On Tuesday morning (6 Oct 2009), I made my way from Tel Aviv to the Golan Heights, my first stop there being at the Odem Mountain (Har Odem) winery, there to be greeted by Alfasi Pere et Fils, first for a tour of the new developments at the winery and then for an extended tasting.
Founded by the Alfasi family in 2003, the winery is situated in a modern facility on Moshav Odem in the northern Golan Heights. It relies primarily on grapes grown in its own vineyards—one of which is organic—supplemented by grapes from other vineyards on the Golan, in the Upper Galilee, and in the Judean Hills. Currently producing wines based on Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz and Cabernet Franc. Production for 2003 was 6,500 bottles and for 2008 about 55,000 bottles. Planned production for the 2009 vintage is for 70,000 bottles. The wines have been kosher since the 2007 vintage.
The top-of-the-line series is Alfasi Reserve, the mid-range series are Odem Mountain and Volcanic. The former label of Nimrod is no longer produced. As a point of interest, approximate prices in Israel: Volcanic, NIS 75; Odem Mountain NIS 125; Alfasi, NIS 220.
My thanks to the Alfasi family for their courtesies during my visit. Also my compliments as the winery now will comfortably move from the rating of three to four stars in the 2011 edition of my Israeli book.
Odem Mountain Merlot, Volcanic, 2008 (Barrel Tasting): Deep, youthful royal purple in color, medium- to full-bodied, with generous but not exaggerated wood, natural acidity and fruits, all in fine balance. On first attack blueberries and licorice, those parting to show tempting blackberry, cassis and notes of spicy oak, all lingering nicely. Best from release-2014. Tentative Score 88-90. K (Tasted 6 Oct 2009)
Odem Mountain, Syrah, Volcanic, 2008 (Barrel Tasting): Garnet towards royal purple, a dark, concentrated full-bodied wine with its still firm tannins now integrating nicely with notes of vanilla and cinnamon from the wood in which it is aging. On the nose and palate wild berries, plums, cassis and, on the long finish with tannins rising appealing notes of anise and leather. Deep and complex. Best 2011-2014, perhaps longer. Tentative Score 89-91. K (Tasted 6 Oct 2009)
Odem Mountain, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2008 (Barrel Tasting): Full-bodied, dark garnet, with gentle near-sweet cedar and spices on the nose, opens to reveal generous cassis and wild berry fruits, those supported nicely by notes of cigar tobacco. Long and mouth-filling. Best 2011-2015. Tentative Score 88-90. K (Tasted 6 Oct 2009)
Odem Mountain, Syrah, Odem Mountain, 2008 (Barrel Tasting): Super-dark, almost inky garnet in color, full-bodied with fine balance between wood, acidity, fruits and an overall peppery note that runs comfortably through the wine. On first attack blueberries and spicy wood, those yielding comfortably to blackberries and appealing hints of roasted herbs on the long finish. Best 2011-2015. Tentative Score 89-91. K (Tasted 6 Oct 2009)
Odem Mountain, Merlot, Odem Mountain, 2008 (Barrel Tasting): Full-bodied, with soft, gently gripping tannins and notes of cedar and spicy oak integrating nicely with blackberry, blueberry and cassis fruits. Round and generous and, in the background, gentle hints of licorice and star anise. Drink from release-2014. Tentative Score 88-90. K (Tasted 6 Oct 2009)
Odem Mountain, Cabernet Sauvignon, Odem Mountain, 2008 (Barrel Tasting): Dark garnet with orange reflections, full-bodied, a soft, caressing and mouth-filling wine, its elements coming together very nicely and already showing generous blackberry, blackcurrant and plum fruits, those on a lightly spicy background. Long and generous. .Best 2011-2015. Tentative Score 89-91. 91.K (Tasted 6 Oct 2009)
Odem Mountain, Alfasi, 2007 (Advance Tasting): Oak-aged for 24 months in a combination of new and older barriques, ruby towards garnet in color, a full-bodied blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. With spices and vanilla from the oak in which it aged, those parting to reveal blackberries, purple plums and cassis, the fruits supported nicely by peppery notes along with a hint of a Mediterranean bouquet garni. Round and rich. Drink from release-2014, perhaps longer. Score 90. K (Tasted 6 Oct 2009)
Odem Mountain, Merlot, Volcanic, 2007: Oak-aged for 10 months, showing garnet with a hint of burnt Sienna, opening on a bitter note that lingers too heavily despite appealing black fruits. Somewhat firm chunky tannins give the wine a country-style personality. Drink now. Score 85. K (Tasted 6 Oct 2009)
Odem Mountain, Cabernet Sauvignon, Volcanic, 2007: Opens with a lovely fruit and chocolate-rich nose, opens in the glass to reveal ripe, near-jammy black fruits, those well balanced by spicy oak and notes of roasted herbs. Oak aged for 10 months. Not overly complex but very comfortable to drink. Drink now-2011. Score 87.K (Tasted 6 Oct 2009)
Odem Mountain, Merlot, Odem Mountain, 2007: Oak aged for 18 months, a dark, well-extracted wine. Medium- to full-bodied and with fine concentration opens to reveal blueberry, blackberry and cassis notes, those supported by an appealing hint of Oriental spices. Long, mouth-filling and luxuriant. Drink now-2012. Score 90. K (Tasted 6 Oct 2009)
Odem Mountain, Merlot, Odem Mountain, 2006: My earlier tasting note holds firmly. Odem Mountain, Merlot, 2006: Medium-dark garnet, medium- to full-bodied, with soft, near-sweet tannins. Showing generous berry and black cherry fruits matched nicely by hints of cigar tobacco, tar and bittersweet chocolate. Drink now. Score 85. (Re-tasted 6 Oct 2009)
Odem Mountain, Cabernet Sauvignon, Odem Mountain, 2006: Dark garnet, medium- to full-bodied, gently tannic but nicely concentrated showing generous blackcurrant and purple plum fruits, those matched nicely by hints of mocha and and espresso coffee. Ripe, round and moderately long. Drink now. Score 86. (Re-tasted 6 Oct 2009)
Odem Mountain, Alfasi, 2006: Dark, almost inky garnet in color, full-bodied, with still firm tannins just starting to settle in but already showing fine balance and structure. The usual Alfasi blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Merlot, oak aged for 24 months in partly used barriques and opening in the glass to reveal fine blackcurrant and wild berry fruits, those backed up by notes of freshly cut herbs and bitter-sweet chocolate. Long and generous. Best from mid-2010-2013, perhaps longer. Score 90. (Tasted 6 Oct 2009)
Odem Mountain, Alfasi, 2005: An oak-aged blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Merlot. Dark garnet, medium- to full-bodied, with soft tannins integrating nicely and unfolding on the palate to show a generous array of ripe currant and berry fruits, those supported by hints of sweet herbs and green olives. Drink now–2011. Score 88. (Re-tasted 6 Oct 2009)