised of 86 % Cabernet Franc and 14% Petite Verdot ( a common complementary blending grape in Bordeaux as well as in finer Israeli wines) with 14 months in small oak barrels and 14% alcohol.  The Petite Verdot helps provide color, structure and tannins to the elegance of Cabernet Franc. This Cab Franc is bigger, bolder and deeper in color than most Cab Francs with black raspberry and with subtle green pepper and herbal aromas with the crisp acidity desired by most Cab Franc advocates.

 

Dave drinking Vitkin Cab Franc

A glimmer in Dave's eye as he ehjoy's Vitkin's 2006 Cabernet Franc

    Another "bastard" red grape Vitkin fosters into a splendid wine is Petite Sirah. Though a grape from France where when it's used at all it's almost always used for blending , it's more widely known from it's use in California as a single varietal.   The Vitkin Petite Sirah 2006 (with 14% alcohol) was just recently released in 2009, two months ago. This wine was oaked 16 months in 300 and 350 liter barrel.  The larger barrels expose less wine per liter to oak than smaller barrels would.  The Petite Sirah is so heavy that the fruit be would overwhelmed by more oak. Their Carignan gets a similar treatment for the same reasons.This example of Petite Sirah exhibits cherry, heavy tannins (which should serve it well as it ages) with noticeble but pleasant acidity with red plums as it opens up. To the eye, it appears, as expected from Petite Sirah, as deep purple octopus ink.

     Ironically, Vitkin exports this wine to France where Petite Sirah isn't typically available as a single varietal.  Vitkin harvests these grapes over two days to help balance the acidity and sugar (alcohol) levels. One of Sharon's duties as CEO is to hire the pickers for harvesting. It's seasonal work so the wineries hire crews to come in and typically need to order them a few days in advance to secure them from working for another winery. It's a critical process as Sharona explains "if you miss by even one day, picking at the right time, you can end up having a wine missing out on having an acidity at all".   This obviosly wasn't an issue with this Petite Sirah wine which has been very well received and is expected to sell out within two months. With so many of Vitkin's wines selling out so soon after release it's no wonder they want to expand production.

 

   Vitkin also offers what they call their entry level wines, the Israeli Voyage series but they compare well in quality to other wineries premiere wines. Released as food friendly table wines, their price of 65 NIS might shy away a casual drinker but their white just received an award as a Best Value wine at the Israeli Wine Awards in Tel Aviv.  The 2008 Israeli Voyage White is 65 NIS and is a mix of Viognier, French Columbard & Gerwurtzraminer with 12.5% alcohol. Apricot, peach, grapefruit, orange and leechee come in full force due to the mix of ABC (anything but Chardonnay) grapes which shine with hearty helping of acidity. Some of the Viognier gets oaked in Vitkin's Pinot Noir barrels to add body and enhance the flavors.

Israeli Voyage White

The award winning 2008 Vitkin White Israeli Voyage 

Their Red Israeli Voyage is also a value at 65 NIS and is comprised of Syrah, Carignan & Cabernet Franc.  The earthiness of a Syrah is out front on the nose and the wine is only aged in 10% new oak which keeps it fruity and easily accessable. Black Cherry comes to mind swooshing it one's mouth and at 13.5% it's not a kick in the teeth that many israeli reds deliver. Sharona suggests serving the wine slightly chilled like a Beujolais and that it's an ideal wine to accompany BBQ fare.

 

 

Late Harvest White

Riesling, Viognier and Columbard grapes were harvested in November to produce a wine with 150 grams of residual sugar/liter and 10 1/2% alcohol released in a 375 ml bottle (a "split") common to dessert wines retailing for about 90 NIS or $22.50


The Vitkin's suggest this wine as an apertif as well as a dessert wine and that it could be served as an ally of Fois Gras or Onion Marmelade and I suggest that a Peach Melba, a slice of Apple Pie al la mode or a Goat Cheese Napoleon might do justice to this wine as well.

 

Let's all look forward to tasting their other upcoming wines for their diversity, quality and reasonable prices. A triple threat in the Israeli wine market.


