The 14th Judean Hills Wineries Festival and a bunch of TNs

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The 14th Judean Hills Wineries Festival and a bunch of TNs

Postby Gabriel Geller » Fri Oct 19, 2012 10:16 am

Hi Folks,

I had the craziest week and didn't find time to post so much, but I will hopefully do so over the next coming days. Last night was the opening event of the 14th Judean Hills Wineries Festival at Kibbutz Tzora and thank G'd, I was able to make it thanks especially also to Lewis Pasco, Recanati's ex and founding winemaker (vintages 2000-2007) but more on this later. In the mean time, I invite all the forumites who attended last night to share here their thoughts and impressions on the wines they tasted and on the venue itself.

Best regards, shabbat shalom and a great weekend to all,

GG
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Re: The 14th Judean Hills Wineries Festival and a bunch of TNs

Postby Daniel Kovnat » Fri Oct 19, 2012 11:49 am

Quickly, great wines and wonderful people. First hours, beautiful music from a roving violinist -- very classy. :D Last hours, loud, crass, raucaus, rock & roll music preventing conversation without straining to hear. :evil:

More to come after Shabat -- Shabat Shalom,

Dan
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Re: The 14th Judean Hills Wineries Festival and a bunch of TNs

Postby Gabriel Geller » Sat Oct 20, 2012 9:54 pm

Shavua Tov, a good week to all,

Last Tuesday night I poured over 300 bottles (yes, 300...) of wine at a wedding. Among the wines poured were 3 wines which I had not yet tasted, at least not in their final form that is to say out of a commercially released bottle and not from a barrel. Of course, I had to taste each of the wines randomly (not each of the bottles!) as I was concerned that some could be corked or not ready for drinking. Among the wines poured was the Gvaot Masada 2009 that I had enjoyed a few days before at home and then found hard to open up and not quite ready for drinking. Miraculously, the bottle from which I tasted the wine last Tuesday was ready and very enjoyable. :D Anyway, following are 3 TNs:

Tishbi, Brut 2010: A Blanc de Blancs sparkling wine made in the Champenoise method, meaning with the first fermentation in stainless steel tanks and a second one in the bottle yet this one is made of 100% French Colombard (as opposed to Champagne and Champagne-style wines which are made either with solely Chardonnay, Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier or from a blend of 2-3 of these varieties). Gold in color and medium-bodied with fine pleasant bubbles, on the nose citrus fruits and pears, followed on the palate by notes of tangerines, pears and orange blossom water giving a slightly sweet feeling from the mid-palate towards the moderately long finish. While not complex, this is a very tasty and refreshing wine and in my opinion much better than any other similarly-priced Israeli dry sparkler.

Domaine du Castel, Blanc "C" Chardonnay 2011: I first tasted this wine almost a year ago at the winery while a sample was given to me to taste as the wine was then in the middle of the malolactic fermentation process; back then the wine was a yellow-ish milky white with a lemon-ish nose and palate yet seemed quite promising as far as I could tell. Bright gold in color with on the nose smoky toasted oak covering up notes of caramelized apple, the wine is full-bodied with so much oak that I struggled to detect what it had to show on the palate. After about 10 minutes, the oak settled down a little bit to show notes of green apples, figs, toasted brioche and vanilla with again lots of oak on the long finish. I found the oak to be extremely heavy yet while this should be considered as a major flaw, I have good hope that it will settle down with time and will result in a balanced and fine wine like Castel has used us to. In fact it's more like if the wine is wrapped by a pretty thick layer of smoke which will eventually evaporate although not entirely with time. Someone told me at the festival Thursday night that the wine is as reduced as the 2009 but I don't think so and didn't find any resembling smell or taste of burnt rubber but "only" overwhelming oak. Yet, the guests at the wedding didn't seem at all unhappy, quite on the contrary and went thru the whole 2 cases, asked for more and were disappointed when told that there was no more... :).

Domaine du Castel, Grand Vin 2009: A Bordeaux-blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot and 5% Petit Verdot that has spent a total of 20 months in new french oak barrels. Dark garnet with royal purple reflections, full-bodied and concentrated with on the nose fresh ripe black and red currants, blackberries and vanilla, followed on the palate by ripe, almost sweet black currants as well as blackberries, red cherries, good acidity with on the long finish licorice and vanilla with silky tannins. I confirm the impressions given by many on this forum that for once, this wine is not only approachable on release but perfectly enjoyable, I liked it a lot. Now I wouldn't take a chance with a regular-sized bottle past 2016.

