I've visited a few wineries with Elchonon Hellinger and another friend (and driver, good friend of Elie Poltorak as well) over the last few days. Elchonon has been threatening me for quite a few days to post my TNs so I had no choice but to comply...
After the Shomron on Sunday last week, we headed on Tuesday to the Gush Etzion Winery there to meet with the owner and winemaker Shraga Rosenberg and his son Assaf. Shraga gave us a complete tour of his gorgeous winery including some tastings of some very promising wines still fermenting in the vats and the barrels from this year's vintage. We then tasted thru most the wines and were offered a delicious dinner at the winery's restaurant courtesy of Shraga. I was impressed by the quality showed by the wines across the board as there was not a single wine I didn't like and all were in fact very good to excellent. When asked after the tasting and the meal what hot drink would I like, I thought about our dearly missed Rogov z.l. and ordered an espresso...
Many thanks to Shraga and Assaf for a much enjoyed tour, tasting and meal. I couldn't have asked for a better treatment!
Gush Etzion, Lone Oak Riesling 2009: Pale straw towards green, with on the nose green apples, honeysuckle, peaches, ripe figs and spices. Light to medium bodied and dry but with a tiny hint of pleasant sweetness the palate features green apples, peaches, figs, honey, stony minerals on the mid-palate and a nice acidity combined with a hint of sweet lemon and spicy vanilla on a long finish. I enjoyed this one a lot, perhaps even more than the great Kayoumi Riesling (a TN for this one will follow further).
Gush Etzion, Lone Oak Sauvignon Blanc 2010: Very pale straw, almost like water the nose is a bit weak and not very communicative but does deliver some citrus and herbal notes. Medium-bodied with on the palate yellow grapefruit and pomelite (a hybrid of pomelo and grapefruit know for its antioxidant properties), passion fruit, melon with grassy herbal notes on a moderate finish. Well-balanced and with some sweetness as well. I wouldn't say it's off-dry but almost, could use a bit more acidity.
Gush Etzion, Emek Bracha White 2011. A blend of Chardonnay and Viognier, I didn't take note of how long it spent in the barrels (and looking back at my recent notes of the 2010 vintage: oups I did it again...
). Light gold with green-ish reflections with on the nose fresh delicate floral notes as well as ripe apples, bananas and vanilla. Medium-bodied with on the palate apples, bananas, a hint of toasted brioche, vanilla and white pepper with a tiny bit of pleasant tannins on a rather short to medium finish. A delicate wine I'd certainly enjoy with blue cheese or pasta and lox with a creamy lemony sauce.
Gush Etzion, Nachal Hapirim 2007: One of the winery's Bordeaux-blend featuring 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Merlot and 9% Petit Verdot aged 14 months in mostly french oak barrels. Maturing very nicely indeed. Dark cherry-garnet with on the nose jammy cherries, raspberries and notes of cigar box. Medium to full-bodied with on the plate cherries, raspberries, cassis, black pepper, dark chocolate covered cherries and a hint of spicy oak with almost chewy tannins on the long finish. Lovely.
Gush Etzion, Lone Oak, Syrah 2009: Aged 21 months in french oak barrels. Clearly a Syrah and not a Shiraz with a more restrained fruit and potential elegance, more the Rhone type and very different than the sweet-ish recent releases of the GHW's versions. Best challenger here would be the Binyamina Avnei Hachoshen Odem 2009. Dark purple with on the nose raspberries, cherries, herbs and notes of roasted meat. Medium to full-bodied with on the palate raspberries, Mediterranean herbs, ripe cherries, garrigue, minerals and espresso with silky tannins on the long finish. A very nice Syrah that confirms my growing love for the variety.
We tasted 2-3 more wines, 2 from the vats but I didn't take notes. There was the delicious Cabernet Franc 2008 but having tasted it recently I don't have to change anything. I do recall the Nachal Hapirim white blend 2011 for it's off-dry, notes of lychee and bananas and very good acidity.
It was already past 9pm when we left the Gush Etzion Winery and headed towards Kiryat Arba, there to visit the Kinor David about which I've already written a bit a few months ago here, making the fabulous port-style wine Elchonon is so obsessed about
. We were quite warmly welcomed by David Edri the special winemaker of this very special winery. Once inside the uninviting building sitting in the town's industrial zone, you feel like transported into a parallel dimension where nothing exists but the winery. After visiting the laboratory, the "museum room" and the vats and crushing room where David gave us some still fermenting Cabernet Sauvignon from this year's harvest, we were taken to the barrel room where you feel like hypnotized and disconnected from the real world, a place where nothing but port-red dessert delicious wine exists as well as the real deal: a 10 year + barrel-aged Sherry-Andalousie style wine, absolutely unique and incredibly delicious, mind-blowing and available at the winery only. The barrels spent 3 years under the sun and the wine is made mostly of Cabernet Sauvignon and Oloroso grapes. The winemaker makes his own brandy to fortify it.