Contact Information:


Vitken Winery 

68 Derech Hakfar

on the Rottenberg-Belogovsky Farm

PO Box 267, Kfar Vitkin, Israel 40200


Telephone:
972-09-866-3505

Fax:            972-09-866-4179

e-mail: vtknwine@vitkin-winery.co.il

website: www.vitkin-winery.co.il




June 28, 2009June 28, 2009  2 comments  wine

Israel's First White Wine Festival

(from the first night's response this should be the first of many...)

at the Herzliya Marina (located at the far end next to the TV 24 studio)
Wednesday & Thursday July 1st and 2nd 2009 starting at 6PM

Late Night at the Herzliya White Wine Festival

The  first night of Israel's first White Festival attracted thousands of white wine tasters

 

The event was organized by Chaim, the Grape Man, notable Israeli wine educator who hosts functions in the artist colony in Old Jaffa

Chaim the Grape Man

Chaim, "the Grape Man," organizer of the event mingling with tasters

there was thousands who came by the first night and I think tonight even might be busier with the buzz from the first night

there was also vendors of various wine related products including wine fridges, free sparkling water (great earlier on before the sun set) and as a break in between wines, and an incredible backdrop at the marina

several popular restuarants nearby

free parking in the Mall's garage

entrance is free with tasting cards available for a fee for 6, 12 or 18 tastes starting at 39NIS (about $10!!!)

small cheese plates will be availble as one of the tastes

there are plenty of great restuarants within walking distance nearby

Wines being offered will be of the following styles:

Champagne-style sparkling wines

Roses including Recanati's newly evolved and exceptional Rose featuring 80% Barbera grapes and Dalton's newly released 2008 Rose

aged (oaked) whites including Yarden's Katzrin Chardonnay and Domaine de Castel's "C" Chardonnay

 dry still whites including several crisp Sauvignon Blancs such as Yatir, Tishbi and Carmel's.

sweet & aromatic whites including several yummy Gerwurtztraminer's such as Yarden's and several imported selections

 

rose's on ice white wine festival

iced, scrumptious Roses ready to squelch parched palates at the Herzliya Festival

 

each had their own bar section in the main bar (sculpted from ice) for easier selection

 

 

and there are wines from all over the world with about 2/3 from Israeli wineries (including many of Israel's best) and the rest representing wines imported into Israel

 

Alex Haruni of Dalton Wines

Alex Haruni (on the right), owner of Dalton Wines, with a friend enjoying the Festival

 

call the Grape Man at 03-5180533 for more details

 


tell them David the Israeliwineguy sent you!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


June 30, 2009June 30, 2009  3 comments  wine

    As I make my rounds to Israeli wineries, I've visited some wineries more than once. My schedule of visits is  based on a few factors: Finding a good time that works well with me and the winemaker, new developments and releases by the winery and the convenience of visiting any one winery in relation to where I am on any given day in Israel. Of course, it helps if I like their wines and enjoy talking wine with the winemakers. Additionally, wineries that stand out as harbingers of what is coming up in the country or as an example of the potential of winemaking in Israel have a special attraction. The Recanati Winery is one such winery.

Recanati Winery Emek Hefer

Recanti Winery in Emek Hefer

       Recanati has just started releasing it's second generation of wines as the wines of Gil Shatsberg are coming into maturity.  As founding winemaker Lewis Pasco moved to America, Gil was brought over from Amphorae to fill Lewis's big shoes. Since their Reserve & Special Reserve reds can take a few years to make before release and even more before their fully appreciated it will be 2-5 years beofre Gil's impact on the reds become evident to the public and critics at large. Though, the 2007 & 2008 whites and roses are  examples of the change in leadership. The 2008 Recanti series reds are being released which might give a hint of what's to come but the jury is still out until their higher end 2008 reds start appearing in the marketplace in 2010 and 2011. 

       It's a matter of opinion if the wines will be better than Pasco's award winning years but they seem destined to be different and worthy of attention from a different segmant of wine drinkers than before. I did get to taste their 2008 Recanati Cabernet Franc Reserve that was still maturing in the bottle and it reaffirmed my belief that Cab Franc's have a great potential to be a flagship wine for Israel.

Recanati 2008 Cab Franc

Rich and Expressive 2008 Recanati Cabernet Franc

 

     Their 2009 Carigan also shows great potential as it ages it continues to age in the barrel. This will be Recanati's first release of Carignan and it's slated for release as a Reserve wine. It's shows a lot of concentrated black fruit flavors, intense colors and tannins and indications that this wine has the potential for


     One reason I call what's happening a new genration in wines at Recanati is an evolution in style. Under California trained Pasco, Recanati had been one of the better producers of "big, New World Israeli wines."  In fact, a Recanati just won "best Israeli wine" and a gold medal at the VinExpo in France (Barkan also won a gold medal tying Israel with France for the two medals in the compettion. No small feat considering Israel makes less than 1% of the wine of France). It was one of Pasco's wines that won so it's brave change to make wines that deviates from critical and commercial success.  Gil seems to favor Old World preferences for lower alcohol though still flavorful wines that shouldn't disappoint Recanti's loyal base and even attract an even wider following.