Now, as to the Festival at Kibbutz Tzora Thursday night it was a nice event which still had some flaws. First, there was a smell of cows and what comes out of cows aside from calves... While this was quite disturbing for many people it wasn't such a problem for me as I was born and raised in Cow-populated Switzerland and attended 4 years at the Yeshiva in Kibbutz Shaalvim where it smells of cows at least 50% of the time depending on the wind's direction... Secondly, Flam was a no-show, Tzora poured only red wines and there were not so many interesting wines IMHO. I had also the pleasure to finally meet there in person with Dan Kovnat and his lovely wife Nurit and we got to chat only briefly as they were about to leave back on their way home up in the North as I got there myself a bit late, past 9 pm.

I didn't have the use of a car that day (was probably better that way) and I am very luck that Lewis Pasco who used to be the head winemaker at Recanati Winery (and head winemaker at Tishbi Winery before that) and is the creator of my beloved Petite Sirah-Zinfandel (which became one of Recanati's signature wines) offered to give me a ride from Jerusalem. Now what has Lewis been doing over the past 5 years since having left Recanati? He went back to California where he used to be a chef decades ago and (Lewis even told me that he was one of the inventors of the "California Cuisine", precursor of the "New American Cuisine") worked as a winemaker there at Charles Mitchell Winery.
Lewis is now back in Israel and is currently in the process of founding a new winery of his own using grapes from Har Bracha and Shiloh as well as the facilities of Tura Winery in Rechelim and consulting also for the Beth El Winery (some people here who know Lewis might be very much surprised with these news...). Luckily for him, I was accompanied by a friend who represents a group of investors from Canada and Russia looking to invest in a small start-up Israeli winery. Anyway chatting in the car and tasting wines from various israeli wineries with Lewis was quite interesting! :)

Now back to the wines:

Tzora, Judean Hills 2010: Like many of the wines from the 2010 vintage, this wine is already very much approachable. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Merlot aged for 12 months in french oak barrels. Dark garnet towards purple, medium to full-bodied with on the nose fresh forest fruit, wet forest dirt and a hint of toasty oak, followed on the palate by freshly crushed red currants and blackberries, black cherries, good earthiness, acid and stony minerals on the mid-palate followed by hints of espresso and vanilla on the moderately long and softly tannic finish. While this vintage shares many similarities with the previous 2009, I liked the 2010 better as I find the fruit much more concentrated yet not overripe and with great balance between the different elements.

Tzora, Shoresh Red 2010: Like the aforementioned Judean Hills, the Shoresh is this year already very approachable as well. The blend is also made of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Merlot but was aged for 16 months in french oak barrels. The result is a darker wine, almost impenetrable dark garnet with on the nose blackberries, cherries, new leather and vanilla. Full-bodied the palate shows layers of ripe blackcurrants, blackberries and cherries with saddle leather and hints of cardamon with the vanilla showing again on the round long finish with silky tannins. A delicious wine, very different than the 2008 vintage (I've never tasted the 2009) which I also love nonetheless.

There a few wineries such as Nevot that I had never heard of before. The Nevot wines are kosher and some were nice although none stood out IMHO thus I didn't take notes.

Ella Valley, Rosé 2011: OMG! WOW! What a gorgeous wine, magnificent! :P So different than the much darker, too sweet and almost syrupy (IMHO) 2010 vintage. Light pink in color, very much like the Castel '11, with a mind-blowing nose fresh white flowers, guava, peaches, strawberries and passion fruit. Medium-bodied, the palate shows fresh ripe strawberries, guava, tangerines, white peaches, passion fruit and a hint of sweetness coming along with tart cherries on a moderately long finish. Absolutely delicious and a very close second to the Castel IMHO. Thumbs up for Lynn Gold, the winery's new winemaker. Its only downside, and that's solely a matter of personal taste, is the light hint of sweetness as I prefer my rosés very dry.

Ella Valley, Merlot 2007: Once again, a beautiful and muscular Merlot by former winemaker Doron Rav-Hon. Very dark garnet, full-bodied with on the nose ripe blackberries and raspberries as well as fresh cigars followed on the plate by ripe blackberries, raspberries, ripe plums, cedar wood, cardamon, dark chocolate and vanilla with mouth-coating tannins on a long finish. Great wine.

Domaine du Castel, Grand Vin 2008 (magnum): Dark almost black purple, full-bodied and youthful with on the nose blackberries, black currants cedar wood and tar, on the palate of this nicely mouth-filling and well-extracted wine blackberries, very ripe, near sweet black currants, tar, spices, cigar tobacco, spices, white pepper and dark chocolate with bracing acidity and mouth-coating tannins on a very long, round satisfying finish. Marvelous. Lewis Pasco said "an excellent Bordeaux that happens to be made in Israel".

