Many remember Shimshon Welner as the first CEO of the Golan Heights Winery and in that a major player in the early days of the Israeli quality wine revolution. Some who know him today think of Welner as a macher (a negative term in Hebrew but in Yiddish, which is my sense and can be quite positive, a "wheeler and dealer"). Whatever, Welner is now the driving force in the production and distribution of the kosher wines under the labels of Tierra Salvaje, Terrenal and Terroso, those coming primarily from Spain, Chile, Argentina and South Africa.
About a week ago, I met with Shimshon for coffee and talk and he brought with him six bottles of newly released wines. Those were tasted over the last days in my own tasting room.
I have been tasting the Tierra Salvaje and others of the Welner wines since they were first released. Two very positive things to report at this time. First, the six that I tasted are clearly the best that have been released under these labels. Second, even though each of these wines was mevushal they showed absolutely minimal "damage" from that process. I would say that until a full year after the release one does not feel any negative impact resulting from the flash pasteurization.
Another interesting observation – at least in Canada, where many of these wines sell quite well, it seems that between 20-30% of those purchasing are not Jewish. Perhaps we are finally starting to overcome the false negative image of kosher wines that has lingered on far too long. I do not doubt that it helps as well that these wines are selling at a very reasonable price - between US$7.00-8.00 in the United States. The company's internet site can be found at http://www.welnerwines.com
My tasting notes follow.
Tierra Salvaje, Rose, Lontue Valley, Chile, 2008: Made entirely from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, somewhere in color between rose petal pink and peach blush. Light- to medium-bodied, crisply dry with good balancing acidity and appealing cherry, raspberry and cassis fruits. Lively and refreshing. Drink now. Score 87. K (Tasted 10 Oct 2008)
Terranal, Cabernet Sauvignon, Mendoza, Argentina, 2006: Dark ruby towards garnet, with soft tannins, hints of spices and a note of chocolate highlighting blackberry and black cherry fruits. Round and appealing, a very good entry-level wine. Drink now. Score 86. K (Tasted 9 Oct 2008)
Tierra Salvaje, Sauvignon Blanc, Lontue Valley, Chile, 2008: Light straw colored, light- to medium-bodied, with an appealing array of lemon, lime, red grapefruit and chive flavors. Crisply dry with fine balance between fruits and acidity giving the wine a "zingy" finish. Drink now. Score 87. K (Tasted 10 Oct 2008)
Tierra Salvaje, Sauvignon Blanc, Maule Valley, Chile, 2007: The color of damp straw, medium-bodied, with lime and grapefruit notes supported by hints of sweet peas and freshly cut grass. Drinking nicely now but not for further cellaring. Drink up. Score 86. K (Tasted 10 Oct 2008)
Terroso, Chardonnay, Lontue Valley, Chile, 2008: Light gold in color, with orange reflections, medium-bodied with generous apple and fig fruits and a near creamy finish, all with an appealing light yeasty overlay. Drink now. Score 87. K (Tasted 10 Oct 2008)
Terroso, Chardonnay, Maule Valley, Chile, 2007: Gold, taking on a light bronzed note, a medium-bodied and lively white with lightly spicy citrus, pear and green apples, the fruits taking on a bit of a fruit-compote nature. Still drinking well but not for further cellaring. Drink up. Score 86. K (Tasted 10 Oct 2008)