The weeks leading up to the Passover holiday are always busy ones for anybody involved in the local wine industry. I have been trying to keep up and over the past few weeks have sampled dozens of wines from wineries across the country.
Following are several of my favorite picks that could accompany any holiday meal: white, red and a sweet fortified vino as well.
Bravdo, Chardonnay, 2014 – the only white wine produced by the Bravdo winery which is operated by Professors Ben Ami Bravdo and Oded Shoseyov. 100% Chardonnay grapes, medium bodied, this is one of the best Chardonnays I’ve tasted recently. Good balance and structure on the palate, pleasant notes of apples, pears and tropical fruits with gentle overtones of toasted oak and spice leading to a satisfying finish.
Ella Valley, Vineyards, Sauvignon Blanc, 2013 – a refreshing and crisp white vino comprising 90% Sauvignon Blanc and 10% Semillon. The wine suggests pleasant notes of green apples, flowers and summer fruits with good supporting acidity and a clean finish. Another refreshing wine from Ella valley is the winery’s Ever Red, Rose 2013 – serve chilled as an aperitif or alongside light chicken and fish dishes.
Gvaot, Gofna, Cabernet-Chardonnay, 2013 – An interesting wine from Gvaot is a blend of 83% Chardonnay and the balance Cabernet Sauvignon, which were blended to produce a white wine which was aged in oak for some 6 months. Slightly tinted in color, medium bodied, showing aromas and flavors of toasted oak, vanilla, green apples, white peaches and red berry fruits coming together nicely for a pleasant and rather dry finish.
Galilee Mountain, Blanc de Noir, 2014 – another blanc de noir (white wines produced from dark skinned grapes) but this time, based exclusively on red grapes. 63% Pinot Noir and 37% Grenache result in a light-medium bodied wine suggesting pleasant notes of green apples and nectarines with lemon zest and a touch of spice in the background. If you are looking for a “heavier” white vino try the winery’s Avivim 2013 which is based on Viognier and Chardonnay grapes.
Tulip, White Tulip, 2014 - 70% Gewürztraminer from Kfar Yuval and 30%Sauvignon Blanc from the Kerem Ben Zimra Vineyards. The wine is medium bodied, light straw in color showing generous aromas and flavors of tropical fruits, citrus peel and slight grassy notes leading to a pleasant medium-long finish.
Mony, M, Colombard, 2014 - Winemaker Sasson Ben Aharon (formerly from Binyamina) recently took over for talented winemaker Sam Soroka and is continuing the quality revolution that the winery has been experiencing. Light and refreshing, this is a very easy drinking and pleasant wine based on French Colombard grapes; suggesting notes of citrus blossom, guava and good acidity leading to a medium - clean finish. At NIS 39, this is one of the best buys in its price category.
Ramat Negev, Ramon, Cabernet Franc, 2011 – 100% Cab Franc grapes from a single vineyard in Halutza, an area known as one of the first places in Israel to strike oil. 16 months in French oak, the result is a medium-full bodied red, ruby with purple reflections suggesting pleasant aromas of cherries, plums and red berry fruits alongside mild notes of green pepper and dry herbs coming together nicely and leading to a long finish. Not a typical Cabernet Franc but quite enjoyable and it is very interesting to see the impact of the terroir.
Jezreel Valley, Adumim, 2013 – California trained winemaker Ari Erle produced an interesting blend of Carignan, Syrah and Argaman grapes. 18 months in oak, this is a medium bodied red suggesting aromas of dark berry fruits, warm spices, pleasant earthy notes and toasted oak leading to a medium-long finish. Overall this is a very enjoyable vino and an interesting use of the Argaman variety.
Dalton, Alma, SMV, 2011 – while over the years, my favorite vino from Dalton has been the Shiraz reserve, the Alma label consists of very good wines that are among the best in their price range. The Alma ‘SMV’ is Rhone Valley inspired blend based on Syrah, Mourvedre and a dash of Viognier. Medium-full bodied with good supporting acidity, the wine is bright purple in color, with pleasant notes of blue and red berry fruits, plums, flowers and a touch of anise leading to a clean finish.
Bazelet Hagolan, Magma, 2012 – Established in 1998, Bazelet Hagolan is known for producing rather dense and concentrated red wines and in my opinion a pretty good Chardonnay as well. This is the first time I sampled their Magma blend. Comprising 75% Cabernet Sauvignon (from 4 vineyards) and the balance Merlot, this medium-full bodied wine suggests pleasant aromas dark berry fruits and cherries, oak and roasted coffee leading to a satisfying finish.
Ramot Naftali, Peitit Verdot, 2011 – it isn’t easy to produce a good varietal Petit Verdot but the winemaker at Ramot Naftali did a very good job with this wine. Deep purple towards garnet in color, medium bodied, good balancing acidity with generous notes of dark berry fruits, ripe plums followed by notes of warm spices and cedar wood all coming together nicely on the medium-long finish. By the way, this wine also received a gold medal in last year’s Eshkol Zahav competition, coming in first in the “off-the-beaten-track” red category.
And to end on a sweet note – a fortified dessert wine
Golan Heights, Yarden, T2 , 2008 – the only Israeli port style vino based on Touriga Nacional and Tinta Cao grapes, both Portugese grape varieties, traditionally cultivated in the Douro Valley and used to produce dry as well fortified Port wines. Matured for 26 months in French oak, on the nose and palate, ripe cherries, plums and dark berry fruits, good structure and very smooth texture, followed by notes of dark chocolate, cinnamon and cloves all leading to a long and pleasant finish.