Yesterday (Wednesday 20 April) the relatively early morning hours found me on the way to the industrial area of Arad (for those not familiar with local geography on the border between the Negev and Judean dessert), there for the first time to visit Asif winery.
Founded in 2006, Asif has a double role, the first in making their own wines and the second as a service winery producing wines for other small wineries that do not have their own physical plants. The winery is entirely kosher and under the supervision of American born owner-winemaker Ya'acov Oryah is currently producing between 20,000-25,000 bottles annually under its own label and another 15,000-20,000 at least in part for other "wineries", several of which do not have their own physical facilities and rely on the winery in nearly all aspects of winemaking..
Asif itself is currently producing wine in three series, Adam v'Adama, Chevlei Aretz and Resheet, the first two being age worthy and the third of popularly priced releases. Winemaker Oryah who seems to be moving more in the direction of whites, obviously takes pleasure from experimental blends and aging techniques, all of which is fine as the winery has clearly taken a step forward in quality and interest, that especially indicated by the 2007, 2008 and 2009 wines that were tasted today.
On a somewhat amusing note, related to the current Passover holiday, this was the very first time in a rather long career that I attended a tasting at which matzot and not bread was on the table. To my surprise, a fine palate cleanser and, like heroin just a bit addictive as I kept munching between wines throughout the entire tasting. My thanks to Ya'akov Oryah for his warm welcome, a fascinating and thoroughly professional tasting, the matzot, some very nice cheeses after the tasting and several fine cups of espresso coffee.
Eighteen White Wines and One Rose
Asif, Art Nouveau, Resheet, 2009: Deep shining gold in color, an unoaked dry white blend of 35% Chardonnay, 25% Viognier and 20% each of, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. Opens with a nose rich in summer fruits, goes on to reflect those with peaches, nectarines and citrus on the palate, the fruits supported by light hints of spices that linger through to the long and generous finish. Drink now-2013. Score 89. K (Tasted 20 Apr 2011)
Asif, Art Nouveau, Resheet, 2010 (Advance Tasting): Deep gold with green and orange tints, a medium-bodied blend of Chardonnay, Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier (35%, 30%, 20% and 15% respectively). Unoaked, with fine balancing acidity to highlight aromas and flavors of white peaches, nectarines and citrus peel. Lively and complex. Drink from release-2014. Score 89. K (Tasted 20 Apr 2011)
Asif, Chardonnay, Chevlei Aretz, 2008: Made entirely from Chardonnay grapes, light golden straw in color with orange reflections. Intentionally unoaked, showing medium-bodied and lively with appealing pear, citrus and citrus peel on a near creamy background, all lingering nicely. Drink now or in the next year or so. Score 88. K (Re-tasted 20 Apr 2011)
Asif, Chardonnay, Chevlei Aretz, 2009: Unoaked Chardonnay, medium bodied, opens slowly in the glass to reveal notes of lemon and lime on nose and then blossoming to reveal flavors of honeydew melon, pears and roasted almonds, all lingering nicely. Simultaneously lively, refreshing and complex. Drink now-2013. Score 90. K (Tasted 20 Apr 2011)
Asif, Chardonnay, Chevlei Aretz, 2010 (Advance Tasting): Light goldwith a green tint, medium- perhaps medium- to full-bodied, a lively and concentrated wine opening to reveal aromas and flavors of Anjou pears and Granny Smith apples, those followed by notes of nectarines and melon. A wine that seems to open in enchanting layers, all lingering nicely. Drink from release-2014. Score 90. K (Tasted 20 Apr 2011)
Asif, Viognier, Chevlei Aretz, 2009: Showing better than at an earlier pre-release tasting. Unoaked, showing light gold in color, with aromas of peaches and citrus, opening in the glass to reveal flavors of mango, pineapple and almonds on an appealing background of earthy minerals. Drink now-2012. Score 88. K (Re-tasted 20 Apr 2011)
Asif, Viognier, Chevlei Aretz, 2010 (Advance Tasting): Unoaked as is the case with many of the Asif whitewines, showing glistening gold with green tints. On the nose and palate, mango, and nectarine fruits, those complemented nicely by notes of orange marmalade, vanilla and candied lemon zest. Fine balance between finesse and power, all leading to a long mineral-rich finish Drink from rlease-2015l. Score 90. K (Tasted 20 Apr 2011)
Asif, Chenin Blanc, Chevlei Aretz, 2010 (Advance Tasting): Light bright golden straw in color, medium bodied, with citrus and tropical fruits on the nose. Opens to reveal green gage plums, white peaches, Jonathan apples, and notes of honeysuckle. On the long finish an enchanting hint of chamomile. Impressive even though at this stage of its development, perhaps a bit too acidic. No fear however for the balance is here and that acidity will settle down given the appropriate time. Best from mid-2012-2015. Score 90. K (Tasted 20 Apr 2011)
