After taking a year off, the Sommelier wine exhibition is back! The 2014 edition took place at the renovated Tel Aviv Heichal Hatarbut (cultural center). The event, which is organized by Studio Ben Ami (which also operates the sommelier.co.il website and has an annual beer exhibition), is considered as one of the best wine events that the Israeli wine industry has to offer. The event maintains its exclusivity as it is only open to the professional crowd and provides an excellent opportunity for all of the people that come in contact with the wines we consume (literally - from the vintner to the sales person or waiter serving the wine) to be exposed to new vinos on the market, taste and schmooze with friends and colleagues. A marketing manager for one of the medium sized wineries mentioned that in his opinion, this is the only exhibition where they see true camaraderie between the wineries and sales professionals with compliments and best practices shared among the exhibitors. I am not sure if I would depict such a rosy picture but it is definitely a very enjoyable and professional exhibition with an excellent vibe.
Unfortunately, I was only able to attend for a few hours and hence was forced to pick and choose as I made my way through the booths.
From the Mony winery’s booth I recommend the semi-dry Gewurtz and the Shiraz Reserve and while I did not taste it at the exhibition, the winery’s Bordeaux style blend Dlila is also excellent; Gva’ot introduced a funky rose wine and I also enjoyed the winery’s Pinot Noir; at Binyamina’s booth I met with head winemaker Sasson Ben Aharon who shared some of the recent developments in the winery and also poured the Sapphire 2009 from the winery’s Avnei Hachoshen label; at the Golan Heights’ booth I did a quick tasting of sparkling wines; Tanya winery had a couple of nice reds and at Carmel winery’s booth I tasted the Mediterranean 2008 blend which seems to be getting better and better over time.
At the Shaked booth I tasted some excellent wines from Italian producer Gaja and a couple of good Cavas. From the import department I also enjoyed the tasting at the Mersch booth which focuses primarily on the import of wines from Australia and New Zealand, recently adding some Italian vinos to their portfolio as well. The Sauvignon Blanc's from the Astrolabe winery is one of my favorites and a real treat. Kippis where their motto is "Wines From Different Worlds” had a couple of pleasant wines from Puglia and a very nice German Riesling.
Tasting Notes: I usually avoid taking tasting notes at exhibitions as it is very difficult to tell the difference after sampling 20 or 30 vinos, but the following are wines that I tasted both at Sommelier 2014 as well as on separate occasions.
Yarden, Rose, Brut, 2008 – produced in the traditional method, this is a very enjoyable wine produced from 70% Chardonnay and the balance Pinot Noir. Clean and focused bubbles, refreshing notes of red apples, strawberries, flowers and a touch of yeast leading to a pleasant and not overly dry finish.
Galil Mountain, Meron 2010 – A blend of Syrah (73%), Petit Verdot (18%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (9%) from vineyards in the Upper Galilee; 16 months in French oak result in a fruit forward and rich wine suggesting ripe dark berry fruits, fresh herbs, caramel and toasted oak leading to a long and silky finish.
Sphera, White Concepts, Chardonnay 2012 – even back at the Ella Valley winery Doron Rav Hon’s white vinos were among the best in the country and it was not surprising that when he established his own winery – Sphera, he decided to focus exclusively on white wines. The Sauvignon Blanc 2012 is excellent as is the Chardonnay ‘White Concepts’ – good fruit, minerality, honeysuckle and balancing acidity leading to a clean and pleasant finish.