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Tags - saslove winery
All over the wine world, it's very common for wineries to pass from one generation to the next from father to son. What's far less common but becoming less of a surprise is a winery passing down from father to daughter. Roni Saslove, the middle daughter of Barry Saslove, is one such prodigy. Though the winemaking today is a team effort between Barry and Roni, she has secured her place as the Saslove Winery's heir apparent and every vintage she manages to make the Saslove Wines as much of a reflection of her own passion for wines as that of her father. .
winemaker Roni Saslove takes great pride in their premium oak barrels
Barry Saslove, a Canadian immigrant to Israel, started the winery in 1991. It was a humble beginning processing only 100 kilos of grapes it's first vintage compared to 80,000 bottles/year they make today. In 1991 their low tech non-commercial effort involved pressing their grapes through stomping the grapes. Barry was a computer programmer whose curiousity had him flirting with winemaking. As his interest peaked, he took wine courses at UC Davis that would spark 18 vintages of fine wine making each year better than the last.
founder and winemaker Barry Saslove at Jerusalem Wine Festival
Barry would transition from an aspring student to a well saught after lecturer about winemaking and wine appreciation. Thousands would listen to Barry talk about wines yet no one was listening with more interest than his daughter Roni. Roni had participated in every one of the winery's vintages ( except 2008) since 1991 when she was 14. After graduating college, she went on to become a vetinarian nurse but became disillusioned believing at first that she would make people happy healing and helping animals under their care but found that the job was more often than not dealing with people and their animal wards in a state of despair. Roni didn't have to look far to find a more joyful vocation.
Roni enjoys drinking Saslove wine as much as making it
Roni feels she made the transition from assistant to winemaker during the 2002 vintage. Since then her contributions have become more and more significant. Although, Barry continues as the senior winemaker, Roni is evolving into a respected winemaker in her own right. Asked if her winemaking philosophy differs that much from her father's she says no. Roni says it's hard to disagree with her father's success in making very good wines, wines that she loves to make and drink and share with others.
David enjoying the hospitality of the Saslove Winery
Then what does does Roni add to the Saslove team one might ask. Roni spent her last year at Brock University in Canada quanitifying her 17 years of experience and honing her craft through a one year, ten course program intended for those already working as winery professionals that included course and lab work including wine chemistry and microbiology, vineyard managment, vineyard biology, vineyard pest management, sensory analysis and wine marketing. Though she and her father make most decisions in concert, Roni says her contributions are most strongly felt in the choice and use of barrels, the blending of which wines from which grapes and then from which vineyards and barrels and the choice of which yeast strains work best with each grape and even which grape from which vineyard. Until the day she eventually takes over as the winery's sole winemaker maybe decades from now, what Roni provides the winery most is immeasurable. Her father Barry and the Saslove Winery's patrons should be confident that the winery will be in good hands for many more vintages to come.
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.
Mobile Post Central Sharon, Israel 45840
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