This late morning and early afternoon I attended a tasting of the Yarden and Katzrin wines of the Golan Heights Winery, the tasting sponsored by the winery and hosted in Jaffa at Ish HaAnavim. As is my wont, I arrived quite early in order to do my own tasting before the arrival of the public, a system I find quite good in avoiding the pitfalls of walk-about tastings with lots of people, aftershave, perspiration and perfume in presence. Gives me the ability to comfortably take a chair and do my tastings in appropriate silence. Also gives me time after my tasting to say hello to and chat with a good many people. My special thanks to Debbie Shoham and her staff from the winery and to Chaim Gan of Ish HaAnavim for their courtesies during my visit.
My tasting notes follow. Not a wine here that I had not tasted at least twice previously, but a very good opportunity to follow the wines as they continue to develop. And better yet, no shocks in store, the wines each developing much as earlier predicted.
Three special notes:
a: At the event the 1996 Katzrin red wine was tasted from a magnum format bottle. On return home I opened a regular format bottle to taste that as well. As a result, two tasting notes for that wine.
b: Immediately following the tasting coffee with Chaim and Debbie and then to stroll to feast on a fine shwarma on a lafa bread, that with nothing more on the bread than a bit of humous, some white cabbage and, of course, a bit of hot sauce.
c: With a tasting like it is no wonder that the Golan Heights Winery remains on my various lists as the very best winery in Israel.
Yarden, Chardonnay, Odem Organic Vineyard, 2005: oak in fine balance, now well integrated, Full-bodied, with smoky oak notes in fine balance with fruits. Opens with floral and citrus notes, those going on to tropical fruits and figs, all set off by hints of ginger and, on the long finish, ripe pears. Drink now–2012. Score 91. K
Yarden, Chardonnay, Odem Organic Vineyard, 2006: Full-bodied, opening with subtle aromas of figs, pears and apples, going on to show a generous dash of smoky, toasty oak and then blossoming forth with pineapple, summer fruits, citrus peel and minerals leading to a long finish that is simultaneously creamy and bright. Drink now–2013. Score 92. K
Yarden, Chardonnay, Odem Organic Vineyard, 2007: Full-bodied, light and shiny golden with a distinct tint of orange that plays in the glass, a wine reflecting generous wood but that in fine proportion to acidity and fruits. Opens with pears, grilled nuts and pie crust notes, those going on to show ripe fig, pineapple and baked apple aromas and flavors. Long and creamy with the oak rising on the finish. Elegance on a grand scale. Meant for cellaring. Approachable and enjoyable now but best 2011–2016. Score 92. K
Katzrin, Chardonnay, 2003: Rich, ripe, concentrated and complex with generous layers of figs, tangerines, summer fruits and hazelnuts. Generous but not imposing oak that runs gently throughout making the wine especially elegant, as does a hint of butterscotch that comes in on the long finish. Drink now -2011. Score 92. K
Katzrin, Chardonnay, 2004: Dark golden, casting orange and green reflections, full-bodied and concentrated. Developed in new oak for ten months, notably yeasty on first attack but that yielding beautifully to a buttery, oak-rich texture and opening to reveal nutty, fig, pear, tropical fruits and butterscotch, all on a spicy background. Rich, long and complex. Drink now–2012, perhaps a bit longer.. Score 92. K
Katzrin, Chardonnay, 2005: A creamy and buttery Chardonnay, deep, almost bronzed gold in color and marked from first attack to its long finish with generous toasty oak and hazelnuts. With the oak now starting to settle in, opens slowly on the palate to reveal fig, melon and pear fruits, but those always under the oaky notes. At this stage primarily for those who like a generous dose of oak with their whites. Give this one another year or two, however, and that oak will show itself less to highlight the fruits. Approachable now but best 2011-2014. I will revisit this one several more times. Score 90. K
