While we still have a month to go, Passover is just around the corner and preparations for this festive weeklong holiday are well under way, well, at least for me. Over the next few weeks, I will be sampling a wide and diverse range of wines (mostly Israeli) and highlight my favorites including red, white, pink, sweet, dry and even sparkling wines. Following are five red vinos, all relatively new on the market and selling at a price range of between NIS 60-80.
Galil Mountain, Barbera, 2010 – many like to say that Galil Mountain offers wines that present “good value for money”. While this statement is very true, it is important to emphasize that Galil Mountain with winemaker Micha Vaadia at the helm offers good wines, period. And the Barbera 2010 is but one example. 100% Barbera from vineyards in the Upper Galilee, dark ruby in color, the wine suggests aromas and flavors of juicy plums, red berry fruits and cherries while in the background, toasted oak, dry herbs and a touch of cloves. Generous and refreshing balancing acidity, medium-long finish, overall, this is a very enjoyable and food-friendly wine.
Golan Heights, Gamla Hashmura, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2010 – The Golan Heights’ Gamla label is one of the most popular brands in the Israeli wine market. Nevertheless, as a label that can be found in most convenient shops and grocery stores, it is often underestimated and viewed as a “lower end” label. With this in mind, the winery recently launched a limited edition Gamla label coined Hashmura – The Reservation. The label will consist of wines produced from some of the more “classic” grape varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, alongside vinos from grape that are less common in Israel such as the Spanish Tempranillo and Italian Nebbiolo (the 2010 is very enjoyable). I recently had the opportunity to sample some of the new vinos, and classic or not, the Cab 2010 is currently my favorite. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from several vineyards in the Golan Heights, 12 months in barriques, the wine is dark purple in color, suggesting aromas and flavors that bring to mind plums, dark berry fruits, dried Mediterranean herbs and subtle notes of toasted oak and pepper on the finish. Ripe yet not overly jammy, this is a very enjoyable red vino.
Tishbi, Estate, Syrah, 2009 - The Tishbi family is one of the oldest players in the Israeli wine industry and over the past few years have expanded their portfolio offering an assortment of culinary treats. Oshra Tishbi’s delicious wine jellies and marmalades through the excellent Belgian chocolates showcased at the winery’s visitor’s center are an added bonus when visiting the winery’s facilities in Zichron Yaakov. Estate is Tishbi’s 2nd label which usually consists of varietal red wines. The Syrah 2009 is based on 100% Syrah grapes from vineyards in the Zichron Yaakov area, 12 month is new American oak barrels result in a full bodied and quite enjoyable red vino. A bit “sweet” on the attack, the wine suggests red berry fruits and plums followed by notes of black pepper, roasted coffee and vanilla leading to a medium-long finish.
Teperberg, Terra, Malbec, 2011 – Teperberg’s ongoing quality revolution is admirable and every year the winery releases wines that are enjoyable and also present good value in all price categories. Their Late Harvest, Riesling is one of the best in its category, the semi dry Gewurtz from the Terra label is a fine pick and the Shiraz Reserve 2009 is also very pleasant. One of the few Israeli wineries to produce varietal Malbec wines, after sampling Teperberg’s results since 2008; I am surprised that we aren’t seeing more Israeli Malbecs on the market. The 2011 is deep ruby towards purple in color, medium bodied suggesting aromas of various red berry fruits, raspberries, tart plums, toasted oak and a hint of chocolate; soft and very pleasant leading to a long and peppery finish. When tasting the 2011, I opened my old notes and noticed a difference between the 2008-09 editions and the 2010-11 editions. Not sure if the winery changed anything in the production process or if it was simply the difference between the vintage years. Interesting, to be sure.
Tulip, Mostly, Cabernet Franc, 2010 – After receiving its Kashrut certificate, all of the Tulip Vinos from the 2010 vintage and on are kosher; so even if hesitant in the past, most of the Tulip wines currently on the market are kosher and can be enjoyed at the upcoming Seder dinner. The winery’s semi-dry White Franc is an excellent way to start off the meal and even those who don’t consider themselves wine aficionados will enjoy this one. If you are looking for a good red, try the Mostly, Cabernet Franc, 2010 – 85% Cabernet Franc and 15% Merlot, 15 months in a mix of French and American oak, the wine is dark ruby in color, full bodied, suggesting aromas and flavors of red berry fruits, purple flower, black pepper and characteristic green notes all coming together nicely and leading to a long finish.