While the holiday season is still a couple months away, wineries are already releasing new wines that might find their way to your holiday table. If you are invited out and have to choose a bottle to bring to your hosts or if you are eating in and are interested in purchasing several different wines, I would recommend visiting the wine festival at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem (15–18 August, 19:00-23:30). This impressive event is organized annually by leading Jerusalem wine stores, Avi Ben and Shachar Wines, providing wine aficionados with an opportunity to meet the people behind the wines and sample some of the new vinos on the market. Visitors can also tour the outdoor sculpture garden, enjoy live jazz music and taste various cheeses (Ya’akobs Dairy) and other treats. For a reasonable NIS 70, each visitor receives a wine glass and can stop by each booth for unlimited wine tasting.
The exhibition features wineries of varying sizes and styles from all over Israel including: Carmel Winery, Yatir, Bravdo, Binyamina, Dalton, Yaffo Winery, Pelter, Golan Heights, Galilee Mountain, Psagot, Meishar, Katlav, Chillag, Agur, Ella Valley Winery, Tura, Bazelet Hagolan, Or Haganuz, Tavor, Mony, Granada (pomegranate wines), and more.
I recently had the opportunity to sample several new wines from some of the exhibitors:
Golan Heights – The Golan Heights Winery recently released two new reds from the winery’s Yarden Label, both from the 2008 vintage. As I have written in the past, the Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon is probably the closest thing to a safe bet in the Israeli wine industry and is often used as a benchmark when comparing the quality vs. price ratio of Israeli wines. The Yarden, Cabernet Sauvignon, 08 is up to par with previous releases and while still firm should develop nicely in the coming years. Aged for 18 months in barriques, dark purple in color, full bodied and good structure, this Cab suggests pleasant aromas of dark berry fruits, cherries and blueberries come to mind followed by plums and notes of tobacco and cloves all leading to a long finish. I found the Yarden, Merlot, 08 more approachable at this time and would probably be better to serve during the coming holiday season. This time aged for 14 months in French oak, full bodied, a slight metallic sensation when first poured but this fades after several minutes in the glass revealing dark berry fruits alongside hints of coffee and chocolate covered orange peel leading to a long and pleasant finish. The winery suggests serving the Merlot Yarden 2008 alongside classic roast beef or roasted duck.
Binyamina – the Binyamina Winery recently released two Chardonnay based wines and is also planning several surprises which will be showcased at the Israel Museum wine festival. Binyamina, Reserve, Chardonnay, 2010 – Based exclusively on Chardonnay grapes from vineyards in the Judean Hills and Galilee, 75% oak fermented and 25% in stainless steel vats result in an interesting and elegant white wine, showing good balance between fruit (white peaches, green apple, melon, citrus peel), spice and acidity leading to a pleasant finish. The second Chardonnay was released under the winery’s Bin label. The term bin is often used in Australian wineries referring to a storage area in a wine cellar. With each successive harvest, wines were allocated the same bin year after year. Developed exclusively in steel vats this is much lighter than the Chardonnay Reserve. Straw with golden reflection, not complex but when served chilled a pleasant wine suggesting typical aromas and flavors of green apples, melon and lemon zest. The winery suggests serving alongside grilled chicken or fish ceviche.
Chillag Winery – Chillag, Chenin Blanc, 2010 - blended with 10% French Colombard grapes, when first poured, I found the wine a bit too acidic, overpowering the fruity characteristics. This changed as the wine aerated, revealing pleasant aromas and flavors of citrus, white peaches and pears leading to a clean finish. Next was the Chillag, Vivo, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007 – 85% Cab and 15% Merlot, aged for 14 months in oak barrels. Dark ruby with purple reflections, the wine is medium-full bodied suggesting various aromas and flavors, including plums, red berry fruits, black pepper and a touch of chocolate.
L’Chaim and see you at the Museum!