I first met Ari Erle at the 2006 edition of Israwinexpo and, following that was in touch with him several times by email. Erle is now in Israel and Thursday morning (10 June) we met at Arcaffe on Rehov Basel (as is known to many, a place at which I often sit for wine-related meetings). At that time he brought me five bottles of his wines to taste and those were part of today's morning and afternoon tastings.
Before the tasting notes, it should be noted that Erle comes from a family of Israeli vintners, their Arroyo Vineyard located on Moshav Givat Nili (not far from both Zichron Ya'akov and Binyamina). After having finished is studies in winemaking in California, he worked at Colgin winery and is now working at the Napa Valley based O'Shaughnessy winery. In addition to his usual functions at the winery he also made his own first American wine there, that a 2006 Syrah from Mendocino County. At the same time, he was working on producing his own Israeli wines, those at the family vineyard.
At this stage the operation, Erle Family Winery, remains strictly artisinal in style, producing just 2,000-3,000 bottles annually but plans are to expand. Like several other enterprising spirits, Ari has also started an on-line internet enterprise in which he selects, presents and offers Israeli wines for sale in the United States. That internet site can be seen at http://www.israelwinecompany.com With specific regard to the Erle wines, information can also be found at http://www.erlefamilywinery.com
In the notes that follow I have listed only two prices, for those are what I have at hand. Anyone wanting further information or to order these wines can find contact points at either the links posted above.
Erle, Sauvignon Blanc, Aroyo Vineyard, Israel, 2007: Light golden straw in color, medium-bodied, showing fine balancing acidity and a light frizzante note, opens to reveal aromas and flavors of citrus, pineapple and tropical fruits, those with a vague but tantalizing grassy note, all lingering long and comfortably on the palate. Don't be put off by the white crystals you see in the bottom of the bottle as those are nothing but tartrate crystals that have formed because the wine was not cold stabilized. Oddly enough most Americans and Israelis perceive these as a sign of a fault in the wine but many Europeans see it as a sign that the wine underwent less manipulation in the winery and is thus "more natural". Whatever, the crystals are absolutely harmless. Simultaneously refreshing and complex this would be judged a well made Sauvignon Blanc no matter from where it came. The wine sold for US$25 per bottle but is already sold out. If you have any on hand, drink now or in the next year or so. Score 90. (Tasted 13 Jun 2009)
Erle, Argaman, Aroyo Vineyard, Israel, 2007: Like all wines made from Israel's own cultivar, the Argaman grape, this one has excellent color, excellent color and excellent color. Okay…giving the it a break, although it lacks any discernible nose, the wine is medium-bodied, has soft tannins (those perhaps more from the wood in which it was aged than the grape itself) and some appealing wild berry and black cherry notes. Neither long nor complex but a good quaffing wine. Drink now. Score 85. (Tasted 13 Jun 2009)
Erle, Carignan, Aroyo Vineyard, Israel, 2007: Medium-dark garnet towards royal purple in color, medium-bodied, developed primarily in used oak, showing soft, round and smooth. On the nose and palate berries and black fruits along with notes of toasty oak and pepper and, on the finish tannins rise along with an appealing hint of dark cocoa. Drink now-2011. Score 90. (Tasted 13 Jun 2009)
Erle, Merlot, Aroyo Vineyard, Israel, 2007: Blended with a bit of Argaman, deep royal purple in color, medium- to full-bodied with gently gripping tannins and hints of sweet cedar wood parting to reveal a generous mouthful of wild berry, currant and purple plums. From mid-palate on peppery notes that linger nicely on the finish. Long and generous. Drink now-2011. Score 89. (Tasted 13 Jun 2009)
And One from California
Erle, Syrah, Hopland, Mendocino County, California, 2006: Tasted blind I was certain that this was a Washington State wine. I was wrong but I cannot help in the end but think that was a compliment. Silky for a Syrah, crisp and well focused, this medium- to full-bodied red opens with notes of plums and blackcurrants, goes on to notes of boysenberries and chocolate and then, on the long finish shows notes of blueberries and leather. Finishes long and elegantly. Drink now-2012. US$35. Score 91. (Tasted 13 Jun 2009)