Karmei Yossef, Bravdo, Merlot 2010: Dark garnet with purple reflections, full-bodied and concentrated with on the nose blackberries, raspberries and cherries, these showing also on the palate together with Mediterranean herbs, leather and vanilla with mouth-coating tannins on a long finish. I liked the Ella Valley better that night but this is also quite an excellent Merlot.

Teperberg, Terra Viognier 2011: 50% of the wine spent 6 months in new french oak barrels on its lies and didn't go thru malolactic fermentation. A medium-bodied wine, pale straw with citrus blossom, pears and pineapples, followed on the palate by again pears and pineapples, honeysuckle, tangerines with a very tiny hint of sweetness, very good acidity as well as a soft oakiness on the moderate finish. This is a really nice, well-balanced Viognier, I liked it a lot.

Teperberg, Silver Merlot 2011: Dark garnet, medium to full-bodied with on the nose raspberries and blackberries followed on the palate by much of the same on first attack but then the wine gets a bit flat and flabby on the mid palate with notes of dried herbs and plums on the average and softly tannic finish.

Agur, Kessem 2009: A Bordeaux-blend of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 10% Petit Verdot and 5% Cabernet Franc aged for 9 months in old french oak barrels. Dark garnet with purple reflections, medium to full-bodied with on the nose blackcurrants, cherries and cedar wood with a hint of tar, the palate features pretty much the same along with Mediterranean herbs and vanilla on a moderately long finish. Not bad but not so interesting. Agur were pouring also a new wine, Layam, which I didn't like.

Nothing new at the Yaffo booth...

Tzuba, Eiton the CEO and Paul Dubb the winemaker were pouring 3 wines: Metzuda 2009, Syrah (not Shiraz this time) I think 2010 (there was no label and I forgot to ask as Eiton gets always very talkative with me...) and Chardonnay 2011. Eiton handed me a glass asking me to guess what it was. I immediately knew that this was probably a Bordeaux-blend but couldn't believe (yet I hoped) it was a Tzuba. Well, it wasn't... It was Castel Grand Vin 2009... 8)

Tzuba, Metzuda 2009: Strange, the wine seemed to have some reduction and Lewis thought so as well. It was not undrinkable but not as enjoyable as I would have expected. Yet, I didn't (I should have) dare to ask for a tasting from a different bottle.

Tzuba, Syrah 2010 (presumably): Tasted blind, I would have never said that this was a Syrah/Shiraz. The wine was pretty closed and didn't open up in time for me to form any kind of proper judgement. A re-tasting will be much needed here as well.

Tzuba, Chardonnay 2011: The wine spent only a little time in oak and tasted almost like an unoaked Chard. Light gold in color, medium-bodied with on the nose green apples, citrus fruits and pineapple, followed on the palate by apples, pineapples, lemon curd, lime, mango and a light note of creamy vanilla on a moderately long finish. Not a very complex wine but very pleasant indeed, I liked it.

The Rock music above-mentioned by Dan was a bit too loud but the setting was relaxed and lovely with excellent cheeses to enjoy after the tasting.

I wish you all an excellent week,

GG
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Re: The 14th Judean Hills Wineries Festival and a bunch of TNs

Postby Daniel Kovnat » Mon Oct 22, 2012 9:34 am

Wow Gabe!!! Those are excellent and very impressive TN which I just cannot come close to. Hopefully it's my inexperience, but I may have to resign myself to the fact that some people have the talent to put tastes into words and some people don't. :(

I agree with Gabe 99% about his opinion of the Ella Valley Rose and Merlot. The Rose had light tastes of citrus and melon. Also enjoyed their "reverse proportion" blend of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon and 60% Merlot. Very light and elegant blend and reasonably priced at 85 shekels.

Also of the same mind as regards the Viognier from Teperberg Winery.

Half of the Tzuba Winery Chardonnay is aged 8 months in oak barrels and the other half is fermented only in stainless steel. I thought it was delicious and had a complex character, but can't go any further in my description.

Kalav Winery presented their very unique 50-50 blend of Petit Verdot and Merlot which Yossi Yittach "invented" when he saw the market for Merlot hit the skids after the movie, Sideways. It is a deep purple color with gentle tannins and tastes of prunes, almonds, and cherries. A nice gentle long finish. Expensive at 135 shekels but less than their 160 shekel Bordeaux blend called Wadi Katlav.

Sam Saroka the vintner at Mony Winery poured his Colombard varietal, the only one in Israel. Apparently they grow it in California for the mass produced white jug wines, but I loved its dry, fresh, fruitiness which is much like a Sauvignon Blanc. And at 39 shekels/bottle it makes a nice everyday white table wine. And he told me that at Stopmarket at Yagur Junction outside of Haifa, I can purchase it for 3 bottles for 100 shekels.

