After years of planning and preparations, the Barkan Winery officially unveiled their brand new visitors’ and wine appreciation center titled “Barkan Experience”. The impressive structure was built amidst vast vineyards in the Hulda area and erected around the winery. This allows visitors to gaze upon and experience the entire cycle of the wine production process, from sorting and crushing, through bottling and barrel aging. A tour at this brand new facility begins with a ten minute I-Max style film that does an excellent job of describing and introducing various topics and terminology from the wine world. There is still some fine tuning to be done but upon completion the visitors’ center, it will also include a kosher restaurant in addition to the beautiful wine shop that is already operating. It is also important to mention that the facility is very accessible for wheelchairs and people with special needs.
Barkan’s CEO, Mr. Shmuel Boxer mentioned that “the Barkan Experience is the realization of a dream and vision. The Barkan Winery is among the leading wineries in the county and the visitors’ center will focus on bringing in groups from Israel and abroad and exposing them to the Israeli wine industry, the Barkan winery and encourage wine appreciation overall. With over 10 million bottles per annum, Barkan is one of the biggest wineries in Israel and by 2014 we will increase production and hopefully be the biggest in the country. Some 22% of our wines are intended for export and are shipped to 46 countries around the world” anybody who has met Boxer knows that before being a business person, he is first and foremost a passionate farmer “we have continued with our massive plantings of vineyards and from the Galilee in the north to Mitzpe Ramon in the south, we are constantly cultivating and experimenting with new terroirs and grape varietals. We do not produce grape juice and all of our grapes are used to produced wines.”
In conjunction with the unveiling of the Barakn Experience complex, the winery also officially launched the Altitude series 2009.
As you may know, Barkan currently produces a large array of both varietal as well as blended wines divided into five main categories/labels: Domaine, Classic, Reserve, Altitude and the winery’s flagship label titled Seperiur. What used to be considered by many as part of the Reserve category (last years the winery did an excellent job of re-branding the series, positioning it above and separately from the reserve label), Barkan’s Altitude label consists of three varietal Cabernet Sauvignon wines. The grapes are harvested from vineyards at altitudes ranging from +412 to +720 meters above sea level and are processed in similar methods. This provides us with a chance to compare the traits of the different terroirs. To those who aren’t familiar with this French term, the word terroir refers to the combination of the micro-climate, soil type, topography and other factors that influence the vine, grapes and consequently impact the wine as well.
Winemakers Ed Salzberg and Irit Shank-Boxer introduced the wines and shared some general information about the production process, Irit Shank-Boxer indicated that “after producing the same wines/series from the same vineyards for several consecutive years with the first Altitude wines from the 03 vintage, we can say that we have a much better understanding of the terroir and potential of each vineyard. From a winemaker’s perspective this is a real treat.”
We sampled all three wines and then enjoyed a tasty dinner prepared by Chef Ran Shmueli. Looking at my tasting notes from previous years, I often enjoyed the Altitude +412 but this year of the three my current favorite and the one I found most approachable is the Altitude, +624, 2009 – dark and concentrated in color, very pleasant aromas suggesting dark berry fruits, cherries, purple flowers and sweet spices (vanilla and cloves came to mind), full bodied and good structure all coming together nicely and leading to a long finish. Allow to aerate in the glass and you will be surprised to see how this wine develops.
The Altitude +720 is also an excellent and concentrated vino with good fruit and distict “cool” notes that bring to mind mint or eucalyptus. Currently the +720 is a bit firm and would benefit from at least a year of additional cellaring. Will be sure to re-taste in a year or so and include complete tasting notes.
The Barkan Experience – highly recommended!