Kinor David, KPort, 8 years barrel-aged NV: Deep garnet, with on the nose candied cherries, ripe raspberries, almonds and dates. Full-bodied with on the palate rich candied cherries, raspberry jam, fresh dates and caramelized almonds with a hint of black pepper and honey coated pecan nuts on a long seemingly endless finish. Truly unique, my favorite. And just an FYI (I don't do this usually but I'll do an exception here): I also sell it now.
Kinor David, KPort, 10 years barrel-aged NV: Dark garnet and light coffee-ish at the edges, the nose features here richer notes of dates and caramelized nuts as well as candied cherries and prunes. Full-bodied with on the palate sweet raspberries and cherries as well as dried figs and apricots, going on to reveal notes of ginger and candied orange peels with caramelized toasted pecan nuts and prunes on a very, very long finish. Truly great and unique but perhaps a bit too spicy for me.
Kinor David, Sherry "Andalousie" (I think it's 2000 or 2002): The wine is actually still in the barrel and the winemaker sells it exclusively at the winery and fills the bottle in front of you. 300 shekels, about $80. Not cheap by any means but I couldn't resist and a bottle sits now in my cellar for an opportunity well worthy of sipping it for... Anyway deep brown-ish garnet, with on the nose crazy raspberry jam, blackberries and butterscotch. Full-bodied and mouth-filling, the palate features raspberry jam but with a much more restrained sweetness than expected and than in the above-reviewed KPorts, followed by blackberry liquor, fermented cherries and kirsch notes, bitter almonds, chocolate covered raisins and caramel on the very long satisfying finish. In a league of its own.
We tasted also some wines from the barrel including Cabernet Franc from this year's harvest that was just transferred from the vats to the barrels a few weeks ago. Showed some promise with sweet notes of raspberries, tobacco leaves and garrigue. We kept tasting wine and talking until we finally left around 2AM (!!!) and quickly stopped at the Mearat Hamachpela (the cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron).
I might set up a special Kinor David KPort tasting for Chanukka so stay tuned...
This last Sunday had us at 10AM at Carmel Winery in Zichron Yaakov, there to have breakfast at Bistro de Carmel, the winery's restaurant and meet with Israel's Wine King Adam Montefiore, certainly Israel's most respected figure in the Wine Industry and beyond, and justifiably so as Adam is a true gentleman. Adam, I know you'll eventually read this so thank you again for such a royal VIP treatment!
Adam walked us through the winery's different buildings, state-of-the-art vats and laboratory, barrel rooms, and its incredibly rich and fascinating history for almost 5 hours. We then ended the tour with a great tasting of some of the winery's best wines:
Carmel, Appellation Chardonnay 2011: This wine is partially oaked with some of it went thru malolactic fermentation and was barrel-aged for 6-8 months in used oak. Light gold with green reflections, the nose features green apples and citrus notes with a hint of spicy vanilla. Medium-bodied with on the palate ripe apples, lime, fresh almonds with some earthy minerals and nice refreshing acidity and a medium to long finish. A really nice Chardonnay.
Carmel, Appellation Gewurztraminer 2011: Light green-ish straw here, with classic lychee, citrus and flowers. Light to medium-bodied and off-dry with on the palate lychee, peaches, yellow plums and guava with a pleasant hint of spicy apricot on the moderately long finish. Very good.
Carmel, Kayoumi Vineyard, White (Johannisberg) Riesling 2011: A beautiful dry Riesling here, with even less sweetness than in the highly-praised 2010 vintage. Very pale green-ish, nice refreshing floral notes on the nose as well as white peaches and lemon. Medium-bodied and with a very light dollop of sweetness that only adds to the enjoyment of this wine that features on the palate apricots, honeysuckle, peaches, melon and lemon zest with refreshing salty-stony minerals and hint of spiciness on the moderately long finish. Yummzy!
Carmel, Kayoumi Vineyard, Shiraz 2008: 98% Shiraz and 2% Viognier. Dark royal bright purple, with on the nose plums, blackberries, freshly ground pepper and saddle leather. Full-bodied with on the palate juicy plums and blackberries, spicy roasted meat, black pepper and bittersweet chocolate with gently mouth-coating tannins on the long mouth-filling finish. Superb.