Next year I'll get there earlier and take better notes, develop better techniques for shielding the wine's aroma from ambient odors, and, if they bring back the loud rock music, well, I'll just have to draw in a breath, kick off my shoes, and dance. :lol:
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Re: The 14th Judean Hills Wineries Festival and a bunch of TNs

Postby Gabriel Geller » Mon Oct 22, 2012 10:56 am

Daniel Kovnat wrote:Ella Valley: Also enjoyed their "reverse proportion" blend of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon and 60% Merlot. Very light and elegant blend

Dan, that's the Ever Red 2010: Indeed very nice. I liked also very much the 2009 vintage which I've posted about a few months ago.

Half of the Tzuba Winery Chardonnay is aged 8 months in oak barrels and the other half is fermented only in stainless steel.

Thanks for the additional info; if asked, I wouldn't have guessed neither 8 months nor close, even for only 50%.

Katlav Winery presented their very unique 50-50 blend of Petit Verdot and Merlot which Yossi Yittach "invented" when he saw the market for Merlot hit the skids after the movie, Sideways. It is a deep purple color with gentle tannins and tastes of prunes, almonds, and cherries. A nice gentle long finish. Expensive at 135 shekels but less than their 160 shekel Bordeaux blend called Wadi Katlav.

A blend of Merlot and Petit Verdot is actually also a Bordeaux-blend although very unsual if not unique. That's the Nes Harim 2009 which personally I don't like at all (overripe and sweet with dried prunes and heat on the mid-palate) while I LOVE the Wadi which is a much more traditional blend. I've tasted the Nes Harim 4 times so far, and will retaste it again at any given opportunity because I always give unlimited chances to a wine to please my palate, especially when it's free! :lol: I was actually told by someone from the winery that most (not all, most) people who like the Nes Harim don't like the Wadi and et vice versa...

Sam Saroka the vintner at Mony Winery poured his Colombard varietal, the only one in Israel.

This is actually inaccurate. The Tishbi Brut (my TN is above in my 2nd post) is a 100% (french) Colombard but it is a sparkling so I guess it could be categorized apart. There's another still dry varietal Colombard wine made by Recanati exclusively for a restaurant (not kosher :cry: ) in Tel Aviv and in very limited quantities. I've unfortunately not tasted it but was told it's excellent. I don't know of any other so I guess that the Mony is the only still dry Colombard widely available in Israel. The grape is actually the most planted white variety in the country and is used in many (often off-dry) inexpensive entry-level wines.

Next year I'll get there earlier and take better notes, develop better techniques for shielding the wine's aroma from ambient odors, and, if they bring back the loud rock music, well, I'll just have to draw in a breath, kick off my shoes, and dance. :lol:

:lol: Looking forward to that! I'd advise you to sleep in a barnyard for 2 days before the festival next time so you'll be used to the smell. As long as it doesn't get stuck in your nose and then everything, including a Castel Rosé, would smell of cow's poop...

Best,

GG
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Re: The 14th Judean Hills Wineries Festival and a bunch of TNs

Postby David Raccah » Mon Oct 22, 2012 11:10 am

Great stuff. I must say though that if I had been there I would have been miserable - poop! Anyway, thanks for the notes guys and I hope that the reduced bottle was just there, but I loved the 2009 Metzuda that I tasted here in the US at the wine event in NY.

David
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Re: The 14th Judean Hills Wineries Festival and a bunch of TNs

Postby Daniel Kovnat » Mon Oct 22, 2012 3:42 pm

David Raccah wrote:Great stuff. I must say though that if I had been there I would have been miserable - poop! Anyway, thanks for the notes guys and I hope that the reduced bottle was just there, but I loved the 2009 Metzuda that I tasted here in the US at the wine event in NY.

David


Great? I don't know about that. At least it's funny. In fact, I couldn't stop laughing at GG's comments on my comments on his comments. But seriously, GG, I do appreciate your feedback. It's how I learn. :!:

Dan
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Re: The 14th Judean Hills Wineries Festival and a bunch of TNs

Postby Gabriel Geller » Wed Oct 24, 2012 11:48 am

Dan, I just made aware that Ido Lewinsohn, Recanati's second winemaker, makes a French Colombard wine with his own Lewinsohn label: Lewinsohn, Mia Luce Bianco 2011 is a 93% French Colombard and 7% Chardonnay aged for 10 months in Burgundy oak barrels (220 liters/60 gallons). Not kosher.

Best,

GG
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