Asif, White Blend, 2008: A somewhat unlikely blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Gewurztraminer and Viognier (64%, 28% and 8% respectively) in which, alas, the varietal traits of each of the grapes is lost. Despite that, a pleasant blend, showing medium-bodied, with lively acidity to highlight aromas and flavors of summer fruits, grapefruit, spices and floral notes. Creamy and round. Drink now. Score 86. K (Re-tasted 20 Apr 2011)
Asif, Avant Garde, Chevlei Aretz, 2009: Light gold in color, with citrus and summer fruits on the nose. A medium-bodied blend of 30% each Sauvignon Blanc and Gewurztraminer, 21% Chardonnay, 12% Viognier and 7% Semillon, opening in the glass to show aromas and flavors of tangerine, grapefruit and star fruit on a background that hints of citrus peel. On the long finish appealing notes of bitter almonds. Drink now-2014. Score 89. K (Tasted 20 Apr 2011)
Asif, Avant Garde, Chevlei Aretz, 2010 (Advance Tasting): A blend that changes a bit from year to year, this year of 25% Gewurztraminer, 20% each of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnayand Viognier and 15% of Semillon. Light bright gold in color, opens with a light sulfur stink that blows off quickly to revel citrus, litchi and tropical fruits. Lacks complexity but round and generous. Drink from release, 2014. Score 87. K (Tasted 20 Apr 2011)
Asif, Classique, Chevlei Aretz, 2009: Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc (69% and 31% respectively), aged partly in new French oak for 4 months, showing generous acidity on a medium-bodied frame. On the nose and palate pineapple, white peaches and peach pits on a background that barely hints of spicy oak. Easy to drink and with just enough complexity to grab the attention. Drink now-2013. Score 88. K (Tasted 20 Apr 2011)
Asif, Classique, Chevlei Aretz, 2010 (Advance Tasting): 70% Semillon and 30% Sauvignon Blanc, 20% of which was developed in new oak. Medium-bodied, light shining gold in color, with a floral and fruit-packed nose, opens in the glass to reveal aromas and flavors of lemon and lime, those yielding to citrus peel, exotic spices and notes of kiwis and nectarines. Lively, pleasant and just complex enough to take the attention. Drink from release-2014. Score 89. K (Tasted 20 Apr 2011)
Asif, Semillon, Adam v'Adama, 2009 (Advance Tasting): Think of this as an experimental wine, made from intentionally early harvested grapes and unoaked at this stage. Shows crisp acidigy and medium-body on a well balanced frame and at this stage showing ripe and concentrated with aromas and flavors tangerines, nectarines, orange blossoms and spices, all starting to come together as a rich and coherent whole. Destined for release only in another 4 – 5 years when it will show long and fine. Tentative Score 89-91. K (Tasted 20 Apr 2011).
Asif, Semillon, Adam v'Adama, 2010 (Barrel Tasting): Still in its infancy (and five years from release) already showing deep golden and packed with aromas and flavors, those including apricots, pineapple, honey and vanilla along with a hint of toasted marshmallows on the long finish. Delicious now and promising to develop very nicely before its release. Tentative Score 89-91. K (Tasted 20 Apr 2011)
Asif, Viognier, Adam v'Adama, 2008: Deep gold with orange and green tints, developed partly on its leeks and with 30% in oak. Smooth and round, off-dry but with fine balancing acidity to keep it lively, opening to show aromas and flavors of pears and litchi fruits on a creamy background that hints nicely of white pepper. Long and generous. Drink now. Score 90. K (Tasted 20 Apr 2011)
Asif, Orange Wine, Adam v'Adama, 2010 (Barrel Tasting): Another of the winemaker's experiments, and showing quite successful. Israel's first "orange wine", those made largely in Friuli-Venezia Giulia in Italy, by allowing for long skin contact and maceration of white grapes, that giving the wine its color and even a hint of tannins. Medium- perhaps medium- to full-bodied, showing aromas and flavors of Meyer lemons (a cross between lemons and mandarin oranges), papaya, star fruit, stony minerals and spices, all lingering nicely. Drink from release. Tentative Score 90-92. K
(Tasted 20 Apr 2011)
Asif, White Dessert Wine, Resheet, 2009: Yet another of the winemaker's experiments, a blend of Gewurztrminer, Viognier, Semillon and French Colombard, fermentation stopped by adding enough alcohol to bring the wine to a 13.5% alcohol level. Bright shining gold, medium-bodied, with its moderate sweetness set off by crisp acidity. On the nose and palate, apricots, nectarines and honeyed peaches, all coming together nicely. A fun and easy to drink dessert wine. Drink now-2013. K (Tasted 20 Apr 2011)
Asif, Rosé, Chevlei Aretz, 2009: A blend of 62% Barbera, 22% Mourvedre and 16% Syrah, the grapes kept in contact for a fairly extended period giving the wine a deep ruby toward garnet color, far darker than one normally finds in a rose wine. What surprises is that despite its medium-body, dark color and hint of tannins, the nose and palate perceive this as a true rosé in every way. Crisply dry, with good balancing acidity, on first attack black cherries and wild berries, those yielding to notes of blueberries and raspberries. Delicious and, largely because of the cognitive dissonance caused by the color, body and tannic hint, fascinating. Drink now-2013. Score 90. K (Tasted 20 Apr 2011)
