Preparing for Passover

Getting ready for the holiday is a different process for different people. For wine writers, of course, choosing the best wines is a main priority. Yonatan Sternberg tastes some of this season's highlight.

Preparing for the Passover can mean different things for different people. There are those who run around the house in a frenzy constantly cleaning and making sure that every bit of chametz is found and thrown away. There are others who frequent the shopping malls trying to decide which shirt to buy for the holiday. There are those who start shopping for food weeks in advance and some who even start cooking and freezing some of the dishes since they do not want to leave anything for the last minute. As I mentioned in my previous article, wine writers can also become a bit overwhelmed in the weeks leading to the Passover holiday in an attempt to taste and review some of the new wines released to the market (not that I am complaining or anything). As my writing space is limited, I will try to list holiday wine suggestions and recommendations rather than review all of the new wine releases. My apologies to those wineries or PR firms whose offerings were not included.

If you are looking for a refreshing white wine to serve on a hot summer afternoon, try Galil Mountain's Sauvignon Blanc, 2010, a light and refreshing, a typical Sauvignon Blanc, with pleasant aromas of citrus peel and freshly cut grass. The Galil Mountain winery also released a new Rosé that will give you change from 40 NIS and is quite enjoyable.

Another wine from the light and refreshing category is Agur's Rosa 2010; a rose wine based on Cabernet Sauvignon (40%) and Cabernet Franc (60%) grapes from vineyards in the Judean Hills, pinkish with orange reflections, 13% alcohol, suggesting light fruity notes of strawberry and other red berry fruits backed by pleasant and refreshing acidity and a clean finish. Agur also released the new Kessem (Hebrew for magic) red blend based on Cabernet Sauvignon (50%), Merlot (20%), Petit Verdot (10%) and Cabernet Franc (20%), medium bodied, the wine opens with notes of green pepper and herbs alongside red berry fruits and young plums.

After undergoing an extensive marketing and rebranding campaign in which the logo and label were redesigned, the Tabor winery recently released several new wines: a Sirah, a Petite Sirah, a Merlot, a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Petite Sirah blend, as well as several others who were only relabeled. Tabor, Cabernet Sauvignon, Adama, Bazelet 2008 – 100% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, dark, almost garnet in color, leaning towards full bodied; the wine suggests pleasant aromas of dark berry fruits and black cherries followed by toasted oak and dark chocolate.

Binyamina, Reserve, Carignan, 2009 – Dark purple towards garnet in color, medium leaning towards full bodied, the wine displays pleasant aromas of ripe plums, black cherries, sweet spices, vanilla and slight smoky notes leading to a pleasant finish. This is the first varietal Carignan wine produced by Binyamina and joins a few other Carignan based wines that are currently on the market.

Other good Carignan wines include: Vitkin's Carignan, Carmel Carignan, Old Vines, Appellation Series, and the Barkan Carignan of the winery's Reserve label.

Bravdo, Coupage, 2009 – Until now Bravdo only produced varietal wines: Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and a Shiraz based wine. The Coupage 2009 is the first blend produced by the Bravdo Winery and it will be interesting to see if there will be more blends to come. Based on Cabernet Franc (40%), Shiraz (33%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (27%) grapes, still a bit firm, this is a full bodied blend, with generous aromas and flavors of dark berry fruits, black cherries and plums followed by spicy oak, leather and pleasant overtones of fresh herbs all leading to a long finish.

Golan Heights Winery, Katzrin, 2007 – Probably one of the most celebrated Israeli wines, along with the Rom, many consider the Katzrin as the Golan Heights “flagship” vino. The Kaztrin red has only been released in years in which results at the vineyards and in the barrel meet the high standards set by head winemaker Victor Schonfeld. The 2007 is only the 7th Katzrin released to date. 91% Cabernet Sauvignon and 9% Merlot from prime vineyards in the Golan Heights and Upper Galilee, dark almost garnet in color, full bodied and still rather firm. The wine opens with pleasant aromas of toasted oak, dusty purple flowers, black berry fruit, plums and fresh herbs, followed by black and red berry fruits, dark chocolate and tobacco all coming together nicely and leading to a long and mouth filling finish.