Yarden, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2001: Full-bodied with finely tuned balance between wood, tannins and fruits. Showing plum, wild berry and spicy currant fruits, and reflecting its 18 months in oak with appealing overlays of vanilla, cedar, tobacco and cocoa. Drink now–2013. Score 91. K
Yarden, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2002: Dark garnet, full-bodied, with once firm tannins and spicy oak now settled in nicely and opening to show aromas of red currants, black cherries and berries on first attack, those giving way to layers of sweet cedar, vanilla, leather, and on the long finish, hints of Mediterranean herbs. Rich, generous and elegant, and drinking beautifully, a wine that has comfortably outwitted the "Curse of 2002". Drink now–2012. Score 92. K
Yarden, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2003: Aged in French oak for 18 months, the once generous wood influence now comfortably settled in and showing most gently indeed. Soft mouth-coating tannins support generous blackberry, black cherry and plum fruits, and on the long finish, hints of Oriental spices and a light herbal-tobacco sensation. Drink now–2014. Score 93. K
Yarden, Cabernet Sauvignon, Elrom Vineyard, 2003: Showing as magnificently as it has in the past. Intensely dark ruby toward royal purple, full-bodied, with caressing tannins and a gentle spicy oak influence. Opens with blackcurrants, blackberries and minerals, goes to meaty, earthy and herbal aromas and flavors, and then to spices and a long and elegant fruity finish. Firmly structured with excellent grip and complexity. Continues to show as one of the very best wines ever of the country. Drink now–2020. Score 95. K
Yarden, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2004: Dark, almost impenetrable garnet, with generous wood in fine balance with acidity and fruits. Opens to show currants and crushed berries, those yielding to cranberries and dark chocolate, all on a background of spices, tobacco and earthiness. Drink now–2016. Score 92. K
Yarden, Cabernet Sauvignon, Elrom Vineyard, 2004: Full-bodied, with still-firm tannins and spicy wood well on the way to integrating and already showing elegance and finesse. Look for layer after layer of currant, blackberry and wild berry fruits, those supported beautifully by notes of cedar, tobacco and tar, all leading to a near-sweet fruity finish that lingers on and on. Drink now–2018. Score 94. K
Yarden, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2005: Brooding dark ruby red, full-bodied, with near-sweet tannins and spicy oak wrapped around blackcurrants, berries, spices and a hint of dark chocolate. Look as well for enchanting hints of citrus peel and vanilla on the long finish. Fine balance and structure bode well for the future. Approachable and enjoyable now but best from 2011-2018. Score 92. K
Yarden, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2006: Still in its infancy. Deep, youthful royal purple in color, full-bodied, with soft, gently mouth-coating tannins and sweet cedar wood integrating nicely. On the nose and palate ripe black and red berries and currants on a background of spicy oak, all touched with hints of spices, vanilla and light mineral-earthy overtones. Approachable now but best 2011-2018. Score 92. K
Yarden, Merlot, 2004: Dark garnet, medium- to full-bodied, generously aromatic, with tannins and spicy wood now integrated nicely and showing a generous array of berry, cassis and plum fruits, those supported by minerals, sweet cedar wood and, rising on the medium-long finish, an overlay of spices and tobacco. Having lost its first blush of youth the wine is drinking nicely now and will cellar comfortably until 2012. Score 90. K
Yarden, Merlot, Ortal Vineyard, 2004: Showing as splendidly as ever! Intensely dark garnet, full-bodied, with once firm tannins and generous spicy wood integrating nicely now. Opens to reveal a tempting array of blackberry, raspberry, plum and cassis fruits, those supported nicely by hints of smoky cedar wood and chocolate, all leading to a gently spicy and notably long finish. Complex, concentrated and elegant. Drink now–2018. Score 93. K
Yarden, Merlot, 2005: Medium- to full-bodied, with spicy wood and firm mouth-coating tannins in fine balance with fruits. A pleasing herbal-earthy mineral nose opens to reveal ripe purple plums and blackcurrants with overlays of smoke and roasted Mediterranean herbs. Long and elegant. Drink now–2014. Score 92. K