Eight Red Wines
Asif, Syrah, Resheet, 2008: Blended with 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, dark garnet with a royal purple rim, showing medium- to full-bodied with gently gripping tannins and generously (perhaps a bit too generous) acidity, opens in the glass to show red plums, cassis and herbal notes, all lingering nicely. Not overly complex but a very pleasant quaffer. Drink now or in the next year or so. Score 88. K (Tasted 20 Apr 2011)
Asif, Merlot, Resheet, 2008: Dark garnet, medium- to full bodied, a blend of 85% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. Opens with ripe red plums on the nose, goes on to reveal aromas and flavors of cassis, wild berries and tobacco, all on a background of near-sweet, gently gripping tannins. Round and generous. Drink now or in the next year or so. Score 88. K (Tasted 20 Apr 2011)
Asif, Negev Red, Resheet, 2009 (Advance Tasting): A blend of six grapes (the kind I think of at times as a blend of "everything in the kitchen sink"), those including Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Morvedre, Cabernet Franc and Malbec in varying percentages. Considering the potpourri blend, a perhaps surprising success, showing dark garnet, medium- to full-bodied and reflecting its 12 months in oak with generously gripping tannins and abundant black fruits, among those blackcurrants, black cherries, blackberries, those on a lightly spicy and herbal background and, on the moderately long finish, a note of bittersweet chocolate. Drink from release-2013, perhaps longer. Score 89. K (Tasted 20 Apr 2011)
Asif, Negev Red, Resheet, 2010 (Barrel Tasting): A Bordeaux blend this year of 83% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Cabernet Franc. Almost impenetrably dark garnet, full-bodied, with generous acidity and lightly gripping tannins. With a nose replete with spicy black fruits opens in the glass to show blackcherry, blackberry and cassis fruits on a background that hints of citrus peel and roasted herbs. Drink from release-2014. Score 88. K (Tasted 20 Apr 2011)
Asif, Asif Red, Chevlei Aretz, 2007: Super-dark garnet in color, with red and black fruits on the nose, a medium- to full-bodied, gently tannic blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12 Merlot and 3% Syrah. A distinctly red fruit nose yields in the glass to aromas and flavors of blackcurrants, black cherries and crushed berries, those on a background of freshly picked Mediterranean herbs and tobacco, all with an appealing hint of green almonds. Drink now-2013. Score 87. K (Tasted 20 Apr 2011)
Asif, Asif Red, Chevleai Aretz, 2008 (Advance Tasting): Another of the winery's ever-changing blend this year of 57% Merlot, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Petit Verdot and 5% Cabernet Franc. Dark garnet, medium- to full-bodied (leaning to the full), reflecting its development in oak with gently gripping tannins. On the nose and palate blackcurrants, red and black cherries and roasted herbs, all lingering nicely, tannins and fruits rising on the finish. Drink from release-2014. Score 88. K (Tasted 20 Apr 2011)
Asif, Asif Red, Chevlei Aretz, 2010 (Barrel Tasting): Dark garnet, full-bodied, with its firm, lip and cheek coating tannins now starting to settle in nicely, opens with a distinctly red fruit nose. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Petite Sirah and Merlot (42%, 35%, 20% and 3% respectively). Opens slowly in the glass at this stage to show a generous array of purple plums, black currants and black cherries, those supported comfortably by notes of spices and bitter herbs, all coming together even at this early stage as a coherent whole. Promises very nicely for the future. Drink from release-2015, perhaps longer. Tentative Score 89-91. K (Tasted 20 Apr 2011)
Asif, Cabernet Franc, Adam v'Adama, 2008: Oak aged for 10 months in second and third year oak, blended with 10% Petit Verdot, showing dark garnet with soft, near-sweet tannns that caress gently. Supple and lively, with raspberry, black cherry and pomegranate aromas and flavors on a background of licorice and freshly hung tobacco, all of which lead to a long and generous fnish. Drink now-2014. Score 90. K (Tasted 20 Apr 2011)
Asif, Tifferet, Adam v'Adama, n.v.: Call this one "weird" if you like but one has to admit that it is weird in a most pleasant manner. A blend of 49% Cabernet Sauvignon from the 2006 vintage that lightly fortified, 33% Shiraz from the 2008 vintage and 18% Zinfandel from the 2009 vintage, all from extremely low yield vineyards. Impenetrably dark garnet, opens with a Port-like nose and goes on to revel ripe raspberry, cherry and plum fruits, those on a background of molasses, espresso and bittersweet chocolate. Thick chewy tannins that go on and on to a long and powerful finish. "Weird" enough that all I can do is guess at a drinking window, from release-2018. Score 90. K (Tasted 20 Apr 2011)