     Another asset of the Recanati Winery that shouldn't be overlooked is the presence of winemaker Ido Lewinsohn. Serving under the leadership of Gil Shatsberg, for a winery it's size Recanati might have the best one-two winemaker combo in Israel. Ido trained principally in Italy at the University of Milan but also had worked several vintages in France, Israel and far off Tasmania before landing at Recanati. He even has his own garagista wine "Garage de Papa" that has been gaining quite a cult-following.


    The winery offers a four series of wines much like other medium and larger wineries in Israel. This gives the winery flexibility in offering different levels of quality and pricing depending on the quality of grapes available and used and the efforts at the winery expended.


     The Yasmin Series is their introductory series and comes in the Yasmin White and the Yasmin Red.  It's an irony of winemaking that blending of varietals in New World wines typically happens at the highest and lowest ends of production.

    The Recanati Series is their second tier of wines and as for most wineries it's where quality and value seem to coincide.  A  Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay make uo the Whites with Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah available as Reds. A commitment to make a Rose every year has proven to be successful as well.

    Where their Rose in the past had been made from their Cabernet Franc (like many wineries) , it's now being made exclusively from Recanati's Barbera grapes, an Italian variety known for it's high acidity and fruitiness. This has lent itself to Recanati's 2008 Rose as being one of the best if not the best Rose in Israel. Winemakers Gil

2008 Recanati Rose

Winemaker Ido Lewisnsohn stands behind Recanti's 2008 Rose featuring 80% Barbera and 20% Merlot grapes

    The top two tiers are made up of their Reserve and Special Reserve series and offer mostly expected varietals with a few pleasant surprises.

    In the Reserve series, a Chardonnay is the only white offered. Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Cabernet Franc make up their single varietals with a unique award winning Petite Sirah/Zinfandel blend pioneered by founding winemaker Lewis Pasco rounding up the mix. 

Their one Special Reserve offered each year is reminiscent of popular Cabernet/Merlot Bordeaux blends

 

Recanati has no current plans to make any dessert or sparkling wines.

 


Recanati Winery

POB 12050

Industrial Zone Emek Hefer

telephone: 04 6222288


the winery is off Rt 4 north of the Kfar Vitkin turn off and south of Hadera (though much of their grapes come the Galilee)


go west into the Emeq Hefer Industrial Park and take the first right going North

at the end of the road go left (west) and it will be dow nt e oad about 100 meters on the north/right side of the street

give onself about an hour and a half driving from Jerusalem or Tel Aviv


as for most Israeli wineries for best results call ahead of time for the best experience.


May 7, 2010May 7, 2010  0 comments  wine

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


December 21, 2009December 21, 2009  0 comments  wine

I love finding wineries off the beaten path. By off the beaten path for me I mean wineries that haven't had much publicity in English or have been underrated by other writers who've written up their wines. The Alona Winery is one such Israeli winery.  Located just southeast of Zichron Ya'acov (Israel's most well known wine village) in Givat Nilli in it's namesake Alona valley, this small winery has been making it's impact known with Israel's Hebrew speaking wine connoisseurs .  For a winery that only bottles about 6,000 individual units of liquid joy, it's garnered several meaningful accolades by pretigious wine judge panels that trancends mediocre reviews by a any individual critic or reviewer.

Starting less than a decade ago (established in 2001) , the winery's Alona Merlot won a gold medal in 2006 at the annual international Terravino competition held in Eilat.

The next year, 2007, their Merlot, won a double gold and propelled the winery to win  "Best Small Boutique Winery in Israel"


This year, 2009,  their Cabernet Sauvignon was recognized with a silver medal showing that even though this region has gained a reputation for making Merlot wines with distinctive quality that desirable Cabernet Sauvignon's are still possible.

The wines are quite affordable for an award winning boutique wines selling at 75 NIS (about $20 as of this writing) for the three releases now available. The current line-up of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and a Merlot Rose should have great compnay this year with Cabernet Franc,  Syrah and Carignan wines being released iin the near future from their first vintage in 2009 and Grenache being planted for future harvests to be used as it generally is as a blending component as befits the wines from the Southern Rhone Valley in France.

 

One of the keys to their success for making well appreciated wines is that they are the growers of all their grapes.  Most wineries big and small might have control of their vineyards with long term contracts but few actually till all their fields themselves. Additionally, many wineries source grapes from far corners of israel. For instance some wineries access grapes from the Golan heights, the Judean Hills and the Negev. The Alona vineyards are all either adjacent to the winery (quite atypical in Israel) or just a tractor's ride away so family growers can check on the vineyards frequently and conviently. I've travelled with other winemakers who sped hours driving to their vineyards and not only do they drive far to check on the vineyards but the grapes need to make the same ride back during harvest which isn't ideal for getting the berries in the most ideal state before pressing.


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.


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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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