Yarden, Merlot, Kela Vineyard (formerly known as Sha’al Vineyard), 2005: An absolute powerhouse at barrel tastings but now with its elements coming together nicely. Rich, intense and concentrated, but already showing fine balance between firm but yielding tannins and generous but well-moderated wood and bold aromas and flavors of plum, currant, blackberry, licorice and spices, all rising to a long tannic and mineral-rich finish. Best 2011–2018. Score 92. K
Yarden, Merlot, Tel Phares Vineyard, 2005: Beautiful from the barrel and at advance tastings but now showing even better. Deep garnet in color with green and purple reflections. Full-bodied, with gently caressing tannins and an abundance of blackberry, violet and lightly toasted oak on first attack, those opening to raspberries, mocha and sweet cedar, all building to a long, deep and succulent finish. Approachable and enjoyable now but best 2011-2016, perhaps longer. Score 92. K
Yarden, Syrah, 2004: Medium-dark ruby toward garnet, with firm tannins and spicy oak integrated nicely. On the nose and palate a generous array of near-jammy raspberries, blackberries, black cherries and plums, those supported nicely by hints of spices, herbs and a hint of polished leather. Drink now–2013. Score 90. K
Yarden, Syrah, Ortal Vineyard, 2004: Perhaps the best Syrah ever in Israel. Dark ruby towards garnet, full-bodied, with near-sweet tannins integrating nicely with spicy wood. Opens with a burst of almost jammy raspberries and kirsch liqueur, those yielding to blackberry, cherry and plum fruits. In the background generous hints of anise and Oriental spices and a hint of freshly tanned leather. Drink now–2018. Score 94. K
Yarden, Syrah, 2005: Garnet toward inky-black, full-bodied, with spicy oak and generous soft tannins, showing fine structure and balance and happily avoiding being a blockbuster in favor of elegance. Opens with raspberry and red currant notes, those going on to show generous hints of black pepper, anise and wild berries all coming to a long and generous chocolate and smoky finish. Drink from release–2014. Score 91. K
Katzrin, 1996: (Tasted from 750 ml. bottle) Vibrant and complex, with an array of aromas and flavors that include currants, cherries and plums overlaid by smoky oak, chocolate, spices and tobacco.With its once firm tannins and smoky wood integrating nicely now, this full-bodied, red is now fully revealing its charms. Excellent integration between fruit, tannins and oak indicates that the wine will continue to develop beautifully. Drink now–2015. Score 93. K
Katzrin, 1996: (Tasted from magnum format bottle). Now thirteen years after harvest (in its bar-mitzvah year if you like), and still remarkably young. Dark garnet with still youthful royal purple notes, full-bodied, with gently gripping tannins and wood (at one moment smoky, at another spicy, at yet near-sweet) integrating nicely, opens beautifully in the glass to show blackcurrant, blackberry, cherry and plum fruits, those on a background of bitter-sweet chocolate and cigar tobacco. With no humor intended, drink now if you like your wines on the youthful side but don't hesitate to cellar in large format bottles until 2022. Score 93. K
Katzrin, 2000: A blend of 89% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Merlot and 2% Cabernet Franc. Showing beautifully now, its blackberry, cherry and currant fruits supported by spicy oak, notes of cigar tobacco and hints of freshly turned earth. Dense, deep and intense, with finely tuned balance and structure, a simultaneously bold and elegant wine. Drink now–2015. Score 92. K
Katzrin, 2004: Aged in new French barriques for 18 months, 94% Cabernet Sauvignon with the addition of 6% Merlot. Dark garnet toward royal purple, with orange and violet reflections. Shows still generous oak and firm tannins, those in fine proportion and well balanced by blackberry, blackcurrant and cherry fruits, on a background of white pepper, Mediterranean herbs and tobacco, and, on the long and generous finish, hints of vanilla and peppermint. Approachable now, but best 2011–2018, perhaps longer. Score 93. K