In honor of the Shavuot holiday, last week several of my ‘foodie’ friends decided to organize a Cheese & Wine evening to which each participant was requested to dig through their cellar/wine cooler/ closet/or simply under the bed, and bring a bottle of Israeli wine that he or she feels passionate about. The list was quite impressive and included some of Israel’s finest vinos. With the cheese selection someone was feeling less Zionistic that evening, and with the exception of one, all were imported cheeses from France, Italy and Switzerland. Not that I am complaining of course.
Arguably, the following were not the best, most expensive or most decorated wines we tasted that evening, but these were the 4 that I enjoyed most:
Golan Heights, Yarden, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2004 – the Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon is often considered as a ‘safe bet’ both in terms of quality as well as aging potential. While still a bit firm and would probably benefit from a couple of years in the cellar, the 04 was very enjoyable. Full body, on the nose and palate plenty of (still) concentrated dark fruit, hints of mint and interesting spice all leading to a long and mouth filling finish.
Flam, Reserve, Merlot, 2005 – Over the years both the Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot from Flam’s reserve label have shown excellent results. I was very happy when I noticed that someone decided to share this bottle. Dark purple towards garnet, full bodied with the oak integrating nicely, suggesting concentrated yet layered aromas and flavors of dark berry fruits, herbs and dry purple flowers all leading to a long and well balanced finish. In three words - elegant, complex and most definitely enjoyable. This was of course released before the winery received Kashrut certification and future releases from the Reserve label should be kosher as well.
Katlav, Pinot Noir, 2006 – winemaker Yossi Itach produces some fine red wines at his boutique winery (the Chardonnay that I tasted a couple of years ago was not to my likings). While the Wadi Katlav and Katlav Cabernet Sauvignon are definetly worth trying, the Pinot Noir 06 was a genuine surprise and treat. In my opinion, one of the best Israeli Pinot Noirs on the market. Pinot Noir is a difficult grape to handle and many have stated that it is not suitable for the Israeli climate. Nevertheless, Itach manages to deliver a Pinot which is very true to the variety. The 06 is already showing age and I would drink over the next 2-3 years. Medium bodied, with generous cherries and other red fruits followed by hints of warm spices and earthy notes. Good balancing acidity, flavors that linger on the palate and aromas that develop in the glass make this a very enjoyable wine.
Recanati, Reserve, Syrah – Viognier, 2009 – predominately Syrah with a dash of Viognier grapes as well, a blending style that is rather popular in the Northern parts of France’s Rhone Valley. The addition of Viognier helps to stabilize and enhance the color of the wine and also adds to the overall aroma profile. The wine is medium- full bodied, suggesting pleasant aromas and flavors of red berry fruits alongside dry herbs, floral and peppery notes and just a touch of smoke leading to a long and satisfying finish. Will be interesting to see how this wine develops in the coming years.