Israel Museum Wine Festival

Yonatan Sternberg samples the variety of Israeli wines featured at this year’s Israel Museum wine festival, enjoying an array of whites and reds, on and off the “beaten track.”

Last week thousands of people visited the Israel Museum to attend the annual Jerusalem wine festival. This impressive event is organized every year by leading Jerusalem wine stores, Avi Ben and Shachar Wines, providing wine aficionados with an opportunity to meet the people behind the wines and sample some of the new vinos on the market.

The exhibition features wineries of varying sizes and styles from all over Israel including: Carmel Winery, Yatir, Bravdo, Dalton, Yaffo Winery, Pelter, Golan Heights, Galilee Mountain, Psagot, Agur, Tulip Winery, Tura, Bazelet Hagolan, Or Haganuz, Tzora and more.

With the holiday season just around the corner, the Jerusalem wine festival invites visitors to sample a wide variety of wines without actually purchasing the bottles. With this in mind, I made my way through the booths, first sampling a variety of white wines and only then moving on to the reds, hoping to somewhat narrow down the options as the holidays come closer.

As far as white wines are concerned there are definitely a few worth trying. Yatir recently released a very refreshing and aromatic Viognier (dry); Pelter's off dry Gewurtztraminer is also rather aromatic and would pair well with various Asian style and piquant dishes. The Mony Winery, with winemaker Sam Soroka at the helm, is offering a very nice medium bodied Chardonnay. The Bravdo Chardonnay; Golan Heights Yarden Odem Organic Chardonnay; Golan Heights Yarden Sauvignon Blanc; Teperberg Late Harvest dessert wine and Carmel's Kerem Sha'al dessert wine were all quite enjoyable and could be paired with various holiday dishes.

After completing the round of white wines, it was time to move on to the reds, and here I found some pleasant surprises. The Tzora winery has released several excellent wines over the past couple of years. I particularly enjoyed their Shoresh 2007, a concentrated red made with 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Syrah.

Another wine offering very good value for the cost was the Merlot 09 from the Recanati Winery. Winemakers Gil Shatzberg and Ido Levinson joined Recanati a couple of years ago and after sampling several wines from the 08 and 09 vintage, I am rather happy with the results. The Merlot 09 is medium bodied, offering generous aromas of red and black berry fruits, plums and a touch of vanilla and milk chocolate.

From there on I sought out interesting "off the beaten track" reds. At the Segal booth I sampled their new Argaman based wine from the 2007 vintage. For years Argaman has been considered a low-grade grape variety, used for blending and for the production of sacramental wines. Winemaker Avi Feldstein has proven everybody wrong producing a very enjoyable, concentrated and interesting red wine.

The Carignan grape also falls into this category. Both Barkan, under their reserve label, and the Carmel Winery, under the regional/appellation label, offer very good Carignan based wines priced under 65 NIS. Another excellent Carignan is from the Vitkin Winery. While they did not exhibit at the festival, I highly recommend picking up a bottle. The Binyamina winery recently released a new Zinfandel wine as part of their reserve series. While very popular in the US, there are very few wineries producing Zinfandel wines in Israel but Binyamina's is definitely worth trying.

By the way, on Sunday the 15 of August, the Miror Bar at the Mamilla Hotel in Jerusalem has partnered with the Scottish company that imports Stoli Eilte premium brand vodka, celebrating with vodka-based cocktails, Davidoff cigars and live jazz music. The event is open to the public and will start at 22:00. Enjoy!