Passover 2011 Wine Suggestions

With Passover just around the corner, wineries are preparing to get their bottles on your seder tables. Yonatan Sternberg gives a sense of many of this year's potential wines for the holiday.

Passover is literally just around the corner and preparations for this festive weeklong holiday are well under way. As a wine consumer Passover also provides an opportunity to sample, as well as purchase, wine at discounted prices. Virtually every wine store that I have visited over the past week or so has had representatives from various wineries offering tastings and promoting specials that are often hard to resist. The seder also provides a good opportunity to sample and serve a variety of wines. As the seder meal is often held with a relatively large group of diners, and each diner is supposedly expected to drink four glasses of wine (or grape juice), I would recommend starting off with something light or even a refreshing bubbly, followed by a white or light red wine, heavier reds with the meal and last but not least, a sweet dessert wine.

The recent “Best Value 2011” Wine Contest proved that Israeli sparkling wines can be very enjoyable but also offer good value for money, even when compared with the wide variety of relatively cheap cava, prosecco and lambrusco currently on the market. Carmel's Sparkling Rose, Selected, NV was awarded first place in the Up to 49 NIS category and Golan Height's Gamla Brut, NV came in first in the up to 79 NIS category.

Teperberg, Muscato, White, 2010 – sweet, light, fruity and slightly fizzy, this is a good wine to start off with. Even those who do not consider themselves wine aficionados will l probably end up having more than one glass. Teperberg's offerings are constantly improving. Their Sauvignon Blanc, Terra, 2010 was selected by the “Best Value 2011” panel of judges as the best white wine in the Up to 50 NIS category.

Galil Mountain, Rose, 2010 – light and refreshing with pleasant aromas of strawberries and red berry fruits and a clean finish, Galil Mountain's Rose was also selected as the best in its category. Several wine and beverage stores are offering excellent deals on both the Rose and the winery's Sauvignon Blanc. With the temperatures on the rise, I would pick up a few bottles and keep them in the refrigerator.

Golan Heights, Cabernet Sauvignon, Golan, 2009 – selected as the best wine in the Up to 50 NIS category, dark ruby in color, medium bodied, the wine suggests aromas of ripe plums, cherries and other berry fruits and slight peppery notes. Not complex but definitely a good table wine.

Binyamina recently released two new wines from the winery’s The Cave label. While The Cave is indeed a separate boutique winery, it is fully operated by Binyamina and its wine making team, Sasson Ben Aharon and Asaf Paz. The Cave 2007 is a Bordeaux style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot, each variety aged separately for 24 months prior to blending. Just after pouring, the wine tastes of red berry fruits and toasted oak, full bodied with good texture and a bit firm. After breathing in the glass for a few minutes, the wine suggests aromas and flavors of various black fruits, bittersweet chocolate and the long finishing touch of sweet spices.

The Yaffo winery recently released a new Chardonnay from the 2010 vintage as well as Carignan-based wine from the 2009 vintage, which to my knowledge is the first of this variety produced by the winery. Yaffo, Chardonnay, 2010 is based on 100% Chardonnay grapes and was developed sur lie 30% in oak barrels for 3 months and the remainder in stainless steel vats. Light gold with bright reflections, medium bodied, this wine suggests pleasant aromas green apples, white peaches, citrus blossom and a touch of toasted oak leading to a clean finish.

The 2008 wines were the first wines produced by Recanati's new winemaking team – Gil Shatzberg and Ido Lewinson. The style of the Recanati wines has somewhat changed and today their offerings are often more elegant when compared with previous vinos. Recanati, Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, 2008 – dark ruby in color, good structure and soft tannins, the wine suggests concentrated aromas of dark berry fruits, young plums, both fresh and dried Mediterranean herbs followed by hints of black pepper and cloves all leading to a long and pleasant finish.

Zion, Armon, Red Blend, 2007 – the winery’s flagship vino, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (62%), Merlot (31%) and Petite Sirah from vineyards situated at the foot hills of the Gilboa Mountain, aged for 22 months in barriques, medium leaning towards full bodied, suggesting concentrated aromas of red berry fruits followed by ripe blackberries and plums, bittersweet chocolate and a touch of vanilla leading to a long finish.

In many cases, wineries tend to release wines that are not yet fully approachable from the start. These wines often benefit from a couple of years of cellaring. The following two wines are good examples of wines that were a bit firm two years ago and, in my opinion, are more enjoyable now and ready to be poured.

Golan Heights, Merlot, Kela Vineyard, 2006 – 100% Merlot grapes, all from the Kela Vineyard in the Golan Heights, this is part of the winery's Single Vineyard label which consists of a variety of both red and white vinos providing an opportunity to compare the impact of the different terrains on the end result. The wine opens with a mix of spicy oak and black berry fruits, full bodied, the wine suggests concentrated aromas of cherries and dark plums followed by fresh herbs (thyme comes to mind) and hints of dark chocolate all leading to a long finish. The winery suggests serving the wine alongside grilled cuts of beef or lamb.

Dalton, Shiraz, Reserve, 2007 – Primarily a Shiraz-based wine with just a dash of Viognier, aged for 15 months in new French oak barrels, dark almost garnet in color, on the nose dry violets, black berry fruits and purple plums, medium leaning towards full bodied, soft tannins, the wine also suggests peppery and slight smoky notes leading to a long finish.

Segal, Cabernet Sauvignon, Unfiltered, 2007 - Segal's flagship vino, this year produced using 90% Cab from the Dishon and Dovev vineyards and 10% Merlot from Dovev as well. Aged for 19 months in a mix of French, American and Central European oak barrels, the wine is full bodied, displaying pleasant dark and red berry fruits alongside notes of black pepper, dark chocolate and just a touch of smoked meat all leading to a long and satisfying finish. It is a rather food friendly wine, but very enjoyable on its own as well.

Carmel, Limited Edition, 2007 – A blend of 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31 % Petit Verdot, 5 % Merlot, 5% Malbec and 2 %Cabernet Franc, dark ruby with purple reflections, full-bodied with good acidity, on the first attack notes of green pepper followed by pleasant aromas of dark berry fruits, black cherries and toasted oak leading to a long and pleasant finish.