Carmel, Limited Edition 2008: MAMMA MIA! This is F-A-N-T-A-S-T-I-C! I was really blown away here. Tasted blind this is quite a fine Bordeaux wine, impossible to guess its Israeli origins. 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Petit Verdot, 4% Cabernet Franc, 4% Malbec and 2% Merlot, aged 15 months in French oak barrels. Surprisingly enough, it didn't take so much of an extensive swirling in the glass to be approachable. Dark, almost impenetrable garnet towards purple, with on the nose black currants, blackberries, ripe plums and tobacco leaves with lightly toasted oak. Full-bodied and deeply extracted with on the palate layers after layers of dark plums, black currants, bramble, a clear obvious note of garrigue, cigar box, tar, black pepper and backer's chocolate with mouth-coating, almost chewy tannins on the very, very, very (etc) long finish. Rising elegance here, polished. Definitely one of the very best wines I've ever tasted, a masterpiece. Will probably rank Numero Uno in my top 10 best wines of the year for 2012.
Carmel, Mediterranean 2008: Second vintage for this game changing wine with 33% Carignan, 24% Shiraz, 23% Petit Verdot, 16% Petite Sirah, 2% Malbec and 2% Viognier aged 15 months in mostly used french oak barrels. Dark purple with on the nose crushed black and red currants with juicy red plums and pepper on the nose. Medium to full-bodied and more fruit-forward than the 2007 vintage with sweet and sour plums, crushed berries and ripe cherries as well as spicy oak, white pepper, leather and vanilla with nice softening tannins on the long polished finish. Beautiful wine indeed.
Then the icing on the cake... Adam promised me so a while ago and he's certainly a man of his word. We opened and enjoyed together some Rogov Brandy. Now I can say that each of the 100, 120 and Rogov Carmel's brandies is different yet the Rogov is closer to the 100 than to the 120. It's not as fruity and doesn't have the 120's light sweetness. A rich amber color, pine nuts, honey and cinnamon on the nose with on the palate rich, deep honey, almonds, vanilla, nuts, dried apricots, mellow maple, ginger, cinnamon and toasted brioche. I can certainly not speak for him but I've strong feeling that Rogov would have loved it.
Anyway, I did!
Once the Carmel extravaganza was over we headed to the Tishbi Winery and their beautiful restaurant and tasting room there to meet with Golan and Jonathan Tishbi and another free meal...
Great looking new labels across the board for this winery that has tremendously improved over the last 5-7 vintages. We tasted a bunch of wines but only 2 were new to me and we were granted as well a glass of the famous $450/bottle 16 year old Jonathan Tishbi Brandy to top off the tasting. Elchonon really loved the Sibgle Vineyard Malbec 2009 and that didn't surprise me at all as I'm a big fan myself. Many thanks to Golan and Jonathan for their warm hospitality as well as my apologies to the rest of the staff at the restaurant and tasting room as they had to do some extra time beyond business hours due to our quite late arrival.
Tishbi, Estate Pinot Noir 2008: Garnet and a bit muddy, with on the nose crushed red currants, cherries and slightly toasted oak. Light to medium-bodied with on the palate again crushed red currants, sour cherries and plums as well as roasted coffee beans and soft lingering tannins on the moderately long finish. Nice Pinot and not as refined as I'd like it but enjoyable.
Tishbi, Estate Syrah 2009: Dark cherry-garnet with purple reflections, on the nose plums, raspberries, blackberries and a hint of leather. Full-bodied and fruit-forward this is more like a cross between a Rhone-style Syrah and an Australian blockbuster Shiraz with gentle, soft juicy fruit and tannins featuring on the palate raspberries, blackberries and ripe plums, mocha and roasted meat with soft tannins on the long and mouth-filling finish. Very enjoyable.
Tishbi, Port-style dessert wine Barbera-Zinfandel, 2006: A blend of 50% Barbera and 50% Zinfandel, aged in barrels under the sun for 18 months and fortified with brandy. Dark garnet with some brown-ish edges, the nose features prunes, dates and raspberry jam. Full-bodied with on the palate blackberry and raspberry jam, dates, prunes, raisins, caramelized walnuts, cinnamon and spicy oak with nice tannins and a bit of heat on the very long finish. The heat eventually blows off after some good swirling and a few minutes in the glass, tasty.
I didn't take any note on the Brandy but it was quite lighter than the Carmel and more resembling a VSOP Dupuy. But nice and well-